Naughty Dog is aiming to corner the market in character-driven survival games with its upcoming tale of fungal apocalypse.
Fungi, for many years, weren't considered as being among the scariest forms of life on the planet. Some of us ate them, some of us imbibed them in other ways; and then some of us watched, terrified, as Sir David Attenborough gently introduced us to the cordyceps fungus on Planet Earth and promptly destroyed all previous notions surrounding mushrooms not being evil death spores hell-bent on planetwide destruction.
No-one was more profoundly affected by the cordyceps video than Neil Druckmann, creative director on Naughty Dog's upcoming The Last of Us, describes himself as being in an interview with Official PlayStation Magazine UK. As Sir David's voice lilted through his scientific description of the fungus ("spores from the parasitic fungus cordyceps have infiltrated [the ants'] bodies, and their minds"), it occured to Druckmann that this shroom right here was the perfect villain for a survival horror game.
However, the killer mushroom, scary as it is, will not take center stage in The Last of Us. That space is reserved for Joel and Ellie, the two protagonists of this "character love story." Says Druckmann, "When you look at film, or comics, or any other medium that deals with this content, it's all about the characters. It's all about the pressures of the world forcing them to make really difficult decisions, and you learn something about who we are as human beings."
"And with games - and there are fun games in this genre, we're not trying to say they're bad games - but no one's approaching it from the character side," he continued. "It's all campy, over-the-top violence...Who unleashed the virus - bleurgh! It has nothing to do with the characters."
"To me, the definition of a story is that at the end the character is irreversibly changed," concludes Druckmann. "Both of these characters are going to go through something that will change them forever. And that's the whole focus of this project, getting through that with these two characters."
Why is the Uncharted studio going after the survival genre in the first place, though? Another The Last of Us creative lead, Bruce Straley, explains, "It pretty much fell in our laps, that no one else is doing character-driven survival action games. That's really what it came down to. And we love that genre - we love playing it, we love watching it, we're influenced by it. If we can do what we do with Uncharted in this other genre, nobody's doing that."
Joel and Ellie (known as "Nathan Drake 2" and "Not-Ellen-Page" to their acquiantances, and maybe even their friends too) are a seemingly interesting pair, but Naughty Dog has yet to mention what exactly it is that they'll be doing in The Last of Us. If the mutation and release of the cordyceps are taken as writ, what will the plot be about? Survival and evolution? It'll be interesting to see if, and how, the writers avoid the "find the source of the government conspiracy" plot at the same time as keeping gameplay interesting and hopefully a little scary too.
The Last of Us has no official release date as yet.
Source: Official PlayStation Magazine UK