PAX East interview: Arne Meyer of The Last of Us, a non-Zombie Zombie Videogame
by Megan McCurdy
So just about everyone knows what a zombie is. Those dead, slow, shambling corpses with a taste for human flesh. They have become more popular over the years, so of course, they have been put into video games. Now you are running through endless hordes of zombies without even a scratch, and that get’s kinda boring right? Well, with this new zombie game coming out known as “The Last of Us” the player will be faced with a much more challenging foe.
Arne of “The Last of Us” explains to us about the new terrifying zombies.
Events INSIDER: I’m trying to talk with you and yet I can’t stop watching that one person behind you play the game! When I heard about the new take on zombies you guys had, with the fungal infection, instead of brain dead people, it’s smarter than a lot of zombie games that are just running around.
Arne: We’re trying to have a scientific basis behind it. It’s an actual fungal infection that affects insects [ in real life ], so what if that infected humans? We actually built out a whole life cycle for it, for the fungus infecting humans, and they will have different looks and different ways that you’ll use combat against them.
Events INSIDER: I don’t know how people get infected yet, but I know there’s a mode where they’re not fully infected, and a fungus faced one, and one where they’re dead and turn into a giant mushroom.
Arne: Right, the fungus controls the human bodies, so when they attack you it’s because they’re trying to reproduce, to continue that life cycle. That’s exactly what happens in real life. I don’t know if you saw when we were writing about that Planet Earth documentary. This fungus actually exists in the rainforest, and it targets specific insects. There is can move the insect to a location so the fungus can survive in the body and so that the insect can spread spores and infect a large number of others. So the idea is the same [ in the game ], the fungus is controlling human bodies so that they’re able to reproduce.
Events INSIDER: I’m always afraid that the AI [ artificial intelligence ] is not going to be good enough. There are multiple games where I love trying to break the AI and see if I can make them do the stupidest things. So I’m hoping that these creatures will be able to do more than most can.
Arne: That’s been a big focus for us. Especially here when you have a companion who’s with you the entire time. We need to find a focus that’s believable. They’re going to know that they need to hide, or that they need to enter combat at certain points. So we’re putting a lot of focus into making sure that they don’t slow you down in certain points, but that they also act intelligently. If you’re trying to sneak through, but you’re being a little sloppy they need to be able to defend themselves. So they’re very capable but you need to make sure that you’re not putting [ your companions ] into danger themselves.
Events INSIDER: I’ve played multiple games where you have companions and they’re so terribly stupid that it’s almost annoying to play the game because you can’t get them to go to the places that you need them to go to.
Arne: We want to make sure the game’s fun, right? That’s one of the reasons that we need to work on this. And that’s one of our focuses. We want it to be a satisfying experience. [ It’s a challenge because ] they have really interesting combat mechanics. The runners can see you as well as hear you. They’re very fast and will try to overwhelm you. The clickers, the reason why they do a clicking noise is that they can survey the environment with echolocation. They’re very aware of their surroundings but only in the direction that they’re able to play. They also have very sensitive hearing, so if you make certain noises, you can distract them, but that’s also how you alert them, so there’s a lot of strategy in how you approach combat with them.
Events INSIDER: Although I get scared so easily I love playing horror games, and I can already tell that once I hear the clicking sound I’m just going to want to hide in a corner and cry.
Arne: If you hear them not make the clicking sound, then you know that they’re not doing it, so as long as you don’t make noise and you’re being slow and stealthy you know they can only “see” in the direction that they’re clicking. So if they’re clicking and they’re facing away from you, then it’s still safe to pass by or to sneak up to them.
Not the type of zombies you were expecting? Right?
If you feel like having a challenging zombie apocalypse game, the Naughty Dogs “The Last of Us” is for you. Coming out June 14, 2013. You can get more information about the game here: www.thelastofus.com.