The folks over at Naughty Dog have been making cinematic video games for a while now. The Uncharted series is nearly 16 years old and from that cloth was cut the highly acclaimed The Last of Us series, with Part 2 clinching the coveted Game of the Year award at the 2020 The Game Awards. However, it seems a more recent winner of Game of the Year could be taking Naughty Dog down new directions.
Naughty Dog co-president and writer and creative director of The Last of Us Neil Druckmann has been talking about how games such as Elden Ring and its use of environmental storytelling have been intriguing him. Naughty Dog's co-game director Vinit Agarwal then also chimed in on Hidetaka Miyazaki's influence.
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Speaking to The Washington Post, Druckmann cited Inside and Elden Ring for their lack of reliance on traditional narrative to tell their respective stories. While Druckmann believes some of the best storytelling in The Last of Us comes from the cinematics, he does also believe that a lot of story comes from the gameplay and the player navigating the spaces the game provides.
"Right now some of the best joy I get out of games [are those] that trust their audience to figure things out, that don't hold their hand, that's the stuff I'm really intrigued by going forward," Druckmann told The Post's Gene Park.
One of the lauded aspects of Elden Ring comes from its stories and lore embedded in the design of the world and its characters. This is one of the most beloved features of FromSoftware titles, from Bloodborne to the Dark Souls series, and players come together to untangle, discuss, and debate the mysteries and secrets in the games. In Elden Ring, as TheGamer has covered over months, new theories are expounded regularly on forums such as the Elden Ring subreddit, on things like the backgound to Roderika and the location of Rykard's shed snake skin.
Let's not forget the other game Druckmann cited too, Playdead's Inside. This critically acclaimed indie tells a dark and dystopian story largely through its environment and incidental details, leaving players to figure out what's going on without overtly explaining. But it seems Elden Ring, which picked up Game of the Year in last month's TGA ceremony, is leaving the greatest mark on Naughty Dog devs.
Naughty Dog's co-game director Vinit Agarwal said that FromSoftware's open world title is a "major one" for him as well. "Talking with Miyazaki-san last month on Elden Ring, one thing we nodded on back and forth was 'trusting the player'," he posted on his personal Twitter account. "It allows for a more fulfilling design both for the player but even the developer. It lets you do more, in fact, than less."
It is known that Naughty Dog is currently working on several projects, although these remain under wraps and have not yet been revealed. It's definitely known that it is working on a multiplayer The Last of Us project, but it has also been nearly three years since The Last of Us Part 2. Druckmann recently said Naughty Dog has been keeping quiet for a reason however, saying that in the past the studio has announced projects too early and now wants to better maintain work-life balance by keeping things under wraps until they're ready.
But whatever titles Naughty Dog has up its sleeve, players can expect the studio to keep pushing narrative storytelling and its game directors and designers could well be taking leaves out of FromSoftware's books.