Connell explained that the team often gets asked about Ghost of Tsushima’s size in terms of length of completing the game, though he noted it’s hard to pinpoint because “completing” can mean various things for people with open-world games. Some people just play the story and others want to find everything. The studio recognized this, and worked “to create a world big enough that has both those opportunities. People that can just play story and people that can go get lost in the environment.”
And as our few looks at that environment have shown, Ghost of Tsushima looks to be a visually beautiful adventure. Given that it’s Sucker Punch’s first full game since Infamous: Second Son in 2014, one of the first first-party games on the PS4, Connell explained how the studio has worked to push the hardware now as, currently, the last PS4 first-party exclusive for the system.“We’ve learned a ton and we’ve just built on tech, on tech, on tech, and we have amazing technical rendering gurus at Sucker Punch,” Connell said. “They’ve managed to pull out every little ounce of performance so that we could have our dreams of making this game.
“You can see pretty far in the game as we show off, and that’s not some fabricated thing with hacks. You can just get down from that mountain and go to those places. It’s stunning what they’ve been able to pull off for us from a technical perspective,” he continued, noting the combined work of the many different teams within the studio coming together to produce Tsushima.
That work has gone into producing the ambitious island of Tsushima, inspired by the real-life location, though set hundreds of years ago. Connell explained that while the team sought to honor and respect the real-life setting — the in-game landmass is pretty much geographically the same shape as the real-world Tsushima — it’s not meant to be a one-to-one recreation, especially given the setting’s period.
Ghost of Tsushima – Gameplay Screenshots State of Play
“When it comes to some of the biomes and places that you go to, it’s so long ago, there’s not a perfect map of forestry of what was where,” Connell said, noting Sucker Punch’s similar approach with Second Son to capture the essence of Seattle without necessarily recreating it building by building.
One of the biggest aspects in creating this open, engaging space involved making the many areas of Tsushima artistically unique, as Connell pointed to the Golden Forest seen on the horizon during Tsushima’s State of Play. Connell didn’t offer an exact number of the distinct regions, but counted the giant fields showcased at Tsushima’s last E3 reveal, a bamboo forest, a swamp-like area, and more among Tsushima’s biomes.
“We try really hard from an art direction perspective to make [each area] feel distinctly different and try not to muddy things up,” he said.
“And while that may feel a little bit loud, when you approach it, it feels very memorable. I can remember where it is, I can see it from everywhere on the island. And that’s important to us because the island’s big and so, and we’re not putting markers all over the place, so you have to come up with other visual anchors to keep your directionality intact.”
As for whether players can explore the entire island from the start, Connell remained coy on exactly how much would be available to explore, but from the sound of it, Tsushima will focus players in on Jin’s story first before opening the wider world.“As a story as big as ours and a game as big as ours, it is incredibly important to us that people understand Jin’s journey first. It’s a lot to take in. So the first part, we want to make sure that you understand who he is, what’s happened to this island. So there’s a little bit of setup,” he said. “It’s really important to do that before we just open the flood gates. But then once you get to that point, then it’s pretty open.”
It sounds like a model not unlike some other major open world games have taken, similar to how Horizon Zero Dawn opens up dramatically after The Proving early in its story.
For more on Ghost of Tsushima, which is set to be released on PS4 July 17, be sure to read everything we learned from the Ghost of Tsushima State of Play, and find out why the Ghost of Tsushima showcase wowed us on the latest episode of our weekly PlayStation show, Podcast Beyond!.
Stay tuned to IGN for more from our interview with Jason Connell.
Editor’s note: Former IGN employee Andrew Goldfarb is currently working for Ghost of Tsushima developer Sucker Punch.
Jonathon Dornbush is IGN’s Senior News Editor, host of Podcast Beyond!, and PlayStation lead. Find him on Twitter @jmdornbush.