Naughty Dog reveals how axed Jack and Daxter reboot led to The Last of Us

Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckmann talks about the processes behind the creation of The Last of Us.

by

The creative director for The Last of Us, Neil Druckmann, has revealed that the development team behind the game was originally assembled to produce a new entry in Naughty Dog's Jak and Daxter series, which was last seen on the PlayStation 2.

Speaking at a keynote address for IGDA Toronto 2013, Druckmann explained the history behind the formation of the team behind The Last of Us, and explained the process behind the creation of the title.

"Back in 2009, our presidents Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra, we had just shipped Uncharted 2 and it was pretty successful for us," said Druckmann. "And they decided there's a lot of people in the team that were very talented but eager to do other stuff, maybe above the role they were at. They were like, let's start branching out. Let's create this second team."

"Our task was to reboot Jack and Daxter," said Druckmann. "We spent a long time exploring the world of Jak and Daxter, and how would we reboot it, what would it mean to bring these characters back, what were some story ideas that we were getting excited by."

"We found the ideas we were passionate about were kind of getting away from what Jak and Daxter was. We were questioning, 'Are we doing this for marketing reasons? Naming something Jak and Daxter, when it's not really Jak and Daxter? Or are we really passionate about it?'

"And the answer is we felt like it was more for marketing... We felt like we weren't doing service to what the fans of this franchise really liked, even if the reinvented Daxter was pretty damn good looking."

"So we went to our boss and said, 'Do we have to do this?' And he said 'No. I thought it would just be easier for you guys if you started with something. But if you want to do something else, come up with something else.'"

Druckmann went on to explain that the core idea behind The Last of Us came in 2004 when he was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon and had to pitch the idea of a zombie game to Night of the Living Dead director George Romero.

The pitch, which Romero turned down, combined the mechanics of Ico with the world of Night of the Living Dead, with a central character modeled on Hartigan from Sin City. The player would take the role of an old police officer with a heart condition who had to protect a young girl, with the player switching to her perspective when the man ran into medical issues. The game would end with the police officer getting bitten and infected.

Years later, when Druckmann was working at Naughty Dog, he pitched the idea as a story called The Turning, turning the male lead into a former convict who had lost his daughter and was protecting the girl to redeem himself.

When Naughty Dog formed its second studio, Druckmann and game director Bruce Straley kicked around the idea of a game called Mankind, which would feature the protagonist guiding the first immune girl around a world where the cordyceps virus had infected all of the planet's women.

Druckmann said Mankind never came to light because it was a "misogynistic idea." Female co-workers at Naughty Dog would say to Druckmann that, while they understood the idea, "the way it's coming off is you're having a bunch of women turning into monsters and you're shooting them in the face."

The full keynote, which runs for an hour and 20 minutes, is now available to watch online.

Discussion

139 comments
Drkr_Zen
Drkr_Zen

I gotta say, I'm truly surprised the article title didn't misspell Daxter, possibly as Dexter, as well... lol.

Still I would have loved to seen this come to pass. Honestly, I'd love to see the project handed off to Sanzaru Games, who did an amazing job with Sly 4. That game was nothing short of platforming perfection that not only fine tuned an already great series, but pulled all its strong points into a single, fresh title, that lived up to the PS2 trilogy.

I bet they could do the same with the awesome, too long dormant, Jak series. 

Skrilla_XS
Skrilla_XS

Hated Jak and Daxter, horrible replacement for Crash. I don't care if they never come back.

supermarioooooo
supermarioooooo

JUST BRİNG BACK """"" CRASH BANDİCOOT"""""" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

X-7
X-7

They don't need to bring back Jak and Daxter as characters per se but bring back the world.

Jasbro
Jasbro

The last paragraph made me laugh a bit, its all fine and dandy if you have guys turning into monsters and blasting them in the face, but women? oh hell no thats sexist......


SkaiNett
SkaiNett

"Women turning into monsters and you're shooting them in the face."

I like it. They should have gone with that idea. God already built half of that game. All they needed to do was decide what gun.

ThKng
ThKng

Couple weeks ago at a digital expo i was at a talk by one of TLOU level designers. Seems like their biggest limitation was the 512mb ram on a ps3, and what they did with that was quite impressive. I'd be interesting to see what they can do with 8gb on the ps4.

LeonVechgan
LeonVechgan

Here's my opinion. With the PS4 's graphics they could make the game look like the commercials for Jak 3 (the cgi ones) as far as an aesthetic and style is concerned. The story could go any number of ways but  with their talent anything is possible.

Ravenlore_basic
Ravenlore_basic

Wow THIS is how it is supposed to go... "So we went to our boss and said, 'Do we have to do this?' And he said 'No.' "   

That's the way to do it Sony.  Let the talented game enthusiastic developers make a game that they are passion about, and support them.  

sdoxas
sdoxas

Pretty sure Bioshock started out as an Ecco the Dolphin reboot.

WantYouBad
WantYouBad

List of most overrated developers:

1. Rockstar

2. Naughty Dog

3. Valve

4. ?

5. ?

Let the hate flow.

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

I really enjoyed the first Jak & Daxter game. I'd really like to see a remake on next-gen.

kbaily
kbaily

Thank God they didn't do a grim and gritty realistic reboot of Jak and Daxter.  I wasn't big on the more "serious" tone it went for in #2.  Serious gave devs. What do you have against making colorful, lighthearted games? Not every game out there needs to be this morbid, landscape of sorrow and despair. Geesh

Well at least Sony's put out stuff like Little Big Planet and Puppeteer so it's nice to see someone besides Nintendo still playing around with lighthearted whimsy.

hXcShock
hXcShock

This article just reinforces my plan to hopefully work for ND when my 3 year game development course finishes at college. You can tell they aren't foolish, they know if their developers don't have their heart into a game, it won't be special.

