Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part II is looking to solve one of the original’s biggest problems: immersion-breaking AI-controlled companions. If you’ve played the first game, then you should be familiar with how its enemy AI often ignored Ellie, even when she was right in front of them. While this was ultimately implemented for our convenience, it allowed for plenty of immersion-breaking moments.
We got the chance to ask about this issue in a recent interview with The Last of Us Part II co-director Anthony Newman. In our brief discussion, he acknowledged the problems with the original’s companion-AI is something that the team is fully aware of and are hoping to address with the sequel.
“[Companion AI is] actually one of the few really significant technical achievements we’ve been able to make on the game,” said Newman. “[In the original] there is a mode the AI can be in–which is their default mode when you’re in stealth–where they will just never be seen. They’re almost better than the player can be at being stealthy.
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“There’s a tricky balance there because [Ellie] could then just hang way, way back and just never be seen, but then you don’t feel like you have an ally with you, [so] you feel lonely. So there’s a really interesting line we’ve been walking but I can definitely say that that aspect of the game has been dramatically improved, I would say.”
Developing companion-AI is a difficult process, but Naughty Dog hopes the changes it’s making will better The Last of Us Part II as a whole. However, it’s not the only way that Newman and his team are iterating upon companion AI. They’re also improving how their actions impact moment-to-moment combat. “One other thing that’s also interesting is that in the past, [in] almost all of our games, the allies have done fake damage where you’ll see them shoot enemies and it’s a little bit theatrical where their bullets are clearly doing way less damage than yours,” said Newman.
“What I’m really excited about is that with a lot of effort and some clever AI tricks, every time you see your ally shoot an enemy, their bullets do exactly as much damage as yours do. Which is just another way that players are able to make predictions and think two or three steps ahead. When they see Dina take a couple of shots and then they realize, ‘I only need one more shot to finish off that enemy because I saw that happen.’ I think it’s great that players can now count on that and make those types of plans interacting with their allies.”
If all this talk about The Last of Us Part II has you excited, then you won’t have to wait too long: The Last of Us Part 2 releases on February 21, 2020 for PS4. You can read our preview of The Last of Us Part II to see what we thought of the game after a hands-on with it.
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