The Last of Us has been receiving mass praise since it released on the 14th June, and NZGamer.com isn't bucking the trend.
In our review we gave it a 9.8, and called it an āabsolute tour de forceā. Before its launch, but after having played through it, we had the opportunity to sit down with game designer Ricky Cambier from Naughty Dog to ask him a few questions.
It was a bold move to create a whole new IP, especially when the safe option would be to continue Unchartedās success. Not to mention launching a title when a new generation of console is just around the corner . . .
I donāt think that that was ever really part of the plan. As we were developing, it just made sense to try something new. But it reached that point where we felt like there was space to explore some new ideas, and it felt like we were familiar enough with the hardware to take some risks in some other directions.
Itās our fourth title on this generation, and we felt we could explore a much more grounded world, we could spend time on the lighting stuff, we could spend time on the AI; not have to worry about a new platform, necessarily.
So it was really just the idea of using a strong foundation, but then thinking where else could we push the game, how else could we challenge ourselves and do something that no one else had seen before.
The Last of Us was announced late in 2011 and the end result is certainly worth the wait. But what was the long development process like? Were there delays?
Well, itās a new IP. It takes a little while to figure that out; there was a lot that we were trying that was different in terms of play style, in terms of combat, AI, all these things. It also take some time to, you know, let the people know what its all about, to roll out these press events, to get people to understand this new world. We needed to first talk about the world, then talk about the characters, the mechanics, all these kind of things.
We wanted it to be perfect, we wanted it to be ten out of ten for everyone (or a 9.8) [laughs]! So we were willing to push back and give it the time and love that it needed.
Do you think that that was a luxury afforded to you because you are Naughty Dog and youāve had such success; youāre not some struggling need-to-eat work-for-hire developer like almost everyone else out there thatās developing?
I think that our successes have made it so that we have a pretty wonderful relationship with Sony, so it meant that we could go to them . . . It even meant . . . well, yeah, youāre right, I think the easy choice would have been to stay with one project and not push, not try to expand. Sony said okay, they trusted us and gave us permission, and let us push ourselves; trusted that we wouldnāt give them less than a very, very ambitious project. So I think that just having that relationship has really been excellent.
So where did Joelās character come from? Did you have in mind that you wanted this kind of hardened, tough guy to contrast him with Ellie? Was that a big part of the design package?
There was that idea, we wanted to take a grounded role, one that felt very real, and we had to ask that question āwhat would it take to survive?ā You take just an average person, you take a guy in his twenty-somethings, and you cause this to occur, you cause this pandemic, you throw the world into chaos. And you say that he made choices to survive. What does that make him? How does that affect him? That creates him, that makes him this very gruff, this very hardened survivor. Because at one point, he was very much like us; now heās just Joel, heās this guy whoās very much focussed on surviving.
And, you know, we wanted a unique perspective - so hereās Ellie, this girl who had a totally different point of view, who has only grown up in this world. So when you put those two together, you explore how they need each other, or how they change each other.
Talking more about Ellie for a moment, she seems such a personable character, with a very personal story. Were there any personal father/daughter stories from the team at Naughty Dog that helped add toward such an emotionally charged connection between the two main characters?
Well, I know that thereās been times when Iāve been talking to Neil Druckerman, the Creative Director, that he always really just thought of her as an interesting person. Not specifically a girl, not specifically a fourteen year old girl. Just someone who had grown up in this environment, and had had to make interesting choices to try and survive. But I also know that Neil Druckerman is a father, and he has a daughter himself. So I think heās kept some of the elements of his personal experiences.
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