Naughty Dog has said the inspiration for the fungus affecting the human population in The Last of Us, was inspired by the Cordyceps fungi showing in BBC’s Planet Earth series, meaning the title is most definitely not a “zombie game.”
The fungai, a very scary, real threat to insects and arthropods such as crab, can cause changes in host behavior which is beneficial to the survival of the fungai and causes zombie-like actions in the insect before its eventual death. Some species even cause sprouts to come out of the host, giving it a bit of a plant-like look.
After watching the episode, of Planet Earth, Naughty Dog wondered what would happen if by chance humans could catch the fungus. While the fungus epidemic is the main backdrop of the game, this is not what the story will focus on, according to the developer, instead, The Last of Us will focus on the “father-daughter-like relationship” between Joel and Ellie, and their quest for survival.
“If the game was about the monsters, we would have not showed them,” Neil Druckmann, the game’s writer and creative director told Eurogamer. “The story’s not about them, so [we thought] let’s get it out of the way.”
“It’s story-driven, [but] the whole triangle is story, gameplay and art,” added and writer game director Bruce Straley. “As a gamer it’s all about strategy and giving the player enough tools in their toolkit so that they can come upon something and choose and have the consequences play out within their choices.”
In the game, anti-hero Joel, and Ellie, who was born during the infection, will travel across the US moving from city-to-city, killing infected and scavenging as many resources as they can.
Whether the player will control Joel, Ellie, or both, has yet to be revealed by Naughty Dog, nor will the firm say whether or not it’s a co-op affair. However, the “no network play” message on the game’s official website appears to have been a mistake of some sort: “We don’t know where that came from,” said Druckmann. “That’s TBD,” added Straley.
What the firm wants to accomplish with The Last of Us, and is willing to talk about, is how it is striving to create a game it can “change the fucking industry with,” because it feels as though “storytelling is so poor right now,” according to Druckmann.
“We try so hard at Naughty Dog to push things and then games come out that are fun and exciting and get visceral things right, but to read in reviews that they have an amazing story is disheartening to us because we work so hard at it,” he said. “In any other medium it’s all about the characters. [We want you to] care so when horrible things happen you feel something.
“That’s what Naughty Dog can bring to the genre and really own it: every decision we make is about the characters and their relationship. We approached this genre because we felt no-one is getting to the heart of it. [The Last of Us] tells you something about the human condition – that’s what you want to do as a storyteller.”
A date has yet to be confirmed for the title, but some reports say to expect it in 2012-early 2013.