Sony and Naughty Dog have suffered a huge blow this week, announcing the cancellation of The Last of Us Factions, or The Last of Us Online, as they were calling it. The project has been in development for years and years, with multiplayer developed in part alongside The Last of Us Part II, which began production in 2014.
Now, all those years and the time and money spent appear to be wasted. Naughty Dog eventually realized that to actually release and support the game as a live service offering, it would take the attention of the entire studio. As in, no more of the single player games it’s been known for, at least for the indefinite future.
But I find myself wondering, is there anything that could be salvaged from this mess?
One consistent issue that’s come up during this whole thing is that all any player wanted from Naughty Dog here was a TLOU2 sequel to TLOU1’s Factions multiplayer mode, a surprisingly good attached MP shooter mode that seemed ripe for expansion in the sequel. Instead, Sony and Naughty Dog got far out over their skis, taking that idea and blowing it up into some sprawling, seasonal, battle pass-infused, microtransaction-having live service game that would keep pumping out new content. That was when it became too unwieldy to live.
I keep thinking about Overwatch, how that game rose from the ashes of a much larger concept, Project Titan, and became its own thing that (for at least a little while at launch) ended up as the most exciting thing in multiplayer gaming.
Here, and while I understand this is sort of being the ultimate armchair dev, I’m wondering if instead of some giant, endless live game, if there’s anything from the multiplayer combat here that could be made into you know, just Factions 2. Not live, not endless. Just a smaller scale multiplayer addition to TLOU2 that everyone wanted in the first place. Players would get what they originally wanted, and Naughty Dog wouldn’t have to throw away what, five plus years of work completely?
Again, we have no idea if what The Last of Us Online became would indeed be able to convert over into a more standard Factions multiplayer. There were indications there were things like an actual battle royale mode, among other additions. But it just seems like a shame to scrap what Naughty Dog devs themselves were saying was incredibly fun multiplayer. Again, the problem here was the scale, the live service of it all. It does not appear to be “oh they couldn’t make a fun to play MP shooter.”
This may be entirely impossible, I recognize that. But we’ve seen other games salvaged from bigger messes, and with less time invested in the original project. Perhaps this is “cope,” but I have to believe there is something that could be dug out of this mess to represent the work Naughty Dog has done on this for half a decade, rather than 100% of it never seeing the light of day.
Follow me on Twitter, Threads, YouTube, and Instagram.
Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy.