Ghost Of Tsushima’s Loading Times Are So Good That They Had To Be Nerfed – Kotaku

Ghost Of Tsushima’s Loading Times Are So Good That They Had To Be Nerfed by Ian Walker for Kotaku

“We really got where we are through focus and substantial team effort,” Sucker Punch Productions lead engine programmer Adrian Bentley told Kotaku via email. “I wrote the foundational code for our fine-grain texture and mesh streaming systems for Ghost. It started as a forward-looking side project and came online just in time as we began running out of memory on PlayStation 4 developer hardware due to the huge amount [of] art the team was adding.”

Ghost of Tsushima is lush as heck. Vast fields of flowers intersected by dusty roads give way to claustrophobic bamboo forests containing secluded Buddhist temples. Leaves, cherry blossom petals, and pollen filter through the air thanks to an ever-present, guiding wind. Waves crash on beaches, hiding rocky pathways to offshore secrets. And while the responsibility for pulling all those disparate assets together was already monumental, Bentley explained that the art team also had to make sure to keep data compact as it ate more and more memory.

I picked up my copy of Ghost of Tsushima today and am so jazzed to start it up later. One comment I found in common amongst reviews was the fast loading times. On the precipice of solid state drives becoming the standard next-gen, I thought these snappy load times interesting for the end of the PS4. With the insanely fast decompression of assets on PS5 and the ability to use extremely high detail models, I wonder what Ghost of Tsushima would have looked like in development with that technology in place.

“We only have one copy of every asset on the disc. During most loads, when not jumping into a close-up, we only load newly required assets and can dial down our streaming density a bit…”

This sounds like what the SSD will provide PS5 and Xbox Series X: Instead of writing copies of trees, bushes, etc., Sucker Punch seems to have figured out a way to streamline their asset loading in memory on the PS4. This seems like a small taste of what is to come initially with the transition to solid state technology. 

Ghost Of Tsushima Is Being Praised By Japanese Critics – Kotaku

Ghost Of Tsushima Is Being Praised By Japanese Critics by Brian Ashcraft for Kotaku

Brian went around and collected some tidbits from Japanese reviews of Ghost of Tsushima. I find it wonderfully reassuring that Japanese critics seem to enjoy this depiction of Japan. These individuals know the place, culture, language, and history far better than I and most Western players ever will.

Earlier this month, among international players, there was chatter about the Japanese language on the menu screen, but to native Japanese speakers, there didn’t seem to be an issue. Akiba Souken’s reviewer also didn’t feel like the Japanese in the game was strange or off. The reviewer even went on to say the game could be useful for Japanese people to study kogo (古語) or archaic words.

This hullabaloo came about around the game’s main menu being revealed back when the review embargo was announced. Interesting that the folks I saw complaining about this were not native speakers, as far as I could tell. Google translate is not your friend when it comes to context and culture.

Weekly Famitsu gave Ghost of Tsushima a perfect score. This is only the third time a Western game has gotten a perfect score, with Ghost of Tsushima taking its place alongside The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto V.

Interesting company that Ghost of Tsushima is sitting amongst in Weekly Famitsu.

As Famitsu notes, when people outside Japan depict the country, they tend to pepper their creations with strange, incorrect language and mix Japanese culture with Korean and Chinese culture, collapsing Asia into a single monolith. Famitsu admitted that it didn’t know how real the game’s depiction of the era was but explained that nothing about it felt odd. This is a fictional account of the period, and in that regard, Famitsu believes the game succeeds.

This speaks to the level of detail and dedication that Sucker Punch openly talks about having. I feel like hearing this would be just as if not more satisfying to hear about the game if you worked on it.

…one nitpick Famitsu had was regarding the speed at which characters speak. For Famitsu, the dialogue’s tempo is much faster than it should be for the time, and there isn’t the same importance on pauses in conversation that are typical of period pieces.

And sometimes creators fall short of total accuracy. I wonder if this is simply due to a modern telling of a story set in the 13th century, the directors’ interpretation of the script and the performance they were after. Either way, I never would have even noticed a nitpick like this. I wonder how many Japanese players will notice this and share the sentiment. By no means does this sound egregious or even intrusive; just sounds like a critique of performances. People have those all the time around the world.

