This is from the 17 minute behind closed door demo that ND showed off at E3
Interview with the lead designer:
Interview with the creative director:
The full length demonstration was less action packed during this particular battle, but no less awesome, with the developers taking a stealthier approach. A combination of silent takedowns and distracting the enemies with a well timed glass bottle throw. It’s reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid – stealth and a guns-blazing approach seem equally valid.
The demo extended beyond this, with Joel and Ellie sneaking past and making their way further into the hotel. As Joel heals up with a bandage found in a bathroom drawer, Ellie stumbles across a pair of bodies in a blood soaked bath. They’ve been there a while, with visible signs of decay.
It’s moments like these that really stood out during the demonstration. Pieces of the environment which spark dialogue between the two protagonists, revealing backstory on the world and insight into the characters and their relationship. ”Took the easy way out, huh?” Ellie asks. Joel’s response that “it ain’t easy, trust me it ain’t easy” betrays just enough to give us a glimpse of his past. Suddenly he’s a little more interesting and we’re eager to discover more about him. If only to satisfy the many questions this single line of dialogue has spawned.
There’s another great example of this near the start of the twenty-minute presentation. Ellie asks about a movie poster for ‘Dawn of the Wolf’ and Joel says that he’s seen it, that it’s a “stupid teen movie”.
“Who dragged you to see it, though?” Joel sighs. “I dunno”.
There was a high level of tension during the demonstration, with the threat of zombies coming from behind and unfriendly survivors ahead. As the developers explored the hotel, sounds of struggle could be heard through the wall. Muffled female screams and loud bangs and scrapes. It’s unclear whether this is foreshadowing an upcoming encounter, or simply adding flavour and reinforcing the idea that in the world of The Last Of Us, everyone is suffering.
The demonstration ended with Joel and Ellie climbing away from danger into a lift shaft. Things get even more tense as the lift shudders and creaks under their weight and eventually plummets into the flooded basement below, but not before Ellie manages to climb away to safety. Joel falls to the water below, leaving the pair separated, but he seems more concerned about Ellie than his three storey tumble. “You okay?”, he yells up to her. “No! You scared the shit out of me!”.
OK, so you know how in the conference demo Joel and Ellie immediately went left in the old hotel? That wasn't how it went in my private demo. They scavenged more and that ladder wasn't there. The duo had to find a way up to the stairs to continue moving through the hotel. After scoping the place out, Joel spotted a ladder, rolled over a laundry cart, and boosted Ellie up on it to grab the tool. If Joel hadn't spotted the ladder but still boosted Ellie up, she would've announced her discovery.
When Ellie asked Joel if he wanted to go around the looters last time, he seemed to do just that. This time, he went straight at their location. Rather than go through the doorway, Joel ran up to the broken windows and waited for the enemies to disperse. Then, he hurled a beer bottle into the room on the far left and waited for a guy to come investigate. Joel hopped in, took him hostage, and choked him out. Rather than engage the rest of the enemies, Joel and Ellie took off in a new direction.
After seeing both of these demos, there's a part in the conference footage that stands out to me. After Joel tosses his Molotov cocktail and burns a man alive, Ellie exclaims "S***, Joel!" In the heat of the original presentation, it didn't seem out of character -- it was her reacting to the situation. But after watching the 17-minute demo -- where that scene never happens -- Ellie's line doesn't sound like she's freaking out about the situation but more about Joel's action. It sounds like she's responding to him acting way more aggressive than he normally does.
Straley explains that enemies will work together and, in a world of diminishing resources, they're busy scavenging the same items you are. If they discover a bandage in a drawer, it won't be there for you to discover. It will be on his body though. "You can see the investment we've put into our AI," Straley notes.
"We want every NPC to feel like a real person, like they're gonna protect their friends," the game's lead programmer told Polygon after the demonstration. "You hold a gun to their friends' head, they care about their friend they're gonna try to keep him alive. That's the kind of thing we're headed for."
And despite an enormously cinematic presentation, don't mistake presentation for "scripted" action scenes. The hotel set we saw wasn't necessarily an "open world," the impression I was left with after watching this second play through was that there are many ways to proceed through various locations, with your actions directly changing how enemy characters will respond.
"If i showed a shotgun, that would be completely different than if I showed something else," Straley says. For instance, in the demo we watched, a character ran from Joel because he had a gun, but if he hadn't been armed, it's more likely a hand-to-hand fight would have ensued.
"This is all systemic," Straley explained, drawing a contrast between the heavily scripted interactivity of the Uncharted series and what Naughty Dog is trying to accomplish with The Last of Us.
Our behind-closed-doors play through deviates from the press conference play through around the 3:30 mark in this video: Where Joel jumped into the open window to his right in the video demo, he crouched under the windows in front of him in the other. Joel tossed an empty bottle into one of the rooms getting the guards attention, which provided an opening to sneak through the other room unnoticed. In the video demo, Joel takes down a scavenger but is quickly spotted by another, with a shootout ensuing. In our demo, he puts a gun to a different scavenger's head — "Not a fucking word," Joel warns — before knocking him out.
