Naughty Dog reveals original story details for The Last of Us

The Last of Us creative director speaks at length about character evolution and changes during the game's development.

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Naughty Dog has discussed original concepts for The Last of Us in the September issue of Game Informer Magazine, VideoGamer.com has reported.

Warning: the following contains major spoilers for the game’s single-player campaign.

The news comes just days after the game's creative director, Neil Druckmann, tweeted a piece of concept art showing Joel being attacked, teasing that players will be able to find out more about alternative ending scenarios at the studio's upcoming PAX Prime panel.

According to the report, during development, Tess was originally a more sinister, revenge-motivated character.

"What's interesting is that originally in the story, Tess took more of a villain role," Druckmann said. "Tess was betrayed by Joel and took on a mission to pursue him across the country. That storyline never worked out. The storyline shifted and Tess took on this role where she became more of a believer and she helped motivate Joel."

Ultimately, it didn't fit, and the angle was abandoned. "We had a tough time understanding why Joel would take this journey--we weren't buying it," he said. "We also had a hard time buying that Tess would go on a vendetta. We could understand her pursuing Joel a little bit, but why would she go for a year around the country? Those things were solved by saying that Tess is going to die when she gets bitten, but her dying wish to Joel is to do this one good thing--help me do this one good thing so my soul can rest because I've done all these horrible things."

Ellie also changed during the course of the game's creation, maturing as the story progressed.

"Ellie's arc originally was that she didn't kill any non-infected people until the end, when she was going to kill Tess when Tess was torturing Joel," Druckmann said. "What we realised is that we had to get Ellie engaged more in the combat, because when she was disengaged from the action for that long, you didn't care so much. So that changed pretty early on. We decided it wasn't going to be about the first time she killed someone, it was more about this coming-of-age story of the impact that the horrors of violence has on her over the course of the game.

"That culminates with her conflict with David. That happened pretty quickly, just based on some things we realised about the story and how we had to integrate it into the gameplay."

As has been discussed previously, the game's ending also changed dramatically, with the original idea testing poorly with players. Many went as far as to call it anticlimactic.

"The original ending when we pitched the game was a much more hopeful ending, where Joel and Ellie make it to San Francisco, and that is a town run by people who are trying to restore society," Druckmann revealed. "Joel has killed all these doctors and lied to Ellie, and Ellie just fully buys into the lie. So, you're left with the idea that they are going to live the rest of their lives in this town. The camera pulls back and maybe everything is going to be alright for these two. I was working on writing, and it didn't feel honest anymore. After everything they've done and everything they've been through, that was letting them off a little too easy--especially for Joel.

"When we did focus testing, at least initially until some of the hospital stuff started coming together, it tested very poorly. People said it's unclear, anticlimactic, unsatisfying… A lot of people at the company felt the same way. A few designers didn't like the ending I had in mind. But then, as time passed and they thought about it, they came around and really appreciated. I think that happened with other people, too."

Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckmann and game director Bruce Straley will host their panel--Pitching The Last of Us--at PAX Prime, being held in Seattle at the end of August. The pair spoke at length about the inspirations, ambitions and challenges producing the game in GameSpot's recent feature.

Discussion

177 comments
Findy37564
Findy37564

The detail on this game is Outstanding 

Ibra8
Ibra8

They should make part 2 of the game on Ps4 I don't think the story is completed 

Ryan Riess
Ryan Riess

The story of this game is by far the greatest masterpiece that this art form has yet to receive. The game hits you like a train from the first minute and does not stop until the credits roll and the screen fades. I purchased my PS3 just for this game and it was worth every penny. Also the Post-Pandemic statue looks good on my shelf :p

vincelammas
vincelammas

Having just completed the game, I think it's one of the best story-arc games I have ever played. It is true this is a well-trodden genre and there are few innovations any story-teller can introduce. Of course everything here has been done on film and TV but we all know taking part strengthens player engagement in the story.

Few games have got me caring about the survival of characters (and I don't mean just Joel and Ellie). The way Naughty Dog took care to show how the relationship and emotions of the characters changed over time was the key to making the game work as well as it did.

The key features of the ending were not difficult to guess (once you "got" the flavour and atmosphere) so a somewhat darker ending that focuses on survival and the relationship was entirely fitting.

SavoyPrime
SavoyPrime

I was disappointed with the ending, but the game was still great.

Rheygar
Rheygar

Why does everyone feel the need to have to make a choice when playing a game? Do you get to make choices for characters in the great movies you watch, or books you read? Unless it's those cheesy choose your own adventure books.

