Making the media rounds to promote the upcoming release of The Last of Us Part II, Naughty Dog VP Neil Druckmann discussed the backlash to the game’s spoiler-heavy leaked content, telling players dissatisfied with the game’s plot direction “that sucks, but the story’s gonna win for us.”
On June 5th, Eurogamer published the first part of an interview with director Neil Druckmann, which featured a discussion with Druckmann about various aspects of The Last of Us Part II’s development.
While the first half of the interview focuses on the game’s direction and story, the second half is spent addressing “the elephant in the room,” as reporter Aofie Wilson asks “if the leaks had any impact on the studio?”
Druckmann responds, “They sucked. You’ve worked on something for so long, and then to have it come out in the way that it did was disappointing, to myself and other members of the team. But pretty quickly we huddled together and wanted to discuss it.”
He continued, “First of all, The Last Of Us One had stuff leak, Uncharted 4 had a truck where the games were stolen off that truck early and people were like posting the ending early. And that didn’t take away from anything at the end, because nothing compares to playing it. Nothing compares to being Ellie and feeling those moments, not just in cutscenes, but in gameplay, conversations, the music and the emotional effect that has on you.”
“And the story was constructed in such a way that it’s really not about twists and turns. It’s about slowly ratcheting the crank and feeling the tension with the choices the characters make,” Druckmann added.
He then stated, “So okay, it sucks. But we know once people get their hands on it, they’re going to feel what it is we’re after whether they’ve seen it or not, and that’s that’s what made us confident. Okay it’s going to be uncomfortable for a while, the games gonna be out there, and I think you’re going to get what we want you to get out of it.”
Druckmann and Naughty Dog vigorously deployed Twitter’s new tool that prevented individuals from commenting on any of their posts promoting the game.
They also deployed a legal entity titled Muso TNT Ltd to target any and all individuals they deemed were sharing leaks. This included numerous DMCA takedowns on Twitter that even saw the official PlayStation Twitter account sharing a trailer for the game get censored.
Sony and Naughty Dog also used Muso TNT Ltd to issue copyright strikes to a number of YouTubers who were discussing The Last of Us Part II while not showing them.
Labeling the totality of critics of the events seen in the leaked cutscene footage “a minority that won’t accept any depiction of diversity at all,” Wilson asks Druckmann for his “thoughts on the reaction to that.”
Druckmann directly addressed said critics beginning, “There’s a lot of the feedback that came out, our take on it is, you don’t know. Right? There’s so many false things out there. We don’t want to go out there and correct anything because that would be spoiling the game in a way – by saying what it isn’t, we’re kind of saying what it is.”
He continued, “And then as far as the kind of characters we put in our game, we try our best. We made a journey with Ellie, and Ellie is who she is. It’s been defined in the previous game. We’re going to continue going forward. She’s now 19. How do we explore all the facets of what it’s like to be 19? You think you’re invincible. You think you know what’s right and wrong in the world. You are sexually attracted to people you’re attracted to. Those are all things we want to explore for this character – that’s how we do honest storytelling.
Druckman then declared, “So if you somehow have a problem with that, well, then that sucks, but the story’s gonna win for us. It’s ironic or maybe sad – I think that people will benefit the most from this kind of story are the ones that are yelling the loudest right now, but I hope there’s enough in the game to draw them in and just normalize stuff that is normal. It is part of our society and it is part of owning up to an interesting nuanced character.”
Druckmann also refutes allegations that Naughty Dog is “somehow sacrificing the story to win diversity points,” stating that “everything is in service of the story” and opining how “getting better diversity gives us better story.”
He explains, “And yeah, a lot of the misconception is like, oh, we’re somehow sacrificing the story to win diversity points. And that’s not how we work. Everything is in service of the story. Getting better diversity gives us better story, gives us fresher perspectives on conflict. And I hope once they play the game, they’ll realize it.”
When asked if he was worried about making a game about hatred that if it would beget more hatred, Druckmann responded, “Oh, it’s interesting that some of the reaction is very much indicative of what the game is designed to do. And I think it’s a bit into spoiler territory, but we want to elicit certain feelings from the player and then have them reflect on those feelings for the second part.”
He continued, “So for us, it’s like okay, we got the first part. Now let’s see if we can get the second part once the game is out there because again people just don’t know.”
He then details that the actual ending of the game has not leaked, “There’s all these theories about what the ending is but the ending is not out there. You actually don’t know how it all comes together.”
Druckman added, “We’re finally getting it into people’s hands, to see this meticulous journey that we’ve crafted for Ellie and how these events affect her, the highs and lows of that journey – that there’s beautiful sweet moments and these dark, hard moments to deal with. And we want it to be challenging, right?”
“It’s like, yes, there are games that are just comfort food. This is not one of those games – there are moments in the game that are comfort food, and there moments are really challenging emotionally to play through. That’s part of the design of it,” he concluded.
The Last of Us Part II drops on June 19th, but fans eager for more info on the upcoming release can look forward to the lifting of the game’s review embargo on June 12th.