“Abby was the concept that made us want to make this game about empathy, interactivity; knowing we could use Joel and Ellie to create that feeling right at the beginning,” he said. “Her role actually kept shrinking and shrinking until we thought this is the right amount for what we need you to feel about Abby.”
The character actually provided an interesting challenge for Naughty Dog, according to Druckmann. Could the team make players actually feel for a character who had initially committed such a heinous act? Druckmann drew parallels to Joel’s actions at the Firefly hospital in the first game.
“You don’t necessarily agree with what [Joel’s] doing, but we saw that the majority of people understood what he’s doing and now they’re role-playing as him,” Druckmann said. “‘I might not do this but I understand why Joel would.’”
Abby’s story in The Last of Us Part 2, in comparison, seems like the inverse of Joel’s story. While we spent so much time getting to know Joel and experiencing his pain with him before he made the decision to kill the Firefly doctors to save Ellie at the end of the first game, players barely get to know Abby before she kills a beloved character.
“Can we make you hate someone to such a degree that you want to hurt them in really horrible ways for what they’ve done to you? And then all of a sudden make you play as them and, the challenge was, can we get you to empathize?” he said.
But ultimately the final verdict on Abby is up to the player.
“I don’t know if you’re going to like [Abby] necessarily. We hope you do, but can we really get you to understand them? And that’s where the second half of the game [goes], you’re playing as someone that goes on their own journey of redemption. You get to see revenge from two sides.” Druckman explained. “[The Last of Us Part 2] is a game about empathy and forgiveness and getting past grief and seeing other people for the more complex human beings they are. That’s what got us excited about making this.”