The Last of Us is a rather unforgettable experience. Days and weeks after finishing the campaign, I still couldn't stop thinking about the ending. However, things could have ended differently, creative director Neil Druckmann explained in a very revealing interview.
"The original ending was, I guess, much more hopeful," Druckmann told Kotaku. "We knew Joel would lie to Ellie, but she believed the lie, one hundred percent. There wasn't any doubt there, and they would be arriving in Tommy's town, and you kind of get the idea that everything's gonna be fine and dandy."
The official ending has Ellie questioning Joel after being rescued from the Fireflies. She asks Joel why the Fireflies gave up on finding a cure to the infection, unknowing that Joel had murdered nearly everyone in order to prevent the cure-finding surgery from happening. In the game, she clearly doubts Joel's explanation. "But as we got closer and closer to shooting that scene, it stopped feeling honest," Druckmann explained. "And Ellie, over the course of the game, initially you're just writing and working with such broad strokes. And as you take it deeper, that's when you really figure out who the character is. She had such a good bullshit detector that it didn't feel like she would buy it."
The full interview goes over other details, like how giraffes were ultimately added to the game. Another interesting revelation: the surgery scene was originally not interactive. However, Naughty Dog wanted to give players some sense of choice--even if you are forced to kill the surgeon no matter what. For anyone mesmerized by The Last of Us, it's certainly a fascinating read.