It's difficult to fully understand a game in a short gameplay demonstration, but if Naughty Dog's goal was to convince the cynical gamers of the world that The Last of Us was different than its excellent, albeit heavily scripted, Uncharted series, it succeeded. "Definitely we are moving away from more scripted. We wanted to give the player more choice, especially with combat," a Naughty Dog developer told us after the demo. "We showed you two examples here of totally different ways to play and there are thousands of different ways to play those sections."
Remember that incredible live gameplay session of The Last of Us we saw at Sony's press conference earlier this week? I've watched live gameplay of that same section of the game one more time since then, but it was approached with a different play style this time, and that made for a completely different experience. The Last of Us was built to change with player choice, meaning that even small decisions have the potential of setting up entirely new situations.
On that next floor, Joel finds bandages in a bathroom and uses them to tend to his wounds. In the press conference presentation, he used similar bandages and a bottle of booze to create a Molotov fire bomb instead. This shows that the player is free to choose how they use their findings, and that items found can be used offensively or defensively.
In some gameplay that went beyond the press conference demo, Joel and Ellie continue on through this next floor, using a mixture of stealth and brute force to take on a few more enemies. A standoff occurs between the last remaining scavenger and the duo, which has Joel trying to track him down, shotgun armed. Joel barely dodges a fire bomb and manages to take him out with a bullet. Moving on, Joel and Ellie try to continue on by climbing up an elevator shaft. After boosting Ellie up, the elevator falls, sending Joel several floors down into the basement, which was flooded with water.
In The Last of Us, the AI was crafted so that the humans in this world react based on what weapons you expose. They read your defenses like a poker hand and react appropriately. Group behavior in the AI has it so that all enemies are aware of each other, and they'll work together to take you down. For instance, if they find a body, they'll work together to investigate and find out who killed this person. All of this work helps to provide an experience where it will seem like you're up against other humans stuck in the same world, trying to survive.
What's exciting is that all of this comes together to make for a game that plays out differently every single time. In this demo, for example, Joel and Ellie could have taken another path toward their goal, with different items and obstacles for them to deal with. And even on the same path, with different actions, Ellie's reactions would also change, making for a different experience. The AI would have enemies also reacting differently, perhaps moving differently, or changing their tactics.
The work that Naughty Dog has put into The Last of Us could bring us an experience that goes far beyond the scripted, segmented play that we've become accustomed to. To me, that's far more exciting than the post-apocalyptic setting or cinematic presentation.
That's no mean feat given that we got to see guys getting their faces remodeled with blunt objects, but the AI in The Last of Us is so good that--until you see the same demo played through a second time and realize that characters' actions aren't scripted--it's hard to believe that it's AI at all. Joel and Ellie reference their surroundings as they converse believably, enemies behave differently depending on the weapon you're carrying and whether or not they outnumber you, and Ellie is quick to assist you in the event that you run out of ammo and subsequently find yourself on the receiving end of a beating. We've yet to step into Joel's boots ourselves, but we can't wait to try them on for size when The Last of Us is released sometime next year.
Oh, here are some of my impressions from the other thread:
One of the coolest moments in the demonstration for me was when Joel was in a shootout w/ this one guy and chased him outside. So it was a stand off between the two, Joel inside and the guy outside the window. Then all the sudden another dude runs in behind joel and grabs him (managed to get blind sided) and is trying to hold up Joel to the other guy (outside).
The guy holding joel starts shouting, "Shoot him! Shoot him!" and the guy is nervously trying to get a shot shouting, "Hold him fucking still!". All the while the player is trying to get out of the grab -- when he finally breaks it he reverses roles and holds the guy right when the his friend shoots, using him as a bullet shield.
It was fucking intense and looked incredibly cinematic, amazing that it wasnt an every time thing.
Got into the last screening (hi Arne!). Way more interesting than Uncharted. Has a more captivating tone, but the main thing that does it for me is the scarcity of resources and the hard decisions made there in terms of how to approach the combat. It also allows for bullets to be important and deadly, which is an important change from ak47 bullet sponge uncharted crap.
We had the privilege of seeing a closed door demonstration today. Honestly, they succeeded in hitting every beat, in terms of building that sense of tension and dread, and really making you pull for the characters. Seeing how differently the scenario played out depending upon your approach was a welcome shift from a lot of the other stuff on the show floor. From a technical standpoint, beautiful lighting and set pieces that established the setting from the get go and pulled you right in. It was honestly inspiring to see.
I saw it. It was amazing. They made a really hard thing look so easy. The game is beautiful.
I was especially impressed with Ellie and how she moved around and reacted. Also I was impressed with how many options they present you, and the way everything felt very organic.
Honestly there isn't much new I can say, people have covered it. It was just a lot of wow.
Interview with the lead designer:
Interview with the creative director: