When Naughty Dog created the Crash Bandicoot universe, they filled it with humorous characters,but given the level structure of the game, there was no real world to explore. Players just completed level after level looking for goodies, and the exit. By the time the third part was released, the universe in which the game took place was filled with colorful characters, but there was no real “world” to speak of.
They stepped things up with the Jak & Daxter series by introducing an open world, in the second one at least. This allowed players to truly explore each and every nook and cranny. They could accept missions, take on side-quests, and much more. Being heavily influenced by Grant Theft Auto III, the open-world was filled with thousands of NPCs, with most having something interesting to say. Naughty Dog had to populate the world in such a way that everything tied together. They had stuff happening on the ground, in the air, etc. This was important because they had to make sure the world felt as though it was alive. They succeeded with tremendous success.
When it came time to create Uncharted, Naughty Dog ditched the open-world, and instead made a linear game world that was truly awe-inspiring. They set out to make the world feel as though it was our world. They needed to add a human element to it in order for the setting to work. How they did this was with little touches. Next time you play the game take a moment to look around the backgrounds. You’ll see bugs flying around, there will be dew on the foliage, and much more. The banter between different characters and enemies also helped mesh the world with the characters. It made everything that much more believable. The PlayStation 3 hardware had a lot to do with this as well. Thanks to the power of the system Naughty Dog was able to make one of the most visually stunning games of the generation, which only enhanced the setting.
With the Last of Us the concept is simple, imagine our world today 20 years after a terrible pandemic has devastated the planet. Using the Uncharted engine, and Naughty Dog’s finesse for detail, you can get a good idea of just how large a canvas the studio had to work with. They treated it as if this had really happened in our world. What would happen? For one thing, people would try and protect themselves, and as we all know we’re better off in groups than we are alone. What would these small groups be like? Where would the military be? What would happen if you had to leave the safety of one of these city-like shelters? Would there be a quarantine zone?
The Last of Us features a world that combines all of the techniques Naughty Dog has learned over the years. The level of detail in the crumbled buildings, to the excellent use of lighting brings everything together. Wildlife also adds a fantastic element, with birds looking on at your actions in wonderment. Plants also add a new level of realism to the world. If there were no people to cut grass or keep foliage in check, what would happen? It would take over. It’s pretty amazing to walk by and stop to look at roots crushing through the side of a building, or seeing an entire house covered in vines.
As players delve deeper in the game, and start exploring areas that haven’t been visited in decades, things become even more impressive. Walking through a building that’s fallen over on its side is just incredible. Water seeped in, weakened the supports and knocked the building over. So imagine, you have plant life here and there, water pools scattered about, and you’re traversing through a building that’s flipped on its side. The sun is only able to peer through cracks here and there, but otherwise it’s completely dark. You can imagine the audio experience as well. From dripping water, to cracking supports, to little rumbles off out there in the distance. You never quite know what to expect, and that’s the greatest success of The Last of Us‘ the fact you never know what lies ahead.
On June 14th you’ll get to experience this new world for yourself. Exploration is key, but then again, so is survival. Is it really worth going through that dark and ominous house, or are you better off staying out in the open? Tomorrow we’ll look at just what it means to survive in a world gone mad.