The lights are on
Photo courtesy of Marchand and Meffre
Gaming is no stranger to post-apocalyptic worlds, but Naughty Dog wants to deliver something you’ve never seen before with The Last of Us. The game takes place in a world where a deadly fungal disease and widespread strife has wiped out most of humanity. As the years tick away, nature begins to reclaim the buildings, roads, and other man-made structures our race has erected to keep it at bay. Straying from the dull grays and browns of many games that follow a catastrophic event, Naughty Dog looks to real life ruin photography to capture the haunting beauty of a world reclaimed by the elements.
Naughty Dog has cited numerous pieces of literary and film inspiration for The Last of Us, but the most relevant to shaping the game’s physical world is arguably The World Without Us. Both the non-fiction book and documentary paint a picture of a future world where tree limbs burst through office buildings, vines ensnare the pavement, and huge structures crumble without human maintenance. While the imagery described in The World Without Us may seem fantastical, you don’t have to look further than the American Rust Belt for a glimpse into modern decay.
A style of photography focused on capturing this degradation has cropped up over the last few years. Naughty Dog has studied these impactful images of present day ruins to inspire the world of The Last Of Us. While the developer has not named any specific muse, I’ve found striking parallels between the decayed scenery of The Last of Us and The Ruins of Detroit, by photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre.
Packard Motors Plant
Fort Shelby Hotel
Fisher Body 21 Plant
Ballroom, American Hotel
Classroom, St Margaret Mary SchoolNaughty Dog isn’t content with simply popping main characters Joel and Ellie and some bad guys into these interesting environments. The developer is paying careful attention to the composition of every location to elicit different emotions from the player. For example, the lush greenery and open air of an overgrown highway may evoke a sense of calm. Conversely, the underpass of the same road may have support beams crossing at rigid angles and prominently feature the color red to instill fear and claustrophobia.
During The Last of Us demo we saw when visiting Naughty Dog, we were shown an attack made on Joel and Ellie by a band of desperate hunters. The color script below distills the locations featured in this assault down to their basic colors and geometry.
Color script from The Last of Us
Now that you’ve seen how much careful planning Naughty Dog is putting into the locations in The Last of Us, it’s your turn. Try applying what you learned from the concept art to the photos of real life ruins. Would the mellow colors and rectangular shapes of Fort Shelby Hotel make a player feel comfortable or tense? Is there an opportunity for an ambush among the green trees and open road in Packard Motors Plant? Take a moment to apply the lens of Naughty Dog’s game design to these photographs and perhaps you’ll notice something different. It only takes a little bit of imagination to see just how much potential Naughty Dog has to deliver an end of days world unseen in games.
Be sure to check back and visit the hub all month long for more on The Last of Us.
Thanks to Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre for permitting use of all photographs found in this article. Visit their website by clicking here.
Email the author Tim Turi, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
ahhhhh i CANNOT wait to play this game!!!
I like were their going with the scenery!
That picture quality is terrible. What the hell happened to those?
Collectors Edition art book would be really appreciated.
they're going to kick this game's ass. go naughty dog
this looks beyond dope, i can't wait for the finished product
It's great seeing the amount of time Naughty Dog dedicates to things that perhaps some devs tend to overlook, it's one of the reasons I feel their products are so polished.
I think the scenery looks great in this game and I'm expecting it to be extremely immersive, from an environmental point of view anyways.
This is going to be an amazing game! Can't wait!
It's incredible how much work Naughty Dog has put into this game. I'm convinced it will continue to impress with each new story that comes out.
I think we may have an early qualifier for 2012 Game Of The Year? Naughty Dog has a reputation for quality, so I don't expect this to be an over-hyped letdown.
On another note, the PS3's library is looking so good these days. I don't even own one, but this and Uncharted have given me a strong insensitive to give Sony my gaming dollars, unless the Wii U starts getting these kind of games as well. Then... I don't know.
Glad to see they're putting a lot of work into finding and studying the most believable environments. Something tells me this game is gonna be good.
Pictures look beautiful. The environment idea for The Last of Us in a very fresh idea for a post-apocalyptic game. Luckily I recently bought a PS3 to get ready for this game!
Last time I bought a PS3 for a few PS3 only games I was sorely disappointed. I wish they would put it on the Xbox.
if they are putting time and effort into the game rather than just do it for the money and rush it the game will surely come out good
Nice not see the same old zombies. Looks like a gorgeous game.