Over the summer last year, Bend Studio added 12 free challenges to Days Gone to test player’s skills in various ways. Recently, I was reminiscing about the pure excitement I had every Friday waiting to get my thumbs on the sticks to play the next challenge. Feeling the adrenaline rush as you take on an unlimited horde, or the pressure as you race across the map on your drifter bike to complete a trial, the challenges were unique and an absolute blast to play. Occasionally I go back to the challenges to try and beat my previous high scores and move up in the leaderboards. Challenge modes usually are not my cup of tea in games, but these challenges were done so well that I couldn’t (and still can’t) stay away from them. That gave me the idea to rank all 12 challenges from hardest to easiest. If you are one of those players that haven’t tried the challenges yet, maybe this list will help you begin where to start to boost your confidence and start earning some credits.
*Each challenge shows a Gold rank run
This challenge took me way more hours than I would like to admit. You need to be almost flawless with your bike skills for this one to achieve the gold score.
Tip: Best rings to use – Engine, Tire/Snake
In my opinion, this was the hardest horde challenge and was actually the very first challenge that was released. It took me a few weeks to finally get gold on this one. Surrounded is the perfect name for this challenge because Freakers will come at you from everywhere!
Tip: Best rings to use – Bullets, Ram
Headshots, headshots and headshots. Surviving this challenge is more than just taking down waves of enemies. You need to be proficient with your marksman skills to achieve the highest score possible and come away with gold.
Tip: Best rings to use – 1%ER, Lionheart/Joker
9. AMBUSH CAMP RUSH
There’s not another challenge like this one. Whether you go in guns blazing or take the stealthy approach, you must calculate each move to get the best possible score.
Tip: Best rings to use – Fleur De Lis, Vampire
8. DRIFTER’S RUN
You either love the bike challenges or hate them. Learn the best possible path, nail the ramps and drift to your heart’s content and you will achieve that sweet gold rank as you cross the snowy finish line.
Tip: Best rings to use – Engine, Snake
7. DEAD DON’T RIDE
Two words… Crazy Taxi.
Rings don’t matter here
6. DEAD BEFORE DAYLIGHT
Are you claustrophobic? This may not be the challenge for you. Survive the night in the cabin as Freakers barge through windows and doors as you fight for every breath. Hint: Head upstairs… There’s a surprise that you don’t want to miss.
Tip: Best rings to use – Lionheart, Reaper
What do you get when you have a sniper rifle and a horde of Freakers? A ton of chaos and fun! Plus, if you like explosions then this one is for you.
Tip: Best rings to use – Bullets, Ram
4. BLACK FRIDAY
Old Sawmill. Good luck.
Tip: Best rings to use – Bullets, Ram
3. HOG WILD
You will hit a lot of trees in this one. Riding the twists and turns of the Cascade region can be dangerous, but once you master steering you’re in for the funnest bike challenge out of them all.
Tip: Best rings to use – Engine, Tire/Snake
2. KEEP THEM SAFER
Whether I tackle this horde in the game or in the challenge, I came to the conclusion that it is one of my favorite hordes to face. It’s the second biggest horde in the game with 300 Freakers. In this challenge, you must avoid rolling and utilize your crossbow to earn gold. It sounds intimidating, but if you know the layout of the level well it should be easier than you think.
Tip: Best rings to use – Ram, Fleur De Lis
On my very first try, I achieved gold on this challenge. However, the sub-challenges are more difficult to achieve, which makes my number one easiest challenge tricky. If you want to simply get gold, then you can very well knock it out without getting gold on all the sub-challenges – it may just take a little longer.
Tip: Best rings to use – Bullets, Ram
There you have it, my personal rankings of all 12 challenges! Remember, the challenges that were difficult to me may be easy for you and vice versa. Jump into one of the challenges and give it a shot if you haven’t. Your skills may surprise you! Plus, by completing each challenge and ranking in each one, you get a new patch that boosts your stats and carries over to the main story. They look pretty snazzy on Deacon’s vest too! You can also equip the bike skins you unlock in the challenges to the story.
