The ideation phase of The Last of Us started when the development team had ﬁnished
Uncharted 3. The ﬁrst initial idea was to re-boot one of Naughty Dogʼs old IPs, and Jak &
Daxter was considered. The team however decided not to reboot Jak & Daxter as they felt
that the game would turn into something too different from the original games, which they
did not want to do due to the gameʼs big fan base. They decided on creating a game with a
completely new IP set in a post-apocalyptic world, focused around 2 people whose
relationship develops and changes throughout the game. They didn't want to go along the
usual “Zombie-outbreak-wipes-out-mankind” approach, they wanted something more
original. They came up with the idea of a parasitic fungus that takes over the hosts brain
from a BBC documentary Planet Earth, in which a segment focuses on a fungus called
Ophiocordyceps that infects ants and “hi-jacks” their brains which causes the ants to ﬁght
among each other, causing whole colonies of ants to be wiped out and the fungus to
thrive. Co-presidents Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra, along with Creative Director
Neil Druckmann and other people were the main people behind the IP creation.
Concept art and character sketches were the next step. They needed to decided what the
characters looked like, their gender,
age etc. They also needed to
agree on what the setting would
be like. They wanted the setting to
be in an urban environment that
has been overrun by nature;
foliage climbing up the sides of
skyscrapers, trees bursting
through the concrete pavement
and wild animals free to roam the
city streets. The storyline was
mapped out and written once
these were agreed on.
Once the fundamentals of the game were decided, the casting of the characters was next.
Auditions took place to ﬁnd the right actor and actress to play Joel and Ellie. Tory Baker
and Ashley Johnson were chosen. Next, they thought about the gameplay experience.
They wanted the players to have a connection with the characters, to develop
relationships with them throughout the game. They thought the best way to do this was to
keep the story realistic, and so they decided to remove the infected and to keep the story
about how different people decided to live in the event of an apocalypse. However, this
ended up not working due to the game being an action game, meaning that removing the
threat in the game made the game more boring.
The production process takes place when you have all ideas in place ready to implement
into a game. This two major processes taking place simultaneously are the 3D Acting &
Voice recording. The other major thing thats place is the actual level programing. So this
would be stuff like creating the ﬁght sequences, drawing the environments and creating a
engine to power all this on.
Neil Druckmann was the creative
director on the game and he was
heavily involved directing the actors
himself. Instead of hiring a director
to direct the actors he did it himself.
It was his ﬁrst time directing actors
before. He knew that this was
paramount as he wanted to tell a
story throughout the game. Kind of
like an intractable ﬁlm. He
mentioned at the start of the Making
of The Last Of Us documentary that you have achieve a balance with the between the two
directors of the game.
The beauty about this is that you donʼt have to hold meetings in order to see people within
the team. You can just go and see them at their desk and get it done there and then.
Once the 3D acting is completing they get sent to the animators who add the facial
expression into the scenes.
The music then needs to be created
and processed. You could argue
whether this music could be pre-
production or production as he was
making music before the production
of the actual game itself but the thing
about music is that is can hours to
make compared to a game which
can take years to make.
I have spoken about the music in
more detail but basically the music
was created on anything from
electrical synths to PVC tubing.
Once the game development was complete, it entered the post-production phase. This
stage takes the game go through thorough testing and examination. Naughty Dog
requested the game be focus tested on female players as well as male, after the research
ﬁrm it was working with was planning on running it by male gamers only. Druckmann
explained how the studio stepped in after discovering the notion of polling female gamers
for their take in the game was not on the table. He said that "another aspect that
inﬂuences how a game is promoted is focus testing.”
After and during the game is being tested, programmers then ﬁx the bugs that are found,
improve on any aspects of the game and implement any small features recommended by
the testers. Once the game has been tested thoroughly, the game is then ready to be