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The Last of Us Design - [The Pleading Man & The 3 Runners]

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Leo K's picture
Leo K
Toronto, Canada
Joined: 12/30/2009

When the player first gets their Pistol, they’re told how to Reload it, as well as that bullets are scarce.
This reinforces the idea that they should always keep their gun reloaded when they can, as well as not to waste ammo needlessly.

[Aim + Shoot Tutorial] The first person the player may use their Pistol on is the infected human, who begs to be killed. This does a few things at once;
* It makes the player feel tension - should they waste a bullet and shoot the man (killing is wrong?) or not? This kind of tension will be present throughout TLoU

NOTE: (Spoiler Tagged for Neatness Only)

Spoiler: Highlight to view
The fact that [Killing] the man, [Wastes Ammo] and [Wasting Ammo] is [NEGATIVE] equates KILLING with being a BAD ACTION in this game. This is designed to make the player feel more inclined to sneak their way around enemies. This, however, is shattered later - with the players being forced during many situations to do a lot of murder. However, there are some situations later on where the protagonists may sneak past all enemies - even though the player has learned how to kill effectively. This tests the player’s humanity; but either way they’re rewarded. If they Kill more, they become a more Hardened Survivor, like Joel - which makes them identify more with the protagonists. If they Sneak more and Spare Lives, they feel more morally justified or “good.” The decision to do bad things because it’s easier or to do hard things because they’re Good is at the core of The Last of Us. The game is constantly asking what we are willing to sacrifice; Our ease of living? Or our goodness/humanity?

* If they do shoot the man, they are one step closer to being used to killing - which is necessary to survive in the rest of the game.

* If they do not shoot the man, they are still given the Aim + Shoot Tutorial, so they're not lost on how to use guns.

* This tutorial is spaced far enough away from the Reload tutorial so as to not front-load all of the game’s tutorialization.

In the next room, there are three Runner Infecteds - but their placement is important;
The first one they encounter is the player’s Stealth Takedown tutorial. He is placed in a room separate from the other two who are feeding. If the player successfully does a Stealth Takedown on him, they are free to progress forward into the next room. If the player gets detected, the Runner is far enough away so that Joel and Tess can kill him just in time to prepare for the other two running at them.

The previous Tutorial (the pleading man) actually reinforces this section and is reinforced by it. How?
Not only does the player know how to Aim and Shoot their gun - which is one way of killing the Infected in this room - but they are immediately seeing what happens once a human turns. They may then choose to go back and kill the man if they didn’t do it at first. Or if they did, they feel they’ve done the right thing, an act of mercy.

Note that the two Infected in the next room are so focused on eating the person they just killed, that they will not notice Joel and Tess if they Sneak by with Stealth.

This is designed to allow the player two Approaches in this Encounter. They may;
[1] Shoot the first Infected and attempt to shoot the other two.

[1A] This will likely make the player run out of bullets - Runners move in such a way that it’s very unlikely the players will pull off three perfect headshots. This again shows the sparsity of ammunition and puts the player in a survivalist, conservative mindset.

[2] Get Detected by the first Infected, defeat him in fist-fight. By the time he’s killed, the other two have reached Tess and Joel. Here, the game stresses its emphasis on DUALITY - because there are two protagonists, they may easily deal with the two Runners. If AC1 is about the Number 3, then The Last of Us is about the Number 2. Dishonored is about the number 1 - but I’ll get to that in another article.

[3] Silent Takedown the first Infected and sneak by the other two. This is inconsistent, and sometimes Tess and Joel will get detected upon leaving the building. But if the player’s fast enough, they may Quick-Turn and shoot at the brick-hole; which is a chokepoint that they know the Runners must emerge from. The outdoor area is also larger and easier to fist-fight within.

[4] Silent Takedown the first Infected, line up a Headshot on one of the two remaining, and fist-fight the last one.
There is a CONSCIOUS, DELIBERATE reason why this is the BEST, EASIEST, CLEANEST approach. Notice that this approach combines all THREE of the game’s Combat Approaches; Stealth - Ranged Combat - Melee Combat. However, in the case of Option [1] - this Trichotomy also manifests.

Within this sequence of quick tutorials, Naughty Dog has put so much thought into the design of their game. They’ve made deliberate choices to root within the player’s subconscious the tools and tactics that they will need throughout the rest of the game. More The Last of Us design to come in the following weeks.