Re-Making The Last of Us Part I - Noclip Documentary

Re-Making The Last of Us Part I - Noclip Documentary

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(logo tapping) (bright music) - [Danny] So I don't know about you, but my 2023 bingo card didn't have a 10 year old video game being the biggest pop culture hit of the year, but that's exactly what's happened to The Last of Us. Thanks in no small parts to the incredible success of its HBO adaptation. In light of this, the decision to remake The Last of Us: Part One last year makes a lot more sense than it did.

At the time there was a healthy dose of skepticism as to who exactly needed a full reskinning of The Last of Us in the technology of its contentious sequel. It seemed like a lot of work for a game that fans appeared more than happy to boot up on the already available PS4 remaster. Well, obviously Naughty Dog were anticipating a market for new and returning players of that original game. And let's be honest, the graphical fidelity of The Last of Us Part Two hasn't exactly helped the original in aging gracefully. In any case, this gave us an opportunity to talk to Naughty Dog about this remake.

And you know we love talking about remake on Noclip, be it Demon's Souls, Black Mesa, or a cross-country babysitting game. It's because remakes are a rare opportunity where we, the player, are both familiar with the end product and the source material, in this case the original PS3 version. It allows us to get an understanding of how the design decisions were made, as we compare and contrast where they started and where they ended up. So last month we traveled down to Naughty Dog in Santa Monica to talk to a handful of the project leads about the work that went into creating The Last of Us Part One, how they rebuilt levels from the ground up in the new engine, how they utilized modern lighting and animation tech to modernize Joel and Ellie, the work that went into making sure AI and gameplay felt in tune with the original, and honestly a bunch of design challenges that never even crossed our minds.

Maybe you're new to this series, maybe you've never touched these games, so we're gonna keep this as spoiler free as humanly possible and only show gameplay from the first opening third of that first game. We're gonna talk about a lot though, from AI to ars, from game design to graphics, sound, and much, much more. But to start, let's go back to the beginning and ask why did this project get green-lit in the first place, and how did the team initially approach it? (intense upbeat music) (bright music) - I joined for the last year or so development on the original Last of Us, and that was an incredible experience getting to work with Bruce Straley and Neil back in the day. And this just unbelievable team of just like super talented designers that I just, you know, I was wanted to copy everything they were doing and learn everything they were doing. And it was extremely collaborative.

It was very much everyone's input was valued. It wasn't like you worked on something and then your lead reviewed it and you worked on it again. It was like you were expected to just hand the controller to other people, get them to play it, get wide opinions, get opinions from people who maybe weren't in the design department and weren't even like playing the game day to day and had very little familiarity with it, very little previous assumptions. You know, one of the other benefits of kind of working in Naughty Dog style is just like there's always this very strong high level creative direction.

You know, that was something that I've long appreciated working here, and I tried to emulate stepping into this role was that that there was always this just like central vision of like, this is what the game is. This is The Last of Us, it's grounded, it's intimate, it's human scale. It's about, you know, the humanity of the enemies. It's about the humanity of the infected.

Just having those, that high level creative vision to always check back on no matter what. You know, you could be thinking that, oh, I'm working on combat gameplay systems, that kind of thing. Oh, that's not the story, but it is.

It's everything we're doing is in service of telling that story, creating that experience, and just that very strong direction coming from Neil and Bruce was useful kind of for everyone working on the game, 'cause they could always check back on that and it was like something we were all building together and working towards together. It's funny to get to revisit so many of those moments, you know, with a decade of hindsight and how far all our technology and our tools have progressed. - [Danny] It's like the ultimate patch.

- Exactly. (laughs) The 10 year later patch. - Yeah. The starting point for it was making the flashbacks in The Last of Us Part Two and seeing those alongside, you know, the events of The Last of Us Part Two. It really sparked this inspiration for the studio of just like, what if we could make the whole game look like that? What if we could make The Last of Us look like these flashbacks that we've kind of faked to be contiguous The Last of Us Part Two? And that overall, that was a very appealing idea of just like have The Last of Us and make it, so that if you wanted to play both games back to back, you weren't like playing a PS3 game and then playing a PS5 game. Like yes, there was the remaster on the PS4, but that remaster really was a remaster scale project.

It's going in and, you know, upgrading the engine and taking all the tweakable numbers and maxing those all out as far as we can in the new hardware, but it's not really going back in and like fundamentally remaking assets, integrating our latest technology. It's more of almost like a tech art exercise. If you were someone who wanted to get started with the series, with The Last of Us the series, play part one and part two, and you were playing it in, you know, 2023, you'd be getting this really big leap in graphical fidelity across the generations. But there also was a bunch of other just kinda like modernization things that we wanted to do for The Last of Us. We've gotten so much more advanced in doing like UX testing on our games and finding how are we tutorializing mechanics, how are we onboarding players onto the game, how are we doing like resource balancing to maintain kind of a appropriate level of starvation for kind of this post-apocalyptic world.

