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Meeting Ellie: How an NPC Became the Face of the Game

Mike Wehner | 10 Apr 2013 18:00
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Joel's relationship with Ellie begins in earnest when he agrees to look after her and facilitate their escape from the quarantine zone in which they both reside. As they share no past and start out with a completely blank slate, the player gets to see their bond built from scratch. "As far as Ellie and Joel are concerned, that relationship changes and evolves over the course of the game," he explains. "It starts out with them not knowing each other and develops into something much deeper. The goal for the project has always revolved around making the player experience a parent/child relationship, but instead of starting at that point (by making them father and daughter) we wanted it to develop organically using story, art, and gameplay."

This decision has given Ellie an identity that goes far beyond simply being Joel's offspring. Assigning a family member label to Ellie could have potentially made The Last of Us "that game about a guy and his daughter." Instead, it's the story of Joel and Ellie. This distinction has given the characters their own unique flavors and allowed gamers to view them as completely separate personalities, rather than Ellie simply being an extension of Joel. But rather than attaching their adoration to Joel, as certain focus testing might have predicted, fans have decided that Ellie is the star of the show, regardless of the fact that we won't be playing as her.

Ellie's newfound popularity isn't lost on Naughty Dog. In fact, in light of such a positive response to Ellie, a comic series is being published that details her background prior to the events of the game. Titled The Last of Us: American Dreams, a total of four issues will be made available, and the debut issue was just released.

While Ellie has been welcomed by fans with open arms, there's no denying that fighting infected creatures and scavenging a decimated landscape is what will ultimately make or break The Last of Us for the majority of gamers. How Ellie will be remembered after all the last disgusting monster is dispatched is still up in the air, but when asked if Naughty Dog would consider seeing Ellie's story continue - either in DLC or in an entirely separate adventure - Druckmann didn't seem averse to the idea. "If we do decide to tell another story in the world of The Last of Us, it's possible that we would further explore one of the existing characters' lives."

"So yes, there's a chance." He added.

The Last of Us is scheduled to launch June 14 worldwide.

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