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The Last of Us’ Title Sequence Wasn’t Initially Planned, Added “About Six Weeks Before” Disc Printing

September 11, 2013 Written by Jason Dunning

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Hopefully most of you have played through The Last of Us by now, but if you haven’t, this is your SPOILER WARNING as the following story completely ruins the prologue of the game, so turn back now if you aren’t at least past that.

Still here?

Okay.

Near the beginning of The Last of Us, there is a title sequence that helps to explain what has gone on in the world between the events of the prologue and when you pick up the story 20 years later. In an interview with Art of the Title, Neil Druckmann, Creative Director, explained why they decided to throw this in:

We’d never done anything like this before and initially we weren’t planning on an opening title sequence at all. But we had a scene at the beginning of the game where Joel is with his daughter Sarah. She’s dying in his arms and then we cut to 20 years later and dive quickly into the journey. There’s a lot of exposition thrown at the player. I think we underestimated the impact of Sarah’s death because people were having a hard time following the next scene – they were still recovering from it.

So, we needed a way to create space between these two scenes, and one of the ideas I came up with was an opening title sequence. We also decided that we could use the title sequence to give players a sense of what happened during the 20-year gap in the story. It would set up the state of the world, the quarantine zone, and the idea of this group called the Fireflies, before we meet back up with Joel. Hopefully, that would give players enough time to recover from the previous scene and pick up the story on the way. So that was the initial impetus for it and then we reached out to Sony San Diego with the ideas.

When asked for a timeframe of when they added the sequence, Neil said, “It was pretty late in production – all the scenes were already in the game” and “it was after Alpha.” Kevin Joelson, Title Sequence Director/DP, gave a more specific answer:

We had about six weeks before the disc needed to go to print. Some original concept development started in late January and early February, but I don’t think we really pushed until March or April 2013.

Henry Hobson, Title Design Director, was then asked if there had been any other ideas thrown around:

Kevin and I spoke about other concepts, but both Naughty Dog and Sony had clear ideas in mind, which was really great. Unlike a film title sequence, where usually it’s kind of a ‘do whatever’, ‘play with whatever’ sandbox, there were really clear, guided concepts with The Last of Us, like showing the spawning and backstory of this virus in an abstract way. The other concepts relied on different renderings of growth — some more 3D, some more graphic — but all spawned out of — and spawn is the appropriate word — that way of thinking.

Naughty Dog and Sony were set on establishing a powerful yet abstract message in the early sections of the game. How can we best render this growing and emerging virus or mutation and still be intriguing and not too explicit? The high-contrast concept was actually borne of the game itself, which had a gritty, real, analog graphic approach. Some of the 3D pre-rendered stuff is very different from the game — it’s very polished, colourful, and vibrant. So the concepts started to progress towards the grittier, high contrast, black-and-white look.

What did you think of the title sequence? Let us know in the comments below.

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