Above: Days Gone takes place in the Oregon wilderness. This looks like a nice, safe place.

Image Credit: Sony

GamesBeat: You have some things that get your heart racing. The speed of the zombies, the number of them, the notion that they’re coming from all directions. That seems to help differentiate it a bit.

Garvin: It’s funny. We’ve never thought about it that way. The only thought we put into differentiating it was the horde. Like I say, I saw World War Z and I loved the tech they put together for not just individuals, but that flowing sea, sort of the fluid movement of them, how you can have so many creatures on screen. That got us thinking. What would that be like? How would you play that? How would you create a game around that? How would you be able to fight that and win? That was really the only thought we put it into, “We’re gonna make a zombie game and this is how we’ll differentiate ourselves.”

The rest of it just kind of evolved out of trying to make an interesting world, more so than trying to make the zombies different. We really felt like the Pacific Northwest, there have been a couple of games set here, but there’s never been anything set in the high desert. The high desert is this sort of compact ecosystem, formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. We have all of this unique environment that looks very different and plays very different. It’s very extreme in terms of how you can have these narrow canyons, these trails, all this off-road stuff.

If you put a zombie horde in that, what would that feel like? If you have a beautiful forest with this awesome meadow, if you have a wrecked car with freakers around that, what’s that going to feel like? Just trying to figure out a way to have the environment play as big a role as the creatures you’re taking on.

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GamesBeat: You’ve talked about the bike as a character, about how you’ll be able to upgrade it. What’s that aspect of Days Gone like now?

Garvin: We just had a focus test with 20 players. They got to play the entire game. It was fun watching it, because you can customize it. There are unique paint jobs. Every player had their bike looking completely different from everyone else’s. That’s one of the few areas where we do have customization, not just in how it looks, but how you want to upgrade it.

How much do you care about managing fuel? You can put in a little work at the beginning of the game to upgrade your fuel tank so you very seldom have to worry about running out of gas. When I play the game, I always make a habit—whenever I’m in an encampment, I’ll fuel it up while I’m there, and then not worry about it so much. I don’t spend a lot of time earning trust at an encampment to be able to upgrade my bike that way, but some players might. It just depends on how you want to play.

The bike is definitely a part of Deacon. It’s the only one you get. You want to make sure that it’s repaired. You don’t want to leave it behind. You have to have your bike in the world. You can’t go buy another one. You can’t just whistle up a new one.

Days Gone

Above: Days Gone has some breathtaking views.

Image Credit: Sony

GamesBeat: I can imagine a lot of things happening to the bike. You can’t just treat it like a car in Grand Theft Auto?

Garvin: [Laughs] You can trash your bike. If you take it off a cliff, if you start crashing into a bunch of things, it’ll get down to a point where basically the bike has zero health. Once you get there, it won’t run anymore. It can still move along very, very slowly, but then what you have to do is go out and find scrap, this generic term we have for items you find in the world that you can use to repair things. You have to bring that back to your bike and repair it. Or, by the way, you can also go to encampment and pay those people a lot of credits to go get your bike and fix it.

GamesBeat: I remember the structure of Uncharted: Lost Legacy, where you’d have a linear stretch, then a big open level, and then it got linear again. Are you following a similar pattern?

Garvin: I don’t think so. We have a very linear first hour of the game, but even in that there’s a couple of wider segments. There’s this truck stop you go to called Crazy Willy’s where you can complete things—you can approach that any way you want. Same thing for the next mission, which is called “Walk a Mile In His Boots,” where we force you out on foot to go and get your bike back.

But after that, it’s a pretty traditional open world. You have missions available. There’s always a golden path mission, a story-based mission. There’s always something to do that will progress you through Deacon’s journey in the game. There might be a couple of missions later on where we introduce new characters, for example, or a new area. But they’re not linear in that way. One thing that’s a challenge for an open-world story is having enough differences in what you’re engaging the player with over 30-plus hours to really keep it interesting. We don’t lock the player into too many linear sequences.

GamesBeat: What are they allowing you to say about release dates? Are you shipping this year?

Garvin: I think they’ve announced that it is shipping in 2019. We’ll have an announced date before long.

GamesBeat: What do you still have to work on? What are you polishing or trying to get right?

Garvin: Right now we’re just tuning. Tuning and polishing. The open world team is working hard to get the number of ambient events dialed in. The mission designers are busy polishing every part of the game. We have engineers polishing the animation. We have the audio team going through and polishing up all of the sound effects. Every part of the game is being polished. It’s 100 percent playable, like I said. I’ve beaten it. We feel pretty good about where we’re at, because now we can really pay attention to making it more fun and looking as good as we possibly can.

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