With the Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut, there’s a lot to look forward to- not only is the game getting a next-gen upgrade, but Sucker Punch studios is also throwing in a new area, letting Jin Sakai go to Iki Island to expand his adventures.
We sat down with Nate Fox, Creative Director for Ghost of Tsushima as well as Joanna Wang, Environments Lead about everything fans can look forward to with the re-release of one of PlayStation’s newest first-party IP.
The New Area, Iki Island
How will the new Island affect Jin’s story?
Joanna: This is the story of Jin and his past. For myself when i play through the game, if i played Iki and the beginning of Act 2 versus when i played Iki when i come back, i definitely have a different understanding of Jin, who he is, why he is being that way. So I would say that part is the difference.
For the mission wise, it does not change any of the mision for them ain’t game but for the character, emotionally, connection wise, i think there is a big impact for that.
With the new groups of Mongols that are led by ‘The Eagle’, how is the narrative gonna shape up on its own and how does it connect to the larger conflict that we see in Jin Sakai?
Nate: While we were working on Ghost of Tsushima, we were extremely focused on this story, how Jin Sakai goes from being a samurai, feels his sense of duty to protect the way things have been done and yet he wants to prectort the people of his island. so we have to change to become the Ghost.
There’s all these steps along the way of that transformation. When making GOT, we couldn’t put every idea we had so we put in the ones that we thought pulled the clearest story. but we always have that one idea of a story that we wished we got in but didn’t have time for it. That is exactly what is the foundational narrative for the Iki Island expansion
When players go to Iki Island, they will be treated to a much more deepening experience for how they think about Jin Sakai and his transformation into the Ghost. Of course, the Mongols of Iki are also trying to take over the land but the villain of Iki Island is different from Khotun Khan where she uses sympathy and feelings of trying to help other people as a way to break down their defenses and if that doesn’t work, she uses violence too. but she has a very different technique for trying to get the people of Iki Island to join the Mongol empire.
There are mysteries surrounding ‘The Eagle’. How was the direction for these villains as well as those Mongols? Did it allow the team to be more creative in differentiating her from Khotun Khan as a major villain?
Nate: The Eagle does something that is very powerful. That is she provides an incredible reasonable vantage point on why the Mongols taking control could actually be good for greater peace. she is explaining to people that willfully say “No, no, no, we don’t want you. we dont want you.” All of the positives of what it’s like to be a part of this really technologically advanced empire. She provides a counter argument and a human aversion to the Mongols that I am very excited to see put into Ghost of Tsushima’s total experience.
About the main antagonist ‘The Eagle’, is there a historical reference to a certain figure or does she have a prototype or is she a purely fictional character that is designed by the team? If she is a fictional character, why did the team decide for her to be a female? Is there any reason behind this decision?
Joanna: There is no prototype and no historical figure we are taking from. It’s all fiction and it is the team that designed that character for Iki. I think for female perspectives, it’s just a different variety for the game when you also have a different separation from the main game. More importantly, who is ‘the Eagle’? What is she trying to do on the island? How did she try to invade Iki Island? And how is she affecting Jin’s story? this is what we are focusing on Jin’s story.
When did the plot or the story of Iki Island happen in the game? Did it happen sometime between the main story? Do we need to beat the main story before we can go to Iki Island?
Joanna: You don’t need to finish the whole GOT game to get into Iki Island. If you already finish GOT, you will be able to transfer all of your saves to pick up where you left and then get into Iki. For the new players, Iki Island will begin in Act 2 while you make your way to the Toyotama region. When you play Iki, you will unfold a lot about the stories of Jin that will fit into the whole story of Ghost of Tsushima. It is a part of the whole package.
A huge story behind Ghost of Tsushima was the team’s actual visits to Tsushima for research. Did the team do the same for Iki, and if so were there any good anecdotes you can share?
Joanna: I really wish we can. While making Ghost of Tsushima, we had multiple research trips to Tsushima and that gave us so many ideas, inspirations. We are really grateful we are able to do that. but doing the production of Iki, because of the pandemic condition happen to impact the travel and to keep the teams safety, we aren’t able to go to Iki island during this time, but we still did a huge amount of researcher on the island including the history and also continually working with our amazing supporting team in Japan as well.
Many fans really liked Mythic Tales from Ghost of Tsushima. Can we expect to see more of that in the Director’s Cut?
Nate: You can expect more. We agree, the Legendary tales were fantastic. it is a big favorite from many of the people on the team and they absolutely are on Iki Island. I don’t wanna give you any details because they are some of the most unique content there is and discovering what’s in there is part of the joy. but I can tell you, they are waiting for you.
For fans who’d already beaten Ghost of Tsushima, their Jin is orders of magnitude stronger than, say, a new player, even on Lethal difficulty. Are they going to find no challenge when they head to Iki?
Nate: We made the Iki expansion to be unlocked for players once they entered into Act 2. However, we also knew that we will have players who had finished Tsushima island and upgraded Jin Sakai. And so when you go to Iki island, the challenge level will adjust to meet where you are with your character.
