Subverting player expectation in The Last of Us Part II

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In March 2016, while running at Guerrilla Cambridge, I wrote a piece of writing titled ‘Subverting Participant Expectation’ which was once a dialogue about creating a recreation enticing and impactful by way of changing established mechanics and gameplay.  This thinking about examples from the unique “The Final of Us” and “Batman: Arkham Knight”.

My unique article on subverting participant expectation raised those issues:

  • You’ll have established a trend sooner than taking into consideration subverting the trend
  • You will have to no longer foreshadow the development, another way it makes it predictable and gets rid of the possibility of drama
  • The disclose of the subversion should be transparent, concise and unexpected to steer clear of any confusion and deal with the drama

I persisted with this matter and did a chat at Broaden in Brighton, in the United Kingdom, later the similar 12 months and furthered my considering with this extra guiding principle/rule:

  • You will have to give context sooner than the development in order that the participant doesn’t really feel cheated by way of one thing that doesn’t are compatible into the sector

In a while when I gave this communicate, and now four years in the past, in March 2017, I used to be fortunate sufficient to enroll in the unbelievable workforce at Naughty Canine and paintings on my dream recreation, “The Final of Us Phase II” as a Fashion designer.  Moreover, I used to be fortune sufficient to get a chance to create one thing of my very own that subverted expectation, the place I may just put in force my earlier ideas and findings from the unique article.

It’s specifically thrilling that I am getting to create a observe up article the use of a few of my very own paintings (the unique article was once in regards to the inspiring paintings of others) as I came upon some new issues that I sought after so as to add with a view to additional a dialog at the subject.


WARNING: This incorporates spoilers for “The Final of Us Phase II”.

In case you don’t acknowledge this side road (under) I’d suggest no longer studying this newsletter simply but.

In case you do recognise the road, however don’t recognise this not obligatory construction, then I wouldn’t learn the item simply but in the event you don’t need spoilers.

In case you recognise the not obligatory construction, however don’t recognise particularly this workbench, then please prevent studying till you’ve performed this segment, until you’re wonderful with this occasion being spoiled!


Degree Transient

I labored on four ranges in “The Final of Us Phase II”, certainly one of which was once referred to as ‘The Seraphites’ the place Ellie left the theatre by way of herself on the lookout for a personality named Nora whom she sought after to actual revenge on.  I had a short lived for this degree that Ellie will have to really feel by myself as she had left Dina at the back of within the theatre and we needed to emphasize what Ellie would sacrifice with a view to pursue revenge.

I began to take into consideration techniques I may just emphasise the participant’s loneliness via recreation mechanics as I imagine the most powerful solution to inform a tale is thru engagement with the gameplay mechanics and the gameplay beats themselves; a specific sturdy level of Naughty Canine video games.

I believed in regards to the mechanics we had that concerned a friend persona and the way I may just use them to make the participant at once really feel firsthand the disadvantage of being by way of themselves.  I to begin with thought of appearing a ‘friend spice up’ alternative to achieve a better ledge that the participant couldn’t use on their very own, which will require a dumpster to growth, which then led me into fascinated by how I may just emphasise loneliness in a puzzle.  The physics dumpster puzzle was once created as a twist at the friend mechanic of opening a storage door in combination.

This was once a just right place to begin, however I felt like one second wasn’t sufficient, so I regarded for different alternatives right through the extent the place I may just stay referring again to the transient of emphasising loneliness.


The foundation of an concept

Some of the sides I cherished in regards to the unique “The Final of Us” was once the backpack menu and the way it didn’t pause the sport.  It was once highest for protecting the stress raised all through fight because the participant may well be attacked at any second; it’s this kind of easy however chic characteristic that upholds the sport’s core pillars, even all through its menus.

I had an concept from fascinated by this annoying menu enjoy and the way it may be prolonged out to the workbench menu as smartly, as this additionally didn’t pause the sport when the participant was once the use of it.  I felt there was once a chance to emphasize loneliness by way of developing an affect via subversion, as though I interrupted the participant on this menu it was once nonetheless in step with the principles of the Final of Us international and recreation mechanics.

