SPOILERS NOTICE: the following interview has major spoilers on the story of The Last of Us Part II.
When it was learned that Bruce Straley will not work in The Last of Us Parte II, the focus was on Neil Druckman. Together they had directed the first game and he became the only visible face to promote the new installment. Naughty DogHowever, he kept several letters up his sleeve.
Thus, they formed a new team that served to complement Druckmann, creative director. Halley Gross was in charge of writing the story with him. And, at the same time, two developers of the first one happened to co-direct the title: Anthony Newman and Kurt Margenau. Two figures that began to take on special importance since the playable demonstration of the game in 2018. that E3, they shared a table with Druckmann to talk about the game at an event audience where they talked about different aspects of the game.
Since Vandal We have been able to speak with Margenau in an exclusive interview. Her career began after graduating with honors from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and then went on to become a fellow at Electronic Arts, oddly the same as Newman. After that, she started working at a mobile communications company, Sms.ac, before returning to video games at Red Fly Studio.
Back in 2008 I entered Naughty Dog. In the Californian study they are released as a designer in Uncharted 2: The Kingdom of Thieves, a task that I repeated in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Betrayal and himself The Last of Us. In Uncharted 4: The Thief’s End He became a main designer, a step forward that was worth co-directing Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, released in 2017, alongside Shaun Escayg, creative director of the next Marvel’s Avengers.
The first part of this interview It was published in El Espaol a few weeks ago. Questions regarding items that can be considered spoiler We have preferred to publish them now in this article, a few days after the launch of the game, so as not to spoil the experience for anyone.
Notice of spoilers: In the interview there are several questions in which we talk about details of the history of the game that are spoilers, the ones that We only recommend reading it if you have already finished it.
You have used the phrase “our most ambitious game” a lot to promote The Last of Us Parte II. But does it also mean that it is your best game?
Well, I guess that’s subjective. I think everyone has their tastes, even within the team. But in every game we make, we try to make it the best. We always set new goals for ourselves. In this case it was taking the world from The Last of Us and expand it in every possible way. Giving more options for gameplay, more mechanics, more crafting, more skills We want to expand the reach of this world.
In terms of design, the amount of options you have with the space around you to fight. And at the same time keep the atmosphere realistic, look and architecture. And be authentic to the location in which the game takes place.
And try to tell a very ambitious story with a great theme and message. And expand the characters and relationships of that world to give a richer version of what this world of The Last of Us. It is no longer just about this relationship that is obviously a giant part of the game, that of Joel and Ellie. We are expanding that. If you’ve played the title you know what I’m talking about. Give a vision to the other people of that world.
One question we have is whether The Last of Us it’s exclusively about Joel and Ellie. It seems that this game has gone the middle way. Are you afraid that people won’t like that? What were the team’s intentions with this decision?
You are always a little scared when what you have worked on has not been published. And even worse, when people see things out of context. The goal was to make a game about the idea of revenge and the cycle of revenge. And how can we get you to empathize with someone you hate.
For us the most interesting challenge was to establish the story of Joel and Ellie, which is still very interesting to continue. Before I even embarked on the project, what interested me most was the story of Joel and Ellie. I think we have managed to offer that in a lot of ways. With scenes from flashback. The credit goes to Neil (Druckmann) and the team behind the story for very effectively intertwining Ellie and Joel’s view of the story after the first game, of Ellie’s revenge and Abby’s story of their own revenge. And what she is doing with her life.
It is telling several stories at the same time. That part of Joel and Ellie where you see the lie, Ellie questioning it and doing her own research. Since those flashbacks with Joel and Ellie on patrol, battling the bloat and finding the teens dead when the end of the first game really begins to be questioned. And that continues to the very last scene of the game. I have always loved it, it has a lot of intention. We see that Ellie has the ability to forgive. That is basically the message at the end.
The narrative is perhaps Naughty Dog’s best strength. Even more than the stories. If I tell someone the story of the first game, they will think it is fine, although they most certainly do not love it. But if Naughty Dog tells the story, he’ll probably end up as excited as many players. Is it more important how things are narrated than what is narrated?
We like to focus on both but obviously we care about how the story is told. Especially in a video game in which there is much more to the experience than just the art of telling the story. It is all woven into an interactive experience. For example, combat is part of the narrative. Exploring the world and searching for things are part of the narrative.
It is really difficult to tell someone about the history of our games because they are games. You need to experience them and connect with the title. If you look at the story of the first The Last of Us on paper it looks like something simple. The idea of simple story and complex characters is something we talk about a lot. It is very difficult to explain the complexity of a character to someone when you reveal the plot.
The game does not imply that Abby is a transgender person like in Lev’s case. But given Naughty Dog’s good treatment and work on diversity, it’s worth asking. It is? Is there ambiguity about it?
Abby is not trans and Lev s is a trans character. We hint at it through what he says about his head shave and how the society in which he lives rejects that decision, and that of being one of the men. That answers the question, I think.
During the game we see Ellie destroyed. You have tremors, hallucinations, nightmares … In the promotional videos about the game you mentioned that you have documented yourself on many topics. Is the psychological one of them?
If you talk about post-traumatic stress disorder with Ellie’s flashbacks, we’re trying to show that she hasn’t outdone Joel and feels trapped in that unfinished mission she’s gotten herself into for revenge. About the investigation, you would have to speak to Neil Druckmann) specifically about that. I know that we routinely talk to experts and advisers on different topics to make sure we are being authentic. And obviously post-traumatic stress disorder is a real thing that happens to a lot of people and we wanted our representation in the game to be realistic.
[[note: in this interview on IndieWire Nelie Druckmann and Halley Gross, the game’s scriptwriters, are confirmed to be suffering from post-traumatic stress stress for Ellie and more details are provided]
Ellie’s story of revenge is very powerful. But does it imply that Joel is not present during her adventure? The flashbacks with her were something that was in the initial idea or was it something to not give up a character so dear?
It was always in the original idea to show what happens to Joel and Ellie after what happened in the first game. It is a vital part of the story and seeing the inside of Ellie’s mind at different times while she is searching. At the same time remember these moments and see how their relationship evolved and was always a fundamental part of the story.
There are times when the game made me feel rejection of what I had to do to continue. For example, you didn’t want to press the square button to harm Ellie by driving Abby. Was that your goal?
That reaction is part of what we want you to feel. That you had a conflict and that you questioned those complicated actions. Both when you’re Ellie and when you’re Abby. It is unique to video games. You don’t get that with a movie. It reflects a little that world in which you are in which you make a decision because there is no other way to get out of there. We played around with that idea.
Finally: what have you learned by making this game?
Oh, to. I have learned a lot. I suppose you would say that I was amazed at how well the general idea we have gone for can work. It was a good surprise and hopeful because it means that what we do works. You see people when they start to control Abby and they hate her completely. And they say “I hate her, what am I doing? Why are you making me play with this character?” And at the end of the game they don’t want me to die. They say “I don’t want this character to be hurt”
That arc that goes on in the minds of players about how they feel about the character is the overall message of the game. I’ve learned that that can work and it’s a good thing.