Citing Team Ico's PlayStation 2 video game as one of the reasons he got into the industry, Druckmann said that Naughty Dog has used lessons it learned from Ico's relationship between its characters to influence its own games.
"But the main thing I loved about Ico was that relationship," he said, "that hand-holding mechanic that helps build a bond. It was the first time I realized you can create something meaningful through interaction, as opposed to just telling a story."
As an example of how the developer fostered relationships through Ico-inspired gameplay, Druckmann cited Uncharted 2: Among Thieves' Tibetan level, which pairs Nathan Drake with a sherpa named Tenzin who assists him despite a language barrier.
Even that level only "scratched the surface" of what the developer thought was possible, he said, and Naughty Dog built The Last of Us upon the relationship between its two main characters.
"The Last of Us was always about Joel and Ellie," he told CVG. "Everything is Joel and Ellie."
"Even when we didn't have the genre locked down, even when we didn't know this was going to be survival horror or survival-action, we knew this game was going to be about two characters."
The Last of Us is set to be released June 14 on PlayStation 3. For more on the game, be sure to check out Polygon's recent hands-on impressions.