Spoiler warning! If you have not finished The Last of Us, turn away now.
Neil Druckmann, the Creative Director at Naughty Dog, initially posted a teaser image (see below) on his Twitter page on August 5th that invited people to visit him and Bruce Straley’s (Game Director at Naughty Dog) panel at PAX to discuss the original story and ending for The Last of Us.
Tess was originally betrayed by Joel in The Last of Us
Druckmann has since elaborated further speaking with GameInformer saying that “originally in the story Tess took more of a villain role.”
“Tess was betrayed by Joel and took on a mission to pursue him across the country,” said Druckmann. “That storyline never worked out. The storyline shifted and Tess took on this role where she became more of a believer and she helped motivate Joel.”
He continued, “we had a tough time understanding why Joel would take this journey – we weren’t buying it. We also had a hard time buying that Tess would go on a vendetta. We could understand her pursuing Joel a little bit, but why would she go for a year around the country? Those things were solved by saying that Tess is going to die when she gets bitten, but her dying wish to Joel is to do this one good thing – help me do this one good thing so my soul can rest because I’ve done all these horrible things.”
Also interesting to note was that Elle was originally suppose to be a lot less murder-happy. Druckmann noted that “Ellie’s arc originally was that she didn’t kill any non-infected people until the end, when she was going to kill Tess when Tess was torturing Joel. What we realised is that we had to get Ellie engaged more in the combat because when she was disengaged from the action for that long you didn’t care so much. So that changed pretty early on. We decided it wasn’t going to be about the first time she killed someone, it was more about this coming of age story of the impact that the horrors of violence has on her over the course of the game.”
As far as the ending was concerned it was originally planned to more happy and hopeful says Druckmann, “the original ending when we pitched the game was a much more hopeful ending, where Joel and Ellie make it to San Francisco and that is a town run by people who are trying to restore society.” He continues, “Joel has killed all these doctors and lied to Ellie, and Ellie just fully buys into the lie. So, you’re left with the idea that they are going to live the rest of their lives in this town. The camera pulls back and maybe everything is going to be alright for these two. I was working on writing, and it didn’t feel honest anymore. After everything they’ve done and everything they’ve been through, that was letting them off a little too easy – especially for Joel.
The reason for the drastic change in the ending? Druckmann brings up some focus testing they did, “when we did focus testing, at least initially until some of the hospital stuff started coming together, it tested very poorly. People said it’s unclear, anticlimactic, unsatisfying… A lot of people at the company felt the same way. A few designers didn’t like the ending I had in mind. But then, as time passed and they thought about it, they came around and really appreciated. I think that happened with other people, too.”
What do you think? Would you have liked to have seen a happier ending in The Last of Us? Leave a comment below.