The Last Of Us huge interview: character info, plot details, gameplay and zombies

The Last Of Us new screens

Q How much of it have you captured?

ND: I don’t want to get into that yet. I will say we have a bunch of scenes in the can.

Q What are your ambitions for the game?

ND: On the top-most level, I think what Bruce and I really want to do is say something. Which is the way these characters behave and the way they will change, we’re trying to say something about human beings and how they exist. Not necessarily just in this setting but in every setting. What does it mean to love someone like your daughter, or to love someone like your father. That’s the thing we want to do the most.

Below that we want to change the fucking industry because we feel like storytelling is so poor right now. And we try so hard at Naughty Dog to push things, and games come out which are fun and exciting and visceral, but to read in reviews that they have amazing stories is disheartening for us because we work so hard at it. We really hope we can raise the bar, that people will look at it and say ‘OK, I really need to learn the craft of storytelling, I really need to think about characters, I really need to involve my actors in this in order to get realistic performances. That’s what we want to do.

Q Do you think gamers are ready for this product?

TB: As a gamer I think that it’s almost daunting some of the expectations those gamers have. If you show an announcement trailer and it’s anything short of Jesus backflipping over a sea of ninja and turning orcs into candystripe game controllers it’s going to be underwhelming, because that’s what people expect now. And I think for so long technology has limited us, and I think now, especially the way Naughty Dog does it, people are exceeding the technology.

People are ready for something, they crave substance, they’re reaching out. People always want connection to something, for something to resonate with them. Gameplay is always a core part, yes, but I think more than anything people are really ready for something to resonate with them, and just blowing people up doesn’t do that any more.

The Last Of Us new screensQ How did you come up with the idea for the trailer?

ND: So when we were doing the trailer we already had the outline of the story, we knew what it’s about. Obviously we didn’t have some of the details because things are still shifting. We keep it flexible throughout the whole process, we don’t get married to a single idea. But the theme itself has always been there. So for us it was just, ‘OK, how do we want to show these characters? What are we trying to say about them? What do we want to say about the world?’

It’s funny with the… what we’re calling the infected, the humans infected by the cordyceps. The reason we put it out in the first trailer is that we wanted to get that out of the way. Because if the game was really about the monsters infected, the creatures, the zombies, whatever people want to call them, we wouldn’t have shown them. We would have teased it ‘Wait til you see what they look like?’ you know. But instead we wanted to get it out the way because the story’s not about them.

Actually what people should focus on is what are we trying to do with Joel and Ellie. What are those non-verbal exchanges that they’re having, waiting around the corner? What does that say about how long they’ve been together, and how long they’ve known each other? Where are we going with this? And what is this other person who wasn’t infected? What does that say about the state of the world? We wanted to just raise all these questions with the trailer.

Q What’s the gameplay style?

ND: I would say that you can look at all of our franchises, we started with Crash, then we could tell a more sophisticated story in Jak and Daxter, there were still mechanics involved but it was still third-person, what you might call a character-based or character-action game.

Then we went to Uncharted and could tell even more sophisticated stories, and ground the player more, get them immersed with the characters. And I can tell you this is third-person.  I can tell you that all the mechanics we’re crafting, all the systems we’re building, revolve around the characters and the story we’re trying to tell.

The Last Of Us new screens

Q How hard was it to sit on this secret?

TB: Yeah, it’s been over a year. Geoff Keighley who said I can’t believe that surprises still exist the videogame industry. I had to have a soul-search with my girlfriend over whether I was going to tell her, they said ‘Don’t tell anybody!’.

AJ: Most of my friends, we’re all of the game-world I guess. It’s been a really good reaction, and I’m just so proud to be part of this game.

Q What’s the different between Hollywood and games?

TB: More betterer.

AJ: Yeah! More betterer. For me, I don’t want to sound ungrateful for all the stuff I’ve been doing. But this is the most satisfying thing I’ve done in a really long time. But I think the difference is that we’re sort of, with mo-cap you’re making up you’re own… you’ve got to have a vivid imagination. And when you’re shooting something else everything’s pretty much there for you to see.