Same with open world games, a great deal of people seem to expect everything to be open world, and not follow a linear path. I'd rather have a path like The Last of Us to follow, with a well paced story. Not everything needs to be about your own choices and having an open world.

This is a story about Joel & Ellie, the decisions THEY make, not the ones you want them too. Personally, I loved the ending, and I don't think I would have made any choice different than Joel.

lostn
lostn

I'm a bit confused... the thing about Joel killing the doctors and lying to Ellie, and Ellie buying the lie, was this part of the original ending that didn't test well, or is that the current ending? Because that isn't far off from the current ending. The only notable difference being that Ellie may have picked up on the lie, but accepted it anyway. 

The wording is very unclear. He says people didn't like the ending he had in mind but eventually came around on it. So this ending with killing the doctors and lying to Ellie, was not part of the original ending, or was it?

Catalyst222
Catalyst222

I would say this is a phenomenal game overall other than the ending. I think they should have given you the choice to save Ellie and the ending would play out like it did or sacrifice her for the greater good in the hospital. They built up Joel this amazing compassionate character who turned into a complete jackass in my eyes by doing what he did. I would have been more emotionally moved by an ending where Joel had to say good bye to ellie on the surgey table much like he did his own daughter 20 years prior. If they did that I would have been balling my eyes out. With the ending they chose I just sat there and said wtf?

hadlee73
hadlee73

Looks like I was way off with my guess then. I thought perhaps the original ending consisted of Ellie being used as bait to trap Joel into being caught by a religious cult, who then burn him in a wicker-man so that their bees will start making honey again.

ccgod
ccgod

hahaha so it was TESS !! in the picture bow down now, and i totally called that the alt ending tess turned bad and came to kill joel

WTA2k5
WTA2k5

It's kind of a shame all these details are being talked about so soon after the game has shipped. TLoU's been out less than two months and the devs themselves are already indirectly bringing up a ton of spoilers.

H4num4n
H4num4n

Story was great for a videogame, nothing wrong with it, great characters and well told. Gameplay was Ok, nothing special and not really fun but that was never the strongest point of naughty dog.

Philou21
Philou21

They've made the right choice by allowing Ellie to kill people from the start of the game. This children was born in that world and it's something that happens everyday, where  kids have to fight for their survival at a young age. It was more realistic IMO, good choice.

Dieknochenblume
Dieknochenblume

I thought Tess was a great character.

***Spoiler!!*** She always had Joel by the balls (he always asked her what to do next) and had the incentive and ideological push to get things done (even terrible things). But then, all of that hate train of Tess was halted by a small hope, and changed her completely. I mean, she was ok with being what she was because that was the way the world was, but seeing a glimpse of salvation led her to believe in redemption, and totally saw meaning in risking her life (otherwise expendable) to defend Ellie and ask Joel to protect her from now on ***Spoiler end***

She was a great, amazing and really cool character. So glad they changed her original development.

dantesergei
dantesergei

I would not change anything about this game, its perfect for me.

SUNDRAGONJ
SUNDRAGONJ

So that pic that was revealed was Tess... so much for those people who bashed on the others saying it looked like Tess hahaha!

Rasmus Svensson
Rasmus Svensson

It's been a week since I finished the game and I still can't stop thinking about the beauty of this story. This is one of the best games ever made, without any doubt. I only hope they don't ruin this. I'd love to see them tell new stories and bring in new characters and see how other people are trying to survive and find a purpose in this world. Just don't ruin Joel and Ellies story, it doesn't need a sequel.

Guto Soares
Guto Soares

Johnatan Modesto da uma olhada manoli

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

DAMN.

I was gonna read this article, but I am like the one person who hasn't beaten this game yet....

plm3d_basic
plm3d_basic

I watched the entire movie on youtube since I don't own a PS3.  I have to admit it was one of the best movies I've ever seen.

WantYouBad
WantYouBad

"The Last of Us" and "original" should not be in the same sentence, it's an oxymoron...unless it says 'The Last of Us is not original"...or "The Last of Us steals its story from original works".

vincelammas
vincelammas

It just occurred to me, having had such a great reaction, I hope Naughty Dog are thinking about new DLC mini-adventures and multi-player maps for the game.

I would love to see an "open-world", multi-player version of a post-apocalyptic world but that isn't what Naughty Dog do (come on Rockstar) and this in no way detracts from a most worthy successor (not sequel) to the Uncharted series.

krayzie88
krayzie88

@lostn "The only notable difference being that Ellie may have picked up on the lie, but accepted it anyway. " You said it yourself m8. It may seem like a subtle difference, but it greatly affects the core of Joel and Ellie's relationship and possibly their future together.