Comparing English and Japanese Trailers for Ghost of Tsushima

Ghost of Tsushima – Launch Trailer | PS4

『Ghost of Tsushima』時代劇映画風トレーラー

As Sony inches closer to the release of Ghost of Tsushima, the company releases more trailers. I have enjoyed watching both the Western and Eastern trailers for the game, given its world and story. 

I think the Japanese trailers are significantly cooler. Not only does this particular trailer show off more of the game, I feel like it matches the game and its themes much better. Either way, I am stoked to explore the island of Tsushima this weekend.

Crafting the world of Tsushima – PlayStation.Blog

Crafting the world of Tsushima by Joanna Wang for PlayStation.Blog

Our goal when building an open world game is always “if you can see it, you can reach it,” with as few exceptions as possible. You will journey through lush forests, cross boggy swamp lands, and enter into frozen mountainous landscapes. We collected so many references from movies, games, paintings, and even travel posters to draw inspiration. We want to present you with an authentic, believable world, a world that would call out to you, inviting you to explore, a world that is rich and full of surprises.

This sounds like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to me. Sucker Punch has been working on Ghost of Tsushima since 2014. It’s not impossible to imagine that Ghost of Tsushima takes inspiration from Breath of the Wild, which released in 2017.

As the largest game we have ever made, can you imagine if we needed to place every single blade of grass by hand? What if we then needed to change the type or density of grass later? We would not be able to finish, so we made procedural tools that would allow us to build a massive world unbelievably fast and would still be really flexible if we changed our minds later on. These tools allowed us to be more creative and expressive in our artistic choices.

There is a fascinating clip in the article that shows a time-lapse of an area being procedurally generated. I often don’t think of the tools that developers use to craft their game worlds. It can’t be handcrafted over pixelated inch. While the textures and objects are handmade, their placement can be rapidly implemented thanks to these kinds of tools. I hope Sucker Punch was able to strike a balance between generation and detailed placement.

Ghost of Tsushima: Mastering the Katana – PlayStation.Blog

Ghost of Tsushima: Mastering the Katana by Chris Zimmerman, Sucker Punch Co-Founder

I know The Last of Us Part II just came out last weekend, but the next (and possibly final) major first party release for PS4 is roughly three weeks away. In fact, it just went gold yesterday. I am pumped for this open-world samurai game. It just looks so spot on.

Chris Zimmerman took to the PS Blog today to shed some light on the katana in combat and the studio’s design philosophy for it.

A lot of the design work we did on katana combat was dancing around these limits. There’s no problem with your attacks being fast, of course — the NPCs can react instantly if we want them too. We actually ran some experiments with NPCs having more realistic reaction times and it looked totally wrong. That’s probably because our ideas about how a sword fight looks are driven by watching movies, not real sword fights, and in a movie everyone knows the choreography ahead of time. (We actually watched real sword fights with blunted weapons during development, and they’re way sloppier than we wanted the game to be.)

The attention to detail and attempts to mirror the real world always strikes me as fascinating. The development team not only deemed it necessary to observe real sword fights, but actually made it happen. Sony funded this experiment and it directly lead to influencing gameplay and design. Sucker Punch also had a trip to Japan and worked closely with Studio Japan.

It would have been nice to have solved this before Hideo Kojima visited Sucker Punch and tried Ghost combat, since that was the first thing he tried. Sigh.

Kojima’s famous game studio world tour. Classic.

If you concentrate, if you stay focused, you’ll survive the fight. If you lose focus, you’ll die. We’re trying to put you in Jin Sakai’s footsteps; those are the rules he is forced to live by, and they apply equally to you.

I like this stance on applying the rules of the narrative and world to the player. It lends itself to fuller immersion. I’m eager to get my hands on the combat and learn how steep its curve is.

We work hard to make our animations fluid, to flow naturally between movements — but if forced to make a choice, responsiveness wins out over physical accuracy.

Even with all this dedication to realism, gameplay feel wins out the day. Striking a balance is necessary and must be a crazy challenge to actually find.

