Sony's Bend video game studio set its upcoming zombie survival game in familiar territory: the forests near the eastern Oregon town.

Share story

LOS ANGELES – “Days Gone” treads well-worn ground in modern fiction.

Something catastrophic has happened. Survivors comb the wilderness trying to survive attacks by hordes of zombies and fellow humans.  The motorcycle riding protagonist’s struggles should seem familiar to anyone who’s taken a casual look at the firm hold that zombies have on popular culture, from film to graphic novels, books and video games that explore the undead.

But the upcoming PlayStation 4 video game should feel particularly familiar to folks in the Northwest: the forest setting in which the game’s protagonist is trying to survive is inspired by the landscapes near Bend, Ore.

“Our backyard,” said Ron Allen, a senior designer with Sony’s Bend studio (formally SIE Bend, for Sony Interactive Entertainment).

The studio is one of a dozen game development outposts operated by the Japanese company from Tokyo to Amsterdam. In the U.S., most are in Southern California.

“Days Gone” was teased here at the E3 video game trade show a year ago, but – as is typical for high-end games that can take years to develop – the studio went quiet afterward. (“State of Decay 2,” the Xbox-exclusive zombie game being built by Seattle’s Undead Labs, is on a similar timeline.)

This go-round, “Days Gone” developers were on hand to offer more detail on the game’s mechanics.

“Days Gone” is an open-world game, a model in vogue among adventure games, with players free to explore the environment around them and take periodic detours into scripted missions that drive the story (developers were mum on the plot, aside from a trailer that shows a protagonist, Deacon, rescuing a comrade captured by a rival band of survivors).

Allen said the goal was to make the game dynamic, with changes in the in-game weather and time of day affecting how the infected – “freakers” in this universe – behave. A behind-closed-doors demo showed how the mission depicted in Sony’s showcase this week can play out completely differently in a snowstorm.

Asked what other zombie fiction influenced the game’s development, Allen demurred, saying only that the studio took inspiration from film, music and other games.

“The thing we like most about  ‘Days Gone’ is it’s an always-dangerous world,” Allen said. “You don’t have to go looking for trouble here. Trouble will find you.”