Grounded: Making The Last of Us

Grounded: Making The Last of Us ★★★★½

Grounded opens with Naughty Dog co-president Christophe Balestra telling the viewer "Making a new IP… how can i put it… just don't do it". And over the next hour and a half the documentary explains why you may want to take his advice. Someone who chooses to tell an ambitious ND-level story in game format today, basically has to make a playable movie. Making a green-screen film alone provides its own challenges like coming up with a distinct story and creating an audiovisual atmosphere, getting the casting right, directing it properly and so on. Then in addition to these there's all the technical stuff you have to deal with: developing and/or modifying a game engine so that it suits the story's needs, the problem with limited amounts of memory at your disposal that may prevent you from conveying a certain idea or force you to compromise, and producing AI that is balanced and realistic. And most importantly the game has to be seamlessly accessible, it has to be fun to play for a wide array of gamers for at least 10-15 hours. A game like The Last of Us consists of tightly interwoven storytelling and gameplay elements, which means that changes made to characters/the story may require already implemented gameplay mechanics to be re-thought, re-tested and re-calibrated - and new performances recorded. So creating a game indeed seems to be a massively daunting task. The documentary guides us through the development process in a systematic way, offering interviews with key people working in different departments, who collectively give an informative, to-the-point insight into how a top-notch studio works. I wouldn't have minded the film being twice as long, going more in depth in each section, and it has a bit of a supplemental material feel to it, but that does not change the fact that it's a very interesting watch, that should appeal to film people and gamers alike. A basic yet excellent introduction to modern gamemaking.

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