Last of Us EP2: Suddenly, Chest-High Walls

By Shamus
on Sep 18, 2014
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

81 comments


Link (YouTube)

This is a problem I have with any sort of post-apocalyptic world. If we’ve regressed back to pre-technology days, then nine out of every ten people need to be farming. Food is everythingWe’re assuming clean water is easily obtainable. Which it isn’t. Especially in cities.. What are these soldiers guarding? Why are we living in these cities where there are (apparently) lots of zombies and no food? Why are we wasting our precious fossil fuelsSpoiler: Gasoline apparently has a shelf-life of only a couple of years, even when stored in ideal conditions. Twenty years after the end of the world, all the gas is GONE. Sorry. driving solders around in humvees and huge troop trucks when we could be putting that magic labor juice into farming equipment? Are people STILL dying on a regular basis from random zombie bites? Why would anyone need to “smuggle” guns in a world like this? Is the government really trying to maintain an unarmed population? Isn’t everyone that doesn’t own a gun already dead?

Before we go any further: YES, I know there are in-game answers to some of these questions. But those answers themselves just replace one question with another:

  1. Who feeds ALL THESE GUARDS who produce nothing except corpses?
  2. The government feeds them!
  3. Where does the government get the food to feed the soldiers?
  4. Well, they… probably have taxes or something. They can take whatever they want!
  5. So who are they taking from?
  6. There must be farmers. Somewhere.
  7. The farmers need to outnumber everyone else by 9 to 1. Where are they?
  8. Probably out in the rural areas someplace?
  9. Wouldn’t that make them REALLY vulnerable to attack? I mean, if people are getting bit inside of these walled cities then it must be insane trying to grow food in fields surrounded by plants!
  10. Well maybe they guard the farms with soldiers.
  11. Why not take these soldiers from the city and have them guard – or work on – farms? Why is anyone bothering to live in these cities?
  12. Well they have to stop the fireflies from blowing up their checkpoints!

And so on. Everything leads down to this awful circular logic: The soldiers exist to guard the places where the soldiers live.

I’m not saying these are plot holes, I’m saying the world as presented requires a huge amount of extrapolation, hand-waving, and head-canon to survive scrutiny. I realize this stuff is just something that you have to accept when you watch a story like this. But I can’t help trying to think through it. The game presents you with a problem (how can humans survive?) but the world itself lacks the fidelity and sense to survive the analysis required to answer that question. Like, I wouldn’t be asking these questions except the game itself suggests they’re at the root of all the problems we see.

The game makes a big deal about finding a cure for zombie-itis, but all I can see is a society that’s shooting each other instead of growing crops. You could find a cure tomorrow, but you’d still starve to death.

I’m not going to sit here and nitpick the “But what do they eat?” business through the whole season. Once we get out of the city and away from the generic “evil government” stuff we can focus on the characters and their struggles, which is where the game is at its best.

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Footnotes:

[1] We’re assuming clean water is easily obtainable. Which it isn’t. Especially in cities.

[2] Spoiler: Gasoline apparently has a shelf-life of only a couple of years, even when stored in ideal conditions. Twenty years after the end of the world, all the gas is GONE. Sorry.



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From the Archives:

  1. Hector says:

    Hey -HEY!

    No trying to THINK! You’re supposed to be blithely accepting whatever you’re presented with and feel deep emotions when prompted to by the proper and appropriate popup cues. The intellect must be DEACTIVATED and completely useless during gameplay.

  2. Benjamin Hilton says:

    One of the things that I appreciated was that in this universe society hasn’t ended. There is still a government and later a character references the army being the only people to make new car batteries, which suggests some form of innovation and industry.

    These things in no way address any of your completely valid nitpicks, but for me I just liked that they acknowledge that society has continued as opposed to other stories where everyone claims the world “ended” even though the mere fact that people are still living proves otherwise.

  3. guy says:

    I’d actually feel fairly willing to spot all logistics issues for this game. Granted, I’m saying this before watching the episode and only vaguely knowing the game’s plot, but it seems to me like the answer to all the “how do they get this stuff” questions is “the same way we do right now”. There’s a reasonably large population still alive and under a single government, so there’s no reason they can’t run enough of the existing industrial capacity to keep themselves alive.

  4. SpiritBearr says:

    Wonder how fast they’re going to get bored of the board puzzles.

