John Garvin, writer, and di­rec­tor of Days Gone, re­veals why the world is your en­emy

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - CONTENTS -

With a launch date set in stone – 22 Fe­bru­ary next year – there’s no look­ing back for Bend Stu­dio, the dev be­hind Days Gone. De­spite re­cently play­ing the game, we still have ques­tions. So we’re sit­ting down with writer and di­rec­tor John Garvin to dis­cuss why Freak­ers aren’t zom­bies, and more.

Garvin helps us dig a lit­tle deeper into how the game plays, dis­cussing up­grades, the open world, and how any­thing can hap­pen… OPM: What is the el­e­va­tor pitch on what Days Gone is all about, for those un­fa­mil­iar with it? John Garvin: It’s an ac­tion/ad­ven­ture, third­per­son shooter, set in an open world where the world comes for you. So it’s an open world that’s dan­ger­ous, it’s al­ways dan­ger­ous. As soon as you leave one of the en­camp­ments, you are go­ing to have to deal with hordes, in­fected an­i­mals, ma­raud­ers, am­bush­ers, and that’s re­ally what makes us unique, the fact that we’ve cre­ated an open world where no mat­ter what else you’re try­ing to do, you’re try­ing to sur­vive. OPM: There are ob­vi­ously a lot of games with zom­bies and things of that na­ture. Peo­ple see Days Gone and think it’s an­other zom­bie game. How do you re­spond to that? JG: Well, you know, if you are putting me in the same com­pany as The Last Of Us, which is one of the best games ever made, and my

re­sponse to that is, I al­ways want to know what they mean by that, be­cause to me, some of the best movies I’ve seen are about ‘Hey, you take a mass in­fec­tion, you kill a lot of peo­ple, you change the world, and then you make peo­ple dan­ger­ous, so mil­lions and mil­lions and mil­lions of crea­tures want to kill you and eat you.’ In­stantly, I’m on board with that. I’m like, ‘Okay, yeah, tell me more’. Es­pe­cially in an open world game, be­cause I haven’t seen a lot of that. But I feel if it’s got a com­pelling story, if it’s a new take on it, so in the grand scheme of zom­bies, yeah, we’re like, in­fected. So we’re like 28 Days Later zom­bies, in­stead of Walk­ing Dead zom­bies. And that’s, to my mind at least, that’s a huge dif­fer­ence. OPM: Why is it a big change? How does switch­ing from clas­sic zom­bies to in­fected be­ings af­fect the game­play? JG: Be­cause what that al­lowed us to do was to cre­ate an ecosys­tem; you’re in an open world, with a day/night cy­cle, and you’ve got crea­tures that need to eat, they need to sleep, they need to drink… all of that is built into the daily cy­cles of the horde. You find a horde den – a cave or a mine – you can track what they’ve done dur­ing the day. You can ac­tu­ally find where they go to feed, be­cause we have all of these mass graves in the world. That’s why they are out here in the wilder­ness. And then you can find out where they feed, where they drink, and you can fol­low them and learn their habits, and that’s im­por­tant, be­cause later on there’s go­ing to be mis­sions where you have to take them out. And they’re just dan­ger­ous all the time. If you run into one while you’re on the high­way try­ing to do some­thing else, good things don’t come of that. OPM: Can you tell us a bit about what we are see­ing to­day in this demo? JG: So we wanted to give you guys a hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence of the open world. So this is about an hour and ten min­utes into the game or so; the first hour is a sort of lin­ear ex­pe­ri­ence, it in­tro­duces the main char­ac­ters, in­tro­duces a lot of the world, and then we say, ‘okay, here’s the open world, go and do what you want to do’. So you have, in this ex­am­ple, you have a cou­ple choices. You have this job called Let Free­dom Ring, which is one of the am­bush camps, and Copeland, one of the char­ac­ters of the game says, ‘Hey, go take these guys out.’ But you also have your in­jured best friend, and he needs med­i­cal help, so you’ve got to go and break into the MMU, which is a Mo­bile Med­i­cal Unit, and you find these scat­tered through­out the open world and they all have a dif­fer­ent puz­zle to get into them. And


