The Initiation

A white tattered cloth punctured through a jagged wooden stick hangs overhead like a proud banner. The cool night wind gusts through the tears of the dirty white cloth creating a flapping noise snapping it back and forth. The wrinkled letters begin to unfold as the cloth catches the wind and sways upward, revealing the sloppily written letters of R.I.P. The red lettering looks rough and jarring exhibiting that blood was utilized in the propaganda. The crackling and popping sound from the large bonfire acts as a song to the terrifying noises and cries of the people dancing around it. A ritual of acceptance and fearlessness soothes them to their soul.  The fire provides an orange glow underneath the radiant stars and luminous full moon hovering over the chaos of the infected world. The screams and moans of Freakers in the distance add to the ambiance of their ritual.

“Get Low!” one calls out in low a gravelly voice.

A large bald man gets shoved from behind toward the fire and thrown down to the ground forcefully by two other Rippers. The ritual around him continues to proceed as the people dancing are blinded to their surroundings. Both Rippers resemble each other along with the people around them with their shaven heads and covered with slander and scars all over their bare bodies from self-inflicted cuts. One mark is distinctive on each person, the letters R.I.P engraved onto their foreheads. The Rest in Peace cult began growing and making a name for themselves after the outbreak. They worship the Freakers and believe that becoming infected is a gift. Most of these Rippers were junkies, criminals, people with schizophrenia and suicidal in the previous world. Some however, were people that could never get their head above the poverty line and struggled in multiple areas of their life causing depression. Now, they feel more alive than they ever felt.

Another bald man, this time leaner with multiple scars covering his body heads toward the man being pinned down. His scars seem different, like they have been there longer than the others. The word “sacrifice” is cut into his arm starting at his shoulder and running down to his wrist. As he reaches him, the scarred man holds a bloody machete in his hand and hovers over the unscathed man on the ground. Drops of blood slowly drip off the sharp tip of the blade and onto the man’s forehead. The light from the fire reveals the letters R.I.P on the scarred man’s forehead with the shadows concealing the rest of his face. The man reaches in his pocket and shoves his hand up to his nose taking a deep breath, releasing leftover white particles floating in the air around him. The noises that come out of his mouth next sound animalistic as if he just regained life. He begins to clench his fists and pound at the air like he is preparing for a boxing match. He holds the machete right up to the middle of his face seeing the blood trickle down the shaft and the reflection of the flames on the steel. He bends over the helpless man on the ground staring into his soul for a moment with a slight grin on his face.

“Lost One, I see your pain, but I also see your want to let go of your ego. Don’t struggle because here you will find peace and you will be Free. Your sacrifice comes at a cost – but you will know Freedom the way we do,” explains the confident leader.

The large man on the ground screams out in pain as the scarred man begins to engrave the letter “R” onto his forehead with the blade of the machete. The blade cuts into the flesh as blood erupts from his forehead and trickles down the corner of his right eye. The letter “I” is carved next with a quick vertical slice in the middle of his forehead. Lastly, the letter “P” is cut above his left eye with the stem of the letter reaching just above his eyelid. Blood flows down the man’s face like a slow-moving waterfall. The man continues to kick out of instinct but is held against his will while the leader pursues to cut the flesh of the man in several other places. Some damage has already been done to the man’s body from his initial visit to the Ripper camp. Other Rippers tortured him and shaved him prior to this night to make sure he was ready to go on the Path. Before he continues, he blows more of the white powder into the wounded man’s face to lessen the pain.

“Time to get low,” the leader shouts.

Next, he cuts his arms – flashes of his childhood begin to pop into his mind. A quick slice to his chest – brings him back to the playground with his father. A slash to his stomach – he feels his mother’s hand stroking his hair as she reads him a bedtime story. Finally, multiple small slices are done to the top of his head – he hears his guardian shout his name repeatedly, “Justin! Justin!” At this point, the large man has gone unconscious with blood spilling out from several cuts on his body forming a large puddle of blood encircling him. The leader holding the machete screams out to his fellow Rippers sending their chants even louder. With each cut inflicted on him, it motivated the others to inhale more of the powder and use their own blades to create marks to celebrate. They take pleasure in the pain with the extra dose of powder kicking in. They kick, and they leap as they dance overtop of the unconscious man’s body. They begin to lose control of their bodily movements during their ritual causing them to eventually collapse staring up into the night sky.

The flames seem to mimic their dance and their shadows come alive. The haunting sounds of Freakers play as a lullaby in their heads and the blades of their weapons act as their lovers. The tall pine trees of the Pacific Northwest unroot and shoot up toward the sky like rockets. The stars spin around and around to form memories and future thoughts. So many names bounce around in their heads, but they can’t place them. Maybe it’s their friends, family members, themselves? The ground begins to shake creating a vortex in the Earth sucking anything in its radius in. The Rippers fall into the fiery abyss where they reach out with hope calling for the Freakers to join them in their eternal home. Bodies of the Lost are lifeless and tied up as sacrifices with their feet dangling and their wrists bonded by jagged wooden sticks. Ragged t-shirts are balled up in their mouths causing suffocation. The sacrifices are lined up forming a long and narrow path leading to a dark cave. The Rippers begin to shuffle down the path grouped together like a horde as their bare feet drag across the gravel. Once they reach the cave, screams of monsters become deafening and their minds become distorted. Thousands of Freakers come barreling out of the darkness and engulf the scarred Rippers until each one of them has been devoured piece by piece.

Then, the world turns black.


The rain rapidly taps at the large man’s head slowly waking him up. He tries to adjust his eyes by blinking excessively but his focus is lost with the bright morning sun trying to peek through the trees. He struggles to lift his head up from the soaked ground trying to look down at the damage of his body. Dried blood sticks to the back of his shaven head as dark red gooey strings dangle to the ground. He stretches his fingers to feel every cut laid upon his arm. He tries to push off the ground with the palms of his hands, but loses traction sinking into the mud causing him to fall back down. He attempts to sit up one more time using a little extra movement from his sore body and successfully gets upright. His throbbing head hangs down with his chin touching his chest. He slowly lifts his head to scan his nearby surroundings and sees the other Rippers lying passed out on the ground with their weapons placed next to them.

His focus starts to become a little clearer the more he squints and moves his head. Sitting there in an unusually peaceful moment, he realizes that he isn’t Lost anymore. Last night was his initiation and waking up this morning proved he has reached Freedom. This realization hits him right in his stomach. He doesn’t feel a sense of fear or remorse but feels a sense of purpose and strength. He takes his finger and gently outlines each of his new cuts given to him by the leader himself. He traces the “R” engraved on his forehead and releases a slight grin. Flopping back down to the ground with the puddle of rain and blood splashing up on his bare back, he looks up to the sky and shouts, “get Low!”


The old world was never for him. Surviving out in the shit for over a year now has made him realize that he hasn’t lost anything. He didn’t have a family, a career nor a home. He was in-between homeless shelters and sleeping outside at parks just trying to get by, conning people in town along the way to get some extra cash. At 13 years old, both of Justin’s parents died in a car accident and was given up to foster care where he remained until he was 18.  Due to his parents passing and his living situation, he never seemed to fit in anywhere. He could never make friends in school because he was always being bullied by the rich snobby kids. Whether they would make fun of him for living in a house full of kids that no one cared about or being the loser that no one sat with at lunch, the harassment continued his whole middle school and high school career until he dropped out. From there, Justin went down a lonely path of recklessness and lost any ambition to make something of himself. He tried a few times to take his own life, but never had the courage to completely go through with it. So, he drowned his sorrows in alcohol and drugs to escape society.

Fast forward a couple years and the world went to hell. Luckily enough for him, the day the outbreak occurred he was sitting on a bench at the park looking out toward the mountains just before his afternoon ritual of downing a bottle of cheap whiskey. Sirens started to sound, people at the park were scrambling and a loud crash involving multiple vehicles was heard up the road. He marched toward the noise until he saw people running wildly and viciously attacking emergency personal. Justin paused, then immediately began to run the opposite way where he found a group of people trying to flee the area. He was fortunate that day to run across this group who eventually built up a small camp and became sustainable in a world where you count the number of days gone. Nevertheless, when you are a man of little ambition and could care less for the people around you, you don’t last long in a place like this. He used them to survive when he needed it the most, and since that obstacle has passed he was just there to once again get by. Not too long after people started doing jobs to keep the camp running, he was kicked out. Each person needed to contribute, or you were worthless to the camp. One of the campers was kind enough to slip him a few credits before he left, which was the currency used to buy food, weapons, etc. This helped him get to the next camp, and then the camp after where he started to repeat his old lifestyle.