  5. newdarkcloud says:

    As you said they do attempt to address some of these questions as you progress though the game.

    As the outbreak became apparent, most branches of the US Military went AWOL and declared martial law in their territories.
    Ostensibly, in these territories, the soldiers serve both to protect the people and scavenge outlying locations for supplies. The people are tasked with doing all the mundane chores required to keep the quarantine zone functioning, like making clothes and producing food. Soldiers use ration cards as payment. One ration card affords you a certain amount of supplies. However, the soldiers are often known to hoard food and supplies for themselves and not accept ration cards in lean times, leaving the populace to fend for themselves. Most quarantine zones worked like this.

    Most settled areas were quarantine zones at one point. However, sometimes when the particular military branch running it isn’t effective, the people rebel. This usually, but not always, leads to a raider band being formed, hunting people in order to get their supplies. This forces the other quarantine zones to stay alert, and the cycle continues.

    It doesn’t answer all of your questions, but it does explain it on a macro-level. The Central US Gov’t no longer exists. The nation has effectively been reduced to city-states by the fungus.

    • I don’t think that answers Shamus’ basic question at all. He wasn’t asking why the military was running things. He was asking why the military hadn’t abandoned useless cities in favour of useful rural areas, when the primary function of such a military government should be to guard people while they produce food.
      I can envision answers to this. For example, maybe they feel medium term survival requires using industrial capacity that’s urban. For example, they’re guarding the windmill factory so they can get electrical production that doesn’t require nonlocal resources. Or the bicycle factory, etc. Perhaps they’re guzzling gas like there’s no tomorrow because as Shamus pointed out, there isn’t one–with a two year shelf life, it’s use it or lose it. Perhaps so many people have died that scavenge-able stores of canned and other nonperishable food can feed the remaining population for a long time, and scavenging being less labour-intensive than farming, they’re going to use that labour saving to get a head start on rebuilding civilization.

      But I really doubt those answers are ones that the game designers thought of. They’re just doing gas guzzlers because everyone has ever since Road Warrior so it’s part of the style. They’re living in the city because the city is a gritty-looking setting and zombies feel more threatening in closed-in urban spaces than they would on a field of tomatoes.

      • Doomcat says:

        If I may; there is a thing called Urban Agriculture, let me just say, when the apocalypse happens, one of the best places to be is probably Detroit. Some of the people there are miles and MILES away from the nearest supermarket, and have started doing this.

        Basically; getting at least a basic food supply going in a apocalyptic city-scape is possible. With less people and less regulation on what areas are ‘open’ for farming I could see vast swathes of the city being re-purposed for it.

        • JAB says:

          Not so much. Sure, there are farms there, which means there are at least some people who have some ability to raise crops. But in the event of complete technological breakdown, you’d need a lot more land, and a lot more people doing farming.

          Now, if you had linked to something like this article about aquaponics, that might make more sense. Long term, it probably has irreplaceable parts that will eventually break, but it would probably permit a better ratio than 9 out of 10 people farming in the short and medium terms.

          • Abnaxis says:

            See, this is what I’m talking about below, though. Yes, today our agriculture depends on the infrastructure and the advancements of chemical and electrical energy and ready availability of crude oil. But that’s because we have already built an optimized system for cheaply obtaining and refining fossil fuels, not because that’s the only way to do it.

            I see the same sort of thing for aquaponics–no aquaponic system built today would withstand a massive loss of infrastructure, because they all rely on water pumps to circulate the water between the fish tanks and the plants. Questions of “how do we get the power to run them” notwithstanding (power is much better used on food preservation and delivery anyway), those pumps have precision-machined components that will wear out in ten to fifteen years tops.

            However…all those pumps do is move water around. You could literally poke a hole in the bottom of the aquarium, fill a bucket, and carry it up to the plants–basically doing what the pump would be doing–and it can work, with zero moving parts.

            It will be hard, because there are still chemical balance issues and a lot of harvests will be lost until the proper method is found to not poison the fish. It will be less efficient than a system that actually could utilize electricity and where we can replace precision motor bearings. However, it will still take a LOT LESS labor, be more defensible, and produce more food than peasants two hundred years ago when we were 9-to-1 farmers for sustenance, which is what we are comparing to.

            There’s a huge difference between “everything we take for granted today is wiped clean” and “we’ve been knocked back centuries in our ability to produce”.

