The HBO adaptation of apocalyptic survival horror The Last of Us just released its seventh episode on Sunday, and—I don’t know if you know this, but—there were a lot of doors in it. There are a lot of doors in the world all the time: in your house, at your workplace, and in your video games. You might not think too hard about them because doors are kind of a given. But a The Last of Us animator shared on Twitter an example of why doors shouldn’t be taken for granted, at least not when they seem so normal and door-like in a video game.
Read More: “The Last Of Us Episode 7 Recap: Just Like Heaven”
“I remember when I finished the [animation] system for [The Last of Us Part II] combat doors,” lead Naughty Dog animator Maksym Zhuravlov said on Twitter. “I thought, ‘Maybe much. But it’s all done now. We have it and we gonna reuse it forever. Cause like what more one can possibly desire from this damned door? Right?’”
Wrong, apparently. The clip Zhuravlov shares documents his pulling the doors away from “canned” animation, or a fixed, repetitive animation tied to an action, so that jogging backwards through them, running quickly across them, or simply pushing them open and moving on during unpredictable combat created different door reactions—a staggered opening, a sharp burst open, a heavy close, and so on.
“This was more about specifically animating the player interaction with the door,” Zhuravlov clarified, also linking TLOU2 game director Kurt Margenau’s 2021 Twitter thread about the game’s door system, which Zhuravlov called “terrifying :).”
“If a player is going to open a door, it can’t just magically fly open, the character has to reach to the doorknob and push it open,” Margenau recalled the developer team’s approach to doors in his detailed thread. “But what about closing it behind you? How do you do that while sprinting?”
“Long story short: in combat tension the doors will slowly automatically close. This is the most player-favoring, as player door opening slows you down very little, we don’t even take control away, but they block AI more effectively,” Margenau said. “In non-combat tension, the doors stay open, so you can see where you have explored without them re-closing. Oh and they are physics based so they slam shut behind you when opening them violently i.e. sprinting thru [sic] them.”
“We just had to invent a new physics object that the player can push but can also push the player, wholly unique in our engine,” Margenau continued. Don’t forget to thank a door designer today.