'Days Gone' developers hope to extend the game's fandom on PC
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By Gene Park
Sometimes a game drops, and its moment just passes. Bend Studio developers are grateful that "Days Gone" continues to live in the hearts and minds of its players two years after its supposed "moment."
"Days Gone" was the first new game from the longtime Sony team, which made its mark on the first PlayStation with the Syphon Filter series. While the studio had supported many other Sony brands throughout the years, "Days Gone" was its return to creating original work.
It was a big gamble for the team, particularly since it was entering an already-crowded marketplace for post-apocalypse stories. In April, Bloomberg reported that the studio pitched a sequel to Sony, but was turned down. The report states that a Bend team was then signed on to support Naughty Dog efforts, before ultimately getting the go-ahead to work on a new project for themselves.
That last part will come as a relief to many "Days Gone" fans. While the game didn't set any records, it sold more than every other Bend game combined. More than that, it's cultivated a vibrant, positive fan base that's eager to extol the game's virtues to anyone who missed it.
"The game has been out for two years and people are still talking about it," said "Days Gone" lead designer Evan Jenson. "Not all games, not all media gets to benefit from that. Sometimes a thing comes out and it's gone, nobody talks about it after that."
The game seems to have already drawn a solid and engaged audience so far. On the website Steamcharts, which tracks concurrent players on the PC platform, the game reached an all-time high of more than 27,000 players over the weekend, a respectable number for a single-player, open-world adventure that's two years old. And as of Monday afternoon, it was maintaining that pace.
Bend Studio has primarily been a console developer, given that they've only created for PlayStation platforms for the last two decades. Now that PlayStation is dipping more than a few toes in the PC market, it gave Bend a chance to revisit a game they worked on for years.
"PC players have a much different expectation for the functionality of their game," Jensen said. "On the PlayStation, we're just seeing options for performance mode [for higher framerates]. For PC gamers, that's old news. We were pretty excited to be able to unlock those settings and allow the PC player to use whatever monitor they have, whatever keyboard and mouse configuration or controller preference they have."
While Xbox is the clear leader when it comes to backward compatibility with its past platforms, Sony's studios are still busy making sure its marquee titles from the fourth console perform better than ever for anyone lucky enough to secure a PS5. Last year's biggest game of the industry, "The Last of Us Part II," just received its PS5-enhancement in May. "Ghost of Tsushima," "Ratchet and Clank" and "Days Gone" have all seen enhancements in the months since launch.
The studio was grateful for the opportunity to adapt its game from the PlayStation 4 Pro (the previous high-end Sony model) version, to editions on the PlayStation 5 and PC.
"I can only imagine the challenge of having to release a single game on five, six, seven different platforms at the same time," Jensen said.
Zachary Lewis, "Days Gone's" user interface programmer, said the team went back to redo and retouch six hours of cutscene footage to make sure the cinematics scale well with various PC setups.
"I did a lot of work on the 'survival wheel' for the console and bringing it over to mouse and keyboard," said Lewis. "It didn't feel right with one-to-one mapping, so to be able to update that and provide different modes of input so they can feel like a first-class citizen for the PC, as a developer and UI guy, that was really exciting for me."
The game's subreddit has livened up since the recent release. There's a popular thread for reporting bugs, a standard thing for any new release. And then there are the posts from players wondering why they skipped the game on PlayStation in the first place.
"For us, two years later to see people posting screenshots and showing off their Platinum trophies, it's been really cool to see the outpouring of love not just for the game, but for the studio itself," Jensen said.
The Washington Post