Of course, he had to get his hands dirty by killing Freakers during his travels but somehow, he continued his lucky streak of surviving. He had one poorly conditioned pistol and a hatchet that he received from the first camp to help him survive amongst the vast Oregon wilderness. He would then steal or con his way into getting a little extra ammo here or there at camps to get to the next place. Justin found his way to a camp located in Hot Springs where he stayed for a short time. This was a slave camp where it was required to work each day for long hours for little to no credits. Plus, the so-called “security” would beat on you if they felt bored. To bide his time, Justin volunteered to do supply runs to get outside the gate because it felt freer to be out in the shit, then stuck working in the camp. The crazy old woman in charge was happy to use him as an errand boy because right before he came in their supply group was ambushed and killed.

During the night before falling asleep on his thin cot underneath a small tarp roof, Justin would eavesdrop on stories being told from campers around the fire. Multiple stories were told about a group of people called the Rippers, or the Rest in Peace cult. He would hear snippets of their conversation before dozing off:

“They all follow their leader Carlos…”

“They live as a unite of some sort and wish to be Freakers themselves, it’s crazy…”

“I saw them cutting themselves with machetes man, and then dancing like a possessed person…”

“The Rippers take some sort of PCP drug I think, sending them all bat-shit crazy…”

From the moment he heard these stories, he became fascinated by how they lived. Surviving wasn’t living, and he was ready to move on once again but this time to a place he could call home. A place where people are like him, a place where you can start anew and a place where the meaning of home could be something he hasn’t felt for a very long time.

One morning, a drifter came into camp to take a job. As Justin was walking by him, he overhead the drifter talking about a location of a Ripper camp nearby. Immediately, he knew what he had to do. He quickly met up with Brad, the other guy who does supply runs with him. Brad is a good guy who wouldn’t even hurt a fly. A goofy looking man with a tall and slender build, legs longer than his torso with a bad receding hairline making you think he is bald by looking at the front of him. He takes any shit given to him and always tries to look at the positives of a situation. How the man survived until now is a mystery to Justin. He also knows how to ride a motorcycle, which comes in handy for longer distance supply runs and – for this situation. Justin convinced him that they need to hurry and follow the drifter because he overheard him talking about an abandoned camp with loads of supplies. Brad went along with Justin’s plan in hoping to gain some extra credits and trailed the drifter out of the gate. They followed him all the way until they started seeing the sigils of the Rippers, then pulled the bike over.

“Ok, that’s far enough man. I’m not going into Ripper territory,” said Brad.

“Let me just get off here then,” said Justin.

“Are you crazy? Those supplies aren’t worth it. Let’s just get back to camp,” suggests Brad.

“I can’t go back. I can’t stand it there. I’m not being a slave for that woman anymore. Leave me here, I’ll be ok. I’ve survived out in this before,” said Justin.

Brad didn’t take no for an answer and shut off his bike. He unmounted and approached Justin to talk some sense with him. Gently, he nudged Justin toward the bike to insist that they start moving before Freakers come around.

“I said no! I’m not like you people. I’m looking for more and staying at the camp isn’t it. This is how I want to live, so please let me decide my own fate,” Justin pleads.

“This is a suicide mission, you know that right?” says Brad.

Both men pause, look down at the broken road, look toward Ripper territory then back at each other. Justin’s mind is already made up with one foot pointed in the direction of the sigils. Brad can tell in his eyes how determined he is to move on and try whatever he is going to try. In Brad’s heart, he can’t seem to justify leaving this man to venture into Ripper territory alone. If he died, it would haunt his conscious for the rest of his days.

“No man, I can’t let you do this. I’m sorry but if you die, which you most likely will that is on my hands. Now, I need you to get back on the bike,” begs Brad.

Freakers begin to roam toward their direction from the top of the tree covered hill. Their voices carried through the desolate air now capturing the Freaker’s attention. Justin and Brad look up to see about ten alerted Freakers running wildly down the hill letting out their haunting screeches. Out of instinct, Brad lunges toward Justin and grabs him by the arm to try and pull him toward the bike.

“We need to move, now!” yells Brad.

“No!” screams Justin.

Brad doesn’t let up on the grip he has on his friend’s arm. The Freakers get closer to them, chopping at the bit on their next prey. Their hands spread wide with pointed black fingernails reaching toward the men. The smell starts to become intoxicating with the combination of rot, blood and shit. Eyes bloodshot and bulging from their skulls seem to be staring into the men’s souls. The pattern of their feet sounds unorthodox with a fast and rapid pace as they come stumbling down the hill. Justin looks at the Freakers, then looks down at Brad’s hand grasping his arm. He realizes this man won’t leave him alone and if he doesn’t go with him they both will die. In a spark of rage, Justin grabs his hatchet from his belt and swiftly chops down on Brad’s arm slicing it in half. The hand loosens its grip and slides down Justin’s arm and plops on the ground. Blood sprays from the decapitated limb directly onto Justin’s face. Brad screams out in terrible pain and drops to the ground in shock looking at the other half of his arm on the ground. Justin stands still for a moment, looking down at all the blood. The noises of the Freakers and Brad’s screams are completely blocked out as he stands there shuddering. This was the first human being he has ever killed. He dropped the hatchet that was dangling from his shaking hand. His vision was fuzzy with adrenaline and remorse. Out of survival instinct, he jumps out of the way from the impending Freakers. They go straight toward Brad and begin devouring the man’s body. Justin peeks back and realizes that Brad is a distraction for him to get away seeing the group of Freakers piling around his now dead body. Justin looks forward and shambles through a new world of meticulously placed jagged wooden sticks, bonfires and banners of Ripper propaganda.


“Welcome friend,” a deep voice rings out from behind him.

He gradually turns his head and shields the sun with his hand trying to look up at the man walking behind him. The leader crouches down in front of him to meet him eye to eye, like a catcher waiting to receive a pitch. With the bloody machete still in hand, he scans the man’s body and points the tip of the blade at each cut relishing in his work.

“Do you know who I am?” The leader hisses out like a snake.

“Of course, you’re Carlos. I’ve heard many stories of you,” mutters the wounded man.

“And what is your name?” Carlos asks.

“My name? I – I don’t have one,” the man stutters.

“Good. I can see you understand. I have a place for you here, and I am pleased that you chose to come to me. I will show you the Path,” says Carlos.

Carlos stands up and turns with his back facing the man revealing a large burn scar covering his whole back. He raises his arms and looks out toward the other Rippers as a preacher would at the altar in front of his congregation. The Rest in Peace cult give him their full attention. The wounded man finally musters up enough strength to stand on his own two feet to give Carlos the respect as the others do. He stands mere feet away from their leader with a slight hunch in his back due to his injuries. Carlos expresses such gravitas, that it captivates the man the instant he starts speaking.

“My followers! You have given up your names. You have given up your memories. You have all felt pain and life has brought you Low in the previous world. You were Lost, but now you have joined me, each one of you. We walk the Unnamed Path and we do not fear. One Mind brings us together and One Mind keeps us safe. We protect the Free from the Lost, to protect the world. Today, another one is Found and joins us as we prepare for the Rising. It is coming my friends, and our work is not done yet.”

After the speech, the Rippers scatter and the man who once had a name is no more. He stands still looking over his body, each cut he can still feel from the night before. Blood covers his face as the day he chose to go on this path. He looks up at that R.I.P banner flying in the wind and feels proud. He continues this life not as a beaten down camper, not as a lost foster boy or a drunk homeless man. But a man who embraces this world, protects this world and lives free as One Mind.

He can now, Rest in Peace.

Twas the Night Before Christmas: Days Gone Edition

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through Lost Lake

not a Freaker was stirring, not even a crier.

The bounties were hung by the merchant with care,

in hopes that Deacon St. John soon would be there.

The campers were nestled all snug in their beds,

while visions of hordes danced in their heads.

And Rikki in her ‘kerchief, and Addy in her cap,

had just settled their brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out at the gate there arose such a clatter,

Iron Mike sprang from his bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window he flew like a flash,

tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

gave the lustre of another time to the bikes below,

when, what to his wondering eyes should appear,

but a drifter bike with lots of gear.

With a bounty hunter, so desperate and foregone,

he knew in a moment it must be St. John.

More rapid than eagles, his enemies they came,

and he shot and shouted and threw molotovs with aim:

“Now Runners! Now Rager!

Now, Rippers and Screamers!

On, Breaker! On, Reacher!

On, Newts and Swarmers!

To the top of the mine!

To the top of the distractor!

