A breakdown by The Last of Us level designer Peter Field gives new insights on that famous giraffe scene.
It likely needs no introduction, but in case it's been a while since your last play-through, the giraffe scene is one of the most memorable and important moments in The Last of Us, deftly asking players to take a breather and soak in a beautiful example of life thriving in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. It's just Ellie walking up to pet a giraffe, but it says so much about what the characters have been through and what horrors still await them.
Field generously shares many behind-the-scenes details about what made the giraffe scene so impactful. For example, the scene kicks off when Ellie is distracted by a loud noise and carelessly drops a ladder the player needs to ascend to a higher plane. The player then needs to position the ladder, climb up the wall, and follow Ellie through several obscured views of a nearby giraffe. The designer says that by adding these "small frustrations" as obstacles to the big moment where you see the giraffe in full-view, Field was able to make simply petting the giraffe feel "earned" and like a "release of tension."
Along with a number of other insights about how developers guide players through the desired experience, Field pointed out that the baseball field where you find the herd of giraffe in The Last of Us was named after his wife, Bethany Claire Field. The whole video is a treasure trove of interesting little tidbits about game development and how to instill emotional resonance into a video game sequence.
Check out our early thoughts on Naughty Dog's sequel in our The Last of Us 2 hands-on preview.