The Last of Us writer and co-director Neil Druckmann recently spoke to GamesIndustry International about the game's development, advancing technology (and subsequent diminishing returns), and lessons to be learned from independent games.
Druckmann said he was "blown away" by recent indie darlings Papers, Please and Gone Home. The Last of Us, in some capacity, basically functions as an exponentially expanded Gone Home, so the infatuation makes sense. Druckmann believes indies are paving the way for change in AAA development, noting, "As more and more examples [of 'gigantic shifts' in storytelling] come to light, I think more people are pursuing better narratives."
I feel like AAA games... we're on this cusp of at the very least seeing strong, non-sexualized female protagonists starring in games. You're going to see a lot more of those, and a lot more that are commercially successful. A lot of times in AAA games, people feel like they need to play it safe because there's so many parts of a giant corporation working on a global scale to launch a title that they don't want to take too many risks. But once you have enough evidence to say 'Hey look, this is actually not a risk, this can succeed commercially,' then creativity can flourish and new avenues can be pushed.
Meanwhile, Druckmann warns, "Change is going to happen much more rapidly going forward, and people who don't engage in that discussion, who don't try to appeal to audiences that are coming on, are going to be left behind." I'm all for pushing new avenues and leaving behind tired junk. I also think AAA development can stand to learn a heck of a lot from The Last of Us, which mostly manages to have its cake and eat it too.
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