The Last of Us was kind of the last game we made before even UNCHARTED 4, which was like our big push starting into accessibility, and it had a one page accessibility menu. To then get The Last of Us Part Two, we have 60 plus accessibility options. We really opened up the game to players who are blind or deaf or have a physical or motor disability. So there was kind of across the board just a lot of really compelling reasons to want to do this and to want to make, you know, the best version of this game, make it feel like a modern release that would stand up right next to The Last of Us Part Two and create this amazing experience that you could play together. (ominous music) - I remember the conversations in the studio was, wow, wouldn't it be amazing if we could, you know, play part one and part two back to back, have really like people play and follow Ellie and Joel's journey sort of contiguously across both games? But we had this fidelity gap, you know, the first game was made almost 10 years ago.

We sat down and we said, well, okay, what could we pillage so to speak from part two, you know, what we loved about combat and AI and what we would use and what we wouldn't use. So we had Sebastian and Erick, our art directors, sort of look at the entire game across all the different levels and sort of make an assessment of improvements, like what were continuity breaks that we had in the original game that we could now address? How do we accentuate certain spaces, right? So just small ways of punctuating spaces that, you know, using lighting, using art direction, environmental storytelling, and all the different tools we had to celebrate certain aspects of the game and even double down in certain areas. I'll give you an example.

We had the quarantine zone. Inside of that space, it's supposed to feel pretty populated but, you know, low in resources and pretty stark and heavy. And when we first started arting that space, we were like, oh man, we could make, you know, from an art direction perspective or from, you know, beautification perspective, we could make this place really pretty.

We could add, you know, some silhouettes here with trees and vines and bushes, and start to shape the space a certain way. But what happened was that we started to realize really quickly that we're actually changing the tone of this space really quickly. The whole point of the the quarantine zone was that it was barren and stark and almost oppressive, but safe, in comparison to outside of the quarantine walls, which was beautiful and lush and overgrown, but dangerous, right? So those are some of the things that we kept having to constantly question ourselves. Are we adding for the sake of beautification or are we actually celebrating the story and the core of that story? We weren't evolving it so that the narrative of those spaces changed drastically.

- [Matthew] The levels, the storytelling, those were all really great. What felt dated was maybe the art. A lot of this, what we were trying to do is stay in service of the original art direction in a sense. But if you picture like, oh, okay, this is a street in Pittsburgh that has been flooded and overgrown with, you know, 20 years of vegetation, that means one thing when you're making it to a PS3 standards. But nowadays we can execute that very same idea, that same vision, the same intent, but oh no, there would be way more lush green. There would be, you know, insects skimming the top of the water and leaving ripples where they land.

Everything would be swaying in the breeze, 'cause it's this lush, organic environment. Just things that weren't possible in the PlayStation 3. (gentle music) (gun bangs) (gun cocking) (gun bangs) - [Danny] When we hear the term remaster or remake, we immediately assume that at the very least the game is going to get a fresh coat of paint. Thankfully for The Last of Us Part One, the team had a clear and obvious benchmark, the recently released sequel. The only problem is that modern game worlds require a lot of people power to populate with 4K assets. And while modern lighting in more detailed areas had the power to bring these levels to life, the team had to be careful of changing so much that the original design intent of those spaces was lost.

(gentle music) (gun cocking) (bullets clinking) (gentle music) - [Erick] Typically what it would involve is the environment artist like taking the original games geometry, opening it in Maya and creating brand new buildings essentially or applying, you know, new textures to existing geometry, but just like building something on the footprint of what used to be there. And not following, you know, 100% one-to-one, but the big shapes, the layout of the level in terms of, you know, where are the openings and closings, the floors and stuff like that, and then going in and adding just a ton more detail to every inch of the world. Next-gen geometry, PS5 geometry on top of that footprint. And then going in and adding the details of the, you know, the VFX, the lighting, rather than following the footprint one-to-one, adding the destruction, adding the wear and tear, taking a corner of the world that was pretty nondescript and adding a theme, making it more resonant with what you'd find on a street or in a building or in this particular corner of the world.