Now kill ‘em! Kill ‘em!

Kill ‘em all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild Oregon weather fly,

when he meets with an obstacle, mount to the broken road nearby

so up and around the beaten path he flew,

with the bike full of ears, and St. John too.

And then, in a twinkling, Iron Mike heard

The rumbling and roaring of the engine that could.

As Iron Mike drew his head and was turning around,

through the gate St. John came with a bound.

He was dressed as a drifter, from his head to his foot,

and his clothes were all tarnished with muck and soot.

A bundle of guns he had flung on his back,

and he looked like a villain just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they scolded! His chin, how manly!

His cheeks cut-up, his nose seemed untouched!

His upper lip was covered with hair,

and the beard on his chin was as black as the smoked air.

The handle of his bootknife he held tight in his hand,

and the smell on the blade encircled his head.

He had a defined face and a little bandana,

that waved when he ran, like the fields of a savanna.

He was skinny and fit, a right badass drifter,

and Iron Mike laughed when he saw him, in spite of the bitter.

A heroic deed and a plea for help

soon gave Iron Mike to know he had nothing to dread.

He spoke not word, but went straight to his work,

and filled all his ammo, then turned with a jerk.

And flipping his finger to the side of Skizzo,

and giving a nod, he decided to go.

He sprang to his bike, to Boozer gave a whistle,

and away he sped like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Santa Claus is Coming to Town: Days Gone Edition

You better watch out, you better not run

Better not shoot, Im telling you why:

Deacon St. John is comin’ for you.

He’s fueling his bike and revving it twice

Gonna find who he needs to take out

Deacon St. John is comin’ for you.

He sees you when you’re hidin’

He knows what camp you’re at

He knows if you’ve stole or killed

So be good for goodness sake

Oh! You better watch out, you better not run

Better not shoot, I’m telling you why:

Deacon St. John is comin’ for you.

Happy Holidays from The Broken Road!

Talking with Paul Deakin the Audio Director of Days Gone

The audio design in Days Gone is one of several reasons why it has been vastly praised by players in 2019. From the authentic sounds of the motorcycle, to the horrifying sounds of Freakers, and the sounds that make up the Pacific Northwest through dynamic weather and wildlife, every component plays off each other to create an immersive experience. Audio is just as important as any other element in the development process of a game. It helps tell the story, while enhancing the gameplay and pairing the music, dialogue and sound perfectly together. The attention to detail from Bend Studio both visually and by sound, created an impressive display of an open-world game.

That’s why I wanted to talk with the Audio Director from Bend Studio, Paul Deakin. Paul shed some light on his role in Days Gone and his responsibility as an Audio Director. He reveals the process of creating the different sounds of the Freakers, including the humming of the Screamer and the ferocious vocalization of the Rager bear. Along with sharing his insight about the ambient wildlife system, the small details heard from the motorcycle and more fascinating tidbits.

The Broken Road: Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions Paul. I’m glad to have you on The Broken Road.

Paul Deakin: Hi Kevin, thank you for inviting me to chat about Days Gone and audio! It’s an honor to be able to spend some time chatting with you. 

The pleasure is all mine. Let’s begin, shall we? First, can you tell us what the Audio Director is responsible for at Bend Studio? What is your day to day tasks during development?

If it’s okay with you, I’d like to firstly answer the question “What is audio responsible for?” because I see that as something much more important than one person’s role. I see the role of audio in a game as a crucial part of the overall experience; but also something with very much the same goals and purpose as every other discipline: to tell an intriguing and exciting story.  More than anything else, we’re storytellers, and it is always my belief that we should keep that at the forefront of our mind throughout the entire development process, and for every decision we make.  More specifically, audio should support and help drive the emotion and tensions of the narrative and gameplay, and complement the art style. It should enhance immersion, be dynamic (constantly adapting to player actions) and have a signature tone that befits the world we’re creating. Part of my job is to ensure the three pillars of audio (sound, music and dialogue) gel together nicely and ‘belong’ to the world that we’re creating. 

I think the responsibilities of an Audio Director vary from studio to studio, depending on the team size and structure. At Bend Studio, my role as Audio Director is to work with each of the three audio teams: Dialogue, Music and Sound Design, and provide direction to help bring the game to life through sound. Having said that, I like to be as hands-on as possible and work alongside our amazing audio folk. I love being involved in the creative and technical processes just as much as being responsible for shaping and defining the overall tone. For example, in Days Gone, I designed our ambient wildlife system (The Deaco-system™ ☺) and took it from raw recordings to scripting, and through final implementation and tuning. The implementation and scripting of game audio, is just as much fun (for me) as designing, say, Rager Bear vocalizations (those were a lot of fun, too! ☺). I really love every minute of my ‘job’ and look forward to what we strive to accomplish on a day-to-day, week-to-week and year-to-year basis!

How did it feel to be nominated for Best Audio for the Golden Joystick Awards this year? Congratulations to you and everyone at Bend Studio!

Thank you! It’s exciting and such an honor to be a Golden Joystick Awards finalist! We’re a relatively small development team and so there were plenty of long days during the last 6 months or so of production. Seeing audio receiving a mention (on social media, by folk like your good self – thank you for your thoughtful and kind words on Twitter!) and nominated for awards is very gratifying. It’s great to see all the hard work pay off.

*Days Gone did win PlayStation Game of the Year and Best Storytelling for the 2019 Golden Joystick Awards.*

Hearing the Freakshow track come out of your speakers immediately gets your adrenaline pumping because you know a horde is nearby. How closely did you work with composer Nathan Whitehead to queue the tracks from the score to specific gameplay points?

Nathan did a superb job composing the score for Days Gone and it really resonated with fans. He worked closely with our music team in San Diego and Santa Monica to hit all the right notes (pun intended) for the numerous emotional beats and gameplay loops. There’s also a lot of work that continues after the music is written and recorded, in order to make the interactivity of it play nicely with systems and the general unpredictability of an open world game. In Days Gone, this involved other teams (our audio programmer, music editors and designers worked to ensure scripts behaved correctly and the multiple layers of music triggered appropriately to enhance tension and relief at the right moments). As you pointed out, the Freakshow track was particularly effective in creating that sense of anxiety for the player, indicating nearby Freakers or hordes. There are several layers/intensity levels to all the music in Days Gone which are activated and deactivated by game data. In the horde example you mention: values such as number of Freakers in the vicinity, distance between the Freakers and the player, Freakers’ awareness-level of the player which all contribute to creating that contextual tension and anxiety. 

The screeches and screams you hear from the Freakers are haunting. What was the process in creating their distinctive sound?

There were two main goals with Freaker vocals. Firstly, since the fiction states that Freakers are humans infected by a virus, we did not want to over-process the vocalizations and make them sound like ‘creatures’ or ‘monsters’. They are, after all, still humans (albeit infected, feral, and animal-like in behavior). The second goal was to ensure the player would be able to identify the different types of Freakers from the unique sounds they make. For example, a screamer obviously screams, but when she’s not screaming, she needed another distinct sound that would not sound too much like a female swarmer, so as not to confuse the player. One day, while I was thinking about the fiction of the screamer and her role in the story, it came to me that, since she’s a loner who just kind of wanders around (pretty aimlessly), she might hum to herself (like a crazy old lady – is it okay to say that?) – almost as a way to show that the real human inside her still exists and the ‘Freaker’ is fighting to get out (or maybe the other way round? Yeah, that. ☺). The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. But then I realized that a hum alone wasn’t enough. We needed something more; and something in the hum that would sound ‘off’ to give her a special kind of creepy feel. So, after recording the hums, I dipped the edited sounds in a bit of ‘special sauce’ and scripted her vocals in such a way that every few lines of her peaceful (yet ‘off ‘sounding) humming would be interrupted by a sudden vocal ‘tick’ – again, trying to illustrate that there’s an internal fight going on between human and Freaker. Of course, whenever she spots the player, full Freaker instincts take over, and she screams her signature scream to call in a small group of swarmers. The screamer sound design really ended up resonating with players and some did not discover the humming until late-game since you have to be pretty close to her to hear it. If you listen to all the other Freaker types in the game, they all have unique sounds that, once the player has encountered them, are easy to identify. Personally, I love the newts and they were a lot of fun to record in the studio! ☺

At what point did you realize to incorporate the NERO recordings through the controller speaker? Was that always part of the plan to utilize that feature?