        • Peter H. Coffin says:

          Just for fun, not-US people, drive around a little bit in Google Streetview.

          http://is.gd/qa9DWe

          That’s not totally a representative sample, but it is Detroit, about an hour’s walk west of the central business district. Right, not “hour’s drive”, an hour’s walking. Not even a fast walk. It’s about 4 km. And it’s perfectly ready for agriculture of subsistence farming…

  6. newdarkcloud says:

    Also, there was really good analysis of The Last of Us that was about 15 or so parts, and very detailed.

    I remember that it talked about how the game used its puzzle mechanics to reinforce the relationships that Joel has with the various characters in the game and how each faction represents a different type of gov’t, among other topics.

    I’m trying to find it but I don’t see to be able to. Does anyone know what I might be talking about?

  7. guy says:

    I’m digging these spore zombies so far. The wall growths look suitably creepy, it provides a reason for people to wear gas masks and biowarfare suits, and it covers my personal zombie apocalypse question of “Given that zombies can only beat armed humans through weight of numbers, how’d they get overwhelming numbers before the military took them out?”

    It could also hypothetically be used to justify a Bio-Titan for all your giant boss monster needs.

    • IFS says:

      Yeah I was honestly confused when Josh said that the zombies seemed to spread primarily through biting, because it always seemed to me (and reinforced by the gas-masked sequences) that the infection spread primarily through airborne spores and that biting was simply an alternate vector.

      I also really like the look of the spore-zombies and the variants of them that emerge from the growth of the fungus, though I do find the last variant a little implausible in terms of how the fungus manages to grow as large as it does without a continual food supply.

      • Tizzy says:

        Yes, this fact is very relevant to the cast’s discussion: as they are praising these zombies for the sense of menace that they bring, part of the threat they pose continues after death.

        It’s the perfect threat for the kind of situation they need for the story: human societies have managed to hang on, but the future looks extremely grim: in the absence of a cure, humanity is doomed in short order.

        • krellen says:

          I’m not sure that follows. The existence of Cordyceps has not doomed ants, so why would the human version be any more deadly?

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            But it is known to wipe out whole colonies of ants.If all ants were as connected as humans,the threat would be even greater.On the other hand,ants dont have as much defensive capabilities as humans.

            • Ranneko says:

              Also there are some truly massive ant supercolonies out there, cordyceps hasn’t managed to doom those despite their wide ranging and interconnected nature. Not sure why it would do that to humans either.

              • NMD says:

                You are right the fungus can’t doom mankind outright but it can prevent from recovering to its former self. The fungus act as a population control much in the way that it does in real life. The fungus tend to be the only “predator” that the specific animal have from overrunning their ecosystem. So you can see this fungus doing the same to mankind. Which fit with the theme of nature reclaiming our world. Think of it like a mother nature genophage for humankind. The genophage may not wipe out the Krogans but Krogan culture might. Humanity are their own worse enemy like every other zombie apocalypse.

            • Phantos says:

              It’s the same argument for how rabies inspired Left 4 Dead. We all know that, as dangerous as one dog getting rabies is, one dog getting rabies doesn’t spell the end of all dog breeds except for a plucky group of survivors. It’s something I can hand-wave if it gives me the zombie apocalypse scenario I so desperately crave.

              That said, the fungus angle isn’t one I see very often in this kind of story, so points for some slight originality to The Last Of Us.

      • Aldowyn says:

        One point was that apparently everyone missed that guy they mercy-killed said ‘my mask broke’, explaining how he got infected.

    • Eruanno says:

      There are indeed “bio-titans” (referred to as “bloaters” in-game) later on, but you only ever encounter like three total. They are total assholes and will FUCK YOU UP.

  8. Abnaxis says:

    To be fair, there have been a lot of advances in science since the days when humans were 9 to 1 producing food. An apocalypse might erase all hope of using industrial farm equipment to grow food, but all that knowledge wouldn’t just be erased.

    Who knows, maybe they use some sort of aquaponics system to keep everyone fed.

    • Maybe Mumbles has led the survivors to, ah, broaden their definition of “food.”

    • ET says:

      True, they could have some kind of small farm plot in what used to be a park in the city, or maybe a greenhouse that they’ve kept going. However, the fact that they don’t show us this kind of half-decent hand-waving, just makes me agree with Shamus’ complaints all the more.

