The lights are on
Recently, we had a chance to speak with The Last of
Us lead multiplayer designer Erin Daly about the game's unique approach to
multiplayer. Also, Sony sent us some new multiplayer screenshots.
The Last of Us, in single-player, is far from a
run-and-gun shooter. So, when you approached the multiplayer component of the
game what was your philosophy of how you would weave that into the structure of
The Last of Us?
Erin Daly: The key of the
process is really to capture that essence of survival and explore the tactical
gameplay that you get in the single-player. You can use lots of different tools
to accomplish your goals. It's not all about, like you said, running and
gunning and having the best team. And obviously, in the multiplayer, PvP
experience, it's really difficult to capture that. There's very few games that
manage to achieve that kind of core-based tactical kind of feel and still be
fairly accessible to a broad audience and still have a lot of core, kind of fun
factor into it.
So obviously there's still
some kind of core shooter gameplay in the multiplayer. If you want to, you can
try to and play a run n' gun kind of game, but we really did a lot to try and
ensure that the players who were playing more stealthily and playing more
tactically would be at an advantage. We obviously
leveraged a lot of the systems we had existing in single-player to manage that.
So we had the crafting system obviously, the listen mode [a kind of "radar"
view akin to Batman: Arkham Asylum's detective mode - Ed.] and then we layered a few new systems on top of that like the
marking system, the radar- to really slow down the pace of the game. I think
where the game really shines is in those little cat-and-mouse encounters where
you spot the enemy and he spots you. You both know roughly where each other
are, but you're not immediately shooting at each other because it's actually
more of a tease to stay in cover, wait for the other guy to move first, and
then try and pop out and shoot him. But if he's crafting - maybe he's actually
preparing a bomb- he's going to throw a bomb at you or a Molotov or a smoke
bomb or something like that. So there's just a little bit of those guessing
games that can happen and we really tried to play those up and make sure we
were delivering the essence of survival and tactics into the competitive space.
Talk about the marking and radar stuff because it
does get to be a little bit of a cat-and-mouse game where you do have some
information but it's limited.
Sure, I mean so our
philosophy there was, like, we wanted to-just like you said- give you just
enough information that you had an idea where the threats are. Because,
obviously, threat detection is such an important part of the competitive
experience. Especially when the lethality of the game is as high as it is-
which it really needs to be to kind of deliver on the authenticity of this
super-realistic kind of world, where it's a few gun shots and you're gone. So,
it's kind of like we kind of need to strike a balance there between giving you
some information about where the enemies are at and also forcing you to kind of
move more slowly through the world.
So, what we do with the
radar is: players show up on the radar when they're sprinting. That was a
really big change we put in early on so that we could just slow the pace of the
game down and force players to try and creep around a little more. And we put a
range limit on that so if you're really far away from the battle you can still
sprint just to get into the conflict, get closer to your teammates. But when
you start getting closer to those battles, you start thinking, "Ok, maybe I
should slow down a bit here 'cause if I'm moving quickly the enemy is going to
hear me because I'm making these loud footsteps." That's the reason why you're
showing up in the radar.
And then on top of that we
added the marking system so that players who do spot an enemy but don't have
enough time to shoot them can at least help their teammates mark them, get some
parts for themselves with the in-game economy system and then give their team
that awareness of where these threats are. On top that we kind of layered on a
few other kinds of counters to that, certain survival skills you can equip to
keep yourself from being marked. If you want to, [you can] make marking more
powerful you can make it last longer or make enemies glow through walls, things
like that. There are a few other little twists of that as you get deeper into
the progression tree.
There's quite a bit in terms of stuff to either
unlock 0r buy with the in-game currency. Talk about all the stuff there is to
do in terms of load out and progression in the game.
Our philosophy was to
create a really layered set of interesting choices for the player. So, the
choice of, before you go into a match, what's your build going to be? And this
is classic thing that exists in a lot of multiplayer games today. We really
wanted to try and kind of take that to a little more of a kind of a RPG level
by giving you a set of points to spend. And so what you do there is you start
out with only load-out points and as you progress and gather more and more
supplies you're unlocking more load-out points and those are going to let you
equip more things on your guy to go into the game with. And so you've got your
initial small firearm- pistols, basically. And then you've got your larger
firearms which are the rifles and you can decide if you want to pick a more
expensive rifle for example or one with a silencer that's going to cost you
more load-out points. But the trade-off is that obviously you're giving up some
of the survival skills because you won't have as many points to spend on those.
And then, of course,
you've got your survival skills. There's quite a few of those, and each of them
have different levels of upgrades to them which make them more and more
powerful. And then you've got your purchasable log which lets you decide if
anything, if you want to carry something a special weapon you're going to be
able to purchase in maps with the parts that you're earning. So that was our
way of kind of giving players access to these power weapons which are really
pretty big game features. But not making it so random like, you know, in many
games they're just kind of spawned on the map and they're cycled on a certain
time limit. We wanted to add a little more determinism to it and make it a
little more intentional. So players who like really want to play, say, a run
and gun play style can say, "Okay, I'm going to take a shotgun, and so when I
have enough parts I'm going to be able to buy that shotgun in-match. And it's
going to turn the tide for me."
