Ex-Naughty Dog Level Designer Peter Fields, takes us on a brilliantly constructed masterclass into the inner workings of levels in The Last of Us.
As we roll up to just under two weeks until the highly anticipated The Last of Us Part 2‘s release, we take a step back to the first The Last of Us in a new video by Peter Field which explores the inner workings of how levels are crafted and manipulated to keep pushing the player forward in countless subtle tricks. In Peter’s latest YouTube video, we get an in-depth look at the design breakdown of the Bus Depot level which was built in the later stages of The Last of Us’ gameplay.
Level Designer Peter Field who is an ex-Naughty Dog employee and now works at Media Molecule takes us through how he went about creating the Bus Depot level in a brilliantly thorough breakdown from the point of view of a game designer. Fields takes the viewer through a visual masterclass by firstly showing us how this particular level was built by laying out the essential narrative and gameplay beats that have to happen at this stage which will, in turn, form the structure of what the rest of the level is built on. For this, Peter outlines the effects the journey has taken on Ellie emotionally – for instance, implementation of the giraffes which brings the previously depressed Ellie back to live again after connecting with wildlife which then allows Joel to see the contrast between the old Ellie and then the more determined Ellie.
One of the most impressive aspects of this level design masterclass is how Peter is able to maneuver the player to where he wants them to go without them overly realizing it. To do this, Peter explains that adding blocks in the form of cars, for example, helps to tie in the player to a specific route leading them to the next area. To add in maximum assurance that the player does follow this path, Peter adds in a clever visual cue to avert the player’s eyes to that area. Another equally impressive level design tip in the video is how an exit on the other end of the bus station is created. To pull this off and to again maneuver the player’s attention to it, Peter explains that he designed this area so that the player would enter the station at eye level to the exit, even though they have to then go down to the lower area, they will still remember this particular exit as it was the first thing they saw whilst entering.
For anyone that has played The Last of Us, the giraffe scene is probably one of the most prominent emotional markers in the game. Luckily for us, Peter narrates the inner workings of how this scene was made. After Joel has climbed up the ladder and wondering what is going on with Ellie as she ran off after witnessing something, we see how the design of this act is crafted to not only keep the player in suspense but also to keep them moving forward. This was done by firstly only seeing the silhouette of the giraffe through dirty windows as it moves and then by getting only a glimpse of it as it moves again through an open area in the building. When the player finally gets to see the giraffe in all its glory, they feel like they earned it and experience a release of tension.
One of my favorite parts of the video is where Peter shares a fun easter egg he implemented in the baseball field where the herd of giraffes roam. If you take a look at the scoreboard to the right of the area, it is named Bethany Clare Field which is Peter’s wife and a really lovely gesture to include. I sincerely hope that Peter does decide to do a part 2 to this really important and informative level design video as not only is it inspiring to those who want to take up level design as a career, but also to the players who get to witness the nuts and bolts of what goes into making something as fantastic as The Last of Us in preparation for The Last of Us Part 2.
Naughty Dog has been popping out gameplay videos every Wednesday to keep the excitement at its peak for its upcoming title. ‘Inside the Story’ video focused somewhat on Ellie and Joel’s story although nothing really new was talked about or any new footage revealed, we did see Neil Druckmann, Anthony Newman, and Halley Gross talk a little about the project behind the game. Thankfully, we got to see a lot more of that much-needed gameplay in Sony’s State of Play where we got more information about combat, gameplay systems and mechanics, traversal, and a whopping 20 minutes of gameplay.
If a little bit of video analysis is your thing, you can check out ‘The Last of Us Part 2: The 3 Most Important New Details From the Story Trailer’ article where I shone some light onto some new and important features we may not have seen before in other trailers.
The Last of Us Part II is set to release next week on June 19, exclusively on PS4 and if you’re looking for a super cool new PS4 Pro, Sony recently announced a new special edition PS4 Pro which is set to launch alongside The Last of Us Part II.