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Neil Druckmann guests on 'Lessons from the Screenplay' to discuss The Last of Us and storytelling in video games

SunBroDave

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,841

Another great video from a great channel, and to my knowledge the first one to discuss video games, yet alone with the writer of said video game as a guest.
 

Mariolee

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
3,906
Wow, I love this channel and their podcasts. Can’t believe they got Druckmann on, then again they have been getting good guests like the writer director for Searching. Definitely gonna give this a listen. Thanks OP!
 

Neo_MG90

Member
Apr 23, 2018
325
Just watched the video. Another great one from this channel.

Awesome interview with Druckmann, can't wait to see what he has in store for part II.
 

Philippo

Member
Oct 28, 2017
2,470
Milan, Italy
I gasped when i saw DRUCKMANNN in the preview image, i have been devouring this channel in the past few days.

The video is good as always, especially appreciated how they dissect the giraffes scene.
 

Havel

Member
Oct 25, 2017
56
Good video and idea for a series. but I honestly think inviting someone who has used the medium in creative and unique ways to present a story that can only be told in video games would have been more appropriate. I think unlike most people, I see The Last of Us as a regression of storytelling in games due to the shift towards more static movie-like methods of telling a story. A great technical achievement to be sure, but not something I would put on a pedastal to show what the medium is capable of. I hope TLOU2 has more enviornmental storytelling, because the glimpses of it in TLOU1 were promising. I guess the Souls series has rubbed off on me in that way.
 
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Havel

Member
Oct 25, 2017
56
All this hyperbole is going to result in is no one really listening to the rest of your argument and discussing it reasonably.
Just stating my opinion, and to me it's not hyperbole at all. Druckmann is a great visionary and director, but like Kojima I don't think he is good as a storyteller in the context of video games.

Lmao.

Imagine trying to drop shade on a man and then saying Souls has good stories.
I don't think Souls have good stories, I just think the way they are presented is a much better representation of video games as a medium.
 
Oct 25, 2017
4,716
Good video and idea for a series, but Druckmann is literally the LAST person to talk about story or storytelling in video games. They should have invited someone who knows how to use the medium in creative and unique ways to present a story that can only be told in video games. I think unlike most people, I see The Last of Us as a regression of storytelling in games due to the shift towards more static movie-like methods of telling a story. A great technical achievement to be sure, but not something I would put on a pedastal to show what the medium is capable of. I hope TLOU2 has more enviornmental storytelling, because the glimpses of it in TLOU1 were promising. I guess the Souls series has rubbed off on me in that way.
Lmao.

Imagine trying to drop shade on a man and then saying Souls has good stories.
 

Qassim

Member
Oct 25, 2017
477
United Kingdom
Just stating my opinion
Thanks, I didn't realise that.
and to me it's not hyperbole at all. Druckmann is a great visionary and director, but like Kojima I don't think he is good as a storyteller in the context of video games.
Which is fine, but surely you realise that saying this about one of the highest rated and most awarded games ever - largely off the back of its storytelling - is going to be pretty inflammatory. Which again, is fine - all I was saying that if you were actually interested in talking about the different ways you can tell stories in video games, you'd have much more luck without that first sentence.
 

Havel

Member
Oct 25, 2017
56
Thanks, I didn't realise that.


Which is fine, but surely you realise that saying this about one of the highest rated and most awarded games ever - largely off the back of its storytelling - is going to be pretty inflammatory. Which again, is fine - all I was saying that if you were actually interested in talking about the different ways you can tell stories in video games, you'd have much more luck without that first sentence.
Noted. Reading back, it did come across as too confrontational than what I intended. Changed it to something more reasonable.
 
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BoxManLocke

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,955
France
Good video and idea for a series, but Druckmann is literally the LAST person to talk about story or storytelling in video games. They should have invited someone who knows how to use the medium in creative and unique ways to present a story that can only be told in video games. I think unlike most people, I see The Last of Us as a regression of storytelling in games due to the shift towards more static movie-like methods of telling a story. A great technical achievement to be sure, but not something I would put on a pedastal to show what the medium is capable of. I hope TLOU2 has more enviornmental storytelling, because the glimpses of it in TLOU1 were promising. I guess the Souls series has rubbed off on me in that way.
Personally I'm really not interested in fanfictioning my way through meaningless and vague as fuck "details" scattered throughout the environment, especially if that's literally all that a game has going for to tell its "story".

Thankfully there are different kind of ways to do things, and enough genres in videogames for us to enjoy what's to our taste rather than crap on what's not.

Also, TLOU had plenty of storytelling going on outside of cutscenes, and a comparison to whatever Kojima writes is dowright insulting.

Edit : I was responding to the original post, didn't realize you edited it.
 