Ha! Great question! Simple answer: the moment I saw that there were going to be 51 of them! I really felt they needed that typical Dictaphone/digital recorder vibe. Sure, we could have done that with filters and let them play out of the regular speaker, but I thought this was a nice opportunity to use the controller speaker and separate the recordings from the rest of the game mix. Some players loved it, some didn’t. It’s hard to please everyone ☺

Days Gone is layered in detail. You mentioned to me before about the motorcycle engine pinging as it cools down. Are you a rider yourself to incorporate this type of detail? How much talk was there surrounding the team about making everything with the bike perfect?

I’m a rider of mountain bikes ☺ I haven’t yet taken my motorcycle course (I scheduled it this summer but had to cancel due to other commitments). With regards conversations about the detail that went into designing the sounds of the bikes in Days Gone, there were many, and they continued even right through to the final few weeks of production and into DLC (since we had a number of bike challenges). The engine sounds were recorded first (many years ago, in fact!) and then we set about a plan for the other elements (suspension sounds, damage, road surfaces, rocks being kicked up by dirt, skids, burnouts etc.), making sure we were using game data to drive how the bike sounds respond to player input, terrain, engine load, weather etc. There’s also a ‘wet’ version of most terrain types (e.g. dirt becomes mud, asphalt gathers puddles of water). Knowing that the players would spend a lot of time with/on their bike, our goal was to make sure there was enough variety in the sounds, including some subtle details such as the pinging sound of the engine cooling down after Deacon dismounts. I wouldn’t say it was ‘perfect’ (but thanks for saying that!) but we were happy with the final result. In addition to the different engines, some of the upgradeable parts (exhausts, for example) also had a subtle effect on the overall sound of each bike. I always wanted to add a horn for the player to attract the attention of nearby hordes to lead them into enemy camps, but I think we ran out of buttons on the controller (or at least, that’s what Design told me ☺).

The dynamic weather is something I always marvel at when playing. Not only with the appearance and how it affects gameplay, but certain sounds that play off it. For example, the sound of the motorcycle wheels kicking up mud after it rains. How do these types of sounds get captured and inserted into gameplay?

I asked one of our awesome sound designers (Christian) in San Diego to answer this question. He was responsible for a lot of the bike detail, including the sounds of the tires on some of the various terrain types. Here’s Christian’s answer:

“Using a large bin of mud, and my hands, I performed a variety of behaviors with the mud that I imagine a bike tire would encounter, from slow to fast rolling sounds, to burning out and having sloppy globs of mud getting kicked up. Later that day I noticed that my wedding ring was missing and realized that there was only one place it could be. Thankfully, after spending a relatively short time scooping, and splodging some more, there it was… in the middle of the mud! In the end we were left with a small library of sounds that I used to script different behaviors with our in-house authoring tool. Some sounds would crossfade based on speed, while the rate of other sounds playing would change based on the rate of tire spin or speed of the bike, for instance”.  

What sounds implemented in the game proved to be the most difficult for you to get right?

Haha! I’m not sure how to answer this question because there were a number of “most difficult” sounds to try to get right ☺. Finding the Rager bear voice was a long process and took a number of iterations before we landed on what I really thought sounded ferocious and infected enough to belong to and live in the Days Gone world. The challenge was two-fold: create an infected sounding bear that wouldn’t sound too much like a ‘regular’ bear, but also make sure it does not sound like a ‘monster’ from a fantasy setting. Initially, I began working on some concept vocalizations using bear growls, roars, pants (and so on) as a foundation, and layering in other animals and processing them, in order to differentiate it from a ‘regular’ bear. This never really worked for me because I could still hear too much ‘bear’ in there. Plus, it was challenging to find other animal vocalizations that blended nicely together, without the result sounding like precisely that – a bunch of other animals! No matter how I processed them, I could still hear what ‘went into the sausage’.  

So, back at the drawing board, I started to re-think the approach. I was looking through some folders of “creature sounds” we’d received, performed by various voice actors and, although most of them were men-with-deep-voices-trying-to-imitate-large-scary-animals, I thought it might be a good place to start, provided we could find the right voice. I requested some audition material and received a few back but one really stood out among the others. A great VO artist (Harry Schultz) has an amazing TV/trailer voice (think “in a world…” style); a really clear, deep, bassy tone which I thought might sound perfect! So, I took some of his samples he’d sent and began working with them as a foundation for our Rager. As I processed the sounds he provided with some other animal sounds we had, everything started to come together really nicely. I felt like we had something unique, while still sounding somewhat bear-like: a pissed off, infected, ferocious bear (now and forever affectionately referred to as ‘RFB’). It still took a lot of iteration and careful massaging, but it was such a relief to finally have the beginnings of a unique and fearsome Rager bear. We played a sample of the resulting sounds to folk here and everyone loved it. We hired Harry and went into the studio – Harry was an absolute pleasure to work with and (I’m pretty sure) much easier to direct in the studio than a grizzly!

Are there any other small audio details that you are proud of that may not have been noticed by most players?

Hmmm, that’s a hard question because I don’t really know what players have and haven’t noticed. Off the top of my head, here are some: there’s a very light “sizzle/hiss” layer on some of the larger fires – that is triggered when it rains – to give the effect of the rain extinguishing parts of the fire. The challenge with this was that the hiss scales with rain intensity and with heavier rain comes stronger winds… which means they’re both louder. Since our hiss, rain and wind all sit close to one another on the audio spectrum, it can be hard to hear the hiss. But it’s there! Then there’s the trees which sway and creak slightly in stronger winds, sound of leaves as they blow along the ground, rain on cars as you walk by, over 50 types of surfaces for footsteps, bullet impacts, body falls etc. (many with unique ‘wet’ versions), water dripping off rooftops after rain has stopped, insects that stop chirping if the player gets too close or shoots a weapon, dogs that bark when Freakers screech in the distance, encampment ‘activity’ and walla (my favorites are the yawning and snoring from the tent city areas at night), an eerie drone when the player is near an infestation, rain on Deacon’s leather jacket (best heard when you aim your weapon since the camera is closer). I’m pretty proud of the ambient wildlife system for a few reasons: there are no animal or insect sounds in the game that are not found in the PNW – I carefully researched this and made sure they truly live in the area! There are some very rare animals that are specific to only some areas of the game, and even then, are quite elusive (i.e. may not be heard for hours). Players may not ever hear some of the wildlife in Days Gone. Ambient wildlife is very dynamic and varied, and several parameters affect their behavior. The crickets you hear in Iron Butte are different to the crickets you hear in Belknap. Frogs tend to be heard only in heavy rains and/or near large bodies of water. Those are just a few of the ‘details’ I can think of… there are many more! Can you find them? ☺

Paul Deakin working in his sound room. (1)
Harry Schultz recording voice for the Rager Bear.
Recording a real bear for the Days Gone regular bear.

Thank you once again to Bend Studio and Paul Deakin for joining me on The Broken Road! You can catch all the latest news about Days Gone from Bend Studio on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

A Beginner’s Guide

With the holiday season coming up, Days Gone will be under a lot of people’s Christmas trees. I figured this would be a good time to write “a beginner’s guide” to Days Gone for new players jumping in for the very first time. Don’t worry, this will be spoiler free! My goal is to inform you of the type of experience you can expect such as playtime, content and other general questions. After completing multiple playthroughs myself and trying different ways to play each time, I wanted to give some advice on how to survive the world of Days Gone with some things I learned along the way.

First things first, let’s get the logistics out of the way. How many hours can you expect to put into Days Gone? If you like to push through the story only, you can expect to finish around 30-35 hours. If you are a completionist looking to get the Platinum trophy, you can bump up that number to about 60 hours or so. This includes completing the multiple storylines implemented in Days Gone, along with finding collectibles scattered in the open-world. Bend Studio, the developer behind Days Gone provided a lot of free content post-launch to give you even more playtime than the 60 hours mentioned above. The new content includes:

  • New Game Plus with three more levels of difficulties; Survival I, Survival II and Hard II.
  • 12 challenge modes to test your skills by fighting unlimited hordes, completing objectives, racing your bike through timed trials and more.

With the new content above, Bend Studio also added more PlayStation trophies to earn through the challenges and new game plus mode. If you really want to invest your time in this world like me, you can be playing well over 100+ hours.

Here is a quick rundown of some other general questions players usually have before purchasing a game:

  • Is there Photo Mode?
    • Yes! One of the best Photo Modes to date too!
  • Is there customization?
    • You can customize your bike with multiple skins featuring God of War, Death Stranding, Horizon Zero Dawn and a lot more. Plus, you can change the colors and accessories on your bike.
  • Is there multiplayer?
    • No.
  • Is it open-world?
    • Yes!
  • Can you fast travel?
    • Yes, you can. EXCEPT, in Survival I and Survival II difficulty modes.
  • Is it a PlayStation exclusive?
    • Yes, it is.

