Often in a video game it can be the smallest of details that make the biggest impacts on the player experience. The way a gun feels satisfying to shoot thanks to small recoil animations or delicately balanced sound effects. The feeling of weight as a character moves due to precisely calculated animations reacting to your varied degrees of input. It’s not uncommon for Naughty Dog to be included in conversations about such elements, with the studio packing in extremely high levels of details into both their worlds and characters. But in The Last of Us Part II, one effect and its popularity with players took even the studio by surprise.
There are so many little details to Naughty Dog’s sequel that bring the dreary world to life, but none stand out more prominently than its deeply satisfying glass-breaking mechanics. Whether you’re shattering the display window of a derelict bookstore or using your elbow to break through a weapon display case, there’s a tangible sense of joy that follows through with each action. It’s difficult to pin down one reason for it though. Perhaps it’s the dynamic nature of the cracking and the way pieces of glass remain reactive once they’re scattered on the floor. Maybe it’s the way it forces you to think about puzzles, giving you avenues to pursue solutions in ways that other games might restrict you. It could just be sensory, too, with the right amount of vibration accompanying the crunchy sound of the glass fracturing. Developers at Naughty Dog didn’t just focus on any one of these aspects, but instead sought to create a system unlike any they had played with before.
“I liked the glass breaking in the movie John Wick,” Jesse Garcia, a sound designer at Naughty Dog, explained. “You hear a nice explosive impact along with the glass layers. After that, a very nice, subtle glass debris rolls on the ground. This extra layer of detail gave not only the feeling of breaking glass but also the consequence that there is now glass all over the ground. This type of storytelling was exactly what we set out to achieve.”