Deacon St. John was a biker before the Freaker apocalypse ravaged the world, and it’s the key characteristic that helps him survive in Days Gone. His bike is nimble, durable, threads broken roads, and is fast enough to escape most threats. The motorcycle is more than a useful tool in Days Gone – it’s a lifeline that must be maintained and enhanced. We recently discussed the importance of Deacon’s wheels with Bend Studio’s Jeff Ross and John Garvin, Creative Director / Writer and Game Director.
Without Your Bike, You’re a Goner
“So the bike is your lifeline to the world… It keeps your ammo. It’s what allows you to get out of trouble quickly. And more importantly, it allows you to control where the game gets saved. If you can’t find your bike, you can’t save the game.”
“Bikes are dangerous but they’re also liberating, and together, it’s what allows Deacon to not only survive the apocalypse, but to prosper as a bounty hunter and really go out into the wild and survive to get out of trouble fast.”
“Everything about Deacon’s bike is related to surviving a world that’s trying to kill you. It’s the fuel tank so that you don’t run out of gas. It’s the muffler so that you don’t make as much noise. It’s the saddle bags so you can carry more ammo. It’s the nitrous boost so you can gain extra bursts of speed when you’re trying to get away from Runners. It’s the frame of the bike for durability so that you can take more damage.”
“And there’s nothing more terrifying than being low on gas, and suddenly, you hear a snarling growl behind you, and you realize that you’re being chased down by Runners, which are infected wolves, and they can run faster than your bike if you haven’t upgraded it, and they can knock you off your bike.”
“These are things that Deacon has to be worried about all the time, and then his bike is probably the biggest one. You have to worry about fuel and you have to keep it repaired, so you got to be careful where you’re riding and how, and you’re always mindful of it because if you run out of gas in the Farewell Wilderness, no good is gonna come of that.”
“So at bike merchants you can go in and customize the parts that improve all kinds of performance-related aspects of it, from a larger fuel tank so you can go further without running out of gas, faster engines, nitrous, all kinds of things that are performance-related, but all kinds of visual accoutrements, from different parts that add durability, but also they just look different and cool so players can customize it that way. But then they can go into a really, really deep paint system where they can change the paint color, the paint type. They can add decals. We even have custom bike skins. So the players are going to form an attachment to this thing because they need it, but they’re also going to form it because they like what they built.”
Nailing the Feel of Riding
“The reason you don’t see many bikes in open-world games is because they are hard to get right. From the physics, to the feel, to how when the character is going around a corner and leaning just to kind of match the fidelity of what it feels like in real life is a huge challenge from a physics point of view but is also just a challenge from player expectations. Players all think they know how motorcycles behave, and they expect to know how they behave in games, and the bar is really high, the expectation bar is really high.”
“The challenge has been defining this middle ground between being a simulation of a bike to an arcade version of it. So wherever that middle ground is is where we’ve landed. And to me what that means is the player has to be mindful of things like drifting and cornering and approaching things at the right speed and making sure that they’re steering the bike and leaning in midair appropriately so they take less damage when they hit the ground. But we didn’t want to go the full-blown sim route because that would probably be really impossible to control, and we wanted this game to be about action survival.”
“So weather affects driving conditions just like you would expect in real life. When it’s dry, it’s pretty easy to drive around, not a lot of sliding. When you’re going off-road, it gets a little bit tougher to drive on. But when it’s raining, it definitely — everything you would expect from real life is there. The bike starts to fishtail a lot. When you go around corners, it’s gonna take longer. You’re gonna be kicking up a lot of mud and dust.”
“By the time I started riding, our motorcycle mechanics were pretty well developed, but it made me appreciate the things we were doing well, like when the characters driving and how he just leans into each turn. And once you start riding — you never understand how important leaning is. You’re leaning instead of steering. So I think that we capture that really well in terms of visual fidelity. And it lends an air of authenticity to the whole thing.”
As you’ve probably gathered from these developer quotes, much of Days Gone is designed to be experienced atop your bike. Your motorcycle is your best friend, and not long into the game you might feel a twinge of guilt when you take a hard bump or see a Horde knock the bike off its kickstand. The bond between man and machine is central to the gameplay of Days Gone, and you’ll be able to experience when it launches April 26.