My thought was once to ambush the participant all through the workbench improve menu in order that it will toughen two sides.  The primary was once for referring again to the transient of emphasising loneliness; if the participant wasn’t by myself, Dina would had been in a position to warn or offer protection to Ellie and he or she wouldn’t had been ambushed while her again was once grew to become.  The second one was once that it emphasized that you just had been by no means protected within the Final of Us Phase II international; you will have to all the time be to your feet and annoying about whether or not you’re ever protected.  I’ve learn many a tweet from other folks announcing they didn’t really feel protected at a workbench after this stumble upon, and regardless of it being tense for avid gamers, it intended to us that it was once a success – our international was once meant to be annoying right through.

One menu I knew I didn’t wish to contact was once the pause menu; that are supposed to be used when other folks wish to pause the sport so that they don’t want to have interaction with it.  I specifically sought after to be sure that the ambush took place throughout the first few seconds of going into the workbench menu in order that it accounted for avid gamers who assumed it was once ‘paused’ within the conventional sense.  This was once as a result of in the event that they took their consideration clear of the sport momentarily, the ambush would occur inside a brief sufficient time that they might nonetheless have the ability to react to the sport, although that motion was once simply to pause the sport for actual.


Established trend

I sought after the participant to enter an condominium that was once these days being occupied, take the entire pieces from those other folks, then get ambushed while Ellie’s again was once grew to become and he or she was once prone; one thing that wouldn’t have took place had Dina been together with her.  I didn’t need it to simply be a random bounce scare out of nowhere, however relatively subverting participant expectation of a learnt mechanic (the workbench improve menu) with a view to create a memorable second that bolstered the Final of Us Phase II international and narrative via gameplay.

Some of the laws that I mentioned in my first article was once:  

  • You’ll have established a trend sooner than taking into consideration subverting the trend

My unique article mentioned three being the smallest trend you’ll have, so the earliest time you’ll want to imagine subverting expectation was once at the fourth interplay with the trend.  This workbench was once the eightth workbench at that time within the recreation, so it was once smartly throughout the established trend rule.  At this level avid gamers had additionally were given complacent that the workbenches had been ‘protected’, so it was once a just right position to introduce one thing that may be sure that they had been engaged.


Preliminary Building

I knew that to have the most important affect when pitching this occasion it needed to be playable.  To present any person the specified response from subverting their expectation of a realized mechanic they had to enjoy it first hand.  The most secure plan of action would had been to pitch it on paper first, however I knew this wouldn’t have any place close to the affect I used to be aiming for within the ultimate recreation.

I did the very dangerous factor, and most often no longer beneficial, of asking other folks at the workforce to take a position effort and time into paintings that hadn’t been authorized.  I approached my scripter and my animator in this segment on the time, Banun Idris and Jonathan Cooper, and pitched to them my thought, what I sought after to reach, why, and what I wished them to do to assist me prototype it.  Fortunately, they had been each on board with the theory and willing to assist as they concept it was once truly fascinating and one thing value checking out, given the way it supported the preliminary ‘loneliness’ transient.  We additionally talked to Derek Mattson, the scripter at the workbenches, and he supported us too by way of offering us with a singular workbench that may display the preliminary menus, however allow us to run a customized ambush setup afterwards.

I created a small setting that was once a hide-out inside of an deserted place of business construction.  It had proof of other folks residing there, similar to putting garments and repurposed buildings like makeshift bogs and tents.  It had quite a lot of scavenge pieces together with portions to make use of on the workbench.  I requested any other designers to play it and act precisely as they might if it had been the actual recreation; select up substances, craft pieces, improve guns at workbenches and improve participant skills with any improve manuals.  I used to be getting nice reactions for the ambush second itself, so I knew I used to be directly to one thing impactful, however the preliminary checking out confirmed some fascinating discoveries about how transparent it was once.