So you’re gonna have quite a challenge in front of you: the villains will test your ability to fight. However if you had gone in just when you entered into Act 2, the villains wouldn’t have been quite so difficult. We recognized it by reading a lot of feedback from players. how they wanted more skills that kinda drove this level of specialization. you might be a sword fighting expert where Joanna is an archer expert and i sneak around, and so many new skills we’ve created and new perks that Jin could acquire to fit that play style to specify on how you wanna approach the game. It doesn’t make it easier, it just makes it more your own experience.
Could you share about how Ghost of Tsushima Legends fits into the development process for the Iki expansion?
Nate: The Legends mode is fantastic because we are working on Iki Island and the skills for Jin Sakai while at the same time, we are also working on this multiplayer experience where certain ideas can be explored because of the supernatural theme. and so it becomes a test bed for ideas that could have affected the single player game. The single player games have ideas which found their way over to the multiplayer games. It’s very symbiotic. So many of the skills you see that you had in single player had their roots from an idea that somebody explored in multiplayer and vice versa.
Has the reception of Ghost of Tsushima Legends affected the development of Iki DLC in any way?
Nate: One thing that I am happy that people now know about is that we strive to make the most grounded human relatable story for Jin Sakai. Talking about his transformation and seeing the people around him dealing with suffering inside of an invasion. but all of us at Sucker Punch and I know a lot of gamers too really want to explore Japanese folklore. they wanna deal with the yokai and so legends mode gives us that outlet to be very strange. we get to go deep into the supernatural and that leads us artistically, from a game design perspective, to go nuts. It’s a nice outlet for trying to be human related and grounded as we can for the single player game.
Will skills available exclusively in Ghost of Tsushima Legends become available to Jin in the main game in the Directors Cut?
Nate: Legends mode is an experience that lives inside of Legends mode. Those missions are just there because they are designed to be complimentary cooperative experiences. Of course, you can launch into Legends mode by talking to a storyteller in Tsushima who subsequently is making a story but those experiences are inherently made to be shared to other people. whereas the story of Jin Sakai that he experiences on Tushima and Iki Island, those are meant to be experienced solo so that the tone of the game, the music, the other characters you meet all have their chance to shine without your friends talking to you in your ear. it just make for more emotionally compelling moment.
The Next-Gen Experience In Ghost of Tsushima
How long after the game’s launch did you start working on the Director’s Cut?
Nate: We started working on the PS5 version when we got the dev kits which is after we shipped GOT. When we were working on that game, everybody on the team was working on the Ghost of Tushima PS4 release. Since then , we have been doing our best to really leverage everything we could out of the new hardware. I think that there are so many aspects that are exciting. there’s spherical audio, the haptics, the increased resolution, the Japanese lip sync -all these things are very very cool and they happened as result of getting those kits and we are glad they now can be put into players hands, who have a PS5.
With the PS5 re-release, a lot of fans are looking forward to new features, such as the implementation of the Dualsense controller. How are we going to see PS5 features used for Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut?
Nate: First, I think we gotta get this outta the way. As for the PS5, there are a number of features to be planned on the PS5 that make the gameplay more immersive. 3-dimensional audio is transforming. You can hear the rain hitting the ground at your feet or the wind moving the branches and tree above your head. The textures of the world are definitely dense. Of course there is full Japanese lip sync. Thanks to that we can now play performance capture scenes that previously we had to pre-render. Now with the SSD, we can now play them live. We invented a new lip-sync engine to change this performance capture scene so that it can be that much more immersive for people who wanna play in Japanese language.
However, my favourite feature of them all is totally the haptic feedback. were making a game that strives to make you feel like a samurai and there really is no part other than that that is more core than sword fighting. For a long time, we have been able to work on graphics and audio in video games but now for the first time, we can really dig into the kinetic apps on what it feels like to be this character.
For us, the focus is making it feel like you’re holding a katana in your hands. When you swing a katana in combat and it bounces off villains, you can feel it in your hands. That is a level of immersion that we couldn’t do before. is a whole new feel. when you swing your sword and it bites into somebody’s shoulders, you feel that as well. just a new experience and it’s all thanks to this feature that is exciting. For us, a game maker, it is great to be able to dig in and experience something brand new.
Could you elaborate a bit about the lip-sync process for the Japanese audio? Was there a reason that some cutscenes in the original were pre-rendered vs run live?
Nate: In making Ghost of Tsushima on the PS4, there are a number of cutscenes that we had to pre-render because we would show them to the player while in the background we were loading a new location. These cutscenes are very large and they just packed that PS4 disc. In fact, it was packed until the point where we almost ran out of room.
However, thanks to the PS5 because of the SSD, we can now load very very fast into these locations and that means that we can run those performance capture scenes Live. we don’t have to pre-render them anymore. Which means that we can then run new animations on the lips to make Japanese lip sync a reality through all of those scenes. That’s why on the PS5 it’s feasible for us while logistically, it is not feasible on the PS4.
Thanks a lot to Joanna and Nate for talking to us all things Ghost of Tsushima. Eager to get your hands on the next-gen upgrade for the game? You’ll be able to do so when Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut releases on August 20th, 2021.