Omnistalgic

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,598
NJ
Personally I'm really not interested in fanfictioning my way through meaningless and vague as fuck "details" scattered throughout the environment, especially if that's literally all that a game has going for to tell its "story".

Thankfully there are different kind of ways to do things, and enough genres in videogames for us to enjoy what's to our taste rather than crap on what's not.

Also, TLOU had plenty of storytelling going on outside of cutscenes, and a comparison to whatever Kojima writes is dowright insulting.

Edit : I was responding to the original post, didn't realize you edited it.
Yup...never got all the praise for the storytelling in Souls games. It’s not interesting enough for me to piece together the lore of a world, I’d much prefer to play through TLOU style of storytelling. I love Souls games but not for Story.
 

More_Badass

Member
Oct 25, 2017
17,249
Good video and idea for a series, but Druckmann is literally the LAST person to talk about story or storytelling in video games. They should have invited someone who knows how to use the medium in creative and unique ways to present a story that can only be told in video games. I think unlike most people, I see The Last of Us as a regression of storytelling in games due to the shift towards more static movie-like methods of telling a story. A great technical achievement to be sure, but not something I would put on a pedastal to show what the medium is capable of. I hope TLOU2 has more enviornmental storytelling, because the glimpses of it in TLOU1 were promising. I guess the Souls series has rubbed off on me in that way.
TLOU’s story, as it is told in the game, can only be told in a video game. So much of the emotional investment, sense of a journey and connecting with Ellie comes from the hours spent alongside her, her helping in combat, the contextual comments that happen during exploration and combat, the gradual shift in player/NPC relationship between Joel and Ellie, the shift in player character during Winter, etc

If you’re only think the storytelling, and the praise for its story, comes from a focus on cutscenes, you’re looking at the game’s story through a very narrow lens. TLOU is so praised because of how it so effectively tells its story and character development through gameplay, while seamlessly contextualizing the heavier developments of the cutscenes with the smaller intimate moments during gameplay. There is little to no dissonance between gameplay and cutscene
 

More_Badass

Member
Oct 25, 2017
17,249
Personally I'm really not interested in fanfictioning my way through meaningless and vague as fuck "details" scattered throughout the environment, especially if that's literally all that a game has going for to tell its "story".

Thankfully there are different kind of ways to do things, and enough genres in videogames for us to enjoy what's to our taste rather than crap on what's not.

Also, TLOU had plenty of storytelling going on outside of cutscenes, and a comparison to whatever Kojima writes is dowright insulting.

Edit : I was responding to the original post, didn't realize you edited it.
The strength of the storytelling in the Souls games and Bloodborne is how they contextualize story and tone through mechanics and gameplay. World, combat, art and enemy design, the layout and path through levels, and so on all play a role in building and reinforcing the narrative as much as the lore descriptions do. The creators at From do a masterful job at creating this sense of a narrative tapestry, and each step forward, every boss slain, every new area discovered or exotic weapon found, is another thread sown in this grand mesh of atmosphere and plot. I’d argue Bloodborne and the first Dark Souls does this most effectively
 

BoxManLocke

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,955
France
The strength of the storytelling in the Souls games and Bloodborne is how they contextualize story and tone through mechanics and gameplay. World, combat, art and enemy design, the layout and path through levels, and so on all play a role in building and reinforcing the narrative as much as the lore descriptions do. The creators at From do a masterful job at creating this sense of a narrative tapestry, and each step forward, every boss slain, every new area discovered or exotic weapon found, is another thread sown in this grand mesh of atmosphere and plot. I’d argue Bloodborne and the first Dark Souls does this most effectively
I'm really not receptive to this at all, but obviously plenty of people are, and I believe it has merit as a form of storytelling. Also I loved Bloodborne ; the atmosphere and combat were enough for me.

We really shouldn't be pitting these two against each other in the first place, but I couldn't help but respond.
 

shoemasta

Member
Oct 28, 2017
1,237
Good video and idea for a series. but I honestly think inviting someone who has used the medium in creative and unique ways to present a story that can only be told in video games would have been more appropriate. I think unlike most people, I see The Last of Us as a regression of storytelling in games due to the shift towards more static movie-like methods of telling a story. A great technical achievement to be sure, but not something I would put on a pedastal to show what the medium is capable of. I hope TLOU2 has more enviornmental storytelling, because the glimpses of it in TLOU1 were promising. I guess the Souls series has rubbed off on me in that way.
I don't see how The Last of Us doesn't do a lot of environmental story telling. Sure TLOU uses cut scenes to convey its biggest moments, but its connective and interstitial story is told through gameplay situations and level design; and those moments are arguably as important as its biggest for a story like the one in TLOU.
For example, the beginning of Winter is a slow paced hunting section that requires some patience, and that comes off a big cliff hanger. Players would typically want to rush through this section to find out what happened but the gameplay event forces players to slow down.