Some other probably the most laws from my unique article was once:

  • The disclose of the subversion should be transparent, concise and unexpected to steer clear of any confusion and deal with the drama

The ambush animation itself was once very transparent and really unexpected; the participant was once grabbed by way of an enemy and entered right into a button mash battle that crammed the display.  It couldn’t be overlooked and it was once very comprehensible as to what was once going down.  No one had any problems working out what was once going down within the second, however after the assault was once finished there have been confusion problems.

Other folks had been spending time clearing the world utterly sooner than the use of the workbench, and so after they had been ambushed they had been perplexed about the place the enemy had come from.  I had added a hollow within the roof with reference to the workbench from which, as soon as the ambush were prompted, there was once a rope putting.  The tale was once that the enemy were hiding up within the roof and had pulled the rope up with them so nobody may just observe them, and thus the participant couldn’t to begin with get to them.  With a view to get all the way down to the workbench to ambush the participant they’d let the rope down.  When they had been defeated the participant may just climb the rope to get into their hiding position and obtain some larger rewards, together with an improve handbook, so that they didn’t really feel so exhausting executed by way of from an assault, given the dear merchandise they gained in consequence.

I had moved the digital camera to stand the rope all through the ambush and had enemies coming from that course, however I discovered avid gamers had been both getting grew to become round all through fight, pushing additional into the surroundings to offer themselves some respiring room, or naturally shifting across the setting all through fight, in order that by the point the combat was once over they’d left the rope at the back of and overlooked the praise space altogether.  This led me to make the praise space a room that was once additional clear of the workbench and therefore the very last thing to cross at the means out of the gap.  This positioning remained as it’s within the ultimate recreation with the open door to additional inspire avid gamers to seek out the room and make the invention.

I had additionally locked the door sooner than the ambush within the ultimate recreation in order that when avid gamers attempted to open it and located it locked, they’d remember that all the house hadn’t been cleared.  This helped other folks to understand after the ambush that as they hadn’t cleared the entire condominium they’d left other folks alive within the locked room, although they couldn’t have executed anything else about it – with the exception of laying entice mines down out of doors the door for tremendous wary avid gamers!

Once we made new hires all through the venture, my scripter in this segment, Banun, moved to another degree and I used to be then teamed up with Alex Stewart for the remaining 18 months of the extent’s building.  He scripted within the behaviour that in the event you lay entice mines both out of doors the locked door, alongside the hall resulting in the workbench, or simply across the workbench itself, it’ll cause a distinct state of affairs of blowing up the ambushers.  It’s tremendous pleasing and I really like that we supported it for both wary avid gamers, or 2d play throughs.


Center of attention checking out

After numerous iteration I had a format that was once lovely very similar to the general model that shipped within the recreation.  The remainder of the iterative procedure was once spent fine-tuning how a lot context we gave within the setting with out foreshadowing the development.  We were given the workbench ambush into the sport and I watched the focal point take a look at movies of the general public enjoying this degree with willing pastime.

The extra guiding principle/rule I added to this subject all through my Broaden communicate, was once:

  • You will have to give context sooner than the development in order that the participant doesn’t really feel cheated by way of one thing that doesn’t are compatible into the sector

To present an instance of what I imply by way of context; in the event you had been in a brand new, blank, place of business construction and also you went up the steps, if the steps collapsed so that you couldn’t get to the go out you’d really feel it was once misplaced and the development was once somewhat of a cheat.  If, alternatively, you had been in an place of business construction that were lengthy deserted and it was once falling aside, and also you went up the creeky stairs just for it to cave in, that may be becoming with the sector.  The context was once there to mention the steps weren’t structurally sound and so a breakage doesn’t appear misplaced.

