The internet is abuzz today following some recent teasers to an upcoming Naughty Dog project. Marek Okon, a concept artist for The Last of Us, took to his Facebook page today to post what may be a teaser for the anticipated sequel to The Last of Us. The image below, featuring what appears to be an older Ellie, is captioned with “Let me tease you something… Its coming… ;]”. Could this be the beginnings of The Last of Us 2, or are we indulgently running away with our imaginations?
Most people consider the image to be a strong teaser for a sequel to Naughty Dog’s massively popular title, The Last of Us. Not too long ago, creative director Neil Druckmann said in a Reddit AMA that “If you’re asking about a sequel … right now I’d say it’s 50/50”. Usually, it’s considered jumping-the-gun to speculate an entire AAA title from one piece of concept art, so why do we feel so strongly that a beloved sequel is upon us?
About a month ago, I spent some time at a panel with three Naughty Dog designers (you can read about the neat facts I learned here), and from talking to Neil Druckmann and Ricky Cambier, it’s clear the team loves Joel and Ellie. They said there’s no guarantee that a sequel will manifest from the series, and that they feel the story was conclusive enough for the team to comfortably leave The Last of Us where it is now. They did note, however, that if they found an idea that inspired them enough, a story worth telling, and gameplay that will set the sequel apart, they would happily continue the series.
The team also constantly expressed interest in expanding Ellie’s gameplay. They initially planned for Ellie to be far more involved in the game mechanics, and loved the effect created when the player entered her shoes. Okon’s image makes me wonder if the creators found their “story worth telling” in a sequel more centered on Ellie, at the very least in terms of gameplay. It would be fascinating to see how the events of the first game affect Ellie’s development, and what her post-post apocalyptic world will look like. Some speculate that a sequel could explore the origins of the infected, and possible conspiracies behind its rapid spread. Ellie was of course fairly young in The Last of Us, and a wealth of content could be explored in her growth and entrance into adulthood.
I usually wouldn’t take one cool concept picture so seriously, considering artists work on plenty of independent projects in their spare time. However, Okon’s words are just coy enough to make me wonder what’s in development back at Naughty Dog. Just the word “tease” itself makes me want to ready my wallet for The Last of Us 2. The winky face certainly doesn’t help keep me calm, either. If you want to be syntactically analytical about it, two ellipses, a winky face, the word “tease” and the phrase “it’s coming” ranks the caption pretty high on the drama scale, which seems to indicate a rather important subject.
Interestingly, Ellie is holding a guitar in what could be a reference to some final lines at the end of The Last of Us. Maybe she got those lessons after all. The instrument certainly shook up some fans, who believe a tie to the end of the first game may be a connection meant to indicate a sequel.
It’s key to note that the image could be for a comic, graphic novel, or even an upcoming DLC. The Last of Us has a wealth of media content beyond the video game itself, including a comic series and even a movie. But, to my joy, hints at a game appeared just a couple of days ago in a tweet from Naughty Dog game director, Bruce Straley.
Bruce’s words purposely leave out some important context information, and I get the feeling that various sources from Naughty Dog are trying to spark some very early hype for what could be The Last of Us 2. We should all be cautious though, since it’s very early to be developing a second game, and concept art is…well, conceptual. It’s more likely that Naughty Dog is just feeling out options for a sequel, but their recent openness gives us hope that what little development that exists is going well thus far.
Feel free to share what you think of this mysterious concept art, and the possibility of playing an older Ellie in a future Naughty Dog game.