On the PS3, we often have to make very intentional choices about like where to put detail, kind of along the golden critical path. And then a lot of the kind of side corners could be a lot less detailed just 'cause that's what you could afford in memory at the time. Now we can go in and kind of reward the player who's gonna check out every inch of the layout, not just on the golden path. Find little bits of environmental storytelling, little bits of detail, little bits of life and nature no matter where they go. If they really want to just look in every nick and cranny of the space, they're gonna find, you know, that someone in the Naughty Dog or PlayStation visual arts has gone in and really swept those details and really put in all that detail into the world. - There's our culprit.

- Everything had to be redone. Everything had to be made, remade from scratch, especially the shaders. All of them had to be re-authored. Because of the resolution that you can afford, all of the old assets will not stand up to the resolution. But in terms of curation of the space, you have to have restraint so that you don't clutter up the place. You have to always think about the narrative of the space, like what is the story that's in the space? How can you make it with the least amount of elements? You have to balance what the player sees in terms of complexity, and you have to give the player that rest so that it can have time to process the details.

It's very important to us to restrain our textures, our pallets, how much detail we put that might take you out of your focus. It might call too much attention to itself. So every time we go into a space, we try to tell one story and we try not to layer too much. So we try to focus on what that story is and we build all of these assets just for the purpose of that strengthening that story. - When we think about, you know, bringing, you know, next-gen art or making this look like a PS5 game. You can think of it as just like doing it for its own sake of just making it look nice, making it look like doing what we can to the modern hardware.

But I think at a much more fundamental level, it's about crafting this world. It's about telling this story. If we can go in and tell a little story with how this building collapsed and what's happened here, what did this place used to be, what's happened in the 20 years and how are you finding it now.

There's a part of the game where you go through the Boston State House Museum and there's these back rooms kinda offices, and in the original game that's what they were, they were kinda like generic backroom offices. And we were looking at that and going, well, you're going through a museum, what could this space be? What would they have in the back rooms of a museum? We have now more memory, you know, budget production time on this game to go in and and reconcept that and to think about that and go, oh actually, well maybe in the back part rooms of this museum there would be an art restoration station or maybe they'd have a bunch of colonial busts, you know, in the closet, you know, in storage waiting for their next exhibit or stuff like that. And all across the game we got to really double down on the environmental storytelling.

The art upgrade is also a narrative upgrade in a sense. (footsteps thudding) (grass rustling) With an older generation of art style, there was a certain simplicity that gave some clarity, right? If just overall the scene was less detailed, it also meant it was less noisy and that you could easily tell your path through the level, look for your goal, that sort of thing, and that was something that we really didn't wanna lose as we moved into this next-gen upgrade. It was like, okay, you still need to be able to blur your eyes and tell where the goal is, simultaneously, you know, make the game look beautiful, natural, as you said, I'll have all this dynamic realistic light while still passing the kind of gameplay purposes test of just being able to you can navigate through the space, you can see where your goal is. It's very clear what you can climb on, what you can't climb or get a jail free card is always putting vegetation on things that makes it not climbable, but that's always a handy tool. - [Danny] It's too slippery.

Yes, exactly. (laughs) - Right here. - We actually use foliage for gameplay reasons as a artistic language of like where you can't go. We use foliage to communicate that this area, this door can't be opened or this car can't be climbed on. So we use foliage a lot all over the game for reasons outside than just looking good. If there's so many textures happening, we put foliage over it to give that green rest in the scene.

So it's a compositional tool as well. Sky's another thing too. We try to curate that so that it's not too busy, it's only interesting in certain areas. Foliage is our vertical tool to clean up like, let's say, the brick or the noisy rusting or the metals that's just giving too much attention. Foliages are vertical tool for that, and grasses are horizontal tool and obviously the sky.

- The artists have an unbelievable amount of control over the lighting in the space. Even given the constraints of, you know, it has to be grounded, it has to be natural, there's no artificial light sources. The amount of attention that our lighting artists go in, like they're painting in the cloud shadows to be very strategically like, oh, that hotspot is drawing attention. I'm gonna paint a cloud shadow over it so that it doesn't draw attention, so that instead you're focusing on what you're supposed to be looking at.

(zombie squeaking) - [Danny] I think the interesting thing is it's the places where we didn't light was the biggest jump in technology, because in the PlayStation 3 we couldn't have areas go to dark. We couldn't have areas go to complete darkness, because you can't see anything, therefore you can't play anything. So it was a conscious decision to raise up the ambient light so that you can actually see things, but it also took you out of that realism, because if you are in a room with no lighting, it'll be dark, right? But in the new game, since we have more tech, we can afford more and we have better shaders, we're able to use techniques now where we can sort of like use the atmosphere, some of these hood lighting to like just simulate what would it feel like when your eyes adjust to the dark, and then you can see things at a certain radius to give you like an idea of where things are at, but then it falls off drastically into darkness. So I think that was one of the biggest jumps that we've had where now a game feels real, because now if you're in the darkness, you really feel that you're alone, you're in this very intense moment. - Close to them, close - We try to add a lot of movement as much as possible to just give life to the scene, because the player obviously can just stop anywhere. So whether it's like adding rats or a squirrel or bugs, we try to add that and try to add like movements in the trees or the leaves.

