The Last of Us may have ended; the credits may have rolled. But this is a video game! Of course it's not over. SPOILERS FOLLOW for The Last of Us.
The game's ending was so strong and, well, final that I don't really feel like it needs a sequel. And no sequel has been announced. But we're definitely going to get more stories from this world, if only in the form of the single-player downloadable content we know is coming.
Yesterday I had a long chat with TLOU creative director Neil Druckmann and game director Bruce Straley about, well, everything related to The Last of Us. Among the things we talked about were their plans for the announced singleplayer DLC, and the likelihood of Joel and Ellie returning for future stories.
I asked about a quote from an interview Druckmann gave to the PlayStation blog in which he said:
I think the world is ripe for more stories, but as far as the journey Joel and Ellie goes on [sic] it ends with this game. We were very conscious that we didn’t want to leave this story dangling. If we never do a sequel we’re OK with it, because we told the story we needed to tell.
That quote has been taken to mean that Joel and Ellie won't feature in any possible sequel at all, though my own reading was always more loose. After all, their journey did end, but it'd seems awfully unlikely that any sequel wouldn't feature Joel and Ellie in some capacity.
"I can clarify that quote, because I've seen it misquoted," Druckmann told me yesterday. "I said this journey for Joel and Ellie is complete. In a spoiler sense, I was referring to the journey with the Fireflies and what they're after with the cure and all that. We're not continuing that.
"But as far as whether we come back to Joel and Ellie or not, or whether we come back to the world or not, that's all up in the air. I can tell you there are people in the studio that would love to come back to these characters, but the only way we would do it would be if we had something new, something meaningful to say. Because the last thing we would want to do is repeat ourselves."
Druckmann: "As far as whether we come back to Joel and Ellie or not, or whether we come back to the world or not, that's all up in the air. I can tell you there are people in the studio that would love to come back to these characters."
As for the DLC, that's much more set, though neither Druckmann nor Straley would share many details. "We're creating from scratch," said Druckmann. "Some people out there, they're asking, they're implying that we've cut things from the single-player campaign. That's not true. I wish that were the case, because we could just take it easy right now, polish something that was cut instead of [figuring out] how do we do this, how does it fit into the story. And we're taking the same approach as we did before, how do we do something that's meaningful, that is going to tell you something interesting about these characters, something new about this world. And add to the bigger part of the narrative."
"I think that's the big thing, what Neil just said," said Straley. "We're not just doing it to fill some fluff need to get DLC or something. We're actually doing it to tell more about the characters. We're gonna reveal more about the characters and about the world."
Druckmann says that they're making this DLC in part as a sort of test. "Usually between games we've just put out multiplayer DLC and we're like, that's a long time for fans to go, for us to go, without putting more narrative stuff out there. So it's like, well, let's see how we do! It's a challenge to ourselves, we want to show we can put really meaningful singleplayer DLC out there."
I'm looking forward to seeing what Naughty Dog, a company known for their single-player games but not their singleplayer DLC, does with the smaller, episodic DLC format. I've always thought that downloadable content gives game-makers opportunities to take risks and tell more interesting, specific stories than the larger games they accompany. (Think BioShock 2: Minerva's Den or Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker.) Given how risky and often unconventional the main story of The Last of Us already is, any DLC should at the very least be interesting.
I'll have much more on Kotaku from my conversation with Druckmann and Straley over the next few days. Stay tuned.