The Last of Us EP23: Raider Radar

By Shamus
on Nov 20, 2014
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

I just want to say that I think our team has devised the best Agent 47 fanfiction to date. I’m so happy we could achieve this together.

Like I said in the episode, these “bandits” in the woods are a lot less objectionable than the ones in Pittsburgh, or the ones that assaulted the power plant last episode. It’s a small-ish group of guys and we’re (possibly) invading their territory. The group is small enough and mobile enough that they could plausibly forage for a living.

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202020426 comments.

From the Archives:

  1. Hitch says:

    I’ve never played a Hitman game, but would totally buy one written by Rutskarn.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    We seriously need to train actual game directors.People that know how to integrate interactivity with the story in a coherent and consistent way.Who will look at the story and tell the level designer what to place where,or that who will look at a level and tell the writer exactly what kind of a story to write.I mean,thats what directors in movie already are doing.They dont just give the music team complete freedom to write whatever without telling them anything about the scene they are composing stuff for.And that kind of person is still lacking from this young medium.

    • MichaelGC says:

      a certain specific young person does indeed spring to mind.

    • James says:

      Indie games (some of them) do a good job integrating narrative and gameplay into one cohesive unit, alot of A AA and AAA games have an issue, even if they are wonderfully written and acted of being gameplay STOP cutscene of narrative STOP gameplay, some might try and tell some story in level design and environment, but rarely with gameplay. this might be why games like Papers Please do so well critically.

      However some or alot of players don’t care about the story or the narrative or sometimes level design they just want to shot mans. and as the at least seemingly they are the main demo of consumers alot of games even ones trying to tell a story have to appeal to them to make money.

      And thus we get games in which Narrative and Gameplay are made by two team in two rooms (or buildings or in the case of ubisoft continents) and then sewn together later.

      Perhaps as the average age of gamers goes up and the demos become more spreadout and diverse, well get games with expertly woven narratives intertwined with gameplay and art design with the budgets and polish of a AAA game. until then it is to the indie we look for aid. Light the beacons!

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        “Indie games (some of them) do a good job integrating narrative and gameplay into one cohesive unit, alot of A AA and AAA games have an issue”

        Thats because indies are usually a vision of a single man or a small handful of people,which is easy to make into a single coherent narrative.AAA games are usually a project involving hundreds of people and sometimes more than a single developer,which necessitates that the person in charge be a good director.However,as Ive stated,games are a young medium,so video game directing is not something people can learn in school,but rather have to grasp it on the fly,which is extremely difficult while at the same time you have to coordinate all these teams and money.So the project lead is usually not involved with actual minutia of the narrative and consistency of the game.

        “However some or alot of players don’t care about the story or the narrative or sometimes level design they just want to shot mans. and as the at least seemingly they are the main demo of consumers alot of games even ones trying to tell a story have to appeal to them to make money.”

        Thats completely untrue.A lot of movie goers dont care about the story or the narrative,yet when something like inception or the dark night comes along they are all more then thrilled.They will gladly give money to a drek like transformers to watch with friends and eat popcorn and never look back,but they when they see a good movie they will also discuss it for years to come.Parents will gladly sit their kids in front of drek like smurfs so they can have an hour or two of peace and quiet,but when they see something like the lego movie,theyll gladly join in.

        Same is true for music,books,paintings,…And same is true for games.Sure,most people will gladly play anything with their friends,but when they stumble upon a gem that engages their brain as well as satisfy their superficial need for SHINY PIXULZ,it will stay with them for a long long time.

        Mindless entertainment has its place,definitely,but to say that its best to focus only on it is outright wrong.

    • Abnaxis says:

      John Carmack once infamously said that “Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.”

      It’s a crass thing to say and it spawned more controversy than discussion, but that quote has a kernel of truth to it: The point of a video game is not to tell a linear story, it is to provide a compelling interactive experience. In that sense, story is only valuable in a video game as far as it enriches the interactive experience, and if a designer has to choose between making their gameplay more affective versus making their narrative more affective, the latter should hold a higher priority. A similar, less inflammatory vernacular, which I have seen repeated here many times by many people including you, is “Do, don’t show.”

      That’s why it bugs me to no end when I see these posts that just assume the game is the way it is because the game designers were inept. What you are effectively asking the designers to do, is sacrifice a message they are trying to convey through interactivity–that people are as much of a threat in an undead apocalypse as the zombies are–so that the gameplay doesn’t conflict with the linear narrative as much.