*Days Gone is the winner of the 2019 Golden Joystick Awards for Best Storytelling and PlayStation Game of the Year.*

The world of Days Gone is unforgiving, and any advantages you can get can be beneficial to your survival. There are four important elements in helping you survive the post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest; bike upgrades, weapons, skills and boosts. I want to give you some advice on what to focus on and how it can help you gain an advantage early on. Plus, another little tidbit I wish I knew before playing the first time!

First, there is a story point very early on where you will have to choose between camps. (I won’t provide the context to keep safe of all spoilers). It will boil down to what you want upgraded with the in-game currency (credits). One camp supplies guns (Tucker), and the other camp supplies bike upgrades (Copeland). My suggestion here is to choose Copeland because your bike is crucial to everything you do in Days Gone. From your fuel tank, to durability, exhaust noise and speed it will make a world a difference when focusing your credits toward upgrades on your bike. Not to mention, you will receive enough credits at Tucker’s camp quickly to upgrade your guns anyway. Choosing Copeland gives you the most bang for your buck! As you progress through the story, you will be able to purchase more upgrades to your bike and gain better weapons.

In the beginning, your weapons will be weak. One weapon you can get early on that you will continue to use throughout the whole game is a sidearm called the SMP9. You can gain this weapon by defeating any four hordes. In my opinion, it’s the best sidearm weapon in the game and provides a great counterpart to your primary, especially during horde situations. The best weapons in the game are found later and will require credits and trust (you can gain ‘trust’ by completing side-missions in that specific region). More specifically, you won’t be able to reach the best primary guns in the game until after the midway point when you reach a place called Wizard Island. Once you are there, you can focus on purchasing the Chicago Chopper.

Skills and boosts are the two things that improve your character of Deacon St. John. I won’t touch on the skills part because that will vary depending on how you want to play. I do however want to touch on the boosts. You will receive these boosts when you come across NERO locations. Finding an injector will provide you with a permanent boost of health, stamina or focus depending on what you choose. There are 30 injectors in total, making 10 injectors the max for each category. My suggestion is to concentrate on stamina first. Stamina plays a huge role in Days Gone, mainly when tackling hordes. Focus is another boost that will be very important in helping you mow down a sea of Freakers. For example, for your first five NERO injectors you find, I would break it down as 3 stamina, 1 focus and 1 health.

Scavenging for supplies is all part of surviving. You will always need ammo, medkits and fuel to move onto the next mission. Early in the game you will find yourself running out of these supplies a lot. Running out of fuel means walking your bike, or exploring the Freaker infested land by foot. Upgrades will help with managing fuel and your inventory as you progress through the story. Before that, you will need to manage your inventory well to stay alive. A few tips to finding these supplies should make your life a lot easier. Ammo can be found in police cars. Medkits are found in ambulances. Fuel can be found on tow trucks, and believe it or not gas stations. You can go right up to the fuel pump for some self-service!

The last thing I wanted to mention is that there are two points in the game where you will advance the story and you won’t be able to go back (it will let you know when). Don’t worry, this is temporary and once the story is complete you will be able to free roam the entire map! Oh, and here’s that tidbit I mentioned earlier: Try to gain level 3 trust at Copeland’s camp and Tucker’s camp before the endgame mission called, “You Can’t Do This Alone.”

Hopefully, this has provided you with a good idea on what to expect with Days Gone and how to begin your own journey on the broken road.

*UPDATE 10/6/20: Days Gone was added to the PS Now lineup today and will be available until January 5, 2021. You can sign up for a free 7 day trial on PS Now HERE to begin riding the broken road.*

Scoring Days Gone with Composer Nathan Whitehead

Music plays an essential role in any video game. The greatest games include a unique soundtrack that is woven perfectly together by the story, characters, gameplay and environment. The music is what pulls the emotions out of your favorite characters and into your hearts. When you hear certain tracks outside of the game, it immediately pulls you back into that world and the memories that go with it. The music forms a bond with the player that leaves an everlasting mark and will determine how the player connects to the game. The score to Days Gone provides just that with its gritty, emotional and organic sound as you ride through the post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest.

The composer behind the remarkable soundtrack of Days Gone is Nathan Whitehead. Nathan is a composer for film, television and video games. He is best known for composing the scores for the film franchise, The Purge. Nathan is also credited for composing Keanu, Beyond Skyline and Stephanie, along with being an arranger and producer on other titles. I was fortunate enough to ask Nathan a few of my burning questions about scoring Days Gone. He generously shared plenty of insight into his development of certain themes, what attracted him to the story, his creative thought process and connecting his music to the environment.

The Broken Road: Being the primary composer for the first time on a video game, especially a game as big as Days Gone, what were your expectations going into this new project?

Nathan Whitehead: To a large degree, I didn’t know what to expect. I expected it to be a lot of music, games are known for that. And I expected to be on the project for a long time. Both of those turned out to be true!

When the story of Days Gone was pitched to you, what was the first thing that immediately grabbed your attention and got you excited to work on it?

I was immediately grabbed by these universal and existential themes woven into the story, themes about hope and loss and humanity. The story explores Deacon’s motivations and encourages us to look inward and think about some big questions. What is our purpose? How do we move forward in the face of regrets or fears? And especially, why do we want to move forward? What’s the point? I thought this was a surprising and wonderful aspect to Days Gone. The game could’ve simply been blasting Freakers and riding your motorcycle and that would’ve been a fun game, but I felt these deeper layers of the story could take the player to more interesting and surprising places. This got me incredibly excited to be a part of the project.

The music feels so raw and emotional throughout the game. The grounded reality of a post-apocalyptic world weaved with hope and horror. How difficult was it to create this balance?

I love that the score is coming across that way! This is more of what I was so excited about in the previous question and it was absolutely the hardest aspect of the score to get right. It was such an exciting opportunity as a composer to explore ways to combine these worlds of hope and horror, as you so nicely put it. I had a lot of conversations with my producers at Sony and also with John Garvin (Creative Director at Bend Studio) fine tuning these aspects of the music. It was an iterative process as the score progressed and it was always a fine line between being too emotional and providing the appropriate support or contrast to what’s going on in the story at that moment. 

The environment plays such a critical role in Days Gone. What was your main goal in capturing the essence of the Pacific Northwest?

The environment is a huge part of the Days Gone experience and I think my main goal was for the music to feel like it belonged in that environment, that it was believable for this music and this place to exist together. I realize that’s a completely subjective statement but it’s a feel I was going for. I think the environment was one of several elements in the game that called for some rough edges and grit in the music. I wanted there to be textural similarities between the deserts, forests, and mountains and the score. I also felt that the overwhelming beauty that we see all around us allowed the score to often be understated and that really worked in our favor. We don’t need a giant fanfare when we watch the sun setting behind a snowy mountain. That visual is already so big that keeping the score smaller might make the moment even more impactful. Some of my favorite moments in the game are when you take off on your bike and you’re hit with a stunning view as you head over a pass or around a turn. These are often small moments musically, maybe just a little ambient guitar sneaking in, but my hope is that the combination of the awe-inspiring setting with understated music can make these moments special and push the overall tone of the game to have this quiet, meditative layer. I think nature has the power to evoke those qualities and I wanted the music to help those qualities speak.

Two tracks immediately come to mind when I think about your score, Days Gone and Freakshow. These two tracks were the core of the game, ranging from the main menu to fighting the forty hordes spread across the map. Can you tell us more on how those original ideas formed, and how you expanded on them?

These were the first two tracks I wrote for the game. I didn’t start out thinking these are the two primary themes of the game, I just wanted to write a track that connected to Deacon and a track that sounded like the Freakers to me. I think that was a helpful mind game to play on myself as I got started. Thinking of these from the beginning as the two central pillars of the score would’ve been overwhelming! My goal in writing Days Gone was to try and evoke a sense of Deacon’s resolve and hope but with threads of melancholy throughout. I tried to put myself in Deacon’s shoes, being separated from Sarah, not knowing whether she’s alive or dead, yet driven to keep searching and to remain hopeful. This theme was also the first time I started thinking about how the music would relate to the Pacific Northwest setting. Writing Days Gone went a long way toward establishing the palette that I would use for the entire score and, perhaps most importantly, it introduced our main melody that would appear over and over again in various forms and on various instruments throughout the game.