While I’m not done exploring what The Last of Us Part II has to offer (I started my survivor+ run) and I am working on my review for it, I am eagerly awaiting Ghost of Tsushima. It is a great time to be a PlayStation fan.

Ghost of Tsushima: Your Questions Answered – PlayStation.Blog

Ghost of Tsushima: Your Questions Answered – PlayStation.Blog

Reading through this Q&A, I was wondering if these really did come from social media or if they were a more carefully curated list of questions. Then I read this one:

Fantastic gameplay, however could you perhaps look at changing the physics of an arrow headshot? The backwards force was a tad unrealistic and over the top, otherwise an excellent demonstration!

The bowshot in question can be seen here. Good gracious people, it’s a video game about being a badass samurai. Let the longbow pop people back if Sucker Punch wants it to behave that way.

I digress.

The whole Q&A does a great job of providing more details about Ghost of Tsushima. Sony is being more aggressive with marketing and preview coverage now that their two big tittles are weeks away.

Q: Does choosing to fight like a Samurai or like a Ghost/Ninja have consequences? Was thinking it might be like the Good/Evil karma system?

Nate: There is no karma system. There’s one story we’re telling here, one journey for Jin.

As for the player making a choice, we want to be clear that there isn’t a binary choice for the player, it’s more about the player having freedom to play through any encounter in the style they prefer and wearing whichever armor they prefer, mixing and matching pieces of different armor sets. Your actions also aren’t limited by your armor – for example, you may have seen that the “Standoff” prompt appeared even in the Ghost section. You can still use tools like Smoke Bombs even if you’re wearing samurai armor. As we showed in the State of Play, that one scenario with the Shipyard played out very differently based on how the player approached the situation.

Sucker Punch’s choice to showcase the same encounter two different ways seems to have led to lots of confusion about what kinds of gameplay decisions people will actually have. I was confused about the narrative implications, but once the lack of a karma system was confirmed, those gameplay concerns melted away. I think showing off gameplay off using both styles would help quite a bit.

Nate: Some have watched the State of Play footage and concluded that Ghost of Tsushima is an easy game, which isn’t the case. Combat is designed to be lethal both ways, not just for the player versus enemies. Jin’s foes can definitely take him out quickly, too.

The gameplay we showed was captured by one of the test leads on Ghost, and he’s very skilled with the katana. Plus, Jin had some abilities unlocked that he doesn’t begin the game with. We wanted to show what combat can look like when the player has mastered the controls and abilities — when Jin is at his best. We think most will find the combat satisfyingly challenging.

Why would players want to see someone lose? Of course Sucker Punch chose a person that is very skilled at combat to demo the game. Why did Bruce Straley demo The Last of Us and Uncharted 4? Because he is good at the game! The Souls-like genre has made action fans masochists. I have zero doubts that Ghost of Tsushima will offer people a good challenge.

Q: Will it feature different endings based on the fighting style the players use more often (Samurai or Ghost)?

Nate: The game tells the human story about Jin’s sacrifice to become the Ghost. Players can choose to primarily fight with a sword, bow or stealth; either way Jin becomes a legend to the people of Tsushima, and a terror to the Mongol Invaders.

I may be concerned with possible gameplay mechanics lining up with the revenge-focused narrative, but I am super down with this game’s story premise.

Q: How long is the game?

…Let’s put it another way: Most of our play testers would spend a full week on Ghost and not finish the storyline. We know everyone wants a number, but we’re confident to say that if you want a satisfying story in a big, content-rich world with lots to do and see and lots of characters to get to know, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Ghost of Tsushima.

If the mechanics and structure in place have a satisfying and addictive loop, this sounds great. If the game is shallower than I expect, it may feel like it over stays its welcome. I am confident in Sucker Punch though. They’ve been making open world games (arguably) since the PS2 with Sly Cooper. For purists of the definition, then they have been at it since the beginning of the PS3 generation with inFamous. Sucker Punch knows open world game design.

Q: Will we be able to dual-wield both swords at the same time while attacking?

Nate: No, Jin was trained to fight with a single sword in a traditional style.

