Creating a grounded experience is a pillar of Naughty Dog’s vision. For this game, the team seeks to retain that principle while also expanding Ellie’s gameplay options with a wider variety of weapon customization, abilities, and mobility.
“We’re after a grounded experience, but that doesn’t mean reality one-to-one,” Druckmann says. “First of all, you don’t have all the inputs you’d have in real life. Your inputs are limited to a controller. So with that, how do we create systems and an aesthetic that feels grounded? So Ellie couldn’t kill as many people as she does in the demo in real life, but we need that number to create the tension. The tension is more important than a realistic body count.”
“And likewise with the system, if you had these weapons your life and death would rely on them,” Druckmann continues. “You would clean them, you would tend to them. So we created systems and aesthetic – we really zoom the camera in and show you the weapon and how she works them to improve them – to make you feel the connection she has to these instruments of death, in a way. What it means to survive in this world.”
In addition to challenging players’ skills, Naughty Dog is also adding new gameplay mechanics with the goal of eliciting an emotional response from players. For the first time in the series, Ellie will face animal threats.
“Dogs are a way to evolve human enemies to give them a new sense to sniff you out – no pun intended,” Druckmann says. “They can rely on the sense of smell and as Ellie moves around she leaves behind this [scent] trail that fades over time, but if the dog picks up the trailer he can find you wherever you’re hiding in a way that a human on their own can’t. But there is something when you kill a dog that makes you feel worse than when you kill a human.”