Let me know what challenges were the easiest and hardest for you in the comments below or on Twitter!
In last week’s PS I Love You XOXO podcast by Greg Miller and Blessing from Kinda Funny games, they conducted a 72-game tournament to decide the best PS4 exclusive ever. That got me thinking, how can I put my Days Gone touch on that?
I present to you our exclusive Days Gone Best Character tournament! The bracket includes 32 different characters in Days Gone that YOU will vote on to choose the best Days Gone character. Including bounties, minor characters and Freaker types there are over 50 total characters in Days Gone. I narrowed that down to 32 to fit the tournament style format. The 32 characters were based on screen time, impact in the story and how familiar the characters would be to the player.
Here is the bracket:
How It Works
Each day for the next 31 days, I will post one matchup on Twitter as a poll for you to vote on. The first matchup will be in the Lost Lake bracket with number 1 seed Deacon vs. number 8 seed Blair. The poll will stay up for 24 hours with the winner being chosen by you. The following day we will continue to move down the left side of the bracket. After the first round is complete on both sides, an updated bracket graphic will be shared to show you where the field stands before we move on to the second round.
I hope you enjoy this little event and I look forward to seeing the results! Bonus: Share your predictions with me by filling out your own bracket before voting begins.
After completing Days Gone again recently, I started to think about the future of the story and the possibilities that it could lead to. Days Gone provided players with a brand new world, new location, new enemies and a new story told through world-building pieces, environmental story-telling and the overall narrative. It gave us a lot of answers on the post-apocalyptic world, but left a lot of questions as well. Here are my top eight questions that Days Gone 2 might answer.
**MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!**
Will Boozer be able to ride again?
The tragedy Boozer faced in Days Gone was heartbreaking. He was on the verge of taking his own life after losing his arm during the Drinking Himself to Death mission. With the help of Deacon, Boozer found a reason to live and to keep going. He may not be able to ride anymore, but is it a possibility for the future?
It’s pretty difficult trying to ride a motorcycle with one arm, but that ice cream scoop can shift one hell of a gear in a truck. What will Rikki come up with to give Boozer the ability to ride the broken road again? If she weaponized the Boozeman, I’m sure she has more ideas up her mechanical sleeve. At the end of the game, Boozer gets pulled back to Lost Lake in a wheelchair attached to the back of Rikki’s bike. There was also concept art in The Art of Days Gone book that includes a three-wheeler bike that was not seen in the game. Maybe this is how we see the drifter boys riding together again?
Does Sarah find a cure?
The main question we should ask ourselves, is a cure even possible? Sarah’s time at Wizard Island consisted solely on research to try and find a cure. With Deacon, she gathered the final supplies she needed at Cloverdale and Chemult Community College to be able to test her research on a Newt. After all her work, her mission failed. Which brings us back to the question, is a cure even possible?
Since Colonel Garret and the militia are eliminated, Sarah now has free rein to conduct her research at Cloverdale. What other supplies will she need? How far will they need to travel to gather the said supplies? If anyone can create a cure for the virus, Sarah is the one to save humanity.
How many more “O’Brians” is there?
The biggest twist in the game comes post-credits from the mission There’s Nothing You Can Do. This is where we see the big reveal from the man behind the mask we’ve been following the whole game. The Freakers are evolving and in ways we didn’t see coming. O’Brian takes off his mask and we see that young intern we encountered at the beginning of the game slowly turning into one of “them.” This is called the Intelligent Freaker type and the only one we have seen so far. O’Brian implies that there is more of him at NERO with the chilling words…
“There’s nothing you can do to stop them.”
How many Intelligent Freakers are under NERO’s control? That’s the question that should terrify us. Do we see a horde of this type of Freaker? Will they be able to carry weapons? (That would just be unfair!) This scene should get you really excited for the future of Days Gone!
Do we find the headquarters to NERO?