- [] Yeah, I mean it's more of like what we can afford. It's like Kurosawa's thing, like the picture has to always be moving, right, to give life to the screen, whether it's wind or smoke or blades of grass. We tune all of that so that it has that feeling of ground in it so that you're just not looking at a painting.

- It's lighting, yes, and it's lighting tech, yes, but it's everything playing in concert to sort of create this experience or intensify this experience. And if you compare it to the original game, you just didn't have such, you couldn't go as deep, just 'cause we didn't have all of these things, you know, firing on all cylinders. (bright music) - [Danny] The original PlayStation 3 release of The Last of Us wasn't just technically constrained in how it looked, but also in how it played. Elements of the game's design were products of the hardware it was running on. So with over a decade of gameplay design and technological advancements behind them, how would the team modernize how both the infected and the players' bodies like Tess, Bill and Ellie acted without fundamentally changing how The Last of Us played? (gentle music) - One of the great things that about making The Last of Us Part One was that we got to start from the starting point of the AI we had developed for The Last of Us Part Two, which was, you know, eight or nine years of tech improvements all rolled in to our latest and greatest AI.

You know, in The Last of Us Part two, those AI are much more capable of just like acting in clever ways in a space to maybe give a contrast, you know, starting point of the original game. In the original game for one, we could only have eight NPCs alive at a time. So it's kind of a smoke and mirrors thing, but as you're playing the game, we're constantly, if you move through the space in certain ways, having to unload enemies behind you, load enemies in front of you. If you backtrack, you know, do the opposite. We do some smoke and mirrors to make the spaces feel more populated than they actually are. That wasn't the limitation that we had to respect on the PS5.

We could have more NPCs alive at the same time, though truthfully sometimes we did use that same kind of technology just because in terms of pacing, you know, particularly infected encounters, if you had all the infected spawned at the same time, they would all just kind of mob at you and attack you all at once. The AI that we've developed in the years since is much better at reacting to how the player moves. So in the original game, let's say you were pushing up through a space and you were kind of taking a right corridor through a space, the technology that we had back then basically meant that the combat scripter had to go in and say, oh the player's going this way. Well, I'll assign one NPC to flank them this way. I'll assign one NPC to hold these points.

You need a lot of hand scripting to kind of react to what the player was doing, because the AI didn't have this like larger sense of like spatial analysis and that sort of thing. Some of the technology we've developed in the year since is to be able to be a lot less didactic about like exactly what the AI's gonna do. Instead, what you're putting into the space is like, okay, this is a strong position to hold and this is a strong position to hold, but whether or not you use those positions is like kind of be up to the player's position, the NPC's position, the coordination between NPC's, different NPC's pushing up and holding positions, that sort of thing. Overall, what that'll mean is if you play the encounter 10 different ways, the AI should react in 10 different ways. It should really pick angles that you weren't expecting. We can do much more sophisticated analysis of like we have this exposure map and being able to like do path cost functions that take into account the exposure.

The buddy NPC's benefit from this tremendously where they can use, we have this concept of future exposure where they can say, okay, in two seconds these NPCs moving this way, what will they be able to see in two seconds? Oh they're about to expose this corner. I better move around the cover and get hidden from that. (gun firing) (zombie squeaking) And that was directly the benefit of being able to start with the buddy AI that we developed for The Last of Us Part Two that was so far beyond what we'd done on previous games. Because like effectively the way that the buddy AI works is the buddy is constantly testing all the different positions around the player, all the different positions that they could be hanging out and thinking, well, what score should I give to each one? You know, there's different parameters.

This one's on screen so that's good, so I'll be visible to the player, but this one's kind of in danger. That one's kind of far from the player. And being able to balance all those different considerations and be able to make intelligent choices, all that benefits tremendously from more advanced hardware, 'cause you can just do more and more tests, more and more sophisticated logic to in the end create this buddy that just feels like a real person.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if your buddy mathematically picked the best position possible and you could prove it that this position was the right one to go to, it's do they feel like a real person? Because if they feel like a real person, then you're going on a journey with them and all the the tech and the gameplay and whatever just washes away and you're just there in this moment with Ellie, with Bill, with Sam, with whoever, and you're dealing with the same kind of fear and tension of this moment that they're having. And so ultimately, you know, we're doing all these technology upgrades, but the intent is to just lose you in the story. (zombie squeaking) - I see you. (zombie squeaking) - The fight in the Boston subway station.

