An in depth piece by GQ magazine chronicling (Director) Neil Druckmann’s struggles during the most anticipated PlayStation 4 game’s last two years of development, reveals incredible details about how Naughty Dog went above and beyond the call of duty to create a story, and characters ahead of anything seen in a video game before.
Druckmann is a great storyteller as evidenced by his work on the original title, but a constant obsession with perfection drove him to hire Halley Gross known for her work as a Westworld writer.
“I have a much easier time writing personal conflict and drama and violence than I do romance, and I struggle with that and I feel a little uncomfortable about it. And I can’t quite tell you why. Having Halley on board and having a lot of the ideas for that stuff come from her and then us developing them together gave me that confidence. Like, let’s go in areas we’ve never done before. I think without that female voice it would have been much harder.” – Neil Druckmann to GQ.
The first game pushed and set standards across the video game industry in terms of storytelling, and character development. Universally regarded as a masterpiece, its sequel has some noticeably big shoes to fill. The Last of Us Part II however, is bent of taking things much further than its predecessor did.
As a kid, Druckmann was traumatized by a video of a lynching. The video caused Druckmann to experience intense feelings of hatred, and vengeance towards the perpetrators. Those feelings served as an inspiration for part of Part II’s story.
“I was like, ‘Oh, we can make the player feel that. We can make you experience this thirst for revenge. This thirst for retribution and having you actually, like, commit the acts of finding it and then showing you the other side to make you regret it. To make you feel dirty for everything you’ve done in the game, making you realize ‘I’m actually the villain of the story.’”- Neil Druckmann
Druckmann’s drive to create a story that resonates with individuals rather than a “mundane” one that has no message worried some members of Naughty Dog’s team, “There were people – a minority of them – that were just stuck on how violent it is and how dark and quite cynical it is about mankind.” He told GQ.
The in depth article, goes on to describe how the game breaks new ground in the diversity of its characters, and documents statements from other voices in the industry such as Craig Mazin, who wrote Chernobyl and is the cowriter for The Last Of Us TV show. Mazin says that before The Last of Us games felt stuck in “8-bit” storytelling, not because of the lack of plots, but because of the lack of compelling characters.
Motion capture, and how hard the actors and the development team were at work in order to create the most believable video characters ever are also detailed in the article.
Expectations are high for the sequel for was perhaps is the greatest all round narrative experience ever in a video game. The Last of Us Part II cannot come soon enough.