Will Deacon make it a mission to search out the headquarters for NERO? I don’t think Deacon is a man to just ignore the warning O’Brian gave him. Just like the strategy he used for Wizard Island with “hitting them first,” Deacon will want to find exactly what O’Brian warned of. Following the helicopters is the only lead Deacon has right now, but how far will he have to follow them? If Deacon is able to find the headquarters, will the camps be enough to take NERO on? How close do you think NERO is to our camps in Oregon? There are so many questions to this world that we still need to uncover and that’s what makes this story fascinating!
Will we see Kouri again?
After Kouri saved Deacon from being hung at the hands of Colonel Garret, Kouri and a couple of his men went east heading towards Reno. That was the last we saw from him after the passing of mutual respect between him and Deacon. Kouri asked Deacon to come with him, but he respected and understood Deacon’s actions to continue on to save Sarah and defeat the militia. (A part of me thought that we were going to see Kouri come back at the end and fight Wizard Island with Deacon.) I truly believe “Reno” was mentioned for a reason here.
Does Kouri make it to Reno? If so, I could see him building a new camp where he takes command and helps build a network to the other camps in Oregon. Maybe he doesn’t make it to Reno due to unforeseeable reasons and heads back to help Deacon with Lost Lake? Whatever the case, I surely hope we see Derrick Kouri again.
Will a new leader rise from the Rippers?
Yes, Deacon and Boozer single-handedly (see what I did there) took out the Rippers including their leader Carlos. However, there are some stranglers that still roam around. Not all the Rippers were at their camp when the dam exploded and flooded it. Will one of the Rippers want to take revenge for Carlos after they find out what happened? Will the legacy of Carlos live on and still unite the cult in One Mind? The Rippers have been around since after the outbreak happened and they have accumulated a lot of followers. I wouldn’t be surprised if a small band of Rippers rise up and become deadlier than before…
Does Lisa stay at Lost Lake?
After the credits roll, we get one last scene with Lisa Jackson. She rides up to the gate of Lost Lake and gets misidentified by the guard thinking she is a Ripper. Deacon arrives just in time to deflate the heated conflict and talks to Lisa for the first time since they parted ways at the Ripper’s camp. She comes to Lost Lake with a bag full of bounties and insisting to Deacon that she does not want to stay.
Lisa is a survivor and now taking on the role of drifter. As she speaks to Deacon about not wanting to stay at a camp, we immediately see the resemblance of Deacon from the beginning of the game. That brings us to the question, will she continue her daily life as a drifter, or will Deacon and the others convince her to stay? I for one hope she does stay, and becomes part of the camp with our core group of characters. Watching her tragic storyline unfold, I anticipate seeing a larger role for Lisa in the next game.
Do we leave Oregon?
The militia is defeated, the hordes are eliminated and the main camps are for the most part united. I really enjoy riding around the high desert of Oregon and taking in the beautiful landscape is one of the best things about Days Gone, but how much longer can we stay? Cloverdale is a critical piece in the puzzle and could be the main reason why this will always be the central point to the story. We may even see a camp move there to live due to the electric fence, crops and large building to hold survivors. I have a feeling we may have to venture out further than the areas we already explored.
Finding the NERO headquarters or meeting up with Kouri at Reno are two possibilities that could lead Deacon and company out of Oregon for a period of time. Another possibility could be in search of rare supplies to help with Sarah’s research at Cloverdale. If we do leave Oregon, I believe this will be one of the reasons why.
What are some of your burning questions you want Days Gone 2 to answer? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!
The seven year wait is over… The Last of Us Part II is out today! In celebration, I wanted to put my own spin on this week’s preparation for the game the only way I know how, Days Gone style. On Monday I started a little series called The Last Days combining Days Gone and The Last of Us together for one ultimate crossover. Each day I posted photos, fun questions and comparisons on Twitter for people to join in on the discussion. Thank you all for participating, it was a lot of fun! To end The Last Days series, I wanted to dive a little deeper into the comparisons of both games and reveal the winners you answered for the questions during the week.
*Major SPOILERS ahead for both games*
They’re Not Zombies
First and foremost, both games do not include the term zombies. This is a similarity between the two games, but also a difference. The word zombie is casually thrown out by people in regards to any dead or undead human that has formed into a cannibalistic creature in media. Both games took the sense of a zombie, and spun the genre to fit their own creative story.