Gotta have some new feature for the sequel.

Sucker Punch Explains The Life Of The Samurai In Ghost Of Tsushima – Game Informer

Sucker Punch Explains The Life Of The Samurai In Ghost Of Tsushima – Game Informer by Matthew Kato for Game Informer

As far as combat goes, more secrets remain, such as a particularly tantalizing stealth combat action prompt called “slaughter.” This option (as well as the ability to perform chain assassinations) appeared when Jin sneaks up on some unaware enemies in a camp.

Mark and execute, anyone?

Jin peacefully plays a flute. Does this lead to something else, or is it simply for player enjoyment? Fox told us that it has a “specific role” in the game.

Time travel confirmed.

How the Studio Behind The Last Guardian Helped Ghost of Tsushima Find Its Direction – USgamer

How the Studio Behind The Last Guardian Helped Ghost of Tsushima Find Its Direction by Mike Williams for USgamer

“We reached out to them very early and we were like, ‘hey, here’s this game we want to make. First of all, what do you think? And two, do you want to help us out for obvious reasons?’ It was great, they were super excited about it,” says Connell. “They flew a number of us to Japan and helped us with a 10- or 11-day guided tour with a historian through central Japan, southern Japan, Fukuoka. We got to go to Tsushima. We actually got to go to the beach that the invasion happened on which is [Komodohama]. So they were very supportive early on.”

With the help of Japan Studio, Sucker Punch also spent time talking to consultants and historians. It needed to know about the history of the invasion of Tsushima. It needed to know how Japanese people from that time lived and how they moved. Sucker Punch even flew in modern-day practitioners of the samurai sword-fighting style to consult on the game and do some motion capture. “They were so freaking fast,” says Connell. “We had to ask them to slow down because it was too fast to capture.”

Ghost of Tsushima will launch with two voice tracks, the English recorded by Sucker Punch and the Japanese voice track overseen by SIE Japan Studio. Both tracks were recorded “almost simultaneously” and players will have the ability to choose one or the other when they load up Ghost of Tsushima for the first time on PlayStation 4.

I love hearing that Sucker Punch had such strong support from Sony to make Ghost of Tsushima as authentic as possible. Being a first-party studio has such a strong benefit of having Sony’s backing, both financially and creatively. I imagine this dedication will help translate to stronger sales in Japan as well. Ghost of Tsushima feels like a beautiful blend of Western and Japanese development. It is a unique pairing.

While the presentation showed gameplay as a Samurai or the Ghost, those aren’t two different combat systems. Jin can fluidly move between both as the need arises, with all of the tools at his disposal.

“We want to clear up that this is not a game where you choose to be the Samurai, or choose to be the Ghost,” says Connell.

So my initial read on being able to switch between styles is spot on. I can’t help but think that will lead to some sort of narrative disconnect with the gameplay though. The story side of Ghost of Tsushima is anchored in Jin’s transformation into “The Ghost” as he reclaims the island of Tsushima from the Mongols. Being able to ignore this Ghost path on the gameplay front, while great for actual mechanics, doesn’t jive with the narrative presented so far. Here’s what I wrote earlier this week.

But when watching the gameplay styles, it looks like maybe you don’t have to move beyond those samurai traditions after all, at least when playing. That could be a point of disconnect between the narrative and gameplay if there is not a karma system. Sucker Punch’s last franchise, inFamous, used karma as a key pillar in its storytelling and gameplay, so it does make sense for them to continue that practice in Ghost of Tsushima. The marketing so far just does not communicate that. It will be interesting to see how this element shakes out.

Interestingly enough, there is no karma system in Ghost of Tsushima.

Unlike the Infamous games, there is no good-evil karma system. Within the story of Ghost of Tsushima, the fall of Jin and his transition into the Ghost is the emotional core, but there will also be gameplay benefits to becoming that legendary figure.

I don’t want to judge the story and gameplay experience before I play the game myself. Color me curious to see how it all pans out thematically.

There’s also no hunting system in the game, where you kill deer, foxes, or bears for materials to make armor or items.