that’s just two of the things you can do. There’s also an in­fes­ta­tion zone you can clear out. And do­ing that opens up a fast travel route. Or, you have other am­bush camps you can take on, and you’re al­ways deal­ing with these am­bi­ent events. Things like a pack of wolves will sud­denly at­tack you, and you weren’t even aware that they were there. So that’s kind of why we wanted to demo this part of the game, is be­cause it’s open world, you get to ride the bike, you get to do ranged com­bat against hu­mans if you want, or you can solve this puz­zle, fight swarm­ers, try to help your friend. OPM: We played the sec­tion where we were help­ing our friend. We had to go to a med­i­cal trailer, and fix and power up the gen­er­a­tor. At one point, we were on our way to the next mis­sion, and we ran out of fuel. Then this crazy woman came af­ter us with a pipe – who would she be? JG: That just hap­pens. It hap­pens in the open world. So she was a ma­rauder, and she wanted to steal your stuff and kill you, so that she could take all of your stuff. OPM: So a ma­rauder is a hu­man en­emy? JG: And one of the things that we de­cided a long time ago about the world is that if you run into some­body out­side of the hu­man en­camp­ments, they’re dan­ger­ous. There’s no con­cept of run­ning into… well, ac­tu­ally, I take that back, there are times that you can find hostages, and it’s very ap­par­ent who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. But for the most part, if you run into some­body, they are try­ing to kill you. Ob­vi­ously, be­cause she had a pipe, she was try­ing to kill you. OPM: We didn’t even want to kill her, but we had to be­cause she was at­tack­ing us. JG: There you go, that’s what hap­pens. OPM: It seems like there are a lot of sys­tems, and a lot of depth. We got to re­pair our ve­hi­cle. Can you talk a lit­tle about those el­e­ments? JG: Yeah, so we call that ‘ac­tion sur­vival’, and what we wanted was the ex­cite­ment of an ex­pe­ri­ence that’s real, with­out the minu­tiae of a lot of, you know, you have to fuel your bike, you have to re­pair your bike, but you don’t have to change the oil, or check the pres­sure on its tyres. So there’s a cer­tain amount of up­keep that we want you to have to be aware of, be­cause it cre­ates op­por­tu­ni­ties. Like, if you ran out of gas in the wilder­ness, and sud­denly you’re on foot, you know, you’re go­ing to have peo­ple with pipes try­ing to kill you. And that wouldn’t hap­pen had you paid more at­ten­tion and gassed up at Copeland’s camp be­fore you left. So it’s one of those things where we just want the player to be aware and be think­ing about things. Don’t take things for granted. So that’s one ex­am­ple. OPM: And we un­der­stand it’s go­ing to be pos­si­ble to up­grade Dea­con St John as well. In what kind of ways can we im­prove this cen­tral char­ac­ter as we play? JG: Ob­vi­ously you’re man­ag­ing your health, right? So that’s pretty im­por­tant. And if you did the MMU, then you know that there was an up­grade in there, so there’s newer tech­nol­ogy. If you open the right crate, yeah, you get the in­jec­tor. So there’s 13 of those in the game, and if you find them, and get them, then you can up­grade your health sig­nif­i­cantly, and that makes a huge im­pact on your sur­viv­abil­ity when you’re in the mid­dle of the world. OPM: So we boost our health and then we can own the game, right? JG: When you’re fight­ing a horde, all the health in the world isn’t go­ing to help you. You need other skills. OPM: It seems like it’s okay to run away from the Freak­ers? The crea­tures that at­tacked us when we came out of the trailer? We fought a cou­ple, but then we were los­ing, so we got on our bike and rode away. JG: I en­cour­age any­body to run when they need to. It’s a solid tac­tic when against the horde. OPM: So get­ting on in the game is not about clear­ing ar­eas? JG: It is about clear­ing ar­eas. So there’s a log­ging camp at the foot of O’Leary Moun­tain, which is where your friend is. There is a log­ging camp there that is what we call an in­fes­ta­tion zone. So that in­fes­ta­tion zone has four or five nests in it, and each of those nests has to be burned out, and then once you light a nest on fire, Freak­ers will come out, and you’ve got to fight them, you’ve got to deal with them. So you ab­so­lutely are forced at points to take them on, if there are things that you are try­ing to ac­com­plish. So why do you want to clear a nest­ing zone? Be­cause that’s the only way you can open fast travel routes. So we do have fast travel in the game, but if the marker route goes through an in­fes­ta­tion zone, you can’t use it un­til you clear out a zone. OPM: What do you hope peo­ple take away from the cool stuff they might see or en­counter in the game? JG: Well, the most im­por­tant thing is I hope they think it’s fun. So rid­ing the bike, and just the way the bike feels, the scale of the world, like be­ing able to ride to your next ob­jec­tive, and then get out on foot and have to, you know, the com­bi­na­tion of on-foot ob­jec­tives while you’re try­ing to solve puz­zles, or take out swarm­ers, or fight­ing ma­raud­ers, or just rid­ing through the world it­self, and fac­ing the dan­gers of the world. You know, it’s kind of funny, but even in 20 min­utes, I think you can get a good sense of what that is. OPM: Is there an ul­ti­mate ob­jec­tive in the story that you guys aren’t talk­ing about it yet? Tell us a se­cret… JG: It’s def­i­nitely… we haven’t been fo­cus­ing too much on story yet. There will be a lot more to come on that, com­ing soon. I’m the writer, and the di­rec­tor, and I’ve writ­ten all the games for SIE Bend, and they are all nar­ra­tive, story-driven games. So this is a huge part of the game. We’re just not talk­ing about it yet. OPM: Worth a try! Can you tell us any­thing else you want to get out there? JG: Just that the world comes for you. I think that’s the num­ber one thing, be­cause it’s about how dan­ger­ous the world is, and giv­ing the player all the tools that they want, and let­ting them solve it how­ever they want.

Freak­ers are fast – al­ways re­mem­ber where you left your mo­tor­bike.

Mid­dle John Garvin also wrote and di­rected the Syphon Fil­ter se­ries. Left Rain damp­ens sound, but brings out more Freak­ers. Right Too many. Run, don’t shoot!

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