Days Gone Interview: Ron Allen & Zachary Lewis

Days Gone is officially out now on PC, something that’s relatively unprecedented. Sony has begun bringing some of its PlayStation exclusives to the platform to expand its audience and possibly build anticipation for sequels to key franchises. Although it would appear there’s no Days Gone sequel currently in the works, Sony decided to give the first game a second chance after it got a mixed reception on PS4.

Bend was able to successfully realize its full vision of Days Gone in this new PC port, squashing tons of bugs and filling a brutal, dark world with beautiful visuals in the process. It’s the best possible version of Days Gone and there’s a chance that if Sony sees the positive reception and it sells well, Days Gone fans could get a sequel.

Related: Days Gone PC Review: This Is The Version To Play

Screen Rant got to sit down and talk with Ron Allen, Lead Designer, and Zachary Lewis, Senior User Interface Programmer, from Bend Studio. The duo talked a lot of specifics about the development of Days Gone, potentially expanding and continuing the story in comic books, a key connection to Syphon Filter, and much more.

Days Gone PC Boozer And Deacon

There’s a Syphon Filter Easter egg in Days Gone, and everyone wants to know: is Days Gone within the Syphon Filter universe? Just gotta get that out of the way.

Ron Allen: I guess I can talk a little bit about that. You know that obviously, Syphon’s really close to our studio’s heart. We were the original developers, and we carried it all the way through until the end on the on the PSP. And, obviously, we’re big fans of the Syphon Filter franchise in general.

With the taser and things like that – I don’t want to go too far into all of that, but – yes, there was a little bit of that crossover with Syphon Filter. What happened in all of that stuff is still to be determined. 

So, you’re not saying whether or not it is in the Syphon Filter universe, but there is a connection there? 

Ron Allen: There’s a little bit of connection there. 

This is your first PC game as a studio, right? How did you approach the PC as console developers, when you’ve primarily developed for PlayStation? What challenges did you come to blows with? 

Ron Allen: For us, we’re gamers. It doesn’t matter what system; we’re gamers. And we do have a lot of PC gamers over here, so I’m sure you can imagine that a lot of guys on our team were super excited when we were even talking about having a PC version. 

And the thing is, we want to make sure that we’re punching with the best experience we can possibly deliver. Our studio has been pretty focused on trying to get the PC version up and running, and running well. And some of the upgrades that we’ve done, we’re extremely happy about: we’ve unlocked frame rates, we’ve improved graphics, we’ve pushed out LOD distances and foliage draw distances. We support ultra wide monitors, which I’m a huge fan of. I have two, and I’m staring at one right now. I’m just super happy about that. 

I’ll let Zach jump into this real quick, but there’s a lot of controls and stuff that just didn’t necessarily translate over to PC. Zach did a ton of work on this. 

Zachary Lewis: Yeah, and I want to touch back on something. I believe that this is our first PC title since being a Sony studio. Bend has a long history before then, we even made games for the Apple Newton and stuff. We have made other platform games in the past, but this is the first modern gen venture into PC. 

And like Ron said, a lot of the folks who are working on the PC port are PC gamers. We’ve seen good ports, we’ve seen bad ports – so we knew the kind of things that we wanted as gamers. And that’s why we took a lot of time and care to make sure that no matter how you wanted to play, it will feel right for you. We have full remapping of all of the actions, not just some subset of them. 

One thing I’m really excited about is our wide array of input support, so in addition to native DualShock 4 and DualSense support, we also have support for pretty much any other controller you want to bring. So, if you plug in an Xbox controller, it’ll just work and you’ll see Xbox buttons. Same with the Steam controller, and same with the Nintendo Switch Pro. We took a lot of time to make sure that players could play the game the way that they wanted to. 

Days Gone PC - Deacon Runs From The Undead

Is it mind bending for you to see Nintendo prompts or Xbox prompts on your Sony-developed game?

Ron Allen: It is. But to be honest, it’s extremely important that we do this stuff, because we want to make sure that we’re reaching out to as many fans as we possibly can. And this is the platform to do it on.

The last few years, the gaming industry has been very rapidly changing and evolving in very strange ways that I don’t think anyone saw coming. There’s a PlayStation game on Xbox, now with MLB The Show. We’re in weird times, but it’s awesome. How do you guys feel about all that, with Sony going to PC and doing all these different things? 

Ron Allen: I’ll be honest. At least to me, the really exciting thing about this is us being able to reach out to new fans. That’s why, again, spent so much time working on this PC version of Days Gone to make sure that it played as well as we wanted it to play. And I think that’s extremely exciting.

There was a mixed reception to the PS4 version, and I think this is a much better representation of the game. A lot of the problems that people had with the game back then were bugs. But were you guys happy with how that game launched, and did you use any of that criticism to work on this version?

Ron Allen: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. To be honest, we were a really small studio. When we shipped Golden Abyss we were running about 45 people or so, and we decided to take on this massively ambitious game. It took us a while to develop it, and we did end up bulking up, but we were a pretty small team compared to a lot of the other studios. And we were really happy with what we pulled off.

Now, of course, we did a lot of patches and a lot of fixes. Plus, we added a lot of good stuff to the game, like all the DLC and the performance patches and all that stuff. But the cool thing about the PC is all of that stuff got rolled in, so all the benefits that we got from the work that we did even after shipping the game was rolled into the PC version. Plus, we even enhanced the photo mode and things like that, so the photos that you’re taking now on the PC are much higher resolution. It’s just really cool. 