      I haven’t played TLOU. I am not a fanboi. However, from what I’ve seen in this SW, it is clear that the designers want to give the player a credible human threat, so that it can drive home some of the themes in their narrative. The problem is, it takes a lot of enemies in order to properly make player feel threatened. If they tried to cut the raider enemies down to “realistic” sustainable numbers, they would have to increase their challenge to such a degree that the game would devolve into a DIAS state. For this, and for other reasons (like, “we want the player to feel threatened, not disgusted”) the designers went for less “realistic” enemies, that have ten times more population they could reasonably feed and that charge suicidal into battle with minimal in-narrative justification.

      There are possibly well-intended, understandable justifications for why TLOU has been constructed the way it is. A lot of time and a lot of thought probably went into making the game. Writing off any blemishes as “well, the designers didn’t know what they were doing” is trivializing a complex design issue, and comes off as pretentious, especially when you are watching and not participating. Time would be better spent on asking what purpose the aberrant raider sequences were trying to serve and how that might be done better in a game design environment, than in writing them off as silly-pants nonsense that shouldn’t exist.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        “What you are effectively asking the designers to do, is sacrifice a message they are trying to convey through interactivity–that people are as much of a threat in an undead apocalypse as the zombies are–so that the gameplay doesn’t conflict with the linear narrative as much.”

        Thats precisely the opposite of what Im saying.The message they are trying to convey is being hurt by the clash between the narrative and the gameplay.If the two were better combined,the message would come off stronger,not weaker.I am asking for the game to be improved,for better synergy between its elements,not for sacrificing one in favor of the other.

        “The problem is, it takes a lot of enemies in order to properly make player feel threatened.
        .
        .
        .”

        Thats factually wrong,and Ive already brought up two examples(I am alive and this war of mine)where the human threat is much more credible,and more believable because it doesnt come in waves.Both those games are set ruined cities(one in an apocalypse of sorts,the other in a war),both have scarcity of resources,and both have raiders that are an enormous danger to the player,yet they appear only ever so often and in really small numbers,and are just as ill equipped as the player.Contrast it to here,where they have a freaking tank.And not just a tank,but a tank that is somehow able to sniff the player all the way across the river.

        “the designers went for less “realistic” enemies, that have ten times more population they could reasonably feed and that charge suicidal into battle with minimal in-narrative justification.”

        And thats perfectly fine,when you dont actively try to make the rest of the game uber realistic as they did.When you try to do both,the jump is jarring and it ruins the whole experience.

        “Writing off any blemishes as “well, the designers didn’t know what they were doing” is trivializing a complex design issue, and comes off as pretentious, especially when you are watching and not participating.”

        Except I wasnt the one trivializing it,it was Rihanna Pratchet(Galaxy Gun mentioned that interview in this episode).Granted,she was talking about tom braider and why the enemies were so numerous there,but its not that big of a leap to assume similar thing went on here because the results are so similar.

        Its not really ineptitude thats the problem,its lack of knowledge.We have plenty of talented people,but once they become a project lead,they have to learn things on the fly,because plenty of it is new to everyone,not just them.They have no clue what works and what doesnt until they try it.And its understandable,because the industry is young.But it has to change in order for it to become better.Thats why I love stuff like extra credits that try to improve it.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Also,guys,this war of mine is exactly the game you are looking for.The stuff you get to do in it(loot,sneak,rob,hide,run away,…)is the story of the game.Your team is impacted by what actions you make them do,for better or for worse.Its great.

    • James says:

      I think it was TB who said on the co optional podcast that he robbed a house which happened to have an elderly couple in it, they surrendered as they are old and cant fight back, and that made him feel like shit as they obviously wouldn’t survive without what he took. and the character who did it also felt terrible to the point of being suicidal which made TB feel worse. this was without saying to the player they should feel sad with slow piano music and a kid being blown up by a space lazor.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Guys,when people say theres a lot of bareback riding in las vegas,they arent referring to the horses.

  5. Hale Burns says:

    In regards to the conversation on walking around a horse, you can actually safely walk behind them with your hand on their flank. While I come from one of the urban centers in California, there were some stables nearby my house I briefly volunteered at, and my job was to teach beginning riders how to handle horses both before and during a ride.

    Most people were encouraged to simply walk out of the horse’s kicking range, but the instructors were taught that as long as the horse knew you were there to begin with, a properly trained horse would not kick you if you kept your hand on their flank the whole time you were walking around them. So it isn’t wrong, simply discouraged because of the potential danger.

    • Groboclown says:

      I’m going to second this – my English style and cutting horse instructors all told me this was fine to put the hand on the flank. One said that she just plays with the horse’s tail when she walks behind her horse.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      Basically it’s that if the horse knows you’re there and just standing or walking there, it’ll assume you’re fine because you haven’t done anything, but if it glances back and sees you there its instincts will tell it you just ran up behind it for a sneak attack?