This strikes me as an interesting choice for an open-world game. There are clearly crafting mechanics with other supplies like bamboo and linen. while you may not kill animals for supplies, I still assume you can and will kill some animals. In the State of Play video there was a bear that was attacking some NPCs. I doubt there is a peaceful way to resolve that. I wonder what rewards, if any, there will be for killing animals.

“I knew that it would be a technical hurdle to get right,” he says. “That’s not an easy thing to do, have everything in your game react to wind if possible. About two years later, a year and a half later, the game had it. Everything was windy. There were trees moving, and grass moving, capes moving, and hair moving, and particles… it was insane. At that time we were realizing that the game was just stunning. It was very very pretty, even early.”

The Particle Masters have proven themselves again with the wind interacting with everything. I like that the wind began solely as a visual element that turned into a mechanic. I really hope the technical performance can remain steady in particularly windy scenes that are dense with elements whipping around.

It’s remarkable that we are getting two first-party PS4 exclusives back-to-back to close out the generation. Especially since both Naughty Dog and Sucker punch kicked off the PS4’s life with The Last of Us Remastered and inFamous: Second Son. I hope it all ends on a high note.

Ghost of Tsushima Preview

Ghost of Tsushima has been put in a unique position. Sony is closing down the PS4 console generation with a new IP, just like they did with the PS3. Just taking a glance at Sony’s first party line-up over the course of the PS4’s life cycle will show you that there was a heavy emphasis on single-player open-world games. Sucker Punch actually laid the first brick with inFamous: Second Son in March 2014, four months after the PS4 launched in North America. The studio has had time to learn over the course of an entire console generation, observing their fellow PlayStation Studios partners and outside developers. Sucker Punch has the opportunity to place the capstone on the legacy of PS4’s open-world exclusives.

Last week, Sucker Punch had the opportunity to reveal detailed gameplay for Ghost of Tsushima in a State of Play. I took some notes while I watched this 18-minute presentation and a little bit of time to chew on what Ghost of Tsushima appears to be. If you’d like to watch the State of Play for yourself, you can watch it on YouTube. The State of Play is broken into five chunks: The World, The Samurai, The Ghost, Customization, and Presentation. Each of these gave a taste of what makes the game unique.

“Exploration has been at the heart of our open-world design since the very beginning. But you can’t have exploration if you don’t have curiosity. So we’ve continually asked ourselves how can we let the island guide you in the most thematic and immersive ways possible?” – Jason Connell

Jason Connell opened up the presentation by discussing the island of Tsushima and how Sucker Punch is trying to entice players to explore. The opening shot is with Jin, the main character, on a cliff looking over a part of the island. I saw yellow and white forests, smoke stakes, and a beached (or docked) boat. These contrasts in color and materials catch my eye, but I’m curious to see what will drive me to explore those areas once a controller is in my hand. What will the game teach me about exploration to encourage me to continually do it?

The mechanic that Sucker Punch came up with to help player’s navigate the island is genius. Place a pin on the map and then a “Guiding Wind” will appear and blow in the direction of your pin. You can summon the gust of wind at any time to point you in the right direction. As someone who loves a clean HUD, this is such a nuanced and noninvasive tool for navigation. The wind isn’t just a collection of white lines either. The wind interacts with the world, pushing grass and leaves along as well blowing Jin’s cloak. It is sort of like the inverse of the wind while sailing in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I hope there is a way to add an on-screen marker for those that want one, but the Guiding Wind is an elegant solution for immersive navigation.

Beyond that, open-world staples are here: Different animals will lead you to certain places nearby, smoke stacks indicate people in danger, fast travel is unlocked as you explore. There are items that the player may pick up like bamboo, linen, dye flowers, and “supplies.” I assume these are for crafting armor, which has its own mechanics. Armor has advantages that can be tailored to the play style of the player, while dye lets the player tailor the colors of the armor to their liking. Combined with Charms and Skill Points, the gameplay seems to have a heavy emphasis on player choice.

