Halley Gross: Naughty Dog Are Wizards; We’re Trying to Create the Most Complex Character in Gaming


Naughty Dog is almost at the finish line of the highly anticipated sequel The Last of Us Part II. After over five years of development, the PlayStation 4 exclusive has been confirmed to be due on February 21st, 2020.

In an interview appeared on the latest PlayStation Official Magazine (December 2019, issue 168), Narrative Lead and Co-Writer Halley Gross looked back on what it has been like working with Naughty Dog (she previously was in the TV series industry, writing for the first season of Westworld, Emerald City and Too Old to Die Young).

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This is the longest job I’ve ever had in my life. Every day I’m working, I get the opportunity to work with designers, and animators, and sound guys and character artists, and we’re all working toward a vision about how do you make the most complex, nuanced character in a videogame?

Everybody’s putting their particular smarts toward that, and you get to just watch these incredibly brilliant people and go, “How the fuck does your brain work?”
Wizards. They’re wizards.

High praise indeed for her Naughty Dog colleagues. The reference to the 'most complex, nuanced character in a videogame' seems to be a clear nod towards Ellie herself. Elsewhere in the interview, Gross explains:

Obviously Ellie experiences this deep trauma, it has an impact on her that’s going to affect how she engages with the world. That’s going to affect her tone as we sort of descend through that. That being said, Ellie is driven by love. It’s love that sends her on this mission for justice. It’s love that she feels for Joel, for Dina – these moments that buoy her.

What we’re really trying to do is challenge Ellie to see who she can become when she grows up in such a hostile environment. And part of writing is, very unfortunately, torturing your
characters, putting them in hard situations, and testing their values and testing their drive. So while we love Ellie, and we’re really excited to see her grow up, we’re certainly not going to coddle her.

The Last of Us Part II will be roughly 50% bigger than the first installment, according to Naughty Dog. However, the Factions multiplayer mode won't be available as it's being developed for a separate release at an unspecified time.