Days Gone Q&A – ‘The Game Feels Like It Really Needs to Live on the PC as Well; We Were Blown Away by Fans’
Days Gone launches today on PC, available on both Steam and the Epic Games Store, slightly more than two years after its debut on PlayStation 4, as the second major PlayStation Studios game to make to PC after Guerrilla's Horizon Zero Dawn. The open world post-apocalyptic game developed by Bend Studio was recently in the news because a sequel pitch was reportedly rejected by Sony, which sparked a massive Change.org petition for Days Gone 2 that has been signed by over 112K users to date.
A successful launch on PC could do far more than any petition, though, when it comes to convincing Sony that a sequel is worth the investment. Our Keith has been playing Days Gone PC and his first impressions on the port are very positive; look forward to his full analysis coming up shortly.
Meanwhile, ahead of this release, we were also able to speak at length with Bend Studio's Ron Allen (Lead Game Designer) and Zachary Lewis (Senior UI Programmer) about what Days Gone and this PC version specifically means for the development team.
To begin with, can you speak about the PC port? How long did you work on this version of Days Gone?
Ron Allen: Well, we shipped Days Gone, we just had our two-year anniversary. Since then, we've been working on DLC and obviously performance patches and things like that. We've added Photo Mode, of course, Survival Mode and Challenge Mode, and then we pretty much have been focused on this PC version for quite a while now. We're all gamers, we love to play games. The majority of people that worked on the PC version of Days Gone are pretty hardcore PC gamers, which is awesome because what we wanted to do is make sure -- sometimes when you're porting or moving a game from one system to another, things don't necessarily translate so well. We didn't want that to be the case with Days Gone, we're working hard to deliver a really, really good experience on the PC. To do that, there have been lots of upgrades. We unlocked frame rates, we pushed out draw distances. We updated a lot of the graphics stuff, we do Ultrawide monitor support, which makes me super happy because I've had an Ultrawide monitor for quite a while and obviously I love that. I'll let Zach talk about this because he worked pretty extensively on this, but we ended up having to do a lot of control updates to make sure that this PC version played the way that we wanted it to play.
What were the main challenges you encountered when porting the game to PC?
Zachary Lewis: From the start, some of the biggest issues that we knew that we were going to have were that this game was made for the PlayStation 4's DualShock controller and for a 16:9 aspect ratio. Some of the biggest issues were how do we give players the freedom to play this on whatever hardware configuration they have for their PC. Not only did we go through and support both the DualShock 4 and the DualSense natively on PC, but we also allow players to bring whatever input device they want and it seamlessly works with our game. So if you have a Nintendo Switch Pro controller or an Xbox controller, you can plug it in and you'll get those prompts as expected. Additionally, with the different resolutions available on PC, not only did we have to go in and update all of our UI to make sure that it fits, but we had to go in and manually update every single cinematic in our game so we didn't have to put black bars on it and it'll work at full Ultrawide resolutions. Now it looks incredible there. Those were some of our biggest challenges.
I can imagine the UI required quite the overhaul.
Ron Allen: Yeah, especially with the keyboard and mouse support. Zach can dive in a little bit deeper. The actual weapon wheel works really, really well on a controller but when we first got it running on the keyboard and mouse, not so much. Zach had to do quite a bit of work kind of playing around with it. I'll let him chime in on that one.
Zachary Lewis: I worked on the weapon wheel for the PS4 version as well as the PC version and our first steps, really, were making a bunch of different prototypes of ways that we could interact with the mouse and keyboard. There were some that felt great, some that didn't. Just through that experimentation, we came up with a couple of different options that players can choose from in the options on PC. For players that want to use the wheel just to craft but not to switch weapons, there are more traditional PCs inputs to allow players to use either the numbered keys or the scroll wheel to quickly switch through all of their weapons, which gives PC players an experience that they may prefer.
You're hoping that Days Gone PC feels like a native version of the game.
Ron Allen: That's the goal. Like I was saying, we're a studio of gamers, and we know that a bad experience is a bad experience. We just want to make sure that the experience that we go out with, no matter what system that we're on, is the best experience that we could deliver.
Something that I'm curious about is whether you consulted with Guerrilla, since they were the first PlayStation studio to port a game (Horizon Zero Dawn) to the PC, or perhaps you did everything at Bend instead.