In Days Gone, the infected humans or animals in this case are called Freakers. The Freaker Virus was developed from research done at Cloverdale Lab. The virus was spread across the world by one person who unknowingly was infected by trying to expose the corrupt Cloverdale at an environmental convention. At the convention held in Portland, Oregon the infection spread from person to person where they then traveled back home all over the world. Freakers have multiple stages including Swarmers, Bleachers, Newts, Screamers, Reachers, Breakers and an Intelligent type. Freakers are not dead in the way you think of zombies. The virus also crossed species infecting different animals including wolves, bears, crows and bats.
In The Last of Us, a parasitic fungal infection or commonly known as the Cordyceps Brain Infection is what devastated humankind causing the fungus to grow while the host is still alive. The infection grows in multiple stages with each stage more dangerous than the last. If infected, a host begins as a Runner. If the host continues to “survive” it can move on to a Stalker, Clicker or Bloater. It all depends on the length of infection.
Both games use the term “Runners” as a type of infected. Both are dramatically different.
Both games use a “heavy” class for their infected. The Last of Us – Bloater. Days Gone – Breaker.
The Last of Us infected is classified as classes based on the duration of infection. Days Gone is classified as types depending on how the virus infected a person based on structural DNA or evolution of the virus.
If you examine any story close enough to another you will find some similarities most of the time, especially in a post-apocalyptic setting. Looking at the story alone, here are some of the story beats I found that relate to each other in some way.
Let’s start at the beginning. In both games, the story begins pre-apocalypse as we start to see the world go into chaos. Deacon and Joel both lose someone (in some capacity) they love very much. As a player, we are then connected to those characters because we feel their grief; we are invested on where the story goes, what happened to the world and how does this character move on from here? The title of each game then pops up onto your screen, giving you goosebumps knowing that these stories are going to be emotional. Days Gone pushes you 2 years later from that opening scene and The Last of Us pushes you 20 years later. Right away, we learn who Deacon and Joel have become in this new world; Deacon a drifter and bounty hunter, and Joel a smuggler. Both men also have a companion in Boozer and Tess. We begin to put our thumbs on the sticks and experience what life has been for both pairs in the apocalypse. Deacon and Boozer begin a chase with Leon, and Joel and Tess head to see Robert for their guns.
Now, let’s fast forward a little further and go back to the infected, more specifically the “heavy” class we talked about earlier. The first boss fight in each game involved the big brutes, the Breaker and the Bloater. The Breaker and the Bloater interrupted Deacon and Joel’s missions to gather an item; Deacon the antibiotics and Joel the car battery.
Fast forward even more to see the relation of the importance to the school missions. In Days Gone, Deacon and Sarah go to Chemult Community College to find a centrifuge for her research. In The Last of Us, Joel and Ellie went to Eastern Colorado University (Go Big Horns!) in search of the Fireflies. Each story beat to a school was a critical moment in both stories.
The last story beat I wanted to hit was the ending to each game. In Days Gone, Deacon shoots his way through a heavily fortified camp to rescue his wife Sarah. In The Last of Us, Joel shoots his way through the hospital to save Ellie. Both endings included a lot of casualties with two men determined to reach their goal of saving someone they love. In the end, Deacon and Joel went through a lot more than any man can bear, but they survived and they moved on with the person who they love and who changed them as a man.
Days Gone and The Last of Us have an incredible cast of characters making each one just as memorable as the next. With strong women characters, to a great display of diversity, villains and original characters, it shows why these stories are so well received. Below, I have put together a list of some of the characters from both games to show how each character relates to their counterpart in the other game.
Deacon — Joel
Survivors, seeking redemption
Sarah — Marlene
Stubborn, focused, aimed at the greater good
Boozer — Tommy
When you need them, they will be there for you
Iron Mike — Bill
They’ve seen it all. You want these men on your side if you can
Lisa — Ellie
Innocence turned into survivalist
Rikki — Tess
Tough, independent, will take care of business
Twitter– The Last Days
If you missed anything regarding The Last Days short series, you can look back at all the tweets here. Also, the winners are revealed from each question that you answered during the week. I was very happy to see all the love for Days Gone!
