Neil Druckmann Talks The Last of Us; Development Wasn’t Anything Like a Movie
The Last of Us will go down in history as one of the best games. It took storytelling to the next level. Its release influenced so many games.
Developers started to focus more on characters, story, emotional bond with players. All the credit goes to The Last of Us. It changed the gaming industry for good. Throughout The Last of Us you feel like you’re in a movie. It is rare to see such a well written story and characters in video games.
However, even though it felt like a film but its development process was nothing like it. In movies the director follows a pre-written script. Sections of the script can be shot out of order but there is a final script guiding the process.
In this case, there was never a final script. Naughty started the game from the middle where Joel and Ellie already met. The script itself formed around gameplay elements that worked. Neil Druckmann explains.
First, it’s important to note that the stories are written during production. Unlike a film production, where the whole script is written and then you enter production, we will have an outline and then we will start production building the game. The story is written organically as the game is coming together. That’s because you can’t predict what’s going to work for gameplay. You might have some ideas, but until you get it, what we say, “on the stick” and you’re trying it out, that’s where they’re going to prove effective or ineffective. And then you might have to go to do some other ideas. That will inevitably make you go back to the story and rework and change some stuff.
We don’t write the story chronologically, I’ll usually start in the middle. With “The Last Of Us” it was the middle of the journey where Joel and Ellie were already together and we will write several scenes in succession for that area as we’re building a level and as the gameplay mechanics are coming together. That’s when the characters are getting defined for the first time. Then we’ll have a casting call and that’s where we’ll bring, like for the character of Joel, dozens of actors that would come in and read
Similar development process is expected to be used for The Last of Us 2. The game is believed to be under development at Naughty Dog. It is in early stages of development so don’t expect to see it any time soon.