That’s further emphasized with the gameplay styles between playing as an honorable Samurai or the dishonorable Ghost. Nate Fox talks about precision and energy management. It sounds like an action game with parry timing and utilizing certain techniques against certain foes. There are different attack stances, which may or may not impact gameplay in significant ways. There is some sort of stamina meter while in combat, but its finer details are still unknown. As for playing as the Ghost, this style seems far more stealth and fear motivated. Frankly, it reminds me of Splinter Cell or the Arkham Batman games. Shadows, higher perches, smoke bombs, tools for distracting enemies. All the tools I saw on display were to give the player that feeling of power over the enemies.

Between these two styles, I am curious if there is some sort of karma system in the game. Before this presentation, I would have though not. The description of the game and the trailers portray it as a tale of revenge that drives a decent man to betraying everything he was taught. It seems pretty cut and dry in that regard:

As one of the last surviving samurai, you rise from the ashes to fight back. But honorable tactics won’t lead you to victory. You must move beyond your samurai traditions to forge a new way of fighting—the way of the Ghost—as you wage an unconventional war for the freedom of Japan. – Sucker Punch

But when watching the gameplay styles, it looks like maybe you don’t have to move beyond those samurai traditions after all, at least when playing. That could be a point of disconnect between the narrative and gameplay if there is not a karma system. Sucker Punch’s last franchise, inFamous, used karma as a key pillar in its storytelling and gameplay, so it does make sense for them to continue that practice in Ghost of Tsushima. The marketing so far just does not communicate that. It will be interesting to see how this element shakes out.

Some of my favorite features showcased are the superficial modes that alter Ghost of Tsushima’s presentation. It’s no secret that I love the idea of playing this game with the Japanese voice over and English subtitles. It just feels (maybe sounds is more appropriate) right. The photo mode appears to give users fine grain controls, even allowing users to change the elements floating in the wind or the music in the scene. Sucker Punch looks like they’ve taken the years of feedback for other PS4 games’ photo modes (including their own) and are making a full-featured tool. The coolest surprise was cinema mode. This gives Ghost of Tsushima a black and white, grainy, moody appearance that mirrors classic samurai films. I can only imagine how gorgeous it will look on my 4K OLED TV with HDR. Combined with the Japanese voice track and you’ll have pretty authentic appearance. I get pumped up just thinking about it.

The end of a console generation is often the best time for the system. Developers squeeze every ounce of power out of the console as a studio’s game design philosophy is explored. The PS4 is particularly fun to be a part of with both The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima. Having both an established franchise with a long-awaited sequel and a brand new IP give the PS4 both sides of the console-exclusive coin. If both games end up being strong PlayStation games, the energy going into the PS5 will be even more powerful. July 17 is just two months away. I feel like it will be here before we know it.

Thursday’s State of Play is All About Ghost of Tsushima – PlayStation.Blog

Thursday’s State of Play is All About Ghost of Tsushima – PlayStation.Blog

The episode will be focused entirely on Ghost of Tsushima, coming to PS4 July 17. You’ll get an extended look at new gameplay footage, including exploration, combat and more. The current cut is clocking in around 18 minutes, give or take.

Absolutely pumped to see the game in action outside of a snazzy trailer. I want to see the game’s systems. What is similar to previous Sucker Punch games? Where has the studio broken new ground? Will PS4 console melt when all the petals are fluttering? Hope we can learn the answers to some of these questions on Thursday.

Ghost of Tsushima Japanese Story Trailer

Ghost of Tsushima Story Trailer (Japanese)

A couple weeks ago, Sucker Punch and Sony blew the doors wide open on Ghost of Tsushima. I am shocked that the game is scheduled to come out on June 26. When Sony said the game was set for “Summer 2020,” I would have guessed late summer. It is wild that the two swan songs for the PS4 are less than a month apart.

The story trailer is rad. The link at the top is the story trailer with the Japanese voice over. While the game is being made by Bellevue’s own Sucker Punch, the game will have Japanese voice-over with English subtitles. The studio seems to be going all in on authenticity. Although, I did find it funny that the lips don’t quite sync up because the trailer is meant for English. Like an inverse on Japanese films or anime being dubbed with English. Subbed vs dubbed has taken on a new form. I think playing with the Japanese track would be dope. For those that want to watch in English, here you go.