It's actually somewhat of a challenging fight. It's kind of the one of the early fights where we have clickers and runners together, and we're really encouraging stealth. we're trying to teach the player how to half stick through these encounters and to move quietly and stealthily. You know, I kind of mentioned just if we had just taken, okay, we have our latest AI, latest technology, we can have all these infected spawn at once in the space.

Okay, go. Done. You know, next-gen upgrade complete. That fight would've felt terrible, because the moment you would've broken stealth and gone into combat 20, I don't know how many are in the space, but there's more than eight NPCs in the space all charging you at the same time, kind of just. It would've made it just this completely different encounter that was like a forced stealth segment. So it was a funny balance of going, okay, well, on the PS3 we had this brain limit that meant that some NPCs respond and despawn kinda how you move through the space, what if we brought some of that back? And that helped gate how much tension or how much heat you got if you broke stealth, and it made it feel more like this encounter that we really loved from the original game, this fight that had a good balance of trying to get you to stealth, but if you broke stealth, you had to do a fight but you weren't just overwhelmed.

We didn't wanna make something, you know, that felt completely different from that. We really wanted to just honor what was there, but make it the best version of itself. Just about every developer who worked on The Last of Us Part One was running the original game like on a second screen or something and being able to compare, you know? That certainly was the setup I had, and I was constantly like, you know, looking at the details. How does this feel? How does that feel? Oh this sequence, this melee move, this experience of aiming this gun. How does it hold up? Is it different in a good way? Have we lost something? It was always important to have that touchdown of just like, we want this to be a really great version of the original game, but we don't want it to stray into something completely different or if we lose some essential essence of what was really, really terrific about the original game.

(upbeat music) - [Danny] The project started with Naughty Dog remaking cut scene flashbacks from the original game in The Last of Us Part Two, so they already knew how much work was needed to remake them all in a new engine. First of all, cut scenes in the originals were pre-rendered, often using different lighting setups and not always color matching with the action in the game. But there were also gameplay implications because of the way these cut scenes were implemented. We're gonna talk about character performance and cut scenes in just a moment, but before we do that, I wanna highlight an oft-forgotten strength of Naughty Dog games, sound design. While the team had free reign to implement new audio to areas like emitters in the game world, they were very limited in what they could do regarding elements like character dialogue and music. (ominous music) - Once upon time I had somebody that I cared about.

- Our whole goal at Naughty Dog has been coverage, is to get coverage. So it was really like anything that can make a sound, should have a sound. And so we did our best at the time. There were a lot of things that we just weren't able to get done, you know, at the time, but realism and sound is actually very difficult to recreate faithfully, because when you do it incorrectly, it's immediately noticeable.

When there's, you know, when you're working on a big game that involves magic or, you know, sort of hyper realism in a really substantial way, it's easy to hide behind, you know, big sound. But when the sounds, when nothing about the sound is big, when it's all very small and very detailed, you really dial into those details. (wind whooshing) In some ways it's easier to create things from scratch. This, we were using some old systems that we had had on the original game and we were bringing in new systems from Last of Us Part Two. So in that sense, it was a little bit of a technological Frankenstein.

The original game was built on an engine that effectively doesn't exist anymore. We had made decisions early that we weren't gonna rerecord the actors. It was too difficult to try to age match them, EQ match them, you know, do like it would just open up a can of worms. it would show itself. I would show the seams.

So we actually end up remastering some of the main English dialogue and we said, okay this, you know, this is how people played the original game and we don't really wanna fundamentally change that. For ambiance, we actually used a lot of material from Last of Us Part Two, and so we didn't have to record anything new so much. We did have new systems that we pulled in from Last of Part Two, which are far more robust than they were, but we were using the Foley system, you know, from Last of Us Part Two. So we needed to be able to pull that over then fully, you know, meaning cloth and footsteps, you know, things like that.

Weapons we pulled over from Last of Us Part Two. So all of those systems are just by nature more robust, right? Our goal was to get the game stood up and at least sound like the original game and then if we had time to really be able to flesh it out. Now, in terms of ambiances, we were able to really flesh the game out in a way that we both hoped and were really pleased with.

When I went back and listened to the game, when I played it again on the PS4, I'd forgotten how flat it was and how it wasn't populated with emitters, because we didn't have the memory at the time. So because it's on the PS5 now, we had plenty of memory so we were able to really do that in a big way, and there's a few levels where you can really, really hear it, like in outskirts, in the rain and in Bill's Town. The ambiances are much more thoroughly populated and it's much more 3D experience.