As for Freakshow, I knew the music needed to encapsulate the main antagonist in the game which is the global Freaker infection. The big challenge with Freakshow was that it needed to work in so many different scenarios. The music needed to scale along with the ever-present Freaker threat–sometimes as a low, throbbing sense of dread and then ratcheting up to horde-level mayhem. These aspects of the track came together fairly quickly. As the game progressed, however, I was constantly bouncing ideas off of my producers at Sony and we realized that Freakshow needed yet another dimension to speak to the tragedy of this massive human loss. The Freakers may be these soul-less feral beasts now, but each one is a person we lost to this pandemic. This ultimately led to incorporating the Freaker melody into the throbbing dread and horde onslaught elements. And it turns out this melody was hiding in the track all along. I recorded a lot of sounds and then distorted or manipulated them to create the Freakshow palette. One of these was a gnarly sound where I bowed a cymbal and ran it through some meaty distortion. This distorted, metal-ripping sound had a small melodic arc to it. One of my producers pointed this out and asked what if that was expanded upon? I slowed the sound way down and picked out this seven-note melody hiding in there. That became the foundation for the Freaker melody. I incorporated this melody on strings and piano and instantly Freakshow felt like it could navigate the tragic nature of the Freaker infection as well the dread-filled, pulse-pounding terror of the Freakers.

There are so many distinctive tracks in this score, so I wanted to dive into a few of them a little more. Sarah’s Theme is so beautiful, fulfilling and optimistic. What was your thought process when developing this track?

I think optimistic is a great word to use for Sarah’s Theme and it was something I thought a lot about when I was writing this track. I thought of Sarah’s Theme as a reminder for Deacon of the connection he has with Sarah and of what’s important in life. I wanted this track to say there is a reason to be hopeful even when surrounded by massive loss. Optimism is a powerful part of that and, I think, is ultimately the way our hopes and dreams become reality. I wanted some of that unbridled hopefulness and optimism to come across. I also thought about how our memories stay with us and can become sources of strength and purpose, but they can also manifest in negative ways rekindling old fears and regrets. With Sarah’s Theme, I thought about the magical early days of a relationship, how those memories can stay with you forever. I strove to infuse some of that electricity into the music and make it this bright contrast to the Freaker-infested world around us.

The Rager Bear has a heavy muscular tone to it with a great deal of tension. As you were creating this theme, did you look at gameplay of the Rager bear to realize what you wanted to accomplish, or was it mainly concept art and story that drove your creative process?

This is another example of the amazing creativity coming out of Bend Studio. When I first saw the Rager Bear I thought it was so perfectly terrifying and appropriate for the world of Days Gone. Bend sent me both concept art and some game capture as visual references, but story was always a critical component at every step as well. I think being mindful of how every element fits into the story is a key contributor to Days Gone’s overall emotional impact and that was something John Garvin really reinforced. I wanted the music for the Rager Bear to feel as threatening, massive, and raw as the Rager looked. I wanted it to have these jagged, serrated edges but also feel lumbering and have serious weight. For me, the Rager was the moment where the threat level in the world of the game took a massive leap beyond what I had imagined–if there are infected bears, what else would we encounter?

Every time I listen to Finding NERO, my mind goes back to each encounter I had with them in the game. The way I would sneak around in the bushes to avoid each soldier, while listening for any clues to unravel the mystery. How did you capture that sense of mystery in the melody?

I think one thing that helped with the sense of mystery was that Finding NERO is so unlike any other music in the game. In general, we felt the overall Days Gone sound should not be too rooted in sci-fi and it should be more organic and rough-hewn. But NERO was an exception and I wanted the music to have a precise, high-tech feel that stood out in contrast to the rest of the score. As for the melody itself, I never know where melodies come from! I knew that the tune should be simple, and, for some reason, those four notes seemed to suggest to me that something was going on beneath the surface.

In I Remember, you feel that connection to Deacon’s sadness, especially within the first minute of the track. Then the song begins to elevate filling you with the joy of the happier moments he had. What kind of discussions did you have with Creative Director John Garvin about these moments of the story between Deacon and Sarah?

I think most of my conversations with John were about Deacon and Sarah. We talked about them being, on the surface, a bit of an unlikely pair–the brilliant scientist and the crude biker. But through this contrast we learn that Deacon and Sarah are more than caricatures from these extremely different worlds. These moments show us more nuance and all these little details of their relationship. We start to see this special chemistry between them. I think John’s writing shines in these moments and the amazing performances from Sam Witwer and Courtnee Draper completely elevate these scenes. We also discussed the unexpected, complex turns that pop up between Deacon and Sarah. (Spoiler Alert!) Deacon finally finds Sarah alive and the encounter is not at all what he expected it to be and not what players will expect. I loved the complexity here. It felt believable and was some tricky territory musically. John and I had a lot of conversations about what was going on at this huge moment in the game and how to approach it musically. These were some of the most difficult but satisfying moments to score.

If you had to pick one, what was your absolute favorite track to work on for this score?

It is extremely hard to pick a favorite! If I have to name a single track, it’s Days Gone, the main theme of the game. I remember writing this track and being completely electrified by this story and this amazing setting. I was feeling so fortunate but also completely daunted to write music for this world and I think that is really the sweet spot for a composer.

Go Behind the Music with Nathan Whitehead in the video below:

You can listen to the official Days Gone soundtrack by Nathan Whitehead on Spotify and other music streaming services.

Order the Days Gone soundtrack on vinyl now at

I would like to extend my gratitude to Nathan Whitehead for taking the time to come onto The Broken Road to answer my questions. Thank you!

Virtual Photography Theme #3

We’re back with a new theme for the month of November! This time the theme was decided by YOU, via the poll from Twitter. The results are shown below. Thank you to all who voted!

The winner is… Deacon St. John! Share your best photos of our favorite drifter and bounty hunter. As long as Deacon St. John is the focus of the photo, you have free range to come up with whatever you like. Want something silly? Go ahead! How about the popular portrait shots? Yes please! Maybe you want Deacon in action battling against a horde, or cruising his bike through the wilderness of Oregon? Let’s see it all!

I wanted to say a quick thanks to everyone who participated in last month’s Freakshow theme. There were a lot of entries and I’m glad you took the time to share them! Also, this will be the last theme held in 2019 as we will be taking the month of December off. Due to the holidays and everyone’s busy schedule for this time of year, we will resume with our fourth theme in January 2020.


  • Theme: DEACON
  • Tag your posts using #VPDaysGone. You can also tag me to make sure I see it!
  • All posts suited to the theme will be retweeted and added to a moment at the end
  • Last chance to enter your photos for this theme will be on Saturday, November 30th at 11:59pm EST
  • Hosted by me: @vikingdad278


Through My Lens

Photo Mode is a key component to any modern video game. It’s a feature that is used by players to capture their favorite moments, to the smallest detail. Photo Mode gives the players the tools necessary to look at the game in a new perspective and create an image that speaks to them. Photo Mode also helps display all the hard work that the artists achieve when developing a game that many of us take for granted. Taking photos pauses the action to examine the lighting, textures, foliage and details making us appreciate the care invested in a game we love. Days Gone provides one of the best Photo Modes to date with an abundance of settings to really capture something unique. In the beautiful, but dangerous world of Days Gone there are limitless possibilities in taking photos. Open-world games provide you with different landscapes, wildlife, characters, enemies and special locations. You will find yourself taking more photos than actually playing the game!

Days Gone is the game that got me started with Virtual Photography. It got me involved in the Virtual Photography community, which I never knew existed before this. Being a part of this community taught me a lot about in-game photography and how I can improve. Participating in weekly and monthly themes helped me take shots out of my comfort zone and use settings in the Photo Mode I normally wouldn’t. I never knew that I would fall in love with this art form so much. Now, here I am with a whole gallery of photos and holding Days Gone specific themes. It has been quite the journey!

First, I want to say that I am in no way a professional at this art form. I am still learning everyday and hoping to continue to improve. In today’s post, I just wanted to share my experience with Photo Mode and provide you with my personal tips to capture Days Gone photos. This will not be a tutorial but will show you a picture of what and how I think. Maybe you will take something good away from it to help with your own photos!

From the Beginning

Before Days Gone, I would take screenshots here and there in games as more of a memento to myself because I never shared them. I never truly understood the Photo Mode feature and all its settings until now. Below, you can see my very first photos I captured that sparked my interest in Virtual Photography, this blog and all my Days Gone content. These were very basic screenshots with no editing whatsoever in Photo Mode. At that time, I had no clue what to do! It’s funny to see this post now because little did I know what would become of it.

