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Bringing 'The Last of Us' to the PS4 was 'Hell' for Naughty Dog

The Last of Us Remastered
The Last of Us Remastered
Photo courtesy of Sony, used with permission

Bringing “The Last of Us” from the Playstation 3 to the Playstation 4 must have been easy for Naughty Dog since the developer is exclusive to both systems, right? Not really as a Creative Director Neil Druckmann called the process “Hell” in an interview released Friday.

The PS3 is a notoriously difficult and exotic system to design for despite all of its power. Naughty Dog spent the entire generation optimizing its code and processes for the console. Understandably, bringing this over to the more open and PC-like PS4 was not a simple task.

“I wish we had a button that was like ‘Turn On PS4 Mode’, but no,” creative director Neil Druckmann told Edge. “We expected it to be Hell, and it was Hell. Just getting an image onscreen, even an inferior one with the shadows broken, lighting broken and with it crashing every 30 seconds… that took a long time. These engineers are some of the best in the industry and they optimised the game so much for the PS3’s SPUs specifically. It was optimised on a binary level, but after shifting those things over [to PS4] you have to go back to the high level, make sure the [game] systems are intact, and optimise it again.

“I can’t describe how difficult a task that is. And once it’s running well, you’re running the [versions] side by side to make sure you didn’t screw something up in the process, like physics being slightly off, which throws the game off, or lighting being shifted and all of a sudden it’s a drastically different look. That’s not ‘improved’ anymore; that’s different. We want to stay faithful while being better.”

Naughty Dog did save itself some development effort though by originally creating the character models and textures at a higher quality than the PS3 can handle. That means that the team can use all of the assets on the PS4 with little additional work. Druckmann said that if the team hadn’t done that, they might not have made the effort to bring “The Last of Us” to the PS4. Fortunately, this now means that everything in the PS4 version will look at least as good as the cut-scenes in the PS3 version.

The Last of Us Remastered” does serve an important purpose though and that is to get Naughty Dog ready for the PS4. With “Uncharted 4” currently in the works, the lessons learned from porting over the game will be invaluable.