Birds and water all over the place and I think I, did I say insects? All the little things that we populate our worlds with. (footsteps thudding) (character gasping) (water splashing) There's a significant difference between the music of the The Last of Us Part One and the The Last of Us Part Two. Part one is much more atmospheric, the orchestration is much more open, and it's used only at really key touchpoints, relatively speaking.

In part two there's much greater coverage. In the first game, however, it was really, I think, to create a sense of the openness of the world and the deadness of the world. And then when it does come in, it really has the effect of pulling on your heartstrings.

I can think of, you know, at least a dozen places in the game where the lack of music preceding a moment that then is touched by music really amplifies, that there's a saying in traditional orchestration that certain instrument groups are effective inversely proportional to their use. And I think that the Last of Us Part One is a really good example of that over the course of a whole game, that music was used less, but when it was used, it was very, very impactful. - [Game Character] Come on. (zombies squeaking) (wooden door thudding) - Man, that was close.

Thanks for the whole arsenal. (Ellie and Joel gasping) Ellie. Hey what, what do you? Joel? - Bill.

What are you doing? - Bill. - [Ellie] Let me go. - Turn around and get on your knees.

- Just calm down a second. - Turn around and get on your knees. - All right. Don't test me. - Just. - Cut scenes have evolved, and I think a lot of people don't have a full sense of how much they have evolved.

Going back into sequences where, for example, we had transition issues, right, like we were going before we were limited by tech, we'd have to slam to black and load the level underneath it. So there were certain restrictions we had there. We had different depth of field tech, so, or lack of, right? So we couldn't sort of play, you know, rack focusing and changing, you know, perspectives or feel of a shot. Just simple things like that was a little more difficult or challenging at the time. - God damn it.

- [Neil] So we went back in and sort of re-looked at scenes, completely, new cameras, new cinematography, new lens choices. Even when we are shaving sort of the cut timing cuts, we have a bunch of limitations too, right, like we didn't wanna reinvent everything, so we were staying within a certain sort of parameter. We were cutting and shaving, making scenes longer, some shots shorter depending on what we needed. So a lot of the storytelling sort of evolved sort of organically when looking at the scenes. If you compare them side by side, that's when you really see the differences, and a lot of it is just trying to keep the integrity of the story together. - [Matthew] Talking about the cinematics, one of the big things, that removing those kind of black frames between pre-rendered cut scenes and then in engine gameplay was that, yeah, there were a lot of transitions that a few that we could make seamless going seamlessly from gameplay into semantic or gameplay into animation.

And then there were others that like all of a sudden needed a transition. So if you saw a cinematic, and the very last thing that happens in the cinematic is kind of Henry walking off outta frame, when you pick up in the gameplay again, if Henry's standing still, that doesn't match, like it destroys your sense of like continuity. So now all of a sudden we had to sweat, okay, well at the very end of the cinematic Joel was walking, Henry was walking, they both need to be walking like on the cut back into gameplay, but otherwise, you know, the black frame was more forgiving about that, that little break in between the cut scene and the gameplay. Now we had to honor those transitions in and out.

You know, that's one of the things that feels the most dated when you go back and play the old games is these pre-rendered cinematics and the black frame transitions in between them. It's yeah, you put the controller down, you're watching a movie. Now it feels much more of the whole kind of same cloth. - [Shaun] We had issues in the past with, you know, cut scene lighting was pre-rendered and it was a bit more curated than what we could have supported in game.

But now with PS5, we're able to actually match those and not have pre-rendered, have real time cut scenes, and then we could cross from cut scene into gameplay into IGC back into cut scene almost seamlessly using the same lighting setup. And now that those gates were open, we could actually shape the gameplay in ways we couldn't in much more detail to say, tell the player where to go without telling them where to go, right? Like gently pull you along just by lighting shapes and, you know, where light leaked through a door for example. - The game sometimes looks better with the light angle going in one way, but the cinematic looked better if it went the other way. So now that we made it the same, we had to like deal with that inconsistency in how we would place it in that world, because all of the cut scenes were done separately in a different file. They weren't necessarily sitting in actual space in the level. So it posed a lot of challenges back then because that wasn't planned for.

we never intended it to be seamless. But that one is a little easier to cheat in a way because players don't pay that much attention to it. The hard ones were where the room didn't even exist in the level and they have to like come out from a closet somewhere, you know, and then they can't go back to that room because it's a different room.