Winner: Deacon St. John
Winner: People would rather face the Runner in The Last of Us
Winner: Colonel Garret
I hope you all enjoyed The Last Days crossover series! Somehow, I always find a way to sneak Days Gone into something. Have fun this weekend, don’t post spoilers and endure and survive. Those Days are Gone waiting for The Last of Us Part II!
It’s time to let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. That’s the only way to enjoy a video game that was meant to be great. No, I’m not trying to bring anyone to the dark side here, but am referring to video game review scores especially concerning Days Gone by Bend Studio.
We are in an age of video games where we are spoiled by the quality of graphics, storytelling and developers pushing the creative envelope. Games are so large and ambitious that sometimes players run into a glitch or two. Before, once a game was released nothing could be done, but now any known issues that arise can be patched and updated to give the players as perfect of a game as possible. I think us as players take that for granted. Post-launch support from studios should be praised more because it shows they care about their work. Games take a long time to make and there is a lot behind the scenes we don’t see in the development process. So, next time you play a game that isn’t 100% perfect, sit back and just relax. The people who make these games are gamers just like you and I. They want to enjoy the game the same way you do.
Unfortunately, those immediate bugs don’t receive the same forgiveness by the critics. Days Gone won’t get the same treatment as games like No Man’s Sky or Star Wars Battlefront II because single player driven games don’t get the luxury of having their review scores updated. Both games mentioned prior rightfully deserve that praise after turning a sour launch into two successful games as a service for their communities. What I’m trying to say is that launch scores don’t correlate to the successfulness of a game. We all know Days Gone received mediocre scores when it was released, but you also have to take into consideration the state of the game that the reviewers had before the game was even out to the general public yet. When is it time for the players to throw away the review scores?
A little over a year later since Days Gone was released back in April 2019, word of mouth from players and the financial selling success makes those review scores moot at this point. According to the NPD Group (via Venture Beat), Days Gone was the 8th best-selling PlayStation 4 game of 2019, making it the top PlayStation selling exclusive last year. Plus, it made the top 10 best-selling digital games in 2019 too, selling more than major titles like Mortal Kombat 11 and Borderlands 3 according to @BenjiSales. However, I still receive so many questions whether to buy the game even now because of those same review scores. If you are still on the fence about purchasing Days Gone, I am here today to show you that you need to ignore the scores at this point because it is not a fair reflection of the current game. I honestly never understood the review scores in the first place, but thats a topic for another day. Bend Studio showed massive support for Days Gone from day one all the way up to January of this year. From general fixes and performance issues, to free added content, accessibility options and more.
Free Added Content
During the summer months of 2019, players were able to jump into brand new challenge modes every Friday for 12 straight weeks. The challenge modes aimed to test your skills in a variety of ways including timed trials on the bike, unlimited hordes, crazy taxi using a golf cart and surviving ambush camps. Each challenge consisted of three sub-challenges where you could earn credits by receiving gold, silver or bronze rank to unlock character skins, bike skins, rings to help achieve higher scores and patches with boosted stats that carry over to the story. All of this was completely free! The challenge modes are a permanent feature on Days Gone and they can be accessed at any time. Whether you are a brand new player who hasn’t started the story yet or a veteran that’s beaten the game multiple times you can hop right into the challenges from the main menu.
Customizing your drifter bike is a huge component in Days Gone. From performance upgrades, to visual upgrades and the color or design of your bike’s paint job there is a wide range of selection to make the bike your style. Bend Studio collaborated with other Sony studios such as Santa Monica, Naughty Dog, Guerilla and others to create unique bike skins based on their games. You can choose to ride the broken road using a God of War bike skin, Horizon Zero Dawn, Uncharted, Concrete Genie and Death Stranding. Bend Studio even added a nod to their previous games, Syphon Filter. Once again, all of this was free to every player!