      • Had I been a writer on this, I would’ve added this ironic twist:

        The appearance of amazingly nourishing mushrooms. They grow nearly anywhere, don’t spoil for weeks, and supply most of the nutrients humans need. They’re also a part of the whole fungi-apocalypse, so it’s turning us into zombies and feeding potential future zombies, keeping the “host organism” alive.

        Not only is that kind of creepy, it doesn’t have the problem showing a farm does: Lots and lots of more art assets.

      • Carlos Castillo says:

        They do mention later that there are some communities that farm, Tommy lives in such a place. There are also some communities in the game which indeed are cannibals, although more as a last resort (they are willing to trade for animal meat; it appears to be preferable).

    • ehlijen says:

      Most of those advances, however, require ready access to steel, rubber and oil, each of which has its own industrial support base requirements. Who digs out the coal? Even if you recycle metal instead of digging up new ore, you need coal. Who drills for oil and then refines it into fuel? Who transports these resources?

      Almost all advances in agriculture since the invention of the plowing harness have involved one or more of:
      -needing even more land (crop rotations)
      -needing fuel (replacing manual labour with machines)
      -needing gene manipulated/selectively bred seed that produces sterile plants
      None of this is easily obtained if the industrial infrastructure collapses.

      If there are working trucks 20 years after an event, that means there is an industrial society with access to coal, oil, rubber and farming land, which requires a functioning government (though not necessarily a popular one).

      Also, knowledge surviving a generation widely requires active application of it or an established academia (which again requires more effective food production because a chunk of the population isn’t contributing to that).

      The only reason there could be this much non-farming related work being done in Last of Us is if it wasn’t an actual apocalypse (which I’m told is the point?). Compare britain during the blitz or late WWII japan or germany. It’s entirely possible for things to go pretty bad without society collapsing fully. What pushes credulity is if it goes one for a whole generation (which it seems to be doing in this game).

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        “The only reason there could be this much non-farming related work being done in Last of Us is if it wasn’t an actual apocalypse”

        It isnt the run of the mill zombie apocalypse.The fungus in question(if its anything like its real world counterpart)is very specialized,so will only attack humans,and not livestock like in other zombie apocalypses.The result of this is that it will only be the death of a bunch of humans,and our infrastructure can be maintained even if only 10% of humanity survives,which does seem to appear to be the case in the game.True,there would be chaos and looting in the beginning,but that would die out soon,which also appears to be the case.The first things that would go are public works(roads,buildings and such),media and arts.Industry and food will be the last things that go.

        • Benjamin Hilton says:

          This is Kind of what I meant about appreciating that this game doesn’t try to claim that “The World Ended”. One of my major gripes about Fallout Three was that everyone spoke in 50’s vernacular because that’s when the world “ended” and nothing has progressed since then…..accept the world didn’t end. It’s 200 years later and there are still people living and even thriving….so language would not stop changing. It may be a small gripe but it bugs me in a lot of post-apocalyptic stuff.

          • Aldowyn says:

            Hmm. I wonder how all the recordings and advertisements and magazines and.. everything else from the nuclear holocaust in Fallout would have impacted language and clothing styles and stuff.

      • Joe Informatico says:

        I was going to post this, more or less, so thanks. I’d only add that it’s not just tractors and harvesters and such that modern industrialized farming relies upon. Since the Green Revolution in the 1960s, even a lot of fertilizers require crude oil.

        And we can’t just minimize the use of machinery: pre-industrial farming often relied on beasts of burden, and I don’t think a lot of people have been breeding oxen, mules, or horses for plowing for quite some time. It’s great that urban farming and community gardens are becoming a thing, but it would take a domestic agricultural revolution on the scale of 1990s Cuba to successfully transition away from industrialized farming. And even in that case, for all its problems Cuba was still a stable, functioning nation-state, with other economic sectors (tourism, tobacco) it could leverage to import food, take out loans, etc. Just like most of the post-WWII economies could. Can the armed settlements in TLOU even engage in trade with each other? I don’t remember much evidence for it.

