During an interview with JeuxActu, The Last of Us Part 2’s co-lead game designer, Emilia Schatz, was asked whether or not the E3 demo was running in real-time and whether or not it was running on actual PlayStation 4 hardware. Schatz responded by saying that it was running on the PS4 Pro.
At the 3:24 mark, Schatz explains…
“Yes, it is running on a PS4 Pro.
“[…] [laughs] There’s no plans to downgrade the game. No. [The E3 demo] is basically how we hope it will appear.”
JeuxActu’s interviewer wasn’t entirely convinced that what was running on stage during Sony’s E3 press conference was actually real-time, pressuring Schatz by asking how it was possible for Naughty Dog to achieve that level of fidelity running in real-time on a PS4 Pro, especially when a bunch of other first-party games can’t even run at 1440p and 60fps on the PS4 Pro, and even The Last of Us: Remastered failed to run at 1800p at 60fps on the PS4 Pro.
Schatz explained that it was thanks to working with the talented team at Naughty Dog that they were able to achieve the look and fidelity presented in the demo…
“I work with a lot of very, very talented people. They keep me in awe all the time. They constantly challenge me to make sure that the gameplay lives up to the art that they create for it.”
It’s still highly unlikely that what was featured during the E3 demo is what will make it into the actual boxed product when the game releases, but I’m sure fanboys will gloat in the meantime about Naughty Dog promising an E3-quality gameplay experience for the finished game.
The interviewer also asked about the gameplay – something that creative director Neil Druckmann touched on briefly during the E3 Coliseum panel. Druckmann had mentioned that they overhauled the dodging mechanics in the game, so that it looks more natural and less stilted and mechanical, like the system that was presented in the first Last of Us.
Schatz talked a bit more about the dodge mechanics and how it coincides with the animation system, mentioning that the dodging in the E3 demo is how it will supposedly play out in the actual game, and that this was something that ties into the new animation system that they’re using called “Motion-Matching”…
“That’s right, we’re using a brand new animation system of motion-matching to sort of match her movement exactly to the fluid sort of movement that the player inputs. And that blends nicely into the gameplay gestures, such as reaching out and grabbing a brick; reaching out and grabbing ammo; opening a cabinet [and] things like that.
“All of those things – if you stop and sort of like jut into a canned animation, it sort of feels like your character is a robot, and that takes away from the immersion. That’s very important to us, so we continue with feeling like you are a part of this world that you are playing as Ellie, so that fluid animation is very much about creating a tone.”
Druckmann expounded on the tool suite a bit more during the Coliseum panel, where he explained that the animation blending is based on the directional inputs of players combined with the contextual disposition of the player character and the NPC(s).
Very much like the Morpheme suite from NaturalMotion, the contextual gesture Motion-Matching system runs through a blending algorithm so that when players press the dodge button while an enemy is swinging from a certain direction and Ellie is moving in a certain direction, it creates a fluid transition from one animation state to the next without breaking the fluidity of the movement.
This ties into what Schatz is talking about regarding the jutting canned animation response most games have when you quickly start and stop certain actions and the animations jerkily start and stop to match those movements. Behind the scenes the code is telling the game to select a preset animation from the animation library to play whenever a player presses a certain button or perform a certain action, creating instantaneous feedback even at the expense of the characters jerkily reacting in response.
The designers and the animators at Naughty Dog worked together to erase those jutting transitions between animation sets, so that the procedural frame transitions make it look as if the characters are moving organically instead of playing a preset canned animation.
According to Schatz, Naughty Dog completely rebuilt the melee combat from the ground up in The Last of Us 2, where it’s designed to be fluid and dynamically systematic.
Obviously, most people don’t care about the gameplay or gameplay mechanics given that the biggest talk of the town for the E3 demo of The Last of Us 2 centered around Ellie’s lesbian relationship. Above and beyond the mechanical aspects of the game, Neil Druckmann really wanted to hammer that sociopolitical aspect of the game home in order to anger certain groups of people and receive praise for virtue signaling to another group of people.
Also, some members of Naughty Dog have been railing on gamers and swearing at them on Twitter, telling them that Naughty Dog doesn’t make games for anti-SJWs.
There’s still no release date set for The Last of Us Part 2, but the game is due out exclusively for the PS4 and PS4 Pro.