Also, the video mentions "empathy through control" in its first four minutes which is a big factor in TLOU's story.
 

AudioEppa

Avenger
Oct 27, 2017
3,158
Good video and idea for a series, but Druckmann is literally the LAST person to talk about story or storytelling in video games. They should have invited someone who knows how to use the medium in creative and unique ways to present a story that can only be told in video games. I think unlike most people, I see The Last of Us as a regression of storytelling in games due to the shift towards more static movie-like methods of telling a story. A great technical achievement to be sure, but not something I would put on a pedastal to show what the medium is capable of. I hope TLOU2 has more enviornmental storytelling, because the glimpses of it in TLOU1 were promising. I guess the Souls series has rubbed off on me in that way.
This is your opinion, cool. And the following is mine. I’m so sick of seeing people like yourself bring up “what’s best for the medium” 30 to 40 years ago nobody thought video games could be capable of doing the kind of stuff that is possible right now. Stop acting like there’s some unique guideline needing to be followed for creators to be recognized as people who represent the best of this medium.

I don’t believe if this topic was regarding a developer that uses the medium the the way you think he should be used anyone who are fans of the last of us / Neil would make such a post as the one I’m quoting.

This chip on the shoulder some people have regarding certain studios who’s preference is in using film-like cinematics to push storytelling within video games has gotta stop. It’s been a part of video games for decades, and it’s not going anywhere.
 
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Oct 28, 2017
1,700
All this hyperbole is going to result in is no one really listening to the rest of your argument and discussing it reasonably.
? i actually agree with them
TLOU is a very conventional story driven game, it was a muscle flex in the ps3 days (and the remaster still looks good), but it doesn't really explot what the videogame can do as a medium. and it's fine, but at the same time i don't think tlou really shines in that
i also found the story quite bland but that's on me, the game tries to focus more on the characters anyway


love the moving goalpost people do just because the havel avatar lol
 
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IIFloodyII

Member
Oct 26, 2017
11,446
Uncharted 4 has some fantastic environmental story telling, up there with the best. Almost all the Avery story and his descent into madness is told this way. It's one of the least things I'm worried about in Part 2.
 

Kirblar

Member
Oct 25, 2017
27,699
The way in which the game turns the Uncharted series criticism (you're not an explorer, you're a mass murderer!) into plot subtext leading up to the finale of the game is telling a story in a way that really wouldn't work in any other medium in much the same way Bioshock 1's third act turn was achieved.
 

IIFloodyII

Member
Oct 26, 2017
11,446
? i actually agree with them
TLOU is a very conventional story driven game, it was a muscle flex in the ps3 days (and the remaster still looks good), but it doesn't really explot what the videogame can do as a medium.
i also found the story quite bland but that's on me, the game tries to focus more on the characters anyway


love the moving goalpost people do just because the havel avatar lol
You've just said a whole load of nothing. TLoU explores the medium plenty for it's story and especially character development, some of the biggest characters moment are either done through gameplay or strengthen by it, a few good examples in the video, that doesn't mean it uses it only, because that wouldn't achieve much, outside of a worse overall experience probably.
Also goal post moving, where?
 

Fjordson

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,225
This idea that games can't use any "static" devices to tell a story is always bizarre to me. Or that cutscenes are universally bad.

Not even sure what it means either or what the alternative would be. Games as long as TLOU (15-20 hours) or longer probably wouldn't work with zero breaks for story. Hell, for really long games (like 100+ hours) that sounds straight up terrible.
 

Nerokis

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,068
TLOU’s story, as it is told in the game, can only be told in a video game. So much of the emotional investment, sense of a journey and connecting with Ellie comes from the hours spent alongside her, her helping in combat, the contextual comments that happen during exploration and combat, the gradual shift in player/NPC relationship between Joel and Ellie, the shift in player character during Winter, etc

If you’re only think the storytelling, and the praise for its story, comes from a focus on cutscenes, you’re looking at the game’s story through a very narrow lens. TLOU is so praised because of how it so effectively tells its story and character development through gameplay, while seamlessly contextualizing the heavier developments of the cutscenes with the smaller intimate moments during gameplay. There is little to no dissonance between gameplay and cutscene
The strength of the storytelling in the Souls games and Bloodborne is how they contextualize story and tone through mechanics and gameplay. World, combat, art and enemy design, the layout and path through levels, and so on all play a role in building and reinforcing the narrative as much as the lore descriptions do. The creators at From do a masterful job at creating this sense of a narrative tapestry, and each step forward, every boss slain, every new area discovered or exotic weapon found, is another thread sown in this grand mesh of atmosphere and plot. I’d argue Bloodborne and the first Dark Souls does this most effectively
I agree with both of these points.

