From Companion NPC to Playable Character, Ellie Is Moving on Up
The Last of Us was innovative for a variety of reasons; one of them was the sophistication of Ellie’s AI. Despite the solo play we saw in The Last of Us Part II’s demo during this past E3, it seems Naughty Dog is continuing its tradition – Players will be accompanied by another NPC in this iteration, only the devs are going that extra mile.
In a recent interview with Buzzfeed, Naughty Dog Creative Director Niel Druckmann confirmed that Ellie will have company in The Last of Us Part II’s campaign. Since realism is one of the game’s pillars, however, part of the team’s hurdle has been creating an NPC that behaves more realistically than what we’ve seen previously.
“Ellie used to be an NPC, but she’s the protagonist in [The Last of Us Part II], so the player is controlling Ellie,” Druckmann said. “Umm, it’s safe to say with the game that we made in the past that there will be some NPC with you in this story, even though we’re not showing [the NPC] in this demo. Our general approach is to say, again, ‘How do we treat them like people? How do we get them to behave honestly as those people? How do we give them interesting characteristics so that they can navigate the world, make meaningful actions, and surprise you in the way people do?”
Since Ellie’s debut, we’ve seen the next great NPC companion in the form of God of War’s Atreus. Therefore, Niel Druckmann was asked if Sony Santa Monica intends to evolve the sidekick mechanic beyond what we’ve seen recently.
“We’re friends with those guys [at SIE Santa Monica]. We’re neighbors. I guess they’re not in Santa Monica technically anymore, but, yeah, we share tech and creative processes. And we welcome the friendly competition to one-up them in every regard. And you can tell [God of War director Cory Barlog] that.”
Right now, the identity of Ellie’s companion remains up in the air. While Joel is a definite possibility, it doesn’t seem likely. Will any of the characters in the Paris Games Week trailer play a part? There’s also that dog Druckmann tweeted wearing motion-capture equipment. Will Naughty Dog, at long last, give us a naughty dog in one of their games? We might have to wait until the next demo to find out. Naturally, some might speculate that Ellie’s companion will be the love interest from the most recent E3 footage. Knowing Druckmann, however, she’s already dead.