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The Last of Us AMA Talks Future Ideas, DLC, PS4, Alternate Endings, Cut Content, UnKarted Racing, Much More

July 31, 2013 Written by Jason Dunning

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Can you talk about some of the hurdles and/or compromises the team had to make in order for the AI to help or challenge the player? How do you see this system evolving over time with regards to newer technology?

1. AI is fucking hard. 2. Our programmers are amazing. 3. AI is STILL reeeally fucking hard even with amazing programmers

All sorts of trials & tribulations with our adventure in making great AI. maybe too many to get into here – but a couple things… having an Ally with the player in stealth encounters is probably the most difficult problem we could have tried to solve, and “we” (the royal industry we) need time to implement, iterate, and find solutions to the problems that will only come up by having actual set-ups in the game to help steer the tech direction… dunno if I’m answering this well… another early goal for the enemies what we had to create a “dynamic front” due to the flexibility we wanted the players to be able to take with our more wide-linear layouts. it meant the AI had to be able to recognize a new “front” where they’d be safe – and analyze the environment & collision to create new dynamic flanks based on wherever the player was… ok I’m rambling. Max Dyckhoff did an AMA earlier, maybe he said something smart about the AI! haha

Was it easier to create a completely fictional world like Jak & Daxter or was it easier to create a world based on real life like in The Last of Us?

AREYOUKIDDINGME?!?! haha. Jak and Daxter would be a luxury to design in that world again. Story would be hard to have depth though. Those characters are who they are now – it’s hard to infuse them with the motivations & choices we’d need them to have to make a compelling story (we tried early before we decided to make TLOU). A grounded world is a difficult solution space to design in though. But nothing good comes for free…

Can we please get Jak 4?

We tried and failed. :( Maybe in the future we’ll try again.

What was the most emotional moment in the game for you?

I usually tear up during the giraffe sequence. I’m really proud of what we accomplished with that moment.

When you first played the game when you where finished with development, how many of the doctors did you kill at the end?

Neil: I kill all three every time. >:(

Whatever happened to the concept art of Joel and Ellie laughing there asses off by a fire? Or Joel teaching Ellie to fire a gun at a nearby farm?

They were inspirational images for the tone we were after. They were never meant to be specific moments in the story.

Did you shape the world around Joel and Ellie as characters or was it the world you created that formed the characters?

Ellie and Joel were first. Then came story genre and world.

As female Hunters/cannibals/Fireflies/military exist in concept art and in the multiplayer mode, why do we only fight male humans in the game?

Development time & memory prevented us from seeing the female hunters to completion.

What were some infected concepts and stages that you cut from the game?

Fungus growing on the environments that shot poison darts at the player were at one point in the game.

Why are there no pictures of Sarah’s mother in Joel’s house? Is it because even before he lost Sarah, Joel wasn’t one for holding onto the past?

The backstory was that she left Joel after Sarah was born. Not someone he looked up to to keep a picture around.

Did David always have such tastes or was that just a byproduct of post-pandemic lawless living conditions?

David’s cannibalism came after the outbreak. His other traits (both good & bad) were always there.

What made you decide to keep the original ending for The Last of Us even though it did not necessarily test well with your focus groups?

It felt honest. Anything else felt like we were pandering.

Any chance of patching the censored multiplayer in England and the rest of Europe?

The censorship came from standards in Europe. Nothing we can do about it. Sorry.

What made you guys decide to switch from the more upbeat tone of Uncharted to the gritty, realistic and emotionally draining The Last of Us?

We’re fans of the genre and felt we could create a good character driven experience in that tackled more mature themes.

Was there anything you wanted to put into The Last of Us that was too dark or morbid for the game?

Nope. We got a lot of morbid out of our systems. We did tone down some of Ellie’s deaths during the David boss fight as they felt like too much to us.

Do you think your team can make a game of this quality again?

We always try to top our last game. So that’s the plan.

What was the hardest thing to program in the game?

Ellie. All of Ellie. and more specifically ally AI in stealth combat.

Do you have any plans on expanding Ish’s story?

Not yet, but we really liked what we found with that story-within-a-story concept.

Have you considered adding any infected game mode in multiplayer?

Bruce: We’ve considered it…

Neil: Yes, but they didn’t pan out.

What game was better to work on, The Last of Us or Uncharted?

Bruce: Shit. Both have their ups and downs (in production terms). For me [Uncharted 2] was my first time stepping into the Game Director role, so that was a fresh & exciting (maybe naive but super open) time, but [The Last of Us] was something special, and challenging. I saw a video of [Uncharted 2[ the other day and had some pleasant feelings of nostalgia bubble up, and seeing the fan art and people's reactions to [The Last of Us] has been extremely exhilarating. They both win! :)

Neil: Jak X :)

How come the cover system and running while crouched ended up being removed from the final game?

Design decisions. We wanted the game to be as fluid as possible & a cover button just wasn’t flowing with the stealth. Regarding crouch-sprint, it just complicated the controls too much & people just ended up crouching around the entire game. It looked funny, and there wasn’t any risk-reward to the decision to either crouch, stand, or sprint… so being more discreet made it clearer for the players what the consequences of their choices were going to be.

Bruce, is it true that you draw power from those around you with your beard?

Neil: It was true, until he slayed the demon that inhabited his beard. Now I have to look at his bare face every day. Yuk.

Bruce: Yes. All true. Though since the game shipped I felt I had TOO MUCH POWER, so I shaved it.

Do you think your team can make a game of this quality again?

Funny thing, is we really just make games that we think would be fun to us. Sure, there’s a gap we saw in the industry, that there hasn’t been a really good character-driven story in the survival genre done yet, but when kicking around the ideas for the game with Neil, it just sounded awesome. So we made that. :)

That’s all we should hope for any developer! Make what you want to play!

Were the Jak & Daxter easter eggs to commemorate the fact that The Last of Us was almost going to be Jak 4 instead?

It’s somehow become an unspoken Naughty Dog tradition to put a Precursor Orb in all of our games. So no, nothing is being said with that.

What phases of development did the Naughty Dog team have to go through when creating The Last of Us? Was any code reusable from the Uncharted series?

Phases? Pre-production and hell. And yeah, the foundation we started with was the Uncharted engine. We ended up rewriting the AI system from scratch and added some features to our rendering engine (along with misc other stuff), but most of the core tech was the Uncharted engine.

Any plans for The Lab to be introduced in The Last of Us multiplayer?

The lab was a fun concept for us too. Who knows if it works with TLOU. We’re working on our DLC stuff now, we’ll have to see what the future brings…

What was another alternate ending?

Neil: I’ll say one of them involved Tess showing up at the end. The story structure was pretty different back then.

Why would the Fireflies not give Joel an opportunity to talk to Ellie? Why rush the surgery? Why not give Ellie the choice to have the surgery?

Ellie was too important to the Fireflies to offer any kind of choice to either Joel or Ellie in regards to her fate.

Did you ask a question on Reddit? What did you find most interesting? Let us know in the comments below.

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