For the workbench ambush condominium, I added residing vegetation as probably the most primary signifiers that this house was once these days occupied.  I did this even within the blockmesh section sooner than any artwork was once offered because it was once tremendous necessary to offer the sense that the gap was once lived in.  Most often I wouldn’t dictate how a room will have to glance all the way down to the props, as I really like to offer the artists at the space the liberty to inject their take at the visuals right here, however I had nice discussions early on with certainly one of my unbelievable artists in this segment, Ben Springer, about what we had to come with with a view to promote the gap with out being too evident; I didn’t wish to run the chance of foreshadowing an ambush and sapping the drama from the development.  The residing vegetation by way of the window additionally had certainly one of my favorite preparations of contextual select ups; a trowel (blade element) and a few fertilizer (explosive element) not to best draw the participant over to look the vegetation, however to additionally display that any person was once these days tending to those vegetation as a meals supply.

The foundation of a meals supply got here from the movie “The Survivalist”, which Neil Druckmann had suggest for me to look at once we had been speaking about inspiration for The Final of Us Phase II, the place seeds had been a bargaining chip for survival in that post-apocalyptic international.  It jogged my memory of what a very powerful issues on this international had been and what other folks would instantly get started doing after they arrange a brand new position of shelter; get a meals supply.

The outcome of the context within the ultimate recreation to turn that the condominium was once being lived in labored truly smartly, due to the cautious element within the artwork.  Many focal point testers would remark at the vegetation, specifically, taking a look wholesome and most often misplaced within the desolate Final of Us II international, to then recall them being suspicious after the ambush.

This degree was once if truth be told used because the ‘Press Preview’ demo a month sooner than the discharge of the sport, and it was once superior to listen to one of the crucial previews point out no longer simply this ambush second, however the context previous to it as smartly.  Aofie Wilson of Eurogamer had the precise enjoy I meant, of it being spotted however no longer being foreshadowed, and mentioned in her preview:

“At one level all through the demo, we discovered ourselves taking a detour into an outdated condominium block.  In probably the most properties there have been a suspicious choice of sources scattered round, surfaces regarded wiped down and tidy, there have been even some leafy inexperienced tomato vegetation sunning on a windowsill.  All of the indicators had been screaming at us to stick alert, however with out spoiling anything else, we didn’t get the memo in time.”


Early sure comments

After probably the most early focal point checks, Anthony Newman, probably the most Co-Sport Administrators, walked as much as my table and mentioned he’d simply had Evan Wells, the president of the corporate, name him in regards to the workbench ambush.  My middle sank – oh god, what may just this imply??  Did he hate it?  Have I wasted my time?  Am I fired??  Possibly I’d turn out to be accustomed, from earlier corporations, to an organization assembly or a telephone name from the studio head ceaselessly which means that folks had been being made redundant, as I had a gentle panic.

However this panic was once brief lived, as Anthony persisted with the following sentence – “Evan cherished it and it’s his favorite a part of the sport thus far, so great one!”  Oh my phrase, I couldn’t had been happier!  What a consequence that was once!  The president of the corporate had performed it and loved it such a lot he’d if truth be told referred to as probably the most administrators to go with it.  That was once no longer the response I had anticipated, however boy was once I satisfied it had grew to become out that means (and no longer simply because I may just stay my process!).  This gave me extra power to pour into this segment, and I used to be directly off to the desks of the individuals who had been running on it with me to inform them the excellent news and to proportion the reward.

Actually, it was once getting such sure comments that Derek Mattson even put the hassle in to increase the usual workbench script in order that any workbench within the recreation supported being attacked all through systemic gameplay as smartly.  If at any time within the recreation there are enemies found in the similar house because the participant while the participant is the use of the workbench, they are able to doubtlessly be attacked and kicked out of the menu.  A space this was once in all probability to happen in was once the Capital Hill space of Seattle, simply after the Eastbrook Basic college combat (some other degree of mine and Alex’s!), the place you’ll have interaction with a workbench inside of a petroleum station after which some enemies input the world on patrol.  Spend too lengthy upgrading your guns and also you run the chance of being attacked.