      • Steel, arguably rubber, and power. Currently our most convenient source of power is fossil fuels, but there are others which can be used and are more localizable, from wood (and charcoal) burning to wind. I mean, it seems like the problem in the scenario is less industrial production per se, and more the collapse of large scale longer distance transportation and trade, both due to fragmented city-states and hostile zombies and raiders. So if you don’t happen to be near a refinery (and it’s surprising how few refineries there really are in the world) you’re going to be missing both gasoline and all the petroleum products we take for granted. If you don’t happen to be near a lake, well, wide-area water-use networks have probably collapsed. If you don’t happen to be near both a coal mine and a coal-burning electrical plant, no electricity from coal. Global industrial supply chains are out. But I’m not convinced this is an unbeatable problem. Causes dislocation, yes. Loses some economies of scale, yes. But I don’t think modern technology actually requires huge scale or international integration to function. We’ve done it that way for reasons of convenience, profit, efficiency, tendency of organizations that can buy each other to get bigger, lots of stuff like that, but not out of actual necessity.

        Rubber and plastic are problematic because they’re petroleum products. But again, you can make plastics from plant matter. We don’t much these days because if we’re refining crude for fuel, all the heavier fractions are a practically free byproduct that can undersell anything else; it’s why we have tarmac roads. But we could do it if we needed to and some chemists were still alive.

        On your limitations on farming advances . . . well, depends on your definition of an “advance”. Modern organic farming practices get pretty good yields, but it tends to be more based on a host of little things, individually small innovations in technique, than on one or two big things. And on the other hand, many of these practices, while they get good yield, are fairly labour intensive, so they don’t help with Shamus’ 9 to 1 ratio.
        Modern conventionally-bred seeds are generally as good in terms of yield and often better in many other features (hardiness, drought resistance, adaptation to particular climate) than the patented stuff. Drought resistance also implies less requirement for irrigation, which is good after the fall of civilization. But again, that’s been a gradual process over hundreds of years of breeding slightly better varieties, so you might not want to call it an “advance”.
        Crop rotation schemes shouldn’t be a problem after the apocalypse. There’s hardly any people left –> plenty of land per person. Animal herding would be a useful approach; tends to use a lot of land but not so much labour. Even in the old days, one or two shepherds plus a sheepdog could mind a fairly big herd of sheep.

        Overall I do think even with transportation collapse you could manage to reduce Shamus’ 9 to 1 ration considerably. Keep electricity going mainly with wind (solar panels are tougher in terms of international supply chain, I believe), use land-intensive cultivation approaches, make the modern version of celluloid rather than petroleum-based plastic, plenty of metal available to scavenge for the short to medium term . . . things could be managed.

  9. I think Shamus’ engineering side has a really big problem with irrational behavior on the part of human beings. Civilization is a machine, and it makes no sense if parts of the machine are working against the machine’s purpose, right?

    There are whole swaths of history and places on the planet right now where enlightened self-interest has taken a back seat to fear, greed, superstition, ideology, and a whole raft of other irrational impulses that are actually causing more death, misery, and waste of resources than the initial problem at hand.

    Humans can also survive on a lot of said misery. Look at North Korea and how bleak the system is there and they manage to kind-of-sort-of feed enough people enough of the time to keep chugging along. And that military could come in handy, since for all we know the farming is being done at the point of a gun.

    For another example of negative behavior, look at the current Ebola outbreak. There are people convinced the disease doesn’t exist, that it’s a front for organ harvesting, that it’s a government experiment, that it’s the end times, and so on and so forth when a relatively simple set of behaviors could help curb the spread. Also, many scientists are worried that the longer it goes on, the bigger the chance of mutation to something worse (i.e. an airborne variant). In spite of all of this, people and their leaders aren’t acting in their best interests, and if it were in a video game, I bet it’d drive Shamus nuts. :)

    • Isy says:

      The problem with fiction is it simultaneously displays humanity as less irrational and more irrational than it actually is.

    • Joe Informatico says:

      Part of the problem is, in the real world, there often are explanations for behaviours that seem irrational at first glance. (Not necessarily good ones, but generally understandable ones.) But they require digging into a lot of the social, political, and economical histories of the peoples and regions involved to get a sense of what’s informing their perspective. Good writers can hint at similar complexity in their fiction, but they’re never going to be able to convey it perfectly when we’re dealing with the actions of thousands or millions of individuals over tens or hundreds of years.

  10. Cinebeast says:

    I played this with my mother, and that bit near the beginning with Tess actually broke her sense of disbelief. (Or bent it, anyway.) Joel is a big, big dude, and Tess is built like, well, my mother. When she saw Tess drag Joel over that wall (with one hand too!) she got pretty annoyed.

