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Apr 11 2013
By: AKyemeni Naughty Host 7910 posts
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Meeting Ellie: How an NPC Became the Face of the Game

22 replies 361 views Edited Apr 11, 2013

It's exceedingly rare that an in-game sidekick draws more attention than its lead character, but wherever conversation regarding The Last of Us pops up, Ellie is always front and center. This is completely at odds with conventional (read: outdated) wisdom that for an action game the player is the most important character, and you get bonus points for every burly soldier type or wise-cracking bro you can squeeze in. But when it comes to Ellie, the fact that she exists at all is helping to change what it means to be the face of a videogame franchise.

She's not a trained mercenary with years of experience and a twisted past. She's not a grizzled veteran pulled out of retirement to aid you in your quest. In fact, what makes Ellie unique isn't what she is, but what she isn't.

In The Last of Us, Ellie has lived her entire life in the post-apocalyptic wake of a deadly fungus that has ravaged humanity. Having no recollection of the world as it once was, Ellie's outlook on existence isn't shrouded in memories of the good old days. As Naughty Dog Creative Director Neil Druckmann explains, this backstory is the main driving force behind the character, overriding everything else. "Ellie being young and having lived her whole life in a military-run quarantine zone was much more influential in how to write for her than her gender," Druckmann tells us. "When Ellie confronts a choice in the story, I don't find it useful to ask 'What would a girl do in this situation?'"

 

And that influence is already obvious in the pre-release footage that has been shown. Ellie doesn't hide in the shadows and she doesn't run or scream in the face of danger. As the player-controlled Joel - Ellie's partner and protector - darts around cover, attacks enemies, and occasionally flees from overmatched odds, Ellie stands strong. She unleashes gunfire at intimidating bad guys, makes tactical decisions as she moves about, calls out useful information, and she even occasionally saves Joel's **bleep**.

 

This would be some pretty impressive stuff even if Ellie fell in line with most gun-toting character stereotypes, but she doesn't. She's not a trained mercenary with years of experience and a twisted past. She's not a grizzled veteran pulled out of retirement to aid you in your quest. In fact, what makes Ellie unique isn't what she is, but what she isn't. She's young, but not weak. She's a female, but not a love interest. She's 14 years old, a survivor, and she's not what we expect from our videogames.

 

However, while Ellie can hold her own alongside the main protagonist, Joel, her age did present Naughty Dog with an opportunity to add depth to her character in a way that most games have never broached. "It was difficult to strike the right balance between her beyond-her-years maturity due to the harsh environment she's lived in and her child-like wonder that wants to come out throughout the journey," says Druckmann. "It was very important to show that there's still a kid underneath that tough exterior."

 

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/features/10281-Meeting-Ellie-How-an-NPC-Became-the-Fac...

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Gaming Beast
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Re: Meeting Ellie: How an NPC Became the Face of the Game

Apr 11, 2013

Nice Yems, always bringing the goods.


Joel: That's alright. I believe him.
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Fender Bender
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Re: Meeting Ellie: How an NPC Became the Face of the Game

[ Edited ]
Apr 11, 2013

AKyemeni wrote:

It's exceedingly rare that an in-game sidekick draws more attention than its lead character, but wherever conversation regarding The Last of Us pops up, Ellie is always front and center. This is completely at odds with conventional (read: outdated) wisdom that for an action game the player is the most important character, and you get bonus points for every burly soldier type or wise-cracking bro you can squeeze in. But when it comes to Ellie, the fact that she exists at all is helping to change what it means to be the face of a videogame franchise.

She's not a trained mercenary with years of experience and a twisted past. She's not a grizzled veteran pulled out of retirement to aid you in your quest. In fact, what makes Ellie unique isn't what she is, but what she isn't.

In The Last of Us, Ellie has lived her entire life in the post-apocalyptic wake of a deadly fungus that has ravaged humanity. Having no recollection of the world as it once was, Ellie's outlook on existence isn't shrouded in memories of the good old days. As Naughty Dog Creative Director Neil Druckmann explains, this backstory is the main driving force behind the character, overriding everything else. "Ellie being young and having lived her whole life in a military-run quarantine zone was much more influential in how to write for her than her gender," Druckmann tells us. "When Ellie confronts a choice in the story, I don't find it useful to ask 'What would a girl do in this situation?'"