Speedshoes
Speedshoes

So ND came up with the concept for The Walking Dead?

shalashaska88
shalashaska88

From a terrible idea of a reboot to a great game. I'm thankful.

SeanD1972
SeanD1972

The artwork looks completely stupid and yeah definitely not Jak & Daxter.  They did the right thing in setting that aside.

lorider25
lorider25

The reboot looks stupid as hell. F**k your realism

Arsonaire
Arsonaire

Please please please work on Jak & Daxter reboot while also pumping out new IP on PS4! Its not too much to ask is it?? :'(

M3o5nster
M3o5nster

Damnit Naughty Dog, now I wanna play that Jak & Daxter reboot... That concept art looks amazing.

lek_zie
lek_zie

love the new jak design and im hoping they will release it and that would the darkest platformer in town also hope a sequel to the last of us either a tenage ellie without joel or an all new set of characters but the setting is the start of the outbreak..

metalblinga
metalblinga

WHAT!? you mean we almost had another Jak and Daxter game from naughty dog!? But got the last of us instead!? hmmmm..... NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

chocolate1325
chocolate1325

I think  that ND did the right thing thanks to the sales and success of the Last of Us.

alpha_unit97
alpha_unit97

I would love to see a new Jak game based on the events of Mar, but it would have to be really separate from the original trilogy. Otherwise, I think J&D would best be left the way it is.

sanechupp
sanechupp

Those pictures above look retarded. All the Jak games are better than these new games they make. It's kind of like GTA but more fun. I think Jak X is more fun than twisted metal. It can't be that hard to make a Jak and Daxter game.

Class_Act998675
Class_Act998675

You see Capcom fanboys, if a company gave the axe to a bad reboot idea it could lead to something that's actually good. Now if Capcom cancelled DmC like they should've, I wonder what that could lead too. . .? Oh and the same can be said about Maverick Hunter. 

Sure you trolls that supported DmC just to piss off the fanbase won't give up your egos just to so you won't admit that fans are right, but what about you low self-esteem gamers that blindly support everything from the gaming industry just so you can look like a better person on the internet?

NTM23
NTM23

@Jasbro In The Last of Us, it's both male and female that are infected, and shot.

theKSMM
theKSMM

@Ravenlore_basic I think that was really the basic lesson of this article. I'm not sure what everyone else commenting here got from it (other than they want a game where they can shoot women exclusively).

pip3dream
pip3dream

@WantYouBad I dunno, i'm all for hating the Big Guys - but Rockstar and Naughty Dog are two of my favorite developers.  They truly build worlds that you can just get lost in. Naughty Dog's games don't have the replay value that Rockstar games have, but they are still pretty impressive...  Valve on the other hand, all they do is own Steam - I think they made a good game like 15 years ago, but i can't remember.

G4m3r0uTL4wZ
G4m3r0uTL4wZ

@WantYouBad Irrational games with Bioshit Infinite, I would also put Naughty Dog first and Rockstar wayyy down the list cause GTA V single player experience is pretty solid unlike this Crap of Us Streamlined casual piece of shit of a interactive movie experience.

Klikandclick
Klikandclick

@WantYouBad no soul has ever so boldly gone against the grain. truly a hero of the ages

G4m3r0uTL4wZ
G4m3r0uTL4wZ

@hXcShock Yeah cause this gen making linear casual 3rd person action games with forced A.I partners for more focus on shitty plot holes and story with tacked on gameplay segments is so special and unique. Look at RE6, gears of war, the new TR, crap of us are just examples on how dull,generic and easy interactive movies are.

kbaily
kbaily

@SeanD1972 It reminded me of "Bomberman Act Zero" you know that horrid dark reboot of Bomberman where they made him look like the demon spawn of Master Chief and Venom playing in a evil futuristic death tournament?  Yeah that was crap too.

PSdual_wielder
PSdual_wielder

@metalblinga  

Well at the end of the day the developers own the series and if they feel what they have isn't good enough they're free to scrap it entirely.

metroidhunterx
metroidhunterx

@pip3dream @WantYouBad It's all subjective, really, but in my opinion, Naughty Dog really is overrated as hell.  I remember playing Uncharted for the first time, while everyone was crapping their pants at how awesome and realistic it was...  It sure was awesome and realistic, the ridiculous amount of conveniently placed gasoline barrels when I needed to explode my way out of the first area.

bgna8980
bgna8980

@G4m3r0uTL4wZ @WantYouBad You're an idiot, if you're going to bash a game just because you don't like it. I hate COD but a lot of people love it, I don't bash it. Some people like interactive movie like games like Heavy Rain, if you don't then it's your opinion but don't go bashing it cause it's not for you. 

SubHumanTorch
SubHumanTorch

@G4m3r0uTL4wZ @WantYouBad Why does casual immediately mean bad, I'm the kind of guy who would spend ages planning out assault routes and optimising gear before playing through a  Rainbow 6 mission and even I sometimes just want to sit back and take Nathan Drake through one of his adventures. Not everything on the market has to be hardcore.

pip3dream
pip3dream

@G4m3r0uTL4wZ At least pick bad games as your examples.. All of the above games were really fun with out of the park production values

theAllez99
theAllez99

@Class_Act998675 @theAllez99 How can you know, even if some oldschool fans LOVED the old Dante, they may enjoy it even more now when they have changed the series and the character. As I said before, we ALL have DIFFERENT opinions. :D

Just cause you HATE the new Dante, and the new game, doesn't mean all oldschool fans have to! Good day. :)