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The Last of Us Part 2’s beauty is in the little details

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And the technology that underlies it

The Last of Us Part 2 - Ellie and Dina smiling at each other on the dance floor Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Throughout our interview at E3 2018, the soft-spoken co-director of The Last of Us Part 2, Anthony Newman, is unfailingly polite, considered and a bit reserved. But when I suggest to him that Naughty Dog, the developer behind the game and the Uncharted series, has a well-earned reputation for attention to detail, his eyes widen. He cracks a thin smile and leans forward in his chair.

“I am so excited about the incredible amount of detail the team was able to put into this demo,” Newman says. “Because The Last of Us [Part 2] is a human scale game, we don’t have towering robots or huge explosions and stuff. At the end of the day, the experience comes down to delivering on these small details.”

The Last of Us Part 2’s trailer, which premiered at the PlayStation E3 2018 event, exemplifies the technology that underlies Naughty Dog’s attention to detail, and Newman is quick to talk about a few of them — from the tech that underlies eyeballs, to fog and enemy communication.

“We have this incredible, incredible, technical team,” he says. “We have people who spent months redoing the tech that renders our eyes so that we have fully refractive eyeballs that have internal caustic reflections for the first time. Our eyelashes are able to cast shadows, which wasn’t possible before.”

“The fog and the forest is actually over a million voxels that are necessary to have the fog interact correctly with the light and the environment,” Newman says.

“Just in general, there’s just so many tiny little details that go into this demo and the of the animation of Ellie’s nose as it it presses into Dina’s cheek,” he says. “Just the kind of the combination of, I think the great narrative, the amazing tech with these incredible actors’ performances. I think it’s going to be an experience like no other.”

Even if players (or trailer viewers) aren’t consciously aware of them, these little things have a way of adding up. According to Newman, The Last of Us Part 2’s technology extends beyond the visual and into artificial intelligence.

“I think definitely some of it isn’t directly perceptible,” Newman says, “but I think like just another example is like the enemies being able to refer to to each other by name. I think that’s like we’re kind of a subtle advance in our AI that is going to really make these human enemies feel that much more intelligent, much more dangerous.

“Another aspect of our AI that we didn’t get a chance to talk about is ... the knowledge propagation system, where it used to be that if one enemy had direct vision of you kind of every enemy in this setup instantly had that awareness. And now we’re actually modeling communication between of all the human enemies. So when the body is seen in the forest, [you] hear the whispers ripple out. Now this set of enemies aware when the reinforcement, the ill-fated Ethan arrives off of the truck, he has no idea what’s happening. So he has to check in and sync up before he now has this limited information of, ‘OK, she’s around here somewhere,’ but he doesn’t directly know where you are.

“So between the stealth, the melee combat, these are all systems of the game that are having huge revamps. And I think all of this complexity, it’s going to add up to create these like really interesting emergent situations that players are going to have to find their own way out of it.”

You can watch the full E3 2018 video for The Last of Us Part 2, which is headed to PlayStation 4 at an undisclosed date, below.