The Last of Us
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platforms: PS3, PS4
A dedication to authenticity.
Naughty Dog is hard at work on Uncharted 4, the next installment in the multi million selling action adventure series that will feature on the PlayStation 4 some time soon, and apparently, this new game will benefit heavily from Naughty Dog’s added expertise that they gained working on The Last of Us.
Speaking to The Frontliner, Naughty Dog Audio Programmer Jonathan Lanier said, “The dialogue system in The Last Of Us is amazing, and (Dialogue Supervisor) James should get a lot of credit for working with (Lead Programmer) Jason Gregory on it. We never had anything remotely as good for the Uncharted series. The next Uncharted will benefit heavily from this.”
Of course, players might be a little confused as to what the dialog systems that Naughty Dog are talking about are- it’s not like the Naughty Dog’s games use a dialog wheel or list like Bioware or Bethesda’s games do.
“We built breathing systems for all the characters and tried to make it as realistic as possible. It was nice to see it all come together,” said James.
Jonathan goes on to explain, “One of the problems we had with not only The Last Of Us, but the Uncharted games also is that these games are heavily story-centric. A lot of the exposition of that story happens in the dialogue. This creates nightmares for us, because game designers can create situations where they’re not thinking about dialogue, and yet dialogue is very tricky to create.”
“A lot of games don’t bother with addressing things like that. They just play all the audio in the center channel or don’t pan it, which is sort of a cop-out.”
“I came up with a plan: We used a psycho-acoustic technique to trick the listener. We created a separate reverb unit that had a very short delay on it, and dedicated it to dialogue in cases where characters were obstructed. We called it the “Dialogue Sweetener”. This allowed us to create a tiny bit of reflection that was enough to trick your brain into thinking that the sound was bouncing around in the room. So if Ellie walks around a corner, you can still hear her as if she was close by.”
This was apparently all very important because as per Naughty Dog, dialog can make or break immersion at a subconscious level.
“The more you allow characters to interact verbally, the more telling it is when they break form or do something unrealistic. We call it the “uncanny valley”, which means that we’ve made things look so realistic that anything which doesn’t look real will stand out. When your dialogue manager is so sophisticated that you can feel character’s moods and feeling, the in-game Artificial Intelligence can’t afford to make mistakes.”
“If the AI makes a dumb move, it’ll be telegraphed through the dialogue. So one of our biggest problems with raising the bar for dialogue is to create a smarter AI, because it can easily do things that are wrong.”
So it sounds like this is the kind of realism that Naughty Dog is committed to for the next Uncharted game as well. This should be sweet, although Naughty Dog, you won’t find me complaining if you just used the old dialog system for Uncharted 4. Kudos to you for trying to better yourself, though!