      My only experience with horse is eating some. It’s delicious, like beef, only leaner and a little sweeter.

      • Hale Burns says:

        Yeah, you don’t want to come up on them from behind unannounced since they can’t really see back there. You could easily spook them and then end up on the wrong end of their hooves. It’s always a better idea to come from the front and the side, and once they’ve realized you’re there they’ll be less inclined to kick.

  6. djshire says:

    Bandits? I love bandits!

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Since youve mentioned telltale and borderlands,did you hear that telltale is making a borderlands adventure?

  8. silver Harloe says:

    Ellie got killed by a random thug, but Joel snapped and made up the post apocalypse in his mind to justify his revenge-fueled random killing spree. The constant supply of raiders are really cops, and the zombies are just random innocents.
    (yeah, I know, it doesn’t *actually* fit this interpretation)

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The last of us is actually silent hill US.

    • MrGuy says:

      It was actually a car accident when Joel was driving drunk and drove into a brick wall. This explains Joel’s obsession with bottles and bricks. It also explains all the cars looming in this story – the quest to get a car, the trap that causes his car accident (need I say more?), getting chased by a nightmare shooting car. OH MY GOD I CAN SEE THE MUSIC!!!

  9. guy says:

    I can’t object too heavily to the idea of raiders assaulting the power plant. It’s inhabited and fairly well-supplied, so it’s a sensible target for a large-scale assault by a sufficiently powerful group of raiders.

    Also don’t have your objections to the “Ellie isn’t like other girls” stuff. It’s all struck me as her being baffled by pre-apocolypse concepts, just like how she acted during the motorcycle conversation.

    • Joe Informatico says:

      How does the large band of raiders assemble in the first place and plan such an undertaking? What resources are they already living off of, if they don’t have agriculture and need protection from zombies the same as anybody else? If survival is the goal, wouldn’t it be easier to just ask to join the community, providing a share of labour in exchange for food and shelter?

      • ? says:

        It’s the timing that is super videogamey. If power plant was operational for some time I would buy that small gangs of raiders and scavengers from all over the place banded together to storm such valuable target. But instead we get bandits spawning because event was triggered. Planning such assault would take lot of time, they couldn’t know when (or even if) power plant will be repaired, and without electricity it’s just another small group claiming territory that was previously unclaimed so clearly nobody thought it’s valuable enough on it’s own.
        At least Pittsburgh bandits were hand waved to some extent. Yeah, they won’t survive the winter with their strategy. But relatively fresh corpses of soldiers and fireflies suggest that this will be their first winter without military protection, and they are in for a surprise. They were not raiders with 20 years of experience, they were city slickers doing their impression of raider lifestyle. “Travellers always told us that raiders shoot everyone on sight, so that’s what we will do”

        Why attack instead of joining? Because there is no guarantee that you will be allowed in (or even that you won’t be shot on sight), there might not be enough room for everyone applying (and those turned down might not take no for an answer), if you established some position of power/respect within your group it will not carry over to the new place and you will have to start from the bottom (or if you are certain that your comrades are loyal to you this might be the reason why you are turned down, nobody needs a competition), also you might not get fair share of food and shelter for that labour(assuming your labour is even needed in settlement that has it’s shit figure out) if you are desperate. There are a lot of variables here that may affect peoples decision to take chances storming the castle rather than ask for help from position of weakness. If humans never exploited each other, always shared fairly and backed away from conflict we wouldn’t have so many bloody wars.

        • Thomas says:

          I think what got me about the attack was that they were already inside. That just seems like complete nonsense. Especially since the tour through the power plant with Tommy was triggering my “They’re showing us these places so we can have a fight scene later” senses.

          If someone actually assaulted the walls of the power plant it would have felt a little better, especially if the lady accuses Joel of bringing raiders to their door. It doesn’t have to be true but it would feel more reasonable.

          My opinion generally on the raiders is that:
          *Replacing them with zombies is a horrible idea unless you change the zombie mechanics.
          *There are waaaay too many raiders in each encounter. If every fight in the game was between 4 or 5 people (but with the AI and aiming sway tuned to make the fights harder), it would help so much.

          Rutskarn joked about “The Last of US and 10000 Raiders”, but that was genuinely the thing that was bothering me through the game in an emotional sense. I couldn’t get a sense of these as post-apocalypti groups of people because they all had way too many grunts.

          Normally the first wave and fight are fine, but then they just keep sending them at you when they should have stopped.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            “If every fight in the game was between 4 or 5 people (but with the AI and aiming sway tuned to make the fights harder), it would help so much.”

