Naughty Dog is not taking their work on The Last of Us lightly. The company behind Uncharted is looking to raise the stakes with their new PS3 exclusive, demanding other companies follow their lead to push the gaming industry to greater heights.
According to an interview conducted by Eurogamer, Naughty Dog, as a collective whole but relayed by creative director and writer Neil Druckmann, is tired of the industry’s “poor” standards when it comes to storytelling. We’ve become complacent with mediocrity and often times wind up praising it. Naughty Dog feels that needs to stop, so they’re setting out to “change the f***ing industry” with The Last of Us.
By raising the bar with The Last of Us, Naughty Dog hopes other developers will take a long, hard look at how they approach crafting their games and say, “Okay, I really need to learn the craft of storytelling, I really need to involve my actors in this in order to get realistic performances and realistic actors. That's what we want to do."
Watch the debut trailer for The Last of Us
What makes this difficult, according to Naughty Dog, is that game industry reviewers are too quick to give thumbs up for the most basic of stories. Therefore, game developers don’t feel they need to exert themselves in the storytelling department, and that infuriates Naughty Dog, a company who strives to push themselves when it comes to delivering a worthwhile narrative experience for their fans.
"We try so hard at Naughty Dog to push things," Druckmann said. "And then games come out that are fun and exciting and get visceral things right, but to read in reviews that they have an amazing story is disheartening to us because we work so hard at it.
"As critics we need to raise the bar, otherwise no-one's going to change. We're going to keep pushing ourselves, and kill ourselves to make this story [The Last of Us] happen – but hope that by doing it, the rest of the industry is going to take notice and try to do the same thing."
With The Last of Us, Naughty Dog wants to deliver something more than just a quintessential, gruesome zombie tale. In fact, Druckmann said the game is more about the relationship between the two lead characters, Ellie and Joel, than it is about what nearly wiped out the human race.
"This is going to sound corny, and it might not appeal to gamers, but I would say it's a love story," admitted Druckmann. "It's not a romantic love story, it's a love story about a father-daughter-like relationship.”
It’s no secret the zombie genre has been spread thin over the last few years. We’ve seen our fair share of zombie first-person shooters, third-person action games, and even titles where you defend your front lawn from the zombie apocalypse with a legion of spitting plants. But there’s one thing that has constantly eluded developers when crafting games in the zombie genre: rich storytelling. It’s always about the disgusting monsters and rarely about the characters living through the experience. And that’s why Naughty Dog decided to roll up their sleeves and dive into this already oversaturated genre — to get it right.
"We approached this genre because we felt no-one is getting to the heart of it. It tells you something about the human condition — that's what you want to do as a storyteller,” explained Druckmann. "We're not saying every game needs a strong, compelling and dramatic story, but if you are going to make a narrative-based game then you better learn the craft."
As of right now, the PS3-exclusive The Last of Us has no set release date.