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One Change To The Last Of Us’ Ending Changed Entire Tone, Says Naughty Dog

by Dean James

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With The Last of Us Remastered set to release in a little over two weeks, Naughty Dog has been discussing the game quite a lot lately. One particular piece of discussion has been the critically acclaimed story and the developer has now explained how one key decision by the staff with the ending changed the entire tone. Considering the ending of the game is about to be discussed, there will be major spoilers ahead. If you have not finished the game, I highly recommend waiting to read further until you do so.

During the recent Develop conference, one of the game’s narrative designers, Peter Field, discussed a change they made involving the Winter section near the end after Joel has rescued Ellie from the Firefly hospital. The original plan was to have the player control Joel at this point, rather than Ellie as it came to be. In an interview with Digital Spy at the conference, Field said the following:

  • “You were just walking alongside her, and she’s asking questions about what happened, and you were being quite quiet, giving one-word answers. ‘I felt so guilty – I thought, this feels horrible! The thing is, because you were playing as Joel, you’re close to Joel, and you empathise with Joel. You try to internally justify all the things that happened in that sequence [at the hospital].'”

Game designer Ricky Cambier actually suggested switching in Ellie for Joel after the initial decision to go with Joel.

  • “All of a sudden the whole tone in the sequence changed. I was viewing the actions that Joel had just committed in the hospital through Ellie’s eyes as opposed to Joel’s. Switching the character changed my perspective on the action. Instead of internally justifying, because I was Joel, I was a little bit more separately from the action. I know it brings in narrative questions that Ellie can’t know possibly what happened in the hospital, but from the player’s point of view, when you switch the perspective, it makes you view the actions in a completely different way. I thought that was interesting.”

I personally believe this was the right choice as it led to a great shift in perspective to control Ellie for a long period of time in the game. What did you think about this decision when you first played the game? It certainly would have changed the tone for sure if they had gone through with the initial plans.

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