The Last Of Us Interview
The Last Of Us Interview: ‘Cordeyceps infecting mankind plausible’
The Last Of Us wasn’t a signpost for the end of this generation’s lifecycle.
Rather, we like to think of it as the beginning of the next generation. The Naughty Dog team has always been able to spin a superb yarn, but they really outdid themselves with The Last Of Us.
The Last Of Us strikes the perfect balance between a strong, engrossing narrative and action that leaves you on the edge of your seat – something we hope a number of developers take heed of with the next console cycle around the corner.
Grainger Games was lucky enough to speak to Naughty Dog’s Ricky Cambier recently. Ricky was game designer on The Last Of Us and has nothing but praise for the way the studio came together to birth such an exciting new IP.
“[Communication] is very important. A game like The Last of Us is a huge undertaking. The more each individual understands and owns the vision of the product, the more that vision comes through to the player.
“At Naughty Dog collaboration across all disciplines is paramount to our success and a foundation of how our studio operates.”
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That hard work has paid off with The Last Of Us winning worldwide critical acclaim. Naughty Dog is understandably delighted with the feedback, but Ricky gives us a glimpse into just how scary it can be for a developer to release a brand new game, no matter how good they feel it may be in-house.
“No matter how proud you are of your creation, it is always a bit terrifying to put it in front of someone new and ask “What do you think?” So there was great relief and elation when the reviews were published. What an exciting way to end a generation!
“It reassured us that there continues to be an audience that craves the kind of game we want to make. And it buoys each individual who put hours into small details to hear feedback from an audience that noticed and appreciated that work.
“We are excited to move into the next generation and see how we can use the PS4 to continue to surprise and enthral players.”
One of the most captivating things about The Last Of Us is the spin it puts on the action/survival horror genre. So we want to know: Is it getting harder to think of original and creative ideas with so many mediums telling similar living-dead-style stories?
“In many ways this makes our job easier. We can look to existing works in the genre and see what moments succeed and what moments fail. And most importantly, try to understand why.
“A great benefit that The Last of Us has is that it is not about the infected. We liked the cordyceps fungus as a starting point because it is real. And the idea that it could jump to mankind is plausible.
“This let us focus on what would happen next. What would become of the world and what types of choices would people make.
“This is what is interesting in most stories – what choices do people make given their circumstances.”
The success of The Last Of Us is testament to Naughty Dog’s tightly-woven narrative skills and the faith Naughty Dog had in its team to tell a new story to gamers.
So how essential is a strong narrative to the success and failure of a new IP, and should storytelling skills in games get more acclaim in the future?
“The game industry has become too broad to speak in such blanketing statements as “These are the essential elements to a successful new IP”. That being said, if one of the goals of a new IP is to get an audience to care for its characters and their journey, then a compelling narrative is essential.
“It is great that The Writers Guild of America already acknowledges that exceptional writing is happening in our industry with a category for Video Games. Perhaps one day a video game will win one of the Special Achievement awards.
“But beyond that, as a skill set, it is already starting to get valued more and more within the industry as you see studios that have open job positions for writers. Something you didn’t see just five years ago.”
The Last Of Us’ story is complemented by fine visual performances from a team of actors filmed using Naughty Dog’s incredible performance capture techniques.
With their fascinating performances helping to create one of the most lauded games of the modern console era, do actors that work in and around motion capture get the credit they deserve outside of the industry?
“It is an exciting time within the game industry that we are starting to see more and more attention coming from outside of the industry.
“You can see this from articles about The Last of Us showing up in the New York Times to top Hollywood directors tweeting on the quality of the work; people beyond “gamers” are taking note of what is happening in video games.
“This means a growing recognition for all people making them. At Naughty Dog the actors are a critical part of that development process.
“This is why we feature them at our panel discussions with fans and press, and also why we feature them so prevalently in our bonus material.
“It is hard to say what measure of credit an individual deserves on a project like this, but I think we are moving in the right direction.”
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