Overstepping into foreshadowing

The early focal point checking out with the general public was once going smartly, however it wasn’t tremendous evident to each and every tester as to why the ambush had took place or the place the enemy were.  There have been a couple of perplexed stories or feedback, and on occasion the peculiar unfavourable response.  Despite the fact that it was once nonetheless early in building, I sought after to be sure that each and every tester was once having the specified enjoy; one the place they had been stuck out by way of the enemy, however understood what had took place; the enemy were hiding within the locked room and had up to now been occupying the condominium.  I began to seem extra on the context previous to this occasion to look what may well be progressed.

I were discussing with probably the most audio designers running in this segment with me, Jesse Garcia, about short of some audio cues to offer extra prior context as to what took place.  Some of the issues I truly driven for was once the muffled sound of a door ultimate while you approached the condominium; one thing Jesse had delivered precisely as I’d meant on his first implementation!  The participant had both smashed a window on the second one flooring to achieve get entry to to the construction, or prompted a valid entice of putting bottles downstairs in the event that they approached during the laundry room at the flooring flooring.  Those two noisy entrances had been getting used as the cause of the enemy listening to the participant means after which hiding within the locked room to give protection to themselves.  This muffled ultimate door was once an excellent audio cue that folks may just suppose again to and realise that they’d heard the proof of other folks occupying the gap.

Something Jesse had mentioned with me that I stored fascinated by was once the concept Ellie may just get her gun out and pass into an uneasy rigidity mode/animation when she heard the muffled door ultimate.  I’d thought of it for a while and it was once truly fascinating, however I additionally wasn’t positive if it was once an excessive amount of; would it not foreshadow the development and thus take away the part of marvel if the participant persona was once anticipating it?  I had concept it was once a fab thought although, and I’d been impressed by way of it, so concept it was once value checking out as I wasn’t positive what the result could be.  Some of the unbelievable issues we do at Naughty Canine is continuing focal point checking out with new avid gamers, so I requested my extraordinarily proficient scripter and teammate Alex if he concept it was once value looking to see what the outcome was once.  He mentioned it was once tremendous simple to take a look at out and we carried out it on my system with a few traces of script he knew.  It regarded nice having Ellie get her gun out in response and pass into a brand new rigidity mode, in addition to an extra line of discussion to accompany her rigidity trade, and I used to be giddy with pleasure that it were that simple to take a look at out.  We watched the next focal point take a look at eagerly.

I used to be utterly flawed alternatively, and it labored in opposition to us for what I were attempting to reach.  We had oversteered too closely into foreshadowing the enemy, such a lot in order that some testers had been throwing bricks into the condominium and getting into pay attention mode, simply to look the place the enemies had been hiding.  It made the inevitable workbench ambush really feel like a cheat as those testers had combed the entire condominium ensuring it was once 100% protected sooner than upgrading their guns.  Thank goodness it was once best a few traces of script and inside seconds folks seeing the effects, Alex had already stripped the traces out.


Giving context after the development

I used to be dismayed on the take a look at effects, so Alex and I went and talked to Anthony about what had took place, to look if he had any ideas; I’d been running on it for see you later I wished a recent pair of eyes, and ears.  I defined how I believed it was once necessary to offer context previous to an occasion going down so it didn’t really feel unfair and too all of a sudden.  He listened to my principle and pointers that I had up to now get a hold of and gave some nice comments.  I feel I had mentally ‘ticked off’ running extra at the context after the ambush all through my paintings early on within the blockmesh section.  This was once the place I had moved the praise room to be the remaining segment the participant passes at the means out of the gap, and I had felt that I didn’t want to revisit it once more.  No longer best was once his feeling that I’d centered an excessive amount of at the prior context and my latest rule of the significance of prior context, however he had an excellent little bit of perception.  He recommended it was once extra necessary to turn the rationale that one thing had took place after the development had passed off, as avid gamers would battle to suppose again to sooner than a fascinating occasion.  This was once particularly necessary if the development concerned fight, as that’s nice for wiping avid gamers’ recollections because it takes the entire consideration clear of the former scenario.