Fast forward six months, I now realize what works best for me and what doesn’t in the Days Gone Photo Mode. My favorite types of photos I love to take are with the motorcycle, landscapes and action. I seem to take more of these types of shots more than anything else. Between the motorcycle, landscapes and action I feel there is a large variety there to play with making each capture feel different. The landscapes prove just how beautiful the world of Days Gone is. The motorcycle is such an important piece to the game and its customizations can always provide a different look. The action is a staple to Days Gone with the slogan, “This world comes for you.” This can create extraordinary shots during fights with a horde, a Rager bear, Runners and other enemies.

As I have invested the past six months into Days Gone, my focus with my photos now looks at shots that haven’t been done before. Not only on a personal level, but things I usually don’t see other players sharing. I try to keep the photos fresh and varied to display the long range of photo opportunities that Days Gone can bring to people. From a design on a rug to fighting a bear, I want to capture as much as I can. As long as I continue to enjoy what I am doing (which I do) my creativity continues to expand.

Every now and then I like to look back at my older shots compared to my newer ones to see my progression, but to also see how I can improve. Some of the shots I have taken I am really proud of, and others I wish I did something just a little different. That’s just the perfectionist quality in me. Here you can see my top 5 most popular photos on Twitter, which correlate to some of my personal favorites as well.

Personal Tips

I would like to share with you some of my personal tips on how to approach your shot and follow through with a good photo. Once again, I should mention that I am not a professional photographer, just someone who enjoys doing it as a hobby. Most of the tips I mention below I learned from trial and error. What also helped me was gaining inspiration from other VP members with their shots from a wide range of games. Learning perspective, verticals, framing were all things that I learned from being involved in the community.

So, when should you take photos? I believe it’s best to take photos as you make your way through the story. This way you can capture certain characters and story points that resonate with you the most. However, I find myself most of the time roaming the map looking for particular themes to capture. Whether that is a community held theme or a theme I have in my mind. For example, when the Horizon Zero Dawn bike skin was released I had a certain picture in my head that I knew what I wanted to do. When I think of Horizon, I think of that beautiful world and the cold and snowy environments. Immediately, I rode my bike to the snowy area of the map and found a great spot with snow covered trees and a small pond of water. I wanted this theme to be labeled after the DLC, ‘The Frozen Wilds.’ The photo I captured fit perfectly with the theme I had in mind. When a spark of creativity jumps up, I roll with it to see what will come out of the photo. Sometimes your photo may not match what you were thinking and sometimes you will capture a great photo by accident!

This Photo Mode includes a lot of settings from basic to advanced, giving you the ability to take a shot and turn it into whatever you want. At first it might look intimidating but honestly, I usually go through the same cycle of settings for each photo. My priority once I enter Photo Mode is composition, focus and coloring. The very first thing I do is focus my shot. From here, I begin to position the screen and play with the Field of View slider, along with the Aperture to get a sense of what I am trying to capture. Once I feel that the composition and focus is right, then I start messing around with the color. At this point, I am still in the Basic settings menu where I navigate to Contrast and Brightness. I find the Contrast setting to be beneficial in a lot of my shots in Days Gone because as I increase the slider (just a notch up or two) it provides the darker tone needed in a lot of situations. Now, I enter the advanced settings to add a certain kick to the photo. Whether that includes Bloom, Vibrancy, Temperature or Vignette. Most of my shots include some sort of combination of these settings.

A couple basic features that is added to every Photo Mode are Frames and Filters. Personally, I don’t apply these that much to my shots especially the Frames. Occasionally, I will include a frame if I think it adds to the photo, but the world is so beautiful I don’t want to obstruct the view. It all depends on personal taste. With Filters, I mainly use three of them; Vintage, Black and White and Noir. I find that the Vintage filter really captures the moody atmosphere. I like to use this filter with hordes and darker areas to give it that apocalypse and desolate feel. A great feature that is included in the Photo Mode is being able to save your own preset. This is something I haven’t really taken advantage of, but I do have one preset saved called ‘black.’ This is a custom preset that provides the all black background. Thanks to @warrior_musa on Twitter for providing everybody with this tip!

The best tips I can give you is to experiment for yourself. Try out all the settings, take photos that you normally wouldn’t and be creative. Most of all, have fun doing it! Don’t worry about the numbers game on social media. If you begin to worry about how many “likes” you’re getting on each photo, your love for the art will diminish. Whatever art style you enjoy, continue with it and be confident in sharing it with the world. I hope this helped some of you out there, particularly the players who don’t know much about Virtual Photography like I did.

If you would like to see all my photos I have taken over the course of my playthroughs click here: Photo Mode, or go to the Photo Mode tab at the top of the page. Remember, you have until October 31st to enter the second #VPDaysGone theme, Freakshow. Let’s see your scariest Freaker photos! For more information on the themes and how to get involved you can find everything under Themes.

Are you new to Virtual Photography and need help getting your Days Gone photos noticed? Check out the following graphic to gain support and enter different themes. The list you see here is what forms the amazing VP community and if it wasn’t for them, Virtual Photography wouldn’t be as big as it is. You will also get the privilege to meet other VPs that are always willing to support and share your photos.

Image credit: GamerGram

Why Days Gone Should Win Game of the Year

It’s that time of the year again where the video game industry begins to ask the monumental question; who will win Game of the Year? As each year passes, the stakes for this prestigious award rises. The winners from the previous three years were God of War, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Overwatch. Each one of these games changed the way we look at games in the future for their respective genres. We look at those games as the pillars for story-telling, action-adventure and first-person shooters. In 2019, what game will become part of that elite club? What game created something original? What game delivered the best experience this year? Here are some of the notable games for 2019 to consider; Resident Evil 2 Remake, Control, A Plague Tale: Innocence, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, Borderlands 3, Gears 5, Outer Wilds and Days Gone.

Today, I am here to plead my case for Days Gone and why I think it deserves to win Game of the Year for 2019. Days Gone has dominated in sales ranking sixth in the all-time best-selling list for PlayStation 4 exclusives, according to the NPD. That is an extraordinary accomplishment considering the game has only been out for five months. The financial success obviously doesn’t determine the whole picture on why a game should be considered for Game of the Year, but it does show its merit with the gaming community. I want to look past the numbers though and explain why Days Gone rises above the rest in gameplay, narrative, originality and technical aspects. 

If you know nothing about Days Gone and you look at the cover, you may see just see another iteration of zombies. However, that is not the case and my point to this article is to show you the innovation behind it all. The Freakers in this game are not dead. The Freakers are a whole new threat that you haven’t seen in video games. The outbreak didn’t just affect humans, but it affected animals as well and there is not just one type of Freaker like there are with zombies in movies and television shows. Each Freaker type has their own characteristics and behavior. For example, infected adolescents are called Newts. Newts have the physical appearance of young teenagers and will only attack you when low on health. They like to watch from rooftops and crawl to traverse. Breakers are another type of Freaker that play the opposite role of Newts. They are enormous and strong and will charge at you on sight with powerful attacks. There are multiple types of Freakers making the game feel fresh throughout your whole playthrough as you learn new strategies to defeat each one. Once the virus spread across the world turning animals and humans into cannibalistic creatures, it didn’t stop there. The Freakers are evolving throughout the story and leaves us questions on this dangerous threat for the future of Days Gone. Each Freaker raises the stakes of the last one you encountered never creating a dull moment in the world. This is not just another zombie game. 

I didn’t even mention the innovative horde mechanic yet. The hordes in Days Gone are one of the most impressive aspects of the game. There are 40 hordes ranging in size spread across the map. The hordes don’t just sit in one spot waiting for you to ambush them though. They migrate from their hibernation nests (usually in a cave) to locations of water, or you will see them just wandering around. As you make your way to the next mission, you may stumble upon a horde crossing the road. You either fight or turn around and ride away. Every time you encounter a horde, it’s an adrenaline rush. With the hordes placed in different environments, it allows you as the player to strategize your attack, place traps and create an exit plan. Battling hordes are a fun and addicting gameplay loop always keeping you on the edge of your seat.