- So you have the original game and it's the holy grail of games for us at the studio and for the community, right, and our fans. So anytime we go back to certain key scenes, I personally am filled with anticipation that when we go back to revisit these sequences, we spend a lot of time in this creative soup thinking, did we actually make this better? Is this actually different? And there's a lot of conversations about that and a lot of fear that we are actually sometimes taking away from a scene. So, you know, that can happen a lot in the process and we go back and forth like we, there is this space where, you know, Joe wakes up 20 years later, Tess is at the door and he's walking towards the door and we kind of see his space.

And again the inclination is to like, oh let's put canned foods and let's put all these stuff he's hoarded in this space. And we went down that road and it looked beautiful, and then, you know, we had to go back. I'm like, no, this space is, you know, food is scarce here, like you can't have that much canned food. And, you know, the artist was like, yeah, but it doesn't look good. So we're always in a constant tug of war in the team on what is too far in one direction that actually changes the actual feel of the space and in what actually helps and punctuates the particular feel of the space. - [Erick] One of the biggest changes is the look of Tess in the new version, which I find fascinating, because one of my memories of the earlier game was not really having a read on her age.

- [Shaun] Yeah, I mean a lot of our characters were rebuilt from scratch. Every character is rebuilt. And it's, you know, it's funny, because, you know, she was always meant to look that way, in least in our mind's eye, right? Again, the tech and the artistic development just wasn't there yet. So when we had the opportunity to revisit those characters and rebuild them, we literally went back to the drawing board, the original concepts and said, okay, let's better realize these characters.

And that's what you're witnessing when you see Tess evolve and all Joel evolved and even Ellie evolved is us taking these characters, adding sort of the grounding factors to them so that they feel real, that there's blood underneath their skin, and, you know, they get flush when they get angry. And, you know, even all the subtle nuances in the facial animation, you know, we were meticulous about trying to, you know, even go back to some of the original performances. Like we went back to the original footage of these actors and the animation team did an incredible job, so shout out to the animation team. But they really went back there and tried to capture what now that we had all this new facial rigs and facial features and the models and characters, which character team did an incredible job as well. We could actually capture some of the nuances.

These little subtle sort of interactions that, you know, you feel when you talk to a real person, we just couldn't, we couldn't, we didn't have the tech at the time in the original game to actually capture that. So what you're seeing or witnessing is sort of that evolution of the merging of a decade of technology and a decade of artistic development as a team. - Come on, make this easy for me. - Joel in particular had disproportionately large eyes in the first game and I think that was made because we wanted him to be more expressive and to be more visible in terms of where you see him. And it's probably also related to our tech back then where we couldn't like have enough control interface.

We made the eyes more expressive in the past, but in the new game we made it more realistic. The proportions are now real. We've constructed the eyeball to be very detailed into seeing into the retina.

And so when we create these characters, the number one thing is we want them to relate to be relatable. We want them to be believable. And we wanted something that's more grounded even though we can add all of these detail.

We wanted to build in imperfections and stuff so that they feel like they've been through a lot, and aging as well. We can afford more hair now. So like if you zoom in you can see hair in the skin. We have better control of our rigs now and we have more resolution in the face, so we can capture the nuances of the performance by the talent.

- Joel, I can handle myself. - No. Just stay here. - Fine, just wait around for you two to get me killed. - A lot of care and time went into creating these micro-expressions and getting these little nuanced movements, these hesitations, like these characters that feel like they're thinking thoughts and actually, you know, contemplating stuff in the background outside of what they speak. Those things are very meticulously animated by an exceptional team.

We were starting from a pretty strong foundation and then the team really went in and got like every little details. And a big part of that is studying that reference footage and really looking at like, again, micro moves. Like we have like facial cam references that we shot, like say the original game on that we had to pull out of the archives and really go through, but did they actually make this expression or did we add that expression in there? And then we went in and it was like no, no, no, this is where the original intent of this performance was. Can we get that back? - Oh look at that.

- What'd you play this before? - Nah, but I had a friend that knew everything about this game. - [Matthew] In the intervening gears, we've developed this system for systemic emotions. So, as you know, a character is just in systemic AI doing something in the space or or whatever they're doing. We have kinda have this bucket of like facial idle animations that they can be doing, like kinda happy, kinda sad, kind of scared.

Being able to apply those for the downbeats, kind of the exploration beats was really, really big and especially for the kind of on the stick ambient conversations that happened through a space. So if you play the Last of Us Part One and you trigger one of those triangle prompt, little conversations with Ellie, you know, where she's talking about something she sees in the world, watch her face, because it will change sometimes on every line. She'll deliver one line and be kind of happy and deliver one line can be pan of pouty.

