“Technology allowed us to at least move away from cartoony characters and to realize more human characters and tell more nuanced stories, and that’s kind of the trajectory we’ve been on,” said Naughty Dog‘s creative director and writer Neil Druckmann.
Speaking with GI International, Druckmann said that, “There have been times when we’ve talked about doing other games or exploring different things, but we’d just come back to, ‘This is our strength.’ It’s what we’re good at. Maybe other games would be more successful commercially, but this is what we’re drawn to; this is what we’re passionate about. So we just keep coming back to telling these stories.”
The advancing tech (rendering realistic characters) benefits on storytelling are changing rapidly, he says “The industry is hitting the point of diminishing returns as the audience won’t really care that much about depicting eyelashes and wrinkles better than ever before.
But if you’re trying to tell a more dynamic story or use AI in sophisticated ways–some of the stuff we tried to do with The Last of Us–technology will definitely go a long way. We were running out of memory as far as how many animations Ellie can carry, or how much dialog we could stream at one time.
And that’s where going to the PS4 in the future could really help us in the dynamic area of the game where the story is responding to the player’s input on a moment-to-moment basis. Technology still has a long way to go.”
Storytelling techniques are also advancing with the technology and Druckmann feels that triple-A devs should be inspired by indies. He is specifically impressed with ‘Gone Home’ and ‘Papers, Please’ for their storytelling techniques, he was ‘blown away’ by the kind of stories they told and the mechanics used in the games.
“With big AAA titles, it’s sometimes hard to make these gigantic shifts as far as what a game is or what kind of story it could tell,” Druckmann said, adding that the rise of independent games is allowing those shifts at the AAA level to happen much more quickly.
As more and more examples come to light, I think more people are pursuing better narratives. And I hope criticism of games and game narratives is becoming more sophisticated. I think before you would have had a hard time talking about tropes and how women are represented in games, or how characters of color are represented in games.
He adds, But now I’m kind of excited by the discussion and the kind of criticism games are getting. I think that change is going to happen much more rapidly going forward, and people who don’t engage in that discussion, who don’t try to appeal to audiences that are coming on, are going to be left behind.”
“I feel like AAA games… we’re on this cusp of at the very least seeing strong, non-sexualized female protagonists starring in games. You’re going to see a lot more of those, and a lot more that are commercially successful. A lot of times in AAA games, people feel like they need to play it safe because there’s so many parts of a giant corporation working on a global scale to launch a title that they don’t want to take too many risks.
But once you have enough evidence to say ‘Hey look, this is actually not a risk, this can succeed commercially,’ then creativity can flourish and new avenues can be pushed,” Druckmann concluded.
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