Remastering The Last of Us for PlayStation 4 isn't as simple as flipping a switch, according to Naughty Dog's Neil Druckmann. Speaking in an interview with Edge, the creative director explained the developer "expected it to be hell, and it was hell."
You see, the PlayStation 3 is a tricky piece of hardware, one for which The Last of Us "was optimized on a binary level." And even with some of the best engineers in the industry working on the project, "just getting an image onscreen, even an inferior one with the shadows broken, lighting broken and with it crashing every 30 seconds… that took a long time."
“I can’t describe how difficult a task that is," Druckmann explains. "And once it’s running well, you’re running the [versions] side by side to make sure you didn’t screw something up in the process, like physics being slightly off, which throws the game off, or lighting being shifted and all of a sudden it’s a drastically different look."
While the undertaking may be arduous, it sounds like it will be worth it in the long run. When the studio made the transition from PS2 to PS3, it was forced to throw out a lot of work, and decided to engineer the Uncharted engine with the future in mind.
"Even on in the early days of PS3, we were thinking of the transition to PS4, because of how hard transitions have been in the past," Druckmann said. "One way to [test the tools] is to take an existing game and port it, and The Last Of Us Remastered gave us an excuse to bring those systems over, refine them and optimize them for the hardware."
If that sounds a little familiar, The Legend of Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma made similar remarks last year about using The Wind Waker HD as an opportunity to test out the Wii U for future titles. It seems like ports are good learning experiences for teams adapting to new hardware.