Basically, both the main modes are sort of
variations of sort of a team death match mode- Supply Raid and Survivor. Could
you tell our readers about Supply Raid and Survivor, what they are, and what
the differences are there?
Sure. So, our philosophy
there was, even though we don't have a very big breadth of game modes, is to
kind of go for depth over breadth and try and create a deeper game experience. Like we mentioned, a little more layered and
there's more of that depth there. So, we focus on just a couple of modes which
are somewhat similar to most of the team death match experiences but those are
also some of the most popular experiences that players are after so our
philosophy was how do we take those core experiences that players love playing
but put them, and take them into our universe and make them feel more
survivalist and more weighty in terms of the tension of the match? So what we
created was kind of a twist on the tedium where you're just kind of- where each
team has a certain number of reinforcements. And that kind of ties into the
fiction that there's these kind of warring factions going on. There are the
hunters, the Fireflies, [and] they're fighting each other and they have a
limited number of guys to bring to battle. So as you're progressing through the
match, you're burning through your teams' reinforcements. And when you're down to just like the last
four, we give you a special notification that tells you that it's sudden death
now, this is your last life. And if you get down to being the last one standing
you get a special notification for that. And we actually do it, play it with a
little of the game rules at that point to kind of savor that last guy and give
him a chance to come back. So if you managed to get one of the item stashes if
you're the last guy we actually give you more resources at that point and give
you a chance to kind of try and pull from behind, and pull out a win for your
In the other mode, Survivor,
that the mode that really best exemplifies the survivalist aspect of the game.
Because you only have one life, it becomes much, much more precious. And we
have notes in our focus tests, initially players just kind of running out and
having these really quick rounds where everyone is just rushing and quickly
killing each other off and the round will be over. And, as they play for a
little bit they realize, "Okay, if I actually just wait a little bit and use
listen mode and try and get to a couple stashes and craft some stuff I'm
actually being really effective in taking out the enemy team." So we start
noticing players playing a lot more craftily. And that was cool because that's
really kind of the vibe that we're going for is that more tactical play.
What are some of the tactics and strategies and
ways that playtesters have been playing the game that have evolved in ways that
you didn't anticipate or just that you thought were interesting?
One thing we've noticed
that is definitely one of our goals was to try and support the different play
styles that you see there in multiplayer. Some players really like to hang back
and be a sniper, so we wanted to make sure we support that playstyle well. That's
why we added some of those extra marking abilities to allow players to hang
back but still help their team a lot. And of course the purchasing system
allows the snipers to, you know, sustain a perch if they're doing well enough
they can buy enough ammo to keep firing. We had players internally who [said],
"Yeah, I love playing sniper. And I like the fact that I can hold my perch off
for a little bit and hang back."
We have other players who
really like playing support. So we made sure to try and, as we were developing
we were like, you know, "We don't have enough things to let these guys help
their teams." So we had a revised system which is a really core part of the
core gameplay to make sure that there was a lot of teamwork there in terms of
keeping their team alive. We didn't have enough other systems so, the feedback
from those players we decided to just try and add some other systems to kind of
support that play style. So we added the gifting system which you can do
through one of the survival skills you can equip- I believe it's [called] "crafting
master." And if you equip the higher level of that skill, every time you craft
an item it gives you a percentage towards a gift. And when you've crafted two
or three items you've now got this gift item you can give to your teammates.
And so you might be able to give your team a free Molotov or a free bomb or a
free smoke bomb or a shiv or something. We also added the ability for players
to actually heal their other teammates directly- even before they've gone down.
So if you're trying to play support style you can basically earn a lot of parts
and help your team quite a bit using those abilities and kind of hanging back.
It's kind of like the medic class in Battlefield but it's a little bit
different because you've got to think about whom to try and support using your
crafting and healing on the fly.
Batan: AA? A new track and field game?
I don't think the multiplayer is necessary, but I will still enjoy it very much. it will keep me from beating the story too quickly. It will probably be just like uncharted multiplayer which was awesome.
I actually one time wrote up a game design idea a bit similar to this... but far less action-y. Far more Bioshock 2 meets Metro 2033. It could really work, but they need to do it right, and they need to make it worthwhile. Presently, if you want a game that rewards stealth and observation skills, you could always get a party of eight in Spec Ops: The Line's multiplayer (which really rewards stealthy play on certain maps) or Assassin's Creed Brother/Revelations/AC3. There's also Ghost Recon Online although that one's only really stealth for snipers.
This sounds pretty cool (like a much more hardcore Metal Gear Online). And is it just me or does it look like you can hold people up in those screen shots? Also, the graphics are still INSANELY good in the multi-player!
Rad. Pretty excited about this, although I'll maybe finally need to get a headset..
Multiplayer and run and gun are synonymous phrases on consoles. I guarantee that after a few level up you can just run and gun. And that's what everyone will do, run and gun. It should have just been a co-op hoard mode, like in Uncharted 3.
Nice. Makes me even more intrigued about this game.
I wasn't interested in the multi-player at all for this game before I read this. Now I'm somewhat intrigued, though I also believe it will only be a matter of time before the players break the entire system and render half of the things that were talked about in this article totally useless.