The crew at Naughty Dog is working hard on their next game, The Last of Us, and they’re releasing a steady stream of development diaries to give us an inside look at that hard work. The first such diary was devoted to the game’s unique, fungal Infected, examining the pseudo-science of the spore-spreading zombies. This time, the game’s environment is front and center. It may be run-down and abandoned, but the post-apocalyptic backdrop of The Last of Us is filled with wasteland beauty.
“The Last of Us really has been a story of contrast,” creative director Neil Druckmann explains in the video. “It’s some pretty dark themes, but they’re juxtaposed against an aesthetic that we find very beautiful.” This aesthetic itself is a juxtaposition as well, with dead and decaying urban environments blended with the growth and life of the out-of-control flora.
“The world, we decided, was actually its own character,” says Phillip Kovats, audio lead on the game. “What happens twenty years after the fall of man, when no one’s taken care of anything?”
“There’s something really pretty about nature reclaiming its domain once we are gone,” Druckmann chimes in.
The high-level design of the world’s environment is only one side of the process, though. There’s a long pipeline between the original vision for a scene and the final scene as it appears in gameplay. The video demonstrates one interior location as it evolves from a sterile collection of blocks to heavily detailed piece of concept art. From there, 3D artists recreate the scene in the game engine, while lighting artists and the visual effects team tune the end result. All of this, of course, is made possible by the graphics programmers working on the engine itself. It’s not a simple procedure, but the video helps give you an idea of how much effort goes into every detail in the final game.
It’s a lot easier to see the art direction of The Last of Us for yourself than it is to read about it, so check out the video diary to get a first-hand look. The next diary will examine the scavenging gameplay necessary to survive in this wasteland, and all of these videos will be combined with additional footage in a making-of documentary included on the game disc when it launches as a PlayStation 3 exclusive on June 14.