‘We thought we were ruining Naughty Dog’s image.’
The Last of Us went on to become one of the most acclaimed games from last generation, with critics everywhere praising its story and storytelling, as well as its incredible and deft gameplay, which is the best Naughty Dog has done in a while now. But for all the positive reception the game ultimately got, Naughty Dog weren’t exactly sure it was going to do well when they were making it- in fact, they thought the game would bomb.
We thought it was going to tank,” co-director Bruce Straley said in the latest Conversations With Creators video when asked if Naughty Dog anticipated the game’s huge success.
“We thought we were going to ruin the name and image [of Naughty Dog] that’s been so heartily built for years with blood, sweat, and tears,” he explained. “We thought we were ruining Naughty Dog’s image.”
Neil Druckmann, the other director for The Last of Us, confirmed the sentiment was widely held at the time. “The joke we would say throughout production was that ‘This game is the downfall of Naughty Dog.'”
Considering just how great it turned out to be, why exactly would Naughty Dog think so, then? Lead designer Anthony Newman explains that some of the issues had to do with game mechanics which were eventually overcome due to some “lucky breaks.”
“A big part of it was on the mechanical side; I thought, ‘We’ll be lucky to scrape by with an 85 Metacritic.’ Just because it wasn’t gelling,” Newman said. “It wasn’t coming together. So it was really a a set of really lucky breaks in terms of gameplay decisions we made that really made everything fall into place and turned it into a fun game.”
Of course, in the end, they came through and delivered one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time. Funny how that turned out.