We mentioned it at nice duration, throwing concepts backward and forward, and with this post-event focal point in thoughts, we leant closely into emphasising the put up context, and integrated some extra components to make it even clearer.  I went again to my artist, Ben Springer, and begged him for some alterations, however fortunately he no longer best understood the reasoning, he additionally presented nice tips for more potent visible sells.

The weather we integrated to assist avid gamers realise what had took place – that the enemy had heard the participant input, went and concealed within the locked room after which ambushed the participant when their again was once grew to become – had been:

  • Opening the locked door outwards, relatively than inwards, so it acted like a funnel for avid gamers into the newly opened room after they had been exiting the condominium down the principle hall.  We additionally added a brand new part at the again of the door; a dangling inexperienced towel that grabbed the participant’s eye and extra confirmed the door was once in a distinct state, because the towel couldn’t had been noticed from the opposite facet when it was once locked.

  • Lured avid gamers to the open door with glossy pickups, one thing that hadn’t been there up to now.  Pickups also are nice breadcrumbing to make sure avid gamers take desired routes.

  • We had environmental storytelling that the enemies had all been napping in a single room, and thus why there have been four of them

  • We added a notice within the room which additional defined that they had been deserters from the WLF and were hiding in that condominium to steer clear of being discovered by way of squaddies who were despatched by way of Isaac (the pinnacle of the WLF) to seek out them.  Moreover, a notice that you’ll want to select up from the remaining inflamed within the bar stumble upon, a couple of gameplay beats previous at the identical side road, related to discovering those deserters.  The inflamed were the WLF squaddies despatched to seek out those deserters they usually had ambushed you assuming you had been after them.  This was once additionally discussed by way of Aofie Wilson in her preview for Eurogamer, announcing: “What was once much more fascinating is that what we present in that construction were up to now hinted at by way of a letter dropped by way of an inflamed previous in our playthrough.”

A lot of these components bolstered the context given after the ambush to give an explanation for what had took place, which is necessary for my unique rule of creating the subversion transparent and concise to steer clear of confusion and deal with the drama.  They had been truly a success in developing the specified participant enjoy and it was once a excitement to then see each and every next tester input the room and proclaim “Ah!  So THIS is the place they had been hiding!” sooner than claiming their praise of an improve handbook, sat effectively in entrance of them on the foot of the mattress.



My unique article on subverting participant expectation had raised those issues:

  • You’ll have established a trend sooner than taking into consideration subverting the trend
  • You will have to no longer foreshadow the development, another way it makes it predictable and gets rid of the possibility of drama
  • The disclose of the subversion should be transparent, concise and unexpected to steer clear of any confusion and deal with the drama

I persisted with this matter and all through my communicate at Broaden I furthered my considering with this extra guiding principle/rule:

  • You will have to give context sooner than the development in order that the participant doesn’t really feel cheated by way of one thing that doesn’t are compatible into the sector

I attempted to push this new guiding principle of prior context so far as conceivable within the building of “The Final of Us Phase II” and I discovered that I went too a long way and crossed the road into foreshadowing, utterly ruining the meant enjoy.  From checking out the effects and discussing with Anthony and Alex I sought after so as to add this new guiding principle/rule:

  • An important context to offer for an occasion is after it has took place, relatively than sooner than it occurs.  It’s because avid gamers will to find it more difficult to suppose again to sooner than an enticing occasion that grabs their consideration, than to enjoy any context afterwards.  That is particularly necessary if there’s fight concerned as it’s just right at wiping other folks’s recollections as to what had up to now took place.

I’m hoping this has been insightful and helpful for any person fascinated by subverting a mechanic of their paintings.  I look ahead to enjoying any long run video games that pleasantly take me by way of marvel and create an impactful drama that strengthens the sport’s international and narrative via gameplay.

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