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Use the GDC 2021 Session Viewer to browse and sort the ever-growing list of sessions by day, time, pass type, topic, and format. All registered attendees will be able to build their personal schedule directly within the event platform, once live early July 2021. All times are listed in Pacific Time.

Master of the Katana: Melee Combat in Ghost of Tsushima

Chris Zimmerman  (Studio Head Emeritus, Sucker Punch)

Date: Wednesday, July 21

Time: 8:30am - 9:30am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass

Topic: Design, Programming

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: N/A: I prefer to present live on-site but I am open to delivering a virtual presentation

Ghost of Tsushima tells the story of a samurai, Jin Sakai, forced to abandon his samurai code and adopt underhanded tactics to save his home. Ghost relies on challenging melee combat to force this decision—if the player can win every fight they find, then they're not forced to adopt new tactics and the whole story becomes nonsense. This talk outlines the unexpected design, tech, and human capability tidbits we discovered along the way to hitting our experiential target—a demanding melee combat system where the player's journey to mastery mirrors Jin's own journey.


An inside peek at some of the hidden things that make Ghost melee combat work, plus some guidelines of how to think about challenging players in fun but fair ways.

Intended Audience

Anyone interested in melee combat, especially the specific design and technical problems with integrating a challenging melee system into a mass-audience open world game, plus anyone who played Ghost and wants to hear about all the hidden stuff that's going on. Or complain about the lack of lock-on targeting.