    • ET says:

      Meh. I think the animations show her struggling enough for me. I mean, she’s probably getting lots of exercise with all the smuggling and looting, so her heaving Joel up the wall seemed OK to me. Like, sufficient bracing, position of her shoulders and arms, etc, for my suspension of disbelief to remain intact. :)

    • RandomInternetCommenter says:

      I’m a grown man in good shape and watching that made me wince in pain. He’s not even trying to make it easy, he runs and jumps. And she catches him with one hand! Most people would dislocate their shoulder in that situation.

      • ET says:

        Upon closer inspection, yeah, he shouldn’t have done that. Like, part-way through he starts using his other hand to help, but he starts out by leaping into her hand, when there was a perfectly sturdy pipe to grab onto. :S

  11. ET says:

    OK, I have a couple for Josh:

    1. Agreed. Punching zombies does seem weird. Me, I was instantly thinking “Wait, isn’t he worried about cutting his hands on the zombie’s teeth and becoming infected?”

    2. What was that symbol at around 15:45? Waggle controls’ indicator?

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      I’ll be a discount Josh.

      The PS3 and PS4 controllers have very limited motion sensing capability, similar to how smart phones can tell if they’re being held vertically or horizontally. Naughty Dog has this mechanic in many of it’s games where crossing some kind of span on a thin object requires you to “balance” the controller so you don’t fall.

      Also yes punching zombies seems pretty bad news bears to me.

  12. Carlos Castillo says:

    What bothers me more than any perceived lack of food generation, which could be hand-waived, or simply not seen (this game unlike fallout 3 is a very directed experience), is “what do the zombies eat?”.

    Aside from possibly each other (see: http://what-if.xkcd.com/105/), there is also the problem that after a few years an infected person becomes a clicker (and later a bloater), who HAVE NO FACE/MOUTH, and thus can’t eat.

    The obvious answer would be photosynthesis, but it seems far-fetched to me that human bodies could effectively use the energy produced via photosynthesis (if at all). Also most plants don’t perform many energy intensive tasks, such as moving, attacking, or having a functioning human brain, and so likely don’t produce much energy that way in the first place.

    • Tizzy says:

      Is there any reason to believe that the zombies survive for very long in those states, though? Don’t parasites often cause the death of their hosts?

      • Hydralysk says:

        I seem to remember reading at one point that an infected eventually finds a new place to lie down and release spores that fill the air and infect others around it, like that corpse at the beginning. I’m not sure what determines which infected do this instead of simply becoming clickers or bloaters though, been a long time since I played it.

      • Joe Informatico says:

        If you dig into the lore, then yes. The “4th stage” of the cordyceps infection arises 1 or 2 decades after the initial infection, meaning there could be infected dating back to the initial outbreak 20 years ago. Which is pretty ridiculous. Thankfully, there are only 5-8 “bloaters” (4th stages) in the game, and you’re only required to fight 2 of them.

        • syal says:

          Going purely off that link: stupid hyper-aggression against humans doesn’t actually rule out farming.

          There are probably zombie Cowboys out there, driving cattle herds from horde to horde.

    • guy says:

      Possibly they draw in nutrients via the fungus, like Zerg and Creep.

    • Grudgeal says:

      Also, fungi don’t have chloroplasts.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      This fungus already exists in real life.The infected insect stops eating,searches for a suitable position to perch itself on,and then pops out a fungus,which then delivers spores to the rest of the colony.It eats its host,it doesnt need anything else.But the infected insect still lives for quite some time before finally dying off.Yes,its creepy as hell.

      • Tizzy says:

        Keeping humans – or really, any invertebrate – alive for that long would be trickier, though.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Not really.An average human can go being alive for about 3 days before they die of thirst.More than enough for it to wonder into a settlement and seed everyone around.

          And we do see these zombies eat a victim,so they presumably can drink as well,meaning they could go on for a couple of weeks before exploding into spores.

    • NMD says:

      Fungus don’t do photosynthesis they depend on their host for energy so that doesn’t make sense to me.

  13. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus,fungus arent plants.They are separate from both plants and animals.

    Also,they establish that the main mode of infection is spores,not bite.

    • Dt3r says:

      Fungi not being plants was bugging me too. I was wondering if anyone else would comment on it.