Ron Allen: We actually do have a really, really good relationship with Guerrilla. But no, this PC version was done by our studio, we wanted to do it. We're really excited that we got to be able to do it. Again, I can't stress this enough, we're gamers and we like to play games and it's not just on one console. I mean, we spread ourselves out. We play all kinds of different games and having Days Gone on the PC, it's just an extremely exciting deal pretty much for everybody in our studio. It's been fun to work on it, that's for sure.
Can you talk about the loading times of Days Gone PC? Are they going to be any faster than, for example, the game running on PlayStation 5? Of course, it probably depends a lot on the SSD or hard disk used by the player.
Ron Allen: Yes, we don't arbitrarily hold loading for a particular time. So it all depends, the people with the fastest NVMe drives like the Samsung 980 Pro, those ones are going to load, obviously, faster than everything else. We don't require an SSD for Days Gone, but we recommend one and yes, the faster your hard drive is, the faster the game loads.
Among the FAQ that was posted on Steam last week, there's a mention of NVIDIA DLSS, which will not be supported 'at this time'. The specific wording made some wonder if it could be added to Days Gone with a post-launch update, though. Can you comment on that?
Ron Allen: Well, we're not supporting it right now. I can never say what the future holds. But currently, right now, we don't support it, and that's kind of where we're at.
Fair enough. Are you planning to iterate and refine this version with patches as quickly as possible if there's a need to fix possible bugs and other issues post-launch?
Ron Allen: We do have a patch process in place for the PC as well, so if anything comes up, yes, of course, we'll be on it. Like I was saying earlier, we definitely want to support our products and we want to make sure that everybody has the best experience they possibly can within our game. And if there's something that we unfortunately missed, and we have to update, we'll take care of it.
As a developer, are you excited that another completely different audience is getting to play Days Gone? How do you feel about that?
Ron Allen: Oh, you have no idea. It excites us big time. That's the thing, the fan engagement with Days Gone has been amazing. It has blown away our expectations, and for us to be able to reach out to a whole new fan base and with, you know, going out with the Ultrawide support with better for, you know, unlocking the frame rates and, and all those things. The game feels like it really needs to live on the PC as well and this is amazing for us because, again, we get to reach out to a whole new group of people. We're extremely excited about that.
Zachary Lewis: Yeah, our current game community is awesome. One of the things that I always like seeing from them are all of the really interesting and dynamic screenshots that they are able to capture with the Photo Mode on PlayStation 4. And we wanted to improve that for PC, so we've added a super-resolution screenshot mode for the PC. Even if you aren't able to run the game at 4K and max settings, if you can only play it at 1080p, we still allow you the ability to capture screenshots in 4K. It's going to be great to see the community share even more incredible shots of the beautiful world that they can explore in Days Gone.
Do you have anything to add about Days Gone PC specifically?
Ron Allen: The one thing that I really want to push forward is that our team was excited about this version of the game, and I don't necessarily want to call it a port. We worked quite hard on the controls and making it feel like the game deserves to be on PC. And I feel that we nailed it, I think we did a really, really great job. Especially with being able to remap every single one of the controls. That's something that I guess in theory you can do on the back end on the PS4 and on the PS5, but it's different. Now it's natively supported in the game. We're hoping that people have as much fun with the PC version as we do.
Zachary Lewis: The PC port process to me felt more similar to the development process for the PlayStation 4 than it did 'Okay, let's just convert this to this'. We had prototyping sessions and discussions and playing with 'How does this mechanic feel on PC like this or like this?' and it was the same kind of thing that we were doing for the PlayStation 4. It really just feels like an extension of the game, it's definitely not an afterthought at all.
Ron Allen: Yeah, we even went as far as allowing Field of View adjustments, that's something that you don't get on the console. We know that a lot of the PC players don't like the more narrow FoV, so people can widen up if they want to. Again, play the game how you want to play, that's kind of our thing, the entire Days Gone is built around the emerging gameplay and we took that same mentality and moved it into this PC version, especially with the controls and opening up to users customizing them to their liking.
Let's look further back at the main development of Days Gone, which was rather lengthy. Do you have a favorite memory to share?