Some of the criticism of TLOU is reminiscent of the criticism of Birdman and Inarritu movies in general: long shots for the sake of long shots, craft for the sake of craft, without thought to what these techniques actually contribute narratively, thematically, or anything else ... or, in TLOU's case, strong cinematic storytelling for the sake of strong cinematic storytelling, without thought to how that emphasis actually advances games as a storytelling medium.

And I get it. When I first played TLOU, the combination of linearity and realism literally made me dizzy, because it took awhile to calibrate the game's artificiality against everything else it was trying to accomplish. The thing is, you absolutely can't separate TLOU from the fact that it's an interactive experience, and people let the spectacle of its performances, cutscenes, and so on distract them from that.

And yeah, building on the point about the Souls game, they're the best examples of thematic coherence out there. Especially Bloodborne, in which everything from the smallest environmental details to the most basic gameplay mechanics all reinforce the game's themes brilliantly.
 

Nightfall

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,353
Germany
Lessons from the Screenplay is one of the best channels on YouTube and I enjoy the videos very much. Seeing a video with Druckmann about TLOU is a great surprise.
 

MegaSackman

Member
Oct 27, 2017
6,078
Argentina
Man thinks TLOU doesn't tell its story through gameplay, man watches video that shows how it actually does, man comes to forum and says "I wish they get a game that tell the story through gameplay next time".
 

Sadnarav

Member
Nov 6, 2019
135
Love this channel, got to watch it

Good video and idea for a series. but I honestly think inviting someone who has used the medium in creative and unique ways to present a story that can only be told in video games would have been more appropriate. I think unlike most people, I see The Last of Us as a regression of storytelling in games due to the shift towards more static movie-like methods of telling a story. A great technical achievement to be sure, but not something I would put on a pedastal to show what the medium is capable of. I hope TLOU2 has more enviornmental storytelling, because the glimpses of it in TLOU1 were promising. I guess the Souls series has rubbed off on me in that way.
I completely agree. I think that is really strange when people talk about TLoU "revolutionizing" game stories and "changing" narrative in games when it does what games do at least from Metal Gear Solid 1. I'm not saying it's wrong and that games shouldn't do that but it's nothing new

And I'm going to get a lot of hate from that but it's also just a very average zombie story. Great motion capturing and great actors but a standard zombie narrative glued in with a below average shooter

But I really like Neil Druckmann and I think that he did a great job in finishing the Uncharted series - nothing revolutionary also, but good, and in the end of the day I'll stay play Part 2 because he wrote charismatic characters and I want to see Joel have a bad end and see the "Breaking Bad"-ing of Ellie

Edit: I hate the opening sequence of The Last of Us because it's the most unearned "you are supposed to cry now" bait moments I've ever seen
 
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nib95

Member
Oct 28, 2017
11,776
Good video and idea for a series. but I honestly think inviting someone who has used the medium in creative and unique ways to present a story that can only be told in video games would have been more appropriate. I think unlike most people, I see The Last of Us as a regression of storytelling in games due to the shift towards more static movie-like methods of telling a story. A great technical achievement to be sure, but not something I would put on a pedastal to show what the medium is capable of. I hope TLOU2 has more enviornmental storytelling, because the glimpses of it in TLOU1 were promising. I guess the Souls series has rubbed off on me in that way.
Few games have more environmental story telling than TLOU. Infact, the interactive story telling moments are some of the strongest in the game and in gaming, be it the opening segment, the underground nursery, the abandoned university, all the abandoned buildings, homes, shops, the girrafe segment, winter and so on.

In contrast, I find the story telling (both environmental and otherwise) in Soulsborne titles far too vague and lacking in emotive weight and poignancy. The characters are lacking in depth, and the story beats whilst whimsical and interesting, have little emotional value behind them.
 

Earthed

Member
Sep 26, 2019
179
Good video and idea for a series. but I honestly think inviting someone who has used the medium in creative and unique ways to present a story that can only be told in video games would have been more appropriate. I think unlike most people, I see The Last of Us as a regression of storytelling in games due to the shift towards more static movie-like methods of telling a story. A great technical achievement to be sure, but not something I would put on a pedastal to show what the medium is capable of. I hope TLOU2 has more enviornmental storytelling, because the glimpses of it in TLOU1 were promising. I guess the Souls series has rubbed off on me in that way.
Standing on the shoulders of giants isn't "regression". Not using what is proven to work isn't some sort of virtue that puts you above others. The way he describes the decision making on when to use a cutscene makes absolute sense. Sometimes you need to take control away from the player to achieve something that would otherwise not be possible. Because how effective would that scene with the watch be if the player 1. Didn't see their faces, and 2. Was jumping around on the couch and furniture.

Video games are still a visual medium, and as such, is inextricably linked to film and more importantly, the language of film to some degree.