      Although I give Shamus a break, back in his day Botany included plants. :P

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus,your food nitpicks dont work in a setting like this.First of all,there arent that many soldiers,and even in pre industrial times we had plethora of soldiers manning the forts,and all of them were well fed and provided for,this feels exactly like that.

    Second,just because humans are dying off,it doesnt mean the genetically modified food and farming equipment is suddenly rotting away(the fungus attacks only humans,not animals like in every zombie game out there).

    Third,this isnt a ragtag bunch of survivors that has to be lucky to get the right composition of people,this is a government sanctioned thing,so finding enough experts to maintain proper food strains and equipment is way easier.

    Fourth,people are veeeery numerous,and even if you kill of 9 out of 10 of them,that will still leave us with millions of people in the world,hundreds of thousands in the cities,leaving plenty of population available for farming,industry,etc.

    • There’s also wild game. Unless it’s being zombified, too, there should be loads of it available.

      And there’s a real-world example of a near-9-out-of-10 death rate: Native Americans. Just from disease alone, up to 90%+ of Native American populations in the various parts of the North American continent were wiped out. There was still a sizable Native American presence after that (and the deplorable depopulations by other methods included in the above link).

      And I don’t want to give the impression that I casually equate those events with a video game zombie apocalypse. It’s just a statistical example.

    • ehlijen says:

      Those preindustrial soldiers were supported by a large number of farm workers, though, that’s the point. Without machines providing labour, you’ll be hard pressed to achieve a better than 7 to 3 ratio of required food workers (and soldiers back then also didn’t need a firearms and ammo production support base).

      Genetically engineered food will be among the first things to go, because much of it is infertile. The reason we can’t feed the whole world yet is because it turned out that farmers need to keep buying optimised seed from the production companies each year instead of being able to sow out part of last year’s crop. (We could still feed the world, but the economic realities mean non food cash crops are needed for short time financial survival for most farmers in the world but I digress…)

      And the farming equipment is going to go very much away without fuel, lubrication and enough rubber to replace worn parts. Steel will eventually also need replacement, but that might last 20 years with good care (i.e. plenty of oil and cleaning).

      This all requires not only a government but a trade infrastructure with significant transport assets.

      • Abnaxis says:

        I thought the reason farmers needed to buy seed is because they aren’t legally allowed to. Monsanto sued farmers who tried to resow seeds from grown crops, saying that they were engaged in patent infringement, and won.

        I won’t go into it more than that lest I start a political flamewar, but I don’t know if the farmers are really as dependent on the producers as you say.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          It depends.Some strains actually are infertile,because thats easier to control.But its also harder to implement.At least where I live it is,dont know about the (last of) us.

          • guy says:

            The self-sterilizing variants never went to market after the protests they stirred up. Apparently there are some hybrid seeds where some traits aren’t heritable, though.

            • ehlijen says:

              Huh, I was informed that at least the first few generations of modified seed ended up infertile not by design but because of the mule problem (ie a designer species combining the advantages of both parents but that’s unable to breed more of itself).

              • Peter H. Coffin says:

                The seeds usually will be fertile through other generations, but the traits that the Os were GMed for often don’t survive to the next generation, or don’t present strongly. So if you’ve got a Round Up ready corn that grows one year and you lose 10% to “not as Round Up ready as one would like” that’s a win. The generation after that, maybe only one plant in ten survives the first spraying of Round Up, and all of a sudden your crop yield is 20% of what you’d hoped for, which counts as a miserable failure in farming terms. It might have even been a full field except for the weed-killer immunity issue…

                (And as far as lawsuits from Monsanto et al about gene patents, that quit early on. There wasn’t much money in it, being horrendously expensive to sue farmers that just had their crops fail for reasons above, the problem was largely self-solving, as above, and it was horrible press. There’s actually more lawsuits going the OTHER way now, with organic farmers filing suit against the seed manufacturers because someone used GMO crops in a field a half mile away from them and now their field is contaminated by blown-in pollen.)

  15. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I love that theyve used real life zombies for their monsters.Not only because of “it already exists”,but because its a highly specialized parasite,infecting only one type of animal,leaving the rest intact.So if a human version were to suddenly appear,our farm animals would still remain intact.Its a great way to kill off a bunch of humans without crushing the whole humanity with food scarcity and other problems.Plus when it comes to creepy,nothing beats mother nature.