The most requested feature from players was also added to Days Gone, New Game Plus. Bend took it one step further though and added a brand new weapon to New Game Plus, the BND-150. This weapon is a powerful sniper rifle with multiple different types of ammo serving as another nod to Syphon Filter. Not only did they add this game mode, but added more gameplay difficulties as well including Hard II, Survival and Survival II. The Survival modes eliminate the HUD (you can momentarily pull it up by pressing L3) and fast travel creating an immersive experience in the harsh Pacific Northwest.
Another added feature was the ability to reset Hordes, Ambush Camps and Infestation Zones as much as you want. This gives you more playability and let’s you experiment different ways to tackle the open world. Take a look at Patch 1.60 notes HERE on the conditions needed to activate this feature.
For you PlayStation trophy hunters out there, new trophies were added for the challenge modes, New Game Plus and the survival mode difficulty too.
Fixes and Improvements
From the first initial patch during launch week to the final patch in January, Bend Studio proved that they were committed to Days Gone and they wanted to provide you the best possible experience with it. Even after 5+ years developing the game, they continued to show support to the community by listening to the player’s requests and fixing any issues that needed to be addressed.
You can go HERE to see the final patch notes and all the updates that were released.
Improvements to stability and optimization were constantly made post-launch and the technical issues that you may have read in reviews from a year ago are no longer an issue. In fact, if you already own a digital version of Days Gone and you haven’t taken advantage yet, you have the option to redownload the game data freeing up more hard-drive space creating an up to date compiled file. Plus, the update brings optimization improvement to all players.
A simple, but important quality of life fix was added early on as players can pick up and swap weapons on the ground with the “Triangle” button. Before, all items were picked up with the use of the “Square” button causing you to grab items off the ground you weren’t aiming to get. Everything was looked at and improved by the team at Bend and no stone was unturned.
Accessibility options make any game more accessible for all players. Instead of giving you a description of each option, you can see the list below on everything that was implemented. You can adjust any of these options in the pause menu under Options.
Inverted Horizontal/Vertical Camera Controls
Camera Follow Tracking
Disable Controller Speakers
Subtitle Speaker Names
Repeated Button Presses
Repeated Button Size
Easier Sprint Activation
Touchpad Dead Zones
Motion Sensor Function Aiming
Auto-complete QTE (Easy Mode Only)
Controller Dead Zone
UI High Contrast Color Mode
New Linear Option for Aiming
Days Gone was nominated for multiple awards in 2019 and rightfully snagged a few of them. Unfortunately, it was snubbed out of the popular Game Awards (still not happy about that). However, Days Gone received PlayStation Game of the Year and Best Storytelling for the 37th Golden Joystick Awards. In my opinion, these two awards are worth more merit because they are voted on by the players who purchase and play the game. Days Gone also won 2019 Best Visual Design for the TIGA Games Industry Awards.
Days Gone won multiple awards for the 2019 PlayStation.Blog awards including Best PlayStation Console Exclusive, Best Narrative, Best Performance and Best Soundtrack. Recently, it also picked up another award for Best Music/Sound Design in The Webby Awards.
The composer behind Days Gone, Nathan Whitehead grabbed multiple nominations for his beautifully haunting and raw score including the Jerry Goldsmith Awards, Hollywood Music in Media Awards, Gamemusic.net’s Reader’s Choice Album of the Year and ASCAP Composer’s Choice Award. You can read more about his process of creating the Days Gone score in an interview I had with him last year.
There is no better time to start riding the broken road than now, especially with the current Days of Play sale running up until June 17th in North America. Days Gone is listed at its lowest price yet at only $14.79 on the PS Store! Recently, the same sale was held in the UK where Days Gone took advantage and moved into the top 10 (number 6) of best-selling games for the month of May, according to Push Square. If you need to see how the game looks, go HERE for a gallery of in-game photos I captured with photo mode.
*UPDATE 7/23/20: Days Gone is 33% off right now on the PlayStation Store Summer Sale until August 5th! Both standard and deluxe are on sale!*
Stop thinking about the review scores and try Days Gone out if you haven’t. It’s time to throw the review scores away and decide if you like the game for yourself. Bend Studio proved the review scores wrong. The players have spoken, the numbers don’t lie and the proof has been laid out above. Fuel up your bike and hit the broken road, but remember… This world comes for you.
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? ☺
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 Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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?
Is it open-world?
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.
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 society. 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 ten 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 stake 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 focus game that intertwines multiple storylines to the overall arch. 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. (Take a look for yourself at the gallery of in-game photos here: Photo Mode). 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.
After four months since
the release of Days Gone, the PlayStation exclusive has seen tremendous success
around the world. As of the end of July 2019, Days Gone was ranked the second best-selling
game in the UK in physical sales and has sold very well in other European
countries ranking in the top 3 in Austria, Sweden, Switzerland and Portugal,
according to GfK Entertainment. Days Gone was also ranked in the top 10 in
best-selling games so far in the USA, according to NPD. Along with their
continued success, Bend Studio has released plenty of post-launch updates and
free content, including survival mode, bike skins and weekly challenges that span
across twelve consecutive weeks. The last challenge releases on Friday,
September 13th, along with New Game Plus.
Days Gone is an
open-world action-adventure game set in post-apocalyptic Oregon. You play as
Deacon St. John, a drifter who rides the broken road trying to survive. The
landscape is beautiful, but horror is around every corner not allowing you to
catch your breath. Two years after the outbreak, millions of cannibalistic and
mindless Freakers roam the world. Other survivors and even infected animals
hunt you as you fight to stay alive. As terrifying as the world has become,
what lies in the core of the game is brotherhood, trust and hope.
Today, I had the great privilege to speak with the Game Director behind Days Gone, Jeff Ross. Jeff was a designer for sixteen years at Bend Studio working on titles such as Syphon Filter, Resistance: Retribution and Uncharted: Golden Abyss. After six years of tireless effort, I wanted to find out a little more about the behind the scenes making of Days Gone during this time, and hit on points of the game that fascinated me during my playthroughs. Jeff took time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions about some of the thinking process during the development stage, the balance of design and gameplay, the strong narrative aspect of Days Gone and more.
The Broken Road: First
of all, how’s your ankle doing? I hear Lost Lake has a pretty good doctor.
Jeff Ross: I was
afraid Addy would try to use that Liston knife on me, so I opted for Bend’s
fully functioning, state of the art hospital. Sorry, Addy! The ankle’s feeling much
better now (just over one month into the healing). It turned out be a really
small fracture from a relatively low-speed bike crash at 25 mph, it still had a
pretty big impact on my day-to-day life. If I hadn’t of been geared up with
proper riding boots it would have been much worse. Let my story be a reminder
to everyone to ride safe.
What is one thing you
had in the script that you really enjoyed, but didn’t make it into the final
cut? Whether that is a character moment, side quest, extra storyline, etc.
We considered adding jobs called Survivor Stories. These
were moments where Deacon could overhear people in encampments, learn about
their struggles and unresolved emotional issues born from the sudden onset of
the apocalypse. These were opportunities for Deacon to embark on adventures to
find key objects, use tracking to determine the fate of loved ones, and other
ways he could help bring closure to these survivors. It was a way to flesh out
the world and expand the story lens to show the devastation was shared and not
unique to Deacon. We ultimately realized these would be too distracting from
the main narrative and decided against developing them. As it turns out we had
plenty of other content to make an epic game.
What was the most
complicated issue to work on during the development process? Horde mechanics,
motorcycle movement, random encounters, gameplay balance or something else?
Of course it was all hard, but we had some developers who
executed at the top of their game for the horde, motorcycle, open world, and
everything else. The most challenging task for me was balancing and tuning an
epic 30+ hour game. With narrow deltas between the start and end states for
things like guns, melee, attributes, skills, and bike upgrades it really meant
playing incredibly long loops to get a feel for their changes over time. Of
course the more I played the better I got at the game, so I had to find a way
to filter out my biases and try to see the game through the eyes of first time
What made you decide
on the name Freakers?
