Music has at all times been a cornerstone of Naughty Canine titles, however with The Final of Us: Half II we knew we needed to take issues a step additional, and put the music instantly into gamers’ arms.
The thought sprung first from a story angle: between our first inner story pitch and our first exterior trailer, the guitar was at all times a narrative focus. And as designers, we needed to make the guitar playable from the get go, to make the participant really feel that connection between Joel and Ellie.
Nonetheless, the world of The Final of Us is grounded and somber. A flashy guitar mini-game wouldn’t match the tone of our post-apocalyptic setting. Furthermore, Ellie enjoying guitar shouldn’t be about displaying off your abilities or fulfilling your desires of being a rock star, it must be about remembering a beloved one and expressing oneself by means of music to hook up with them.
We felt early on, then, that we should always keep away from rhythm-based video games. Whereas these experiences are extraordinarily enjoyable, our tone was better-suited to introspection and expression, relatively than high-skill riffs, combos, and the like.
However what are our options? How might we craft a playable guitar that matched our expressive, melancholy tone? We began on the lookout for inspiration not simply from current video games, however from music-making apps – instruments for individuals to create music of their very own. Of explicit notice have been smartphone music apps, whose touchscreen interfaces acquired our gears turning about harnessing the DualShock 4 touchpad.
Fortunately, one of many earliest captured cinematics for the sport was Ashley Johnson (Ellie) singing “Tackle Me” by Aha. So even early on, we had a reference to make use of as our objective for the minigame. With that concentrate on, we requested ourselves how a lot of the music ought to the participant play earlier than we transition over to the cinematic? Ought to we attempt to layer Ashley’s singing over the participant enjoying as we transition? Stepping again, how a lot freedom will we give the participant earlier than we contemplate it a failure? We noticed that a great way to tell apart success from failure was by monitoring chord development however leaving the plucking of strings as much as the participant. This permits for extra musical expression – together with issues like tempo, time signature, and magnificence – to be decided by the participant whereas nonetheless preserving the music recognizable.
As soon as this “Take On Me” prototype felt strong, we began to think about the remainder of the sport, and the opposite songs we would have liked. We knew “Future Days” by Pearl Jam can be a important one to determine, however there have been concepts kicking round for different songs as nicely. Figuring out that both approach we would wish extra chord wheels, we began to ask ourselves…what number of chords would possibly we have to cowl any potential music we would need to embody down the road?
This was the origin of our Free Play (Follow) mode. This mode wasn’t our unique intention, however relatively an concept that emerged from increasing the system to a number of songs. As soon as we began down the Free Play rabbit gap, we acquired to lean even additional into our targets of participant expression. Our objective was to put out the chord wheels in order that they’d be intuitive to gamers with some musical data, but additionally permit novices to nonetheless sound good even when strumming round randomly with a wheel.
Then got here time to really make it! In basic Naughty Canine trend, many departments put in tons of labor as a way to make this guitar mini-game really sing. There was the mocap knowledge from our superior actors; our wonderful animation staff wonderful tuning finger positions and strumming gestures; our stellar sound and music groups recording completely different guitars and getting lots of of particular person notes; our incredible foreground division who made guitars with rotating tuning pegs, vibrating strings, and distinctive finishes; our kick-butt QA for catching loads of bushy edge-cases; different designers thoughtfully crafting areas and placement for these moments; and naturally our indispensable UI staff who helped us create the chord wheels and visible suggestions to assist information gamers by means of the method.
Our hope was that this mini-game would work on two ranges. First, the narrative beats would carry emotional weight, and gamers would resonate (eh?) with our characters and with their connections by means of these songs. Second, our further particular hope was that Follow mode would result in unique content material; that gamers would begin overlaying songs past these included within the recreation. As soon as the sport launched, we have been ecstatic to see precisely that! Inside just a few days, clips began cropping up on social media of gamers overlaying, singing alongside, and even making unique music on the in-game guitar. The Naughty Canine staff despatched a ton of movies forwards and backwards internally of our favourite renditions, so enormous shoutout to everybody on the market who made one thing like this! You don’t have any concept how particular that was to see.
In order for you a extra in-depth take a look at this guitar system, try our GDC speak when you’d wish to study extra. And play on!
The Final of Us Half II is on the market with the PlayStation Now library till Monday, January 3, 2022.