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GDC starts with Ghost of Tsushima developer AMA

GDC kicked off its 2021 virtual convention with a series of AMAs providing insight from industry professionals and veterans. Developers from studios like Sucker Punch, Obsidian, and Yacht Club Games are taking the GDC virtual stage for the rest of this week to A your Qs on development, getting into the industry, and the general process of making games.

Courtesy of GDC

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is a yearly conference covering development in video game tech and trends in the industry. The conference also gives aspiring game devs a chance to get advice from professionals. With this year’s GDC being remote the ask-me-anything portions of the convention are being held over video call with questions sourced from the audience watching at home. 

The subject of Monday’s AMA was Sucker Punch Co-Founder and Producer Brian Fleming fielding questions on Ghost of Tsushima and going into detail on developing a game of Tsushima’s scope. Contributing Editor at Gamasutra Bryant Francis curated audience questions. 

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Courtesy of Sony Entertainment

Coming off of Sucker Punch’s previous title, Infamous Second Sun, Fleming noted that one of the biggest challenges in developing Ghost of Tsushima was managing the scope of the game and how “that change destabilized every aspect of [Sucker Punch’s] gaming making toolset.” 

Fleming commented that the world alone was an 18 to 24 month ordeal of tinkering with mechanics just to make it work. One particular hurtle Fleming pointed to during the six-year development of Tushima was tinkering with combat so it would contextually cooperate with the rest of the game world and other mechanics. 

Courtesy of Sony Entertainment

“They have to work in every situation,” Fleming commented, describing the team at Sucker Punch who refined Tushima’s combat. “I think the restus were really good, but it was a long road.” 

Fleming went on to comment that some of his favorite mechanics in Ghost of Tsushima either didn’t- or nearly didn’t- make it into the final version of the game. One such mechanic was the game’s guiding wind system, which replaced the traditional use of waypoints in open world games with a gust of wind leading you to your next objective.

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Courtesy of Sony Entertainment

One point Fleming harped on was, from the beginning, scope was a major consideration, given that Sucker Punch isn’t the largest Sony owned games studio, and adding that what ends up on the cutting board isn’t decided till a couple months from release.  

Fleming emphasised that a major component of Ghost of Tsushima’s long development was forming a cohesive vision of what the game would be at launch. 

“There’s a hundred different pictures of what the game’s going to be,” Fleming said. “The journey is helping different people converge what their vision of the game is going to be.” 

One specific aspect of this was Ghost of Tsushima’s M rating and “how violence is used in the game.” 

Part of making a more mature game was delving in the history of feudal Japan and fleshing out a dynamic yet grounded world. Fleming framed a major step in this was “committing to being a learner,” and reaching out to Sony Japan for guidance. 

“One of the things we had from the beginning was a clear idea of what we wanted to achieve visually,” Fleming said. 

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Courtesy of the British Film Institute

Fleming went on to frame achieving the visual wonder of Ghost of Tsushima was routed in study of the Monguelian invasion of Japan, considering the works of Japanese cinema, the likes of Akira Kurosawa’s films, and sending members of the development team to the actual location the game takes place in, the Island of Tsushima. 

GDC will be hosting more developer AMAs throughout the week alongside the rest of the conference’s scheduled talks. 

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