This was all John Garvin. He’s a bold Creative Director
who’s never content with easy answers. And he had this concept pretty early on.
He was really just trying to capture whatever colloquialisms might emerge as
survivors tried to describe creatures that were new to their world.
Theoretically you could travel to another location where the locals had
When creating the
horde at the Old Saw Mill, was 500 Freakers the magic number that you wanted to
hit for the player to experience? Was there a time that you wanted to
significantly increase or decrease that number?
We had to counter-balance performance limitations with our
desire to visually fill the space with enough enemies to seem daunting or
impossible to take-on. When you’re creating something new like the horde you
really don’t have any data or examples to use as a starting point. I have to
admit that we started with some wild guesses just to start the conversation,
and 500 was design’s starting number, expecting to be talked down. But kudos to
the engineering team for sticking with it and making that work. I really don’t
think it would have been that compelling otherwise.
The motorcycle is not
just a toy to use for transportation, but another character in the game. Do you
have more ideas on how to continue that direction for design and upgrades for a
possible sequel? Maybe attaching weapons to the bike, creating a sort of Mad
I’m really happy with how the bike systems turned out. We
have a key philosophy, “the bike is
essential for survival.” Combined with the Action Survival pillar, we were able
to make tough design decisions (things like saving at the bike, adding
saddlebag ammo upgrades, and requiring the bike for fast travel) that helped fill
the open world loops with tons of tension that became a trademark of the game.
Finally, Days Gone will always be grounded in a believable day-after-tomorrow
reality and tone that keeps players grounded. We’ll continue to push the
creative gameplay limits, but we never want to transport players out of that
From the very start
of the game we see Deacon and Boozer chasing down Leon and ending with Deacon
killing him. Toward the end of the game, Deacon goes back to that same spot to
save Manny. Are these two story points supposed to show the transformation of
who Deacon became by the end of this journey?
The Days Gone story is a complex, highly-interwoven
tapestry. Every detail, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant is
intended to serve the larger story and world.
The details in Days
Gone are truly something to witness. From the movements of Deacon’s finger for
trigger discipline or shifting gears on the motorcycle by using the clutch and
gear shift, to blood splattering on Deacon’s hand from a knife blow. How
important was it for your team to get these little things right?
Details like these are essential for immersing and keeping
players locked into believing our world is real. I have to be honest and admit
I didn’t even have to ask for many of these details—each team in the studio
pushed their elements as far as they could, and the result was often times me
being just as surprised as you whenever I discovered these nice little touches.
The stories are what
attracts me to video games. What I love so much about Days Gone is that
everything you do relates to the overall narrative with the intertwining
storylines. Not only does this impact the story elements, but it makes the
gameplay feel worth it. What made you choose this style over the normal
open-world checklist missions?
John and I made a decision early on there would be no
superfluous activities in our world. Everything available to players would have
to advance the narrative in some way (whether it was the main story, or secondary
world building). The Storylines menu was added quite late in development,
mainly to as a way to reinforce how everything mattered to the story,
especially when players spent significant periods of time in the open world
between missions with cinematics with overt storytelling.
I hate to put you on
the spot Jeff, but how are you doing in the challenges so far?
There was a time I used to joke I was the best Days Gone
player in the world because I got to present the game in public demos like the
E3 2016 Sawmill demo. But with the release of our challenges, my days at the
top are gone. The players are really good, tactical, and cleverly using the
rings and patches in ways to go back and run up their scores. I’ve resigned
myself to achieve Gold in every challenge, but making a run for the top of the
leaderboards just isn’t in the cards.
What is your favorite
challenge, and which character do you prefer to use?
First of all, I love the crazy variety our designers have
come up with. They also did a great job generating sub-challenges with a lot of
depth. Having said all of that, I love the raw simplicity of Surrounded
especially played with Boozer, my bald brethren.
I would like to give a big THANK YOU to Bend Studio and Jeff Ross for their support and coming onto my blog to speak to me. I am very grateful for this opportunity and I couldn’t say thank you enough. You can catch all the latest news about Days Gone from Bend Studio on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.