 

And that influence is already obvious in the pre-release footage that has been shown. Ellie doesn't hide in the shadows and she doesn't run or scream in the face of danger. As the player-controlled Joel - Ellie's partner and protector - darts around cover, attacks enemies, and occasionally flees from overmatched odds, Ellie stands strong. She unleashes gunfire at intimidating bad guys, makes tactical decisions as she moves about, calls out useful information, and she even occasionally saves Joel's **bleep**.

 

This would be some pretty impressive stuff even if Ellie fell in line with most gun-toting character stereotypes, but she doesn't. She's not a trained mercenary with years of experience and a twisted past. She's not a grizzled veteran pulled out of retirement to aid you in your quest. In fact, what makes Ellie unique isn't what she is, but what she isn't. She's young, but not weak. She's a female, but not a love interest. She's 14 years old, a survivor, and she's not what we expect from our videogames.

 

However, while Ellie can hold her own alongside the main protagonist, Joel, her age did present Naughty Dog with an opportunity to add depth to her character in a way that most games have never broached. "It was difficult to strike the right balance between her beyond-her-years maturity due to the harsh environment she's lived in and her child-like wonder that wants to come out throughout the journey," says Druckmann. "It was very important to show that there's still a kid underneath that tough exterior."

 

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/features/10281-Meeting-Ellie-How-an-NPC-Became-the-Fac...


After reading the first issue of American Dreams I absolutely LOVE Ellie's character. She's so tough, much more mature than a 13/14 year old would be in our world, but yet that innocence of the young girl she is inside is so present at the same time. I'm so excited to see how this transfers over into the actual game and, more interestingly IMO, how it affects gameplay. I'm curious how confident she will be to kill a human enemy, how she will act afterwards and how Joel would comfort her ect, all in-game I would imagine.

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Gaming Beast
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Re: Meeting Ellie: How an NPC Became the Face of the Game

Apr 11, 2013

About the killing part; look at her face in the story trailer at the end. She looks pretty tense with that gun. I assume she's pointing it at someone.  

 

Plus, in the article it said "It was very important to show that there's still a kid underneath that tough exterior".                                So yeah, it'll be really interesting to see how she copes with something like that. Witnessing the breakdown of that tough-girl wall will be really powerful if executed correctly. Who am I kidding, ND's got this.   

 

I'm really glad we have some strong female leads in this game. Like Ellie and Tess, Tess seems more bad-**bleep** than Joel so far. Haha.  

 

Man, why can't this game be out already?


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Wastelander
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Re: Meeting Ellie: How an NPC Became the Face of the Game

[ Edited ]
Apr 11, 2013

Ellie is a perfect example of "behaviorism", her environmnent deeply affected her personality. I can relate. Being a born and raised resident of Detroit, Michigan...the elder god "Thug-Immortal" has showered down these bounty of thug-blessings unto my thug soul...amen.



.
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Hekseville Citizen
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Re: Meeting Ellie: How an NPC Became the Face of the Game

Apr 11, 2013
I'm scared of this game. The reason is because it's pretty obvious that some characters may die like Bill or test or even Joel or ellie but I don't want them to die! Naughty dog always makes their characters so lovable. Like, I can't even imagine a character from Uncharted dying. When Elena was hit by the grenade in Uncharted 2 mu heart was beating so fast. And when sully was "shot in the back" I have never been angrier at a game. I wanted the game to let me go kratos on the bad guys. My point it that naughty dog always makes their characters so lovable and it's going to be very hard to see some of them die which we know will happen given the context of the game
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Naughty Host
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Re: Meeting Ellie: How an NPC Became the Face of the Game

Apr 11, 2013
^ Not this time. Sh!ts getting serious

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Gaming Beast
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Re: Meeting Ellie: How an NPC Became the Face of the Game

Apr 11, 2013

@Marc: Not with me, whenever one of those people "died" (Elena, Sully) I never really felt that emotionally engaged, because it's an Uncharted game. Everything will work out in some way, some how. So, I never really believed it when a character supposedly died. Not to say I don't love the characters or the games, Uncharted's one of my favourite series. Just the death scenes never got me engaged like, RDR or GTA IV or TWD or Bioshock Infinite.


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Hekseville Citizen
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Re: Meeting Ellie: How an NPC Became the Face of the Game

Apr 11, 2013
^I wouldn't get that comfortable. Naughty dog may shock the world and kill someone.
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Gaming Beast
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Re: Meeting Ellie: How an NPC Became the Face of the Game

Apr 11, 2013

I was referring to the Uncharted series. For sure TLoU will be alot different, of course.


Joel: That's alright. I believe him.
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