Another, perhaps more nuanced result of Druckmann's dramatic process, the enemies in The Last of Us are disconcertingly human. Eavesdrop on a trio of hunters before the start of a big fight and the overheard dialogue is steps above the typical guard patter.
The hunters converse, they chat; they talk about what they've had to endure to get this far. And once they're engaged, they call out to one another and work in a team. Ambush one, and he'll scream "he's in here", grab another as a human shield, and the rest will yell at you to drop him, with genuine panic creeping into their voices. The guys you kill in The Last of Us are groups of friends. As Druckmann points out, you're no better than they are:
"We're going to make the violence as real as possible, so you buy into the scrounging, the scrambling - the desperation these people have. It was important to show that Joel is not necessarily a good guy. We don't glorify these kills. It's like he's just doing what they would do.
"In the games we worked on in the past, we'd do whatever we could to suggest that the bad guys were bad. You'd see them kill someone, or we'd design them will a skull on them, like in Jak and Daxter. Either through story or design we'd say that these guys are good and these guys are bad. Here, we took the opposite approach and thought about how we could humanise these guys, how we could show that these guys really cared for each other. So, when you do engage them, you feel like you're just like them but with a different objective. It's not just about spraying blood up the walls - you see it in the context of what it is.
"[The game] started by being about human antagonism, the primal state we revert back to when we're forced to fend for our own. Then it became a question of what brought the world to this state, and it felt like because we're an action game we should represent the infection through action, so that, when you fight these things, you can imagine what happened to society during that twenty year period.
"The first variation had even crazier monsters, but they felt like things that were out there already. Then we grasped onto the themes that were unique about the project and steered in the other direction, where there were no creatures. But that left us with an action game where all we could do was talk about this thing instead of experiencing it. So, it was finding that fine ground between making sure it's fun but also that it's based on enough things you've heard of and can believe happened.
" "You might encounter people who have theories about what happened, but we're never going to say 'this is the thing that happened'" explains Druckmann. "It's like with things that happen in the real world. No one really knows where bird flu or Spanish flu started. People have theories but they don't know.
"We're not going to reveal how this thing started. That's not what the story is about.
" Neil Druckmann has been working on The Last of Us for more than three years. And now, with the crunch about to start, when the whole team will be working 14 hour days, 7 days a week, he's relieved to say that everything is coming together.
"I recently played the game for the first time beginning to end, and I got to an area actually in gameplay where I teared up, because for that moment - not in a cutscene - it all came together. It's my hope that we can reach fans that way."
"I love games like this," concludes Druckmann "but they just feel like they're missing a character element. Joel and Ellie meet for the first time in the Boston quarantine zone, and their journey will take them cross-country over the course of a year. With each section, we're asking 'what is the state of their relationship, and what can we do with the art and gameplay to reflect that?' I think we can bring that character element."
from Eurogamer also:
The two top men leading development on Naughty Dog's The Last of Us have spoken of the pressure they felt being responsible for creating another hit franchise from the Uncharted developer.
"Um... what?" was the initial reaction of Neil Druckmann (creative director), and Bruce Straley (game director), after being told to design a project that could equal the popularity of Uncharted, Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter.
"We had to create something that attempted to match that level of quality - in gameplay, story and art," the pair wrote in a preface for The Last of Us' artbook. "No pressure right? Where the hell do we even start? "It took us roughly three and a half years to make The Last of Us, and during that time we got to work with some of the most talented artists in entertainment."
Will the last of us live up to the HYPE?