  16. Geebs says:

    I think the shooting thing is probably the most explainable part, actually. One thing a recreational gun economy does is produce a serious surplus of ammunition, which isn’t that perishable. If you’re already running low on people, I’d imagine that there would be plenty of bullets available for the survivors to wipe themselves out with.

    • Dave B. says:

      Yeah, properly stored ammunition lasts a very long time. I have an antique rifle with which I routinely fire ammunition that was manufactured at least 40 years ago. I’ve used hundreds of rounds, and I don’t think I’ve had a single misfire.

    • ehlijen says:

      The ammo wouldn’t be the problem. For self loading weapons (and even most bolt or pump action ones), you need precisely tooled parts that will wear down with use. 20 years is a lot of time. In use or not doesn’t even matter; you have wear and tear vs corrosion for not being made to move there.

      I think the worst problem will be the springs. Magazines use springs to push ammo up. To make the trigger go back forward after firing, you need springs. To make most bolt designs trigger you need springs. To make autoloaders work you need springs. Even revolvers use springs to return the trigger forward, I’m pretty sure.
      Springs are difficult to make of the right strength and even a bit of corrosion can be dangerous to their integrity.
      They might last 20 years with proper care, but I don’t think they’d be reliable enough to support a standing force with autoloader weapons as standard.

    • straymute says:

      Also an important thing to note is that in this post apocalypse things didn’t fall apart completely. During the outbreak the military took over and stabilized things for the most part. In fact the reason that the fireflies exist is that since the bulk of the crisis has passed they feel that the civilian government should be restored.

      There’s still manufacturing, schools, farming and such going on and the “overwatch” guys are likely just the US national guard. We never see the full extent of what the military has so it was easy enough for me to just assume they had enough to justify what we did actually see.

  17. Patrick the Effervescent says:

    Farming? Dude..they just forage through some old building and find the never ending supply of Nuka-Cola quantum and BlamCo Mac n Cheese. Why do you have to make things so complicated…..?

    • I had a two-part theory for that:

      1. The 200-year-old food & drink was kind of a riff on the preservatives in lots of processed foods (think MREs on steroids), plus the fact that a lot of it was radioactive, either by design (Nuka-Cola) or just because it was out in the open when the bombs hit.

      2. For why PCs find lots of stuff in places that have been wide open for centuries, be it a fantasy realm or a post-apoc wasteland, is that no matter what your character build, you have a knack for scrounging. What seems obvious to the player character, that there’s gold in them thar chests, desks, trashcans, toilets, etc. is something the regular NPC would just overlook. It’s like a superpower that predestines one for adventuring, since otherwise you’d be broke and starve to death if you were a normal person setting out to save the world.

  18. Vermander says:

    I spend a lot of time speculating about the economic and agricultural situation in fictional worlds like this too. In a post apocalyptic world I can sometimes pretend that before the crash they had some sort of advanced food generation method that doesn’t exist in our world and is still mostly working. It’s more annoying in pseudo medieval settings, where the vast majority of the population should be agricultural laborers and the aristocracy should absolutely not be okay with mysterious armed strangers wandering around their lands.

    This article touches on a lot of that:

    http://projectmultiplexer.com/2014/08/31/on-mid-medieval-economics-murder-hoboing-and-100gp/

  19. Jock says:

    This post reminds me of this video, on the Shandification of Fallout. It took me a long time to find it, because I remembered it being a long form discussion on the topic of games, and so actually thought that it was done by Campster.

  20. The Schwarz says:

    I actually think the “see through walls” mechanic in this game works sort of alright (at least on hard difficulty, which I played). It’s very clearly based on noise and hearing, and more than a few times I relied on it a bit too much and walked right into a zombie that was just standing there picking its nose.

  21. RCN says:

    Everyone has something that changes suspension of disbelief into plain old disbelief.

    For me in particular it is human waste. I always scoff when a place doesn’t even have a token outhouse. I shake my head when someone is trapped in a room for days but the room continues pristine when they are rescued. I laugh when a character perform an activity for hours on end without interruption without a break. I know writers purposefully avoid the subject, but when characters keep these strenuous activities without pause, all I can picture is how absolutely filthy their undergarments are.

  22. GoofyFoot says:

    Rutskarn asks, “Where do bullets come from?”

    Well, when a mommy bullet and a daddy bullet love each other very much…

    Sorry…that’s what immediately entered my head when he said that.

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