Ron Allen: That's an interesting question. The first time we got the bike up and running... In general, playing around with the bike was pretty crazy for us, we wanted to make sure that we had something that was really, really easy to play and easy to maneuver on the controller. And a lot of us are bikers, I ride a Harley myself. We tried to put in realism, but without taking... Some realism in a lot of ways, especially when it translates to a game, it's not fun, like not fun in any way, shape, or form. What we've tried to do is give that nod to realism, but still keep that fun. For instance, it's really hard to notice because it happens so fast, but when you're riding a motorcycle and you're at speed, when you're trying to turn right, you don't turn your handlebars this way to go right, what you do is you push. When you push the bike, the front tires turn this way, your bike leans and then you go in this other direction. I know it sounds absolutely insane and crazy, but that's the way that it works. And we tried to make sure that if you're looking at the animation you'll notice he's pushing. We tried to bring in that kind of nod to realism.
I will tell you, though, one of my favorite moments probably ever is when I was trying to hunt a deer and then this deer's running, but it's running towards me. I'm trying to figure out what's happening here and then there's a bear that's chasing this deer, came right around the corner. So I'm like, Okay, I'm starting to back up. I'm starting to fire at this bear, but then I realized that there's a rager bear chasing that bear. And then behind them was a Horde of Infected. And I'm like, you've got to be kidding me. So you can imagine that I died pretty much right away, I couldn't run away at that point. I just got overwhelmed. But it's things like that, the way that the world kind of interacts with each other. The first time you experience really weird, crazy stuff like that in Days Gone, it's just an amazing experience.
On that count, I really liked Days Gone. I reviewed it when it came out for the PlayStation 4 and I think mine was perhaps one of the highest-rated reviews on Metacritic. I think perhaps the game was a bit underappreciated by other critics, and I was wondering if in hindsight you'd make anything different following the game's reception. Something that's been brought up is that perhaps the early portion of Days Gone is a bit slow. Is that something you have looked into?
Ron Allen: You know, on one end, yes. You're always contemplating the decisions and everything that you've made. But at the end of the day, we're still pretty proud of the game that we released. I like to call the open world comfort food for me because I'm playing lots of other games and even though I've worked on it, I've played the crap out of like, all the versions, I can play other games and I keep coming back to Days Gone and playing around in our open world. Again, it's comfort food, it just feels good to me, and it feels fun, it's just kind of second nature. I'm extremely proud of everything that we've done and yeah, of course, there are some instances of 'Would you do the same thing twice?' I don't know, right. It's one of those things, if I had to make Days Gone, would I make different decisions? Probably. But, again, we're still really really excited and happy about the game that we released.
Is there anything that you can speak of that you really liked but was cut from the final game? Every game gets cuts, of course.
Ron Allen: Indeed. We spent quite a long time developing Days Gone. I was extremely proud of Sony and their support for our studio making this game. We got a lot of time to prototype and play around and of course, there's a lot of the earlier prototypes that I'm sad we didn't get a chance to do, but that's the way game development goes, as you pointed. Obviously, things are cut in, kind of shaped in but again, at the end of the day, I think we made a survival light game that was fun to play. And I think we nailed that, we did a really good job.
Personally, as I said, I really, really enjoyed it. Hopefully, the game will be well received on PC so there can be more in the future because it kind of ends with a cliffhanger...
Ron Allen: Yep. I love to read all the fan theories about what's coming next, it's awesome to see. Again, the fan engagement for our studio in particular, we've been blown away by it. Everyone has been so amazing. And it's like, there are warriors for Days Gone. It's been incredible.
Even though you've been focused on Days Gone PC, I'm guessing you also have got your hands on the PlayStation 5 by now. Out of all of the new features of the console, do you have a favorite? Maybe the DualSense controller, the SSD, the 3D audio, or ray tracing support. Something that could be a great feature to use in the next PS5 games, in your opinion.
Zachary Lewis: Well, as a user interface guy, the tactility and the haptics of the DualSense controller is something that I am really excited about playing with. We've seen some of the games on PlayStation 5 start to explore it. But, you know, I think that there's a lot more that can be done, it's just going to take time to see how we can integrate that to make the game feel more real in the player's hands. And that's something that I'm really excited about on the PS5.
Ron Allen: I would agree with Zach 100%. For instance, I'll use Returnal from Housemarque, a PS5 game that Sony released not that long ago. You can feel the rain on the controller while playing it and I was blown away by how they split the adaptive triggers for the different fire modes and things like that. It's just the controller in particular I'm extremely excited about, especially after playing Astro's Playroom. It's just amazing and I cannot wait to see what everybody else comes up with in the future.
Thank you for your time.