            I am alive is(for the most part)well tuned when it comes to this.You will always fight small groups of people,up to five,and of those only occasionally will one or two have guns(with at most 1 or 2 bullets).And considering that you will usually enter those fights with 1 or 2 bullets of your own,those are all pretty intense.Especially since every physical exertion drains your stamina(used for climbing and melee combat),making it entirely possible for you to get exhausted and quickly be killed.

    • Isy says:

      It’s more that her confusion trends – isn’t always, but trends – towards bafflement over stereotypical “girly” things. Wanting to be thin? Clothes? Boys? Does not compute! And obviously, a girl in the apocalypse wouldn’t get it, no. But the things the writers choose to show her reacting to sends a message.

      Imagine if instead of the girl’s diary, she was looking at some old video games. “You mean people sat around and pretended to murder other people for fun?”

      (Cue SpecOps: The Line.)

      • Chamomile says:

        The things that fourteen year old girls do and talk about in the real world are contrasted to Ellie in order to demonstrate her lost innocence and how the apocalypse has robbed her (as well as Sam and other people their age) of their childhood. She is occasionally repulsed by pre-apocalypse ideas, like calling people who starve themselves for look stupid, but in this episode what we see feels more like envy. She is angry at these pre-apocalypse people not because they are girly, but for having everything she wants and not being deliriously happy about it. The fact that our society happens to push a sub-culture of total ignorance of violent ugliness for women and naive indulgence in simulated violent ugliness for men is interesting on its own but irrelevant to the point the game is making – both of them will appear painfully naive and shallow to people who have firsthand and lifelong experience with violent ugliness, and yet both of them will be envied for not having had that experience.

        • Isy says:

          My point isn’t that this isn’t a believable reaction from Ellie, nor that she isn’t feeling envy. My point is the game creators (who are not living in an apocalypse) made a deliberate choice on what things Ellie reacted to, and how she framed her reaction. And while her reaction might have envy under the surface, on the surface it’s plainly dismissive. “Is this really all they had to worry about?”

          And this matches with a current narrative in today’s media, where “cool girls” think all that fashion and dieting and boy stuff is dumb. The fact it makes sense for Ellie does not mean it challenges that narrative. If she’d reacted to the pre-apocalypse life of both genders, that would have challenged the narrative. Maybe she does in later episodes, but she hasn’t yet.

          • guy says:

            Uh, yes she has. Remember the motorcycle bit? The only way that’s particularly different from this is that we don’t expect girls to be interested in motorcycles. As such, it lacks the contrast of her being dismissive of dieting and boys.

            • Isy says:

              I don’t particularly feel she was dismissive during that scene. Maybe you disagree, and I can see that. It was clear she didn’t get it, but her response was precisely that, not “wow, that’s ridiculous!” Note that she doesn’t make fun of Sam wanting that equally useless robot toy. Note that she’s perfectly happy reading equally silly comic books. Note that in the motorcycle scene, the guys are there to defend it. “No no no, you don’t get it, Ellie!”

              But when confronted with the girly stuff, there’s no girls to step up and defend it. Hell, there’s no girls in the game who we can even imagine defending it. One again, I’m not arguing that this doesn’t make sense with the characters presented. But the characters and situations were all created by the game designers, and they all form a certain narrative.

              Much like the discussion of whether Tess was shoved in the fridge to give Joel motivation, these ideas are not badly done. They just exist in a medium where the tropes have been badly done, to death.

  10. ehlijen says:

    I’m wondering how much this raider criticism is fueled by most of the cast watching rather than playing.

    Obviously there is a disconnect, but like any flaw, it becomes more obvious the more time the audience has to study the work in detail. If you’re a player getting swept up by the combat, it might work a lot better than if you watch someone play the game?

    Or course the sweeping up needs to actually work and it’s not a cure-all even when it does, but I think the Spoiler Warning format exacerbates such problems.

    That’s not to say I dislike the show (far from it!), but I did notice that most of the nit picking is done by those not playing. Is that a causal link or just because that’s the personalities involved?

    • James says:

      its been said before i think that josh is super super busy when recording, he is playing, listening to the game to know whats happening, listening to vent to discuss things, keeping one eye on the stream so things don’t die. and trying to play at a accelerated pace to keep the show from being 400 episodes long,

      Fallout 3 and NV were both like 50+ eps long, and Josh missed alot of content in both, and also had to try not to play like you or i would at home, looting everything being careful not to aggro too much, i might spend 3 or 4 hours in a single dungeon, and josh does all of Dead Money in that long

      EDIT: also trying to keep each section somewhat as a whole thing so eps don’t cut weirdly in post, and editing can be a long ass time. with syncing and then micro cutting things to make it flow smoothly.