We have such better tools for buddies just ambiently hanging out in a space. So if you, you know, go anywhere in The Last of Us Part One and put the controller down and watch what Ellie does, she'll be walking around the space kinda looking around, checking things out, looking at vistas, looking under tables. One of the things that I feel like The Last of Us was actually quite groundbreaking and even back in the day was thinking about storytelling in games and saying like this is not a story that's being told in the cinematics, and then you play some gameplay to unlock the next cinematic, it's like the story of Ellie and Joel is the whole thing as the story, but what you're doing in the gameplay is creating the tension that then pays off in the cinematic.

And then what you're doing in the cinematic is setting up the objective that will then motivate the next section of gameplay. And that story moment that just happened in this cinematic is paying off an offhand comment that a character made 10 minutes ago while you were walking ambiently through a space or was preceded in some way. Like every part of this game is telling the story.

Previous gens we had rumble in the controllers, but rumble is pretty core screened. It's a motor and you're kind of turning the motor on and off or making it give vibrations at different feedbacks and stuff like that, but it really is most appropriate for giving kind of core screen feedback, gunshots, explosions, stuff like that. With the dual sense, it's much higher resolution and it lets us do very fine details. So we could do haptic vibrations on, you know, the weather, the rain.

- [Shaun] You know you're petting the giraffe and you can feel the hands shutter as it goes down the fur and you feel it vibrate and I'm like whoa, right, like it's just mind blowing. And then that leads to now, okay, well, can we put that in the cut scenes? Can we have when Joel adjusts the watch that Sarah gives him, can can that also vibrate? And it can. - [Matthew] And similarly for the adaptive triggers, we can provide different levels of resistance on the triggers based on what action you're doing, what gun you're using.

This is especially useful in combat, 'cause we can make, you know, the high caliber power weapons feel more weighty, you know, that they take a little more pressure to aim, they take a little more pressure to fire versus like a pistol we can make really light and zippy. In Left Behind there's a sequence where you do a water gun fight, when you're reloading it, when you're pumping the water gun, the amount of resistance on the trigger is variable based on like how much pressure is building up in the tank. As designers, we love anything that we can like give a little more expressiveness, a little more detail, really honor what's happening on the screen, and this was just another great way to be able to do that. (gentle music) (people squealing) - [Character 2] Just keep your rush.

Don't fight. - Watch out. - [Character 3] Oh, my. (vehicle bangs) (character screams) - [Character 2] Keep running. - [Erick] Reviewing it was very important and like trying to compare it side by side with original on almost every frame was critical to make sure that we are always hitting that narrative or that art direction note that was made in the original, and it survives that translation. With 10 years of hindsight, there is a huge temptation to just change it.

And that's a very dangerous way of thinking, because you have to honor what other people like about it, and a lot of people are very attached to those memories. We can't be too selfish into like putting our vision in it. It has to be something that we have to respect what the original team did and we're just passing on that gift let's say.

But there was a lot of like things that we did tweak, but it was all for just strengthening that same narrative, and you realize and you're humbled by how good it actually was even at its time and how it's the art direction of that original game survived even in this remake. And were like slowly going back and saying like, oh, yeah, those guys knew what they were doing back then. (gentle music) - Thanks so much for watching this little documentary on The Last of Us Part One. It was a lot of fun to put together.

A massive shout out to Jeremy Jayne for doing the initial edit on this, for Frank Howley for capturing all this gameplay, and for Jesse Gracia for just generally helping around here at Noclip. If you'd like to support us, if you like the work we do, please head over to and support us as much as you can. We're a totally independent team.

We do this 'cause we love it. And I don't know why I'm turning these pages like I'm reading this book. Do you ever get art books and do you ever read them? I never read them. (chuckles) I usually get them, we usually get them for B-roll quite honestly. And then sometimes I just like I'm tired after editing and I just do this.

I just go, that's a pretty picture. Somebody spent like four hours making that. I'm just gonna give it three seconds of my time. Look at that.

Kind of like documentaries. I don't know how long, how many hours we put into this one. Thanks to all the people on screen right now, all the folks who contribute to us who are in the credits, they're pretty awesome. If you join us on Patreon, you get loads of stuff, you got bonus podcasts, you get videos, I'm back selling again.

You get the warm cockles in your heart knowing that you're paying for the rent of everyone I just mentioned and more documentaries. We're working on loads more at the moment. I wish I could tell you what what they are, but I don't know when this is going up and what's on their embargo, but a load of indie stuff, some big games that came out last year, some small games that came out last year too.

Jesus, look at this chick showing a bad day. Thanks for watching. Bye.

(gentle music)

2023-03-17 06:01

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