Naughty Dog’s The Last Of Us, a game the studio managed to keep quiet for far longer than any previous Sony title we can think of, is causing a bit of a stir just now.
Stemming from a BBC documentary about the Cordyceps fungus, the game follows two protagonists – Joel and his teenage companion, Ellie, but until now we’ve not had much to really go on in terms of plot and game mechanics.[drop2]If you’re looking for a quick recap, we’ve covered the trailer in detail here – read that link if you’re new to the game, and then head here for news on the game’s musical score.
The majority of the new information comes from a press day organised by Sony, which happened in Santa Monica yesterday. It looks like the game is aiming for a ‘late 2012/early 2013’ release, pegging the title at around twelve months away from being with us.
That’s a long time to build some hype.
If you want to remain completely spoiler-free, look away now. Whilst the full storyline will obviously remain under wraps just now, it’s now evident that Joel is the lead character, and doesn’t know Ellie until the game starts. Game director Neil Druckmann cites Joel as “a vicious survivor” and says Ellie is “his one chance at redemption.”
“That kind of arc has always been intriguing,” he added.
“This is going to sound corny and it might not appeal to gamers, but I would say it’s a love story. It’s not a romantic love story, it’s a love story about a father-daughter-like relationship.”
The game was born back in 2008, when Druckmann was toying with an idea for a father and daughter graphic novel based on zombies. He saw the now infamous BBC documentary that featured ants and the cordyceps fungus (hence all the pre-VGAs teasing) and the whole thing ran from there.[drop]The documentary showed the fungus infecting the ants, and produced growths from their heads. “We instantly thought ‘humans,’ ” said director Bruce Straley.
“It would be a cool realistic backsetting to a zombie movie where this thing jumped species,” Druckmann said.
At the same time, co-presidents at Naughty Dog – Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra – were considering splitting the team up into two so the studio could work on two products at the same time.
Half went onto Uncharted 3, the other half (an 80-strong team) onto The Last Of Us.
USA Today also confirmed the game’s viewpoint, saying it “has a third-person perspective” and, excitingly, quoting Balestra as saying they “want to redefine what our medium is even called.”
“‘Video game’ is not an accurate name anymore,” he said. “It is not necessarily a game with rules and a winner and a loser. It’s an experience.”
But don’t expect too much variation from the way Uncharted 3 plays out. “As a gamer it’s all about strategy and giving the player enough tools in their toolkit so that they can come upon something and choose,” says Staley, “and have the consequences play out within their choices.”
“We’re telling it the way we’ve been developing this method at Naughty Dog,” said Druckmann.