    • Rutskarn says:

      I did address that, either this video or next–I forget, can’t check.

      Basically, I think I wouldn’t notice the disconnect. That’s pretty damning praise, though. Everything else in the game and its story is *worth* noticing. Why couldn’t this be?

      • Thomas says:

        You definitely notice it a lot less because it’s pretty well paced in gameplay terms, I think it’s still visible towards the end of Pittsburg and towards the end of the David section. Maybe in the power plant fight too.

        The thing is, even the environment design and combat feel basically fits well with the tone of the story. I don’t know why their encounter design is so bad at it -_-

        Even the Uncharted games always felt like they had too much combat.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Shamus notices this stuff even when he is playing.If you ever read his thoughts on fallout 3,youd see the same kinds of questions way before they recorded the spoiler warning for that one.

    • Groboclown says:

      Now, I haven’t played the game, but I happen to agree with the comments that the shooty-bits are disconnected to the story.

      One easy fix for this would be to have some of the shoot-guy be goal oriented, rather than just shoot all the mans. Build the tension to be more than just “Get Joel out alive.” For this bit in the hydro plant, it could be something as simple as, “Ellie is way over there, I’m over here, and there’s raiders between us. I need to get to Ellie.” That, combined with some well placed (e.g. not annoyingly repetitive) distant screams or even Joel making verbal comments would help remind the player about the goal.

  11. Neko says:

    Could you do Hitman 22 as a mod somehow?

  12. BeardedDork says:

    Nevada has more wild horses than any other state.

  13. ACman says:

    Aww. When Shamus said “horse outside” I was hoping for a rendition of ‘Horse Outside’ by the Rubberbandits.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=ljPFZrRD3J8#t=64

  14. MrGuy says:

    What’s our vector, Victor?

  15. Isy says:

    The bit with Tommy is so interesting because Joel screws up with Ellie, a lot. But he’s pretty clear he’s aware of this, and is trying to get her in the hands of someone who isn’t as damaged as he is. Is cowardice a part of it? Oh hell yes. But Tess summed it up nicely: “We’re shitty people, Joel.” In some ways, Joel seems more aware than the audience – everyone wants him to shape up and take responsibility, but Joel seems aware he can’t. He knows there’s no happy ending here, even if everyone else thinks there is. And he knows he’ll be disastrous for Ellie in the long run.

    • Thomas says:

      This part of the game is when he’s at his best to me. Sure he’s making cruddy decisions, but he’s making cruddy decisions for reasons he wouldn’t have even considered a year ago.

      And he actually listens to Ellie and lets _her_ feelings influence his. I feel like he loses this later on after he’s had Ellie for a while, but this moment in the game is the one that really makes me feel sorry for Joel.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Not me.I understand the guy and his actions,but I still think he is a massive dick.

      • Isy says:

        I disagree with you because I don’t think that Joel changed that much from here to later on. I think he realizes now that if he lets Ellie in, he is not going to be able to handle it. The unfortunate things that happen later on are a natural progression of Joel’s personality up to that point, to the point where it’s almost impossible to imagine him acting another way. And I think he knows it.

        It’s a bit of a contradiction because it’s clear the man is completely out of synch with his own emotions, but in some ways he seems to understand himself better than anyone else. The conflict, really, seems to be between himself and the audience. The audience wants him to shape up and love again. Joel realizes that it’s not going to turn out well if he does – there is no possible way for him to just flick a switch and undo twenty years of self-inflicted psychological damage.

        • Thomas says:

          Okay so at this point in the game Ellie outpours a load of her feelings to Joel, Joel listens to her and then changes his actions drastically according to those feelings.

          At the end of the game, Ellie outpours a load of her feelings to Joel, Joel dismisses her feelings, tells her how she should feel and then continues doing exactly what he was doing before, despite what she said.

          I think that’s the difference between current Joel and end Joel. At the moment he’s still fighting himself, by the end he’s stopped fighting and let the worst of him rule.

  16. Alex says:

    “So how did Ellie get past the Red Team base back there?”

    That’s easy – she charged through the camp when they weren’t expecting anyone. By the time you followed her they were all alert and pissed off, ready to shoot the next guy to try it.

    • Chamomile says:

      Sure, and the raider attack on the power plant could’ve been a push by a powerful warlord who’s been uniting raider tribes and is now hitting juicy, well-defended targets in order to get lots of plunder, kidnap valuable experts, and solidify his control over the region. The people of Pittsburg may be following a cult guru who’s indoctrinated them into the necessity of killing all “tourists” in order to please the corticeps god and