Neil Druckmann Talks The Last Of Us Part II Following Indefinite Delay

Neil Druckmann Talks The Last Of Us Part II Following Indefinite Delay

The series' creative director joined the latest PlayStation Blogcast to discuss The Last of Us Part II's indefinite delay, its development status, the options being explored for its eventual launch, and the problems with releasing a demo in the meantime.

Development on The Last of Us Part II is “at the one-yard line,” Neil Druckmann, the game’s creative director, said.

Following Thursday’s news that Naughty Dog’s highly-anticipated sequel had been delayed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic, Druckmann joined the latest episode of the PlayStation Blogcast to discuss the circumstances of the delay and the effect it’s had on the team, the options being considered for the game’s eventual launch, the problems with releasing a demo in the meantime, and how much work is left to be done on the title.

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“There’s still some bugs we’re finding that we’re squashing,” Druckmann said. “We want to polish it as much as we can. Taking our time to review each section, and making sure it’s all Naughty Dog quality.

“It’s there. That’s the frustrating part for us. The game is there, and we have to sit on it for a little bit and figure out what’s the best way to get it to our fans.”

[Listen to the full PlayStation Blogcast episode here]

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When publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment announced the delay — putting Marvel’s Iron Man VR on hold as well — it cited logistical problems with launching both games during a global crisis.

But with digital downloads becoming increasingly commonplace, fans have wondered what the problem would be with just releasing either game on the PlayStation Store when their planned release dates came. Sid Shuman, the Blogcast’s host and SIE’s Senior Director of Content Communications, asked Druckmann the same in regards to The Last of Us Part II and its previously scheduled May 29 launch.

Druckmann said no decision has been made yet, but explained that the ability to get physical copies to people and internet infrastructure across the globe needed to be considered.

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“This is a worldwide game that people in every country are waiting for, and we want to make sure we’re fair,” he said. “If we just get it to a small fraction of people, what does it do to all the people that don’t get it?

“So we’re right now looking at all sorts of different options. What’s the best way to get it to all of our fans as soon as possible? But that’s going to take time for us to shift and figure things out, and also see where the world’s at. Things are changing from day to day.”

The subject of releasing the press demo, which was shown behind closed doors at a media event back in September, was also brought up. On paper, it sounds like a great idea to tide fans over until the full game can come out, but Druckmann said it isn’t that simple.

“It’s very different when you have a demo for the game that you can release at a convention or press event, and you can have people from Naughty Dog there watching to make sure it’s all working well,” he said.

The press demo actually had the full game on disc, Druckmann added, and that the development team kept play to the section it wanted to show off. He explained that “a massive amount of work” would have to go into implementing more safeguards in order to release a proper demo over PSN, and that Naughty Dog would rather use the time and resources to focus on finishing the final product.

He also noted that the game “has improved greatly” since it was shown to the press more than seven months ago, making that demo outdated at this point.

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According to Druckmann, Naughty Dog staff began working remotely before stay-at-home orders across the country went into place. He gave major credit to the studio’s IT and operations departments for making it possible to do so, as full game development outside the office wasn’t an option prior to the current situation.

Priorities also shifted.

“Obviously, efficiency is different now,” Druckmann said. “People, myself included, have kids at home. So you gotta balance other responsibilities as well as game making. But we’re all keeping our spirits high and keeping at it.”

Naughty Dog’s workplace culture has been under scrutiny since a Kotaku report, published last month, offered an extensive look into the studio’s heavy reliance on crunch and the resulting toll it has taken on its employees.

The measures taken to keep work going amidst the pandemic may not have solved the problem, but it might have taken some pressure off.

“We were saying ‘look, there’s a lot going on in the world right now. Take time to take care of yourself. Take time to be with your family.’” Druckmann said of the the team’s shift to working at home. “We even told them, ‘Look, if we miss our date, we miss our date. We’ll figure it out, but you come first.’”

“And even now as we’re wrapping up the game, we keep telling people ‘If you need a moment, need to take a day or two off, do whatever you gotta do to take care of yourself. The game will be there.’”

After years of working on the game and wanting to see how players react to it, Druckmann said it’s been rough to have The Last of Us Part II’s release up in the air.

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“Internally, we know we have a great game, and it’s just we have to wait a little bit longer to get it out there to fans,” he said. “I knows fans are disappointed, and — believe me when I say this –we’re just as disappointed, if not more so, to not be able to get the game out on time.”