To me, it was a long process, you’re right. But I think we all were still pretty happy and excited about the game that we released.

Days Gone PC - Deacon On The Horizon

Yeah, it is a good game, no doubt. With that said, there’s a big petition right now for a sequel – I’m sure you guys have seen it – with 110,000 signatures. How do you guys feel when you see such big support coming towards you for something like that?

Ron Allen: I will always say that I am so proud and happy with the support of our fans out there on Days Gone. Our studio has been primarily focused on trying to get this PC port running, but we love the support and can’t thank the fans enough. I can’t say more, but it’s just amazing.

Did developing for PC teach you any lessons that you can bring back to developing games for consoles?

Zachary Lewis: Yeah, I think so. Especially because, as you’ve seen in some titles already, the PS5 does support keyboard and mouse having. I think that could come forward, and different ways to play is going to be a big thing that developers need to think about. We learned a lot of things about that: “We did this for the menu systems that felt great for the DualShock 4, but might not translate well to keyboard. How can we rethink as we are designing these things, so they can work better for multiple inputs?” 

It’s just that that kind of thing, where it’s like, “This bit us here. So going forward, let’s make sure that we keep some things in consideration with them.”

Ron Allen: Especially moving on to PS5 and things like that, especially with the 120Hz support and framerate – it’s all of those things. Again, the PS4 and the PS4 Pro are extremely powerful, but the current version of the PS5 and the current PCs are quite a bit more powerful. So, it’s very interesting to see the stuff, especially the benefits and bonuses that we get, moving Days Gone over to the PC and PS5.

Do you think there’s any chance Days Gone could be explored further through comics or other media? I know God of War has done stuff like that with comic books.

Ron Allen: Well, to be honest, I had a conversation not that long ago about this same type of stuff. There’s so many stories to be had in the Days Gone world, and this was Deacon St. John’s story. Days Gone is about his life and his loss, and how he’s dealing with this pandemic – and he’s not the only one that survived. 

So yes, you’re right. There could be so many stories and so many things to be had inside this universe. And it excites me just even thinking about it.

Zachary Lewis: We should call HBO and see if we can get a show going or something.

Days Gone PC Deacon

Did you have some sort of bible on Days Gone, where you’re like, “This is the world and the answers to all the questions we might have if we ever go down a road of sequels or other media that we can refer back to?”

Ron Allen: We did. We had a lot of backstory, and a lot of the things that you didn’t discover in Days Gone. Our old creative director, John Garvin, was really into the lore and the backstory inside the game. So yeah, there’s a ton of stuff for us to look at when we’re talking about Days Gone.

Zachary Lewis: I think you can see some of that attention to the world in the game as Deacon talks with people in the encampments. You can tell that they have some history since before we get to see him. It’s been fleshed out, we just don’t talk about it. It’s just something that is part of the world of Days Gone. 

I think that’s what we need. Because everyone’s always like, “Zombies are old, they’re dead,” but I think you can keep that fresh by really building a cool world. And there’s a lot of cliffhangers and stuff set up in this game that fans want to see.

Ron Allen: The cool thing about this is, like what Zach was saying, it’s not just in the encampment stuff. When you’re cruising around the open world, and you’re seeing Freakers as you’re coming across Swarmers that they could be drinking, or they could be running after a deer. We dubbed this the Freak-o system, and it’s like all of the enemies and everything out in the world play off each other, and they all key. 

And you can weaponize that kind of stuff. If you know that the Breakers – the bigger guys – go after Swarmers if they’re not after you, you can lure them into different areas and see how they interact. And it’s pretty cool. It’s definitely an interesting and different way of approaching gameplay.

I know that this game had a pretty lengthy development. How much of it remained from the original pitch, and how much changed as you made the game?

Ron Allen: The game definitely evolved over time. Honestly, we rebooted our world a few times, and what we landed on was something that we were pretty proud of. The world in general is in our backyard; we look out our windows, and we see the world that we have created for Days Gone. And it’s pretty awesome. It’s kind of a Disneyland version of a it, of course, but it’s just very unique and something that we’re really excited about. 

And again, we built up all the way through. I will say, it is very similar to the original concept that we were pitching. Which is good, it still stayed true. I think that’s what made us all extremely excited during development to work on this project.

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I really did enjoy the game, and I think this PC version is going to open a lot of eyes for people who maybe haven’t played it or who only played the previous version. 

Zachary Lewis: When we were developing the game at the start, I don’t ever think that we thought of it as, “Oh, this is a game for PS4 players.” We wanted to make a fun game that anybody could enjoy. And this opportunity to release it on PC is really exciting, because it’s this whole other fanbase that our community is excited to see play and experience this game and story for the first time. It’s something that we are really looking forward to.

Ron Allen: The gameplay in general, once you get into the open world and are just kind of cruising around – I feel that this game is like comfort food. It’s the one game that I keep going back to over and over. I’ll play something else, then I’ll come back to it. And keep in mind, I was a developer on the project, yet I still go back and play on the PC and on the PS5. 

It’s comfort food. It’s something that’s easy to get into and easy to get out of. It’s just a really fun game, and we’re extremely excited because we’re reaching out to a whole new fan base. I can’t wait to see people’s reactions.

Next: Scrapped Days Gone 2 Pitch Included Co-Op

Days Gone is out now on PS4 and PC.

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Days Gone Devs Talk Continuing Story In Comic Book

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