The Last of Us is a grim story about survival well after the fungus-zombie apocalypse has all but wiped out humanity. But before it went down that path, the Naughty Dog team was originally working on a reboot for the studio's significantly more bright-and-chipper Jak & Daxter series.
During a talk at the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) Toronto 2013 conference in September, creative director Neil Druckmann explained how the transition took place. After the launch of Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog created a second team helmed by Druckmann and Bruce Straley to come up with a new project.
"Our task was to reboot this game, Jak & Daxter," he said. "So we spent a long time exploring the world of Jak & Daxter. How would we reboot it? What would it mean to bring these characters back? What are some story ideas that we were getting excited by? And as much as we liked a lot of these concepts and kind of exploring this fantastical world, we found that the ideas we were passionate about were kind of getting away from what Jak & Daxter was."
He said they were ultimately left questioning if they were doing this for "marketing reasons" or if they were truly passionate about the Jak & Daxter series. "We felt like we weren't doing service to what fans of this franchise really liked, even if the reinvented Daxter is pretty damn good-looking," he said. "So we went to our boss, and said, 'do we have to do this?' And he said 'no, I just thought it would be easier for you guys if you started something. But if you want something else, come up with something else.'"
From there the team's focus shifted to a project inspired by George Romero's zombie films, the influence of which on The Last of Us should be pretty obvious. The rest is history, as they say, but there was a time Naughty Dog was considering revisiting its platforming franchise. Check out the talk below.