Last Of Us Director Says AI Will ‘Push The Boundaries Of Storytelling In Games’ [Update]

Last Of Us Director Says AI Will ‘Push The Boundaries Of Storytelling In Games’ [Update]

Update 5/29/2024 9:30a.m. ET: Sony has removed a controversial interview with Naughty Dog studio head Neil Druckmann from its website, claiming that it contained “several significant errors and inaccuracies” in how it portrayed Druckmann’s views. This comes after Druckmann himself posted a transcript of one of his answers that didn’t resemble the response Sony published. The full statement on the Sony website reads as follows:

In re-reviewing our recent interview with Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann, we have found several significant errors and inaccuracies that don’t represent his perspective and values (including topics such as animation, writing, technology, AI, and future projects). We apologize to Neil for misrepresenting his words and for any negative impact this interview might have caused him and his team. In coordination with Naughty Dog and SIE, we have removed the interview.

It’s unclear at this stage whether the misrepresentation includes the specific lines regarding Druckmann’s views on AI’s use for character dialogue.

The original story follows:

We already know that The Last of Us developer Naughty Dog has at least one more game in the post-apocalyptic series floating around the studio. However, we also know that’s not the next game the PlayStation-owned studio is putting out. While the team hasn’t said what the new game is, studio head Neil Druckmann has some lofty hopes for it, based on statements he made in an internal interview with Sony. However, it’s hard to even think about that given some of the AI apologia he says in this interview.

The PlayStation company is rolling out a big campaign about the future of technology and video games, and part of that was interviewing Druckmann about his thoughts on the future of video game storytelling. Disappointingly enough, Druckmann spends chunks of the interview hyping up AI technology as a cost-cutting measure. As a person who is a fan of The Last of Us’ writing when it’s written by people like Part II’s narrative lead Halley Gross, it’s a huge fucking bummer to see him even entertaining that AI could be used to write dialogue, even as he passively mentions “ethical issues” with zero follow up. He says that as long as one can “precisely direct” AI tools, they could be used to create “nuanced dialogues and characters.” Were the beloved ones you and your team created with their hearts, minds, and skills not enough?

“AI is really going to revolutionize how content is being created, although it does bring up some ethical issues we need to address,” Druckmann said. “With technologies like AI and the ability to do motion capture right from home, we’re reducing both costs and technical hurdles, opening the door for us to take on more adventurous projects and push the boundaries of storytelling in games. This evolution is truly empowering creators to bring their visions to life without the traditional obstacles.”

Whatever your feelings on The Last of Us, the series has been considered one of the most important narrative franchises in AAA video games of the past decade (and if you forget, someone working on the franchise will remind you, don’t worry). To hear the man behind that advocate for AI as a means to write characters and dialogue, rather than standing up for the human element that brought your studio so much prestige under brutal working conditions, is clown shit. Irresponsible, even.

Beyond that, Druckmann does talk about Naughty Dog’s next project. He says it’s “perhaps the most thrilling” game the studio has ever put out and that he’s “eager” to see how the game resonates with fans following the success of TLOU. He also signs off by saying this mystery game “could redefine mainstream perceptions of gaming.” I guess that at least confirms Naughty Dog’s hyperbolic hubris is still intact.

While we don’t know when Naughty Dog’s next game will come out, Druckmann is also working on The Last of Us’ live-action show, which is currently shooting its second season.


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