New original enemy types, check. New horde mechanics, check. Now, onto the motorcycle which adds multiple layers to the game including the connection to the narrative and gameplay elements. At the very beginning of the game, you start off with a loaded motorcycle to give you a taste of what you can expect as you move forward. Unfortunately, that motorcycle gets taken away from you quickly, and your left with a basic bike with no upgrades. After realizing the potential of your bike, the bare bones motorcycle just doesn’t match up. It’s slow, the exhaust is loud, the tires have very little traction, fuel tank is small and there are no other accessories to protect it from damage. This is when you realize that the drifter bike is more than just a means of transportation, but a whole other character in the game. As you would upgrade your character in other games with better armor, better weapons and your own personal taste of appearance, is how you approach Deacon’s motorcycle. There are certain spots in the world that your basic bike will not be able to get to because it won’t have the engine power to go off a ramp and clear the gap. These spots are called NERO Research Site locations and are beneficial to you for leveling up Deacon to take on the larger hordes later. There are also countless ways to customize your bike from colors, to decals, special bike skins and accessories. Days Gone makes it a point for you to go out in the world and complete missions to be able to purchase upgrades for your bike. Better yet, each mission you do connects to the overall storyline making your time feel worth it. More on the narrative structure later. The post-apocalyptic Oregon is not a place that you want to walk around. Bridges are collapsed, roads are blocked and Freakers are everywhere. Days Gone did a great job in making the motorcycle feel apart of the world. By the end of the game, it will persuade you to start wanting to ride a motorcycle in real life!

Stories are what moves us, inspires us and change us. Days Gone is a narrative focused game that intertwines multiple storylines to the overall arc. The narrative structure is different than most open-world games. The side missions are not just fetch quests or a checklist to mark off, but separate storylines that connect to each other. Everything you do will advance the narrative in some way immersing you more into the world. The narrative is not laid right out in front of you either. In no way am I saying this is a bad thing, but quite the opposite. There is a lot of world-building at play during some of these storylines and its your job to connect them and learn more about the world around you. The player and Deacon are learning together creating a bond between you and the character. The best stories are layered with emotion and Days Gone checks all the boxes with mystery, hope, love, regret, brotherhood and trust. 

The thing that ties it all together between the story, gameplay, and creative decisions is the technical side behind it. Days Gone is one of the best-looking games on the PlayStation 4 due to its dynamic weather and the beauty of nature and destruction. The audio beats pair perfectly with the visuals adding to the realistic environment. Throw in the score composed by Nathan Whitehead as you are about to encounter a horde and you will soon realize what makes Days Gone so special. The details of Deacon’s hair moving during the gusts of wind, the snow covering dead bodies on the ground, the mud spraying from the back tire as you drift around the corner are just a few details that show the love and care that was put into the technical side of the game. 

Why should Days Gone win Game of the Year? Because it rises above the rest in gameplay, narrative, originality and technical aspects. The gameplay provided me with the most thrilling and fun I’ve had in any video game. The story of Days Gone created an impactful and memorable experience. There has been nothing like Days Gone before. The setting of desolate Oregon, the band of motorcycle riders and the threat of new enemies is original and stands unique among other post-apocalyptic video games. The graphics are second to none with superb lighting, foliage and landscapes. I could sit here all day writing the praises I have for this game, but I wanted to focus on the points that make Days Gone original and unique. Bend Studio achieved an ambitious feat that deserves a lot of recognition. Days Gone is a phenomenal game and is worthy of being crowned Game of the Year.

Remember, whenever you post your photos or videos about Days Gone on social media just add the hashtag #GOTY to give Bend Studio a little boost in exposure for the award season. You can also go vote for Days Gone for the 2019 Golden Joystick Awards right now! Days Gone was nominated for Best Storytelling, Best Audio and PlayStation Game of the Year. Head to the Home page above and follow the link to cast your vote. 

Check out My Thoughts on Days Gone and What You May Have Missed for more in-depth details into some of the topics mentioned above.

Source: NPD via: PushSquare

Virtual Photography Theme #2

Welcome back to another Days Gone Virtual Photography Theme! Thank you all for participating in the last event. This theme will provide you more time to capture those amazing shots, while being perfectly suited for the Halloween season.

The new theme is… FREAKSHOW! You have the whole month of October to share your photos of Freakers. This includes Swarmers, Bleachers, Newts, Screamers, Breakers, Reachers, Criers, Ragers and Runners. The scarier and creepier the better!


  • Theme: FREAKSHOW
  • Tag your posts using #VPDaysGone
  • All posts suited to the theme will be retweeted and added to a moment at the end
  • Last chance to enter your photos for this theme will be on Thursday, October 31st at 11:59pm EST
  • Hosted by me: @vikingdad278

Looking forward to seeing all your Spooktacular photos!

Theory: Deacon and NERO

Are you ready to put your tinfoil hat on? Well, I have a theory about our friend Deacon St. John and what could possibly be his demise down the road. Before that, I dig into NERO’s supervillain plan and begin to think if I am really this crazy. Hope you enjoy!


From the very beginning of the story, we see the connection of Deacon and NERO. From the time Sarah gets on the helicopter, to the revelation of O’Brian at the end of the game. I believe there is something behind the connection of Deacon and NERO than just finding Sarah. Add in the fact that we find out later in the game that Sarah knows the virus came directly from her lab at Cloverdale. If NERO is a government agency and Sarah has security clearance, wouldn’t they want to keep close tabs on the person that may have contributed to the virus? Could it be some huge elaborate plan from the head of NERO to track Deacon in finding Sarah? Is Sarah the key to all of this? 

O’Brian has been out of the loop with his own agency as he uses Deacon to gain intel on other researchers. The head of NERO could be using O’Brian and Deacon as puppets to reach Sarah. However, if they already know where Sarah is from her surgery at Silver Lake Emergency Facility, then are they tracking Deacon’s movements to find out more about the Freakers? Deacon could just be another body in their mind doing their dirty work as they gain more information by the day. Using a survivor instead of one of their own soldiers to dive into caves and find locations of hordes is pretty clever if I say so myself. Now you may be thinking, how could NERO possibly know the location of Deacon at all times? By the NERO radio that Deacon has attached to him! Inside the radio could be a GPS tracker following his every move. Deacon has that radio on him all the way to the point where NERO almost picks Sarah and him up at Wizard Island. Coincidence? 

All of this brings me to my main point for the end of Deacon St. John. So, NERO knows where Deacon has been traveling. They know where Sarah is. They know about all the NERO research sites he has visited. What if they’re not following him just for information on the Freakers, but using him as an experiment? In a post-apocalyptic world, any type of medicine is crucial to surviving. Nevertheless, NERO leaves injectors behind that seem to be very beneficial. That would be something you would want to have in your possession, correct? Unless, you meticulously leave it there for a reason. NERO tracks Deacon as he goes from research site to research site knowing very well that he is gathering any supplies he can find. Each injector provides Deacon with a boost of stamina, focus or health leaving him the perfect bait to gain any little advantage over hordes of Freakers. What if that injector is filled with the Freaker virus? 

“What if that injector is filled with the Freaker virus?”

Let’s assume that Deacon along with the other survivors are immune to the virus, but these injectors are slowly pumping Deacon with it. Over time, will he become an intelligent Freaker type like O’Brian? If infected, this would grant Deacon with enhanced strength and agility, while still containing his human intelligence. Knowing who the character of Deacon St. John is and his code, once he would become aware of the transformation, he would want to die before becoming one of them. Before he gets to the point of death though, NERO’s main goal would be to capture Deacon and use him for their own purpose (whatever that may be). However, NERO would be unsuccessful in capturing Deacon because Boozer would be the one to kill his own brother to spare him. 

I’m losing you now, right? Let me bring the ending of this theory full circle with the death of Deacon. Remember during the story when you must find Boozer drunk and wandering the broken road? When Deacon finds him, Boozer is ready to die by the horde in front of him. Deacon reminds him of the time when his old lady was killed, and he found him halfway through a case of whiskey about to drink himself to death. If he was going to drink himself to death, then Deacon would be right there with him because “that’s what brothers do.” Now, you’re beginning to ask yourself why wouldn’t Boozer die along with his brother? Right before Deacon dies, he asks his brother for one last promise – to keep Sarah safe.

Here is some additional evidence I wanted you to see that could relate to my theory. Below, is the dialogue from O’Brian when you meet him at the cemetery in the post-credits scene after he removes his helmet:

“They knew all along, of course, that it was happening.”

“The men above me? That’s why they were so cautious, so secretive.”

“They’re coming.”

“I’m sorry.”

“There’s nothing you can do to stop them.”

If this is how Deacon dies, does this occur at the end of Days Gone 3? You can then decide to move the franchise forward in two different ways; move to a whole new location with new characters or continue the story of brotherhood with Boozer keeping his promise to Deacon as you follow the journey of Boozer and Sarah. 

Did you keep up with me with all that rambling? As I was writing this theory, I kept branching off with even more possibilities causing even my head to spin. Is this theory far-fetched? Of course it is, but speculating the unlikely scenarios is what makes theorizing so enjoyable. Do you have any theories yourself? Head to the bottom of this page and click the Discord icon to join The Broken Road server where we chat about everything and anything Days Gone and let me know what you think!