IMO- Living in the world their living in, trust is everything. And although Ellie knew that Joel was lying to her, she trusted him enough to believe that he did it to protect her and thats why she just accepted it.

jonnybutler11
jonnybutler11

@DrKill09 don't feed the trolls everyone (but hey I already did just by replying didn't I)

Meta-Gnostic
Meta-Gnostic

@WTA2k5 Ya I don't like them talking about all these spoilers because even if you avoid them here, they're bound to show up somewhere else. Some asshole posted a spoiler for the ending on Gamestop right before I played the ending. Reminds me of some asshole who spoiled Aeris death for me right before I played that section of FF7.

I't really stupid of ND and Sony to do this. Can't help but think they figure most of their sales for LoU will happen pre November.

SamehH99
SamehH99

@WTA2k5 Don't read if you haven't played the game yet. Simple.

lostn
lostn

@Philou21 She doesn't kill people until half way. Joel doesn't let her hold a gun until end of Pittsborough. She turns out to be a natural at it, but it's a game. 

vincelammas
vincelammas

@Rasmus Svensson The idea of showing other characters' survival stories is a really good idea -either for sequels or DLC.

My guess is that if there is more to tell, Ellie and Joel are too important to leave alone .... many will want to take them through the next chapter.

Darkefka
Darkefka

@VenkmanPHD what are you waiting for? TLOU is mandatory on every PS3 it's THAT good

Darkefka
Darkefka

@WantYouBad because no game takes inspiration from others right? TLOU is an awesome game worthy of the praise it gets and I find it very original because first unlike every zombie game, you don't rush headfirst into killing thousands of zombies, and there are actually other humans and their action are understandable and realistic (if TLOU was real my guess is that it'll be survivel of the fittest and not happy good guys helping everyone they see)

Germandude2
Germandude2

@WantYouBad Some really fleshed out supporting evidence in that statement right there. Really drove that point home.

lostn
lostn

@Meta-Gnostic Speaking of Aeris death, if you picked up the PAL version of the game and flipped the case around, that scene is in a screenshot on the back of the case... She's lying dead in a pool in his arms.

Philou21
Philou21

@lostn @Philou21 Yeah you're right sorry about that. What I meant is that at least she is involved with Joel like throwing this at them to distract them.

WantYouBad
WantYouBad

@Germandude2 @WantYouBad Play TLoU, read The Road, watch The Road, watch Children of Men, Google 'Ellen Page likeness stolen The Last of Us', Google 'The Last of Us map stolen'.

WantYouBad
WantYouBad

@SythisTaru @WantYouBad @CaveManCobb Of all the stupid ignorant replies this one is by far the worst. At least these dumbasses can be forgiven for being too stupid to see the character and story arc, but your comment is downright hilarious.


I'm going to write a tragic love story involving warring families, a forbidden love, and suicide, I shall call it Rombero and Yuliet. What an original work, I am a genius, I didn't copy anyone, I just "took inspiration"!


lostn
lostn

@WantYouBad @CaveManCobb The road doesn't have zombies in it. And it never explains what caused the apocalypse.

Also the road has no vegetation or animals. TLOU is very green, and has giraffes in it!

Germandude2
Germandude2

@WantYouBad I have read the Road actually. Seen the movie too. Viggo Mortensen is an amazing actor. John Hillcoat is a great director as well. Still don't see your point. Obviously Brazil is a copy of 1984 and A clockwork Orange by your logic. I've seen dozens of people who look like Ellen Page. Artists work by using reference photos to create a character. Ellen was either used as one of the many or she just happened to look like her. 

alsatian86
alsatian86

@WantYouBad @CaveManCobb It's have, have read. and yes I have read and seen all the movies and books that you listed off. Closest similarity with all those that you listed and TLOU is that they are in a dark, post apocalyptic world, period.

CaveManCobb
CaveManCobb

@WantYouBad Really thats what you are basing it on? The fact that it is like every post apocalyptic setting? Last I checked they are all the same so your argument doesn't hold a drop of water. 

bobbo888
bobbo888

@WantYouBad if that's your case then every zombie game/movie ever took their ideas from NotLD. Ellen page was supposed to be in the game if you don't remember.

alsatian86
alsatian86

@WantYouBad I'd like to see your original works, 'Haters Anonymous' doesn't sound like a best-seller to me. Sure TLOU bears similarities to other works, but it doesn't blatantly rip off any other game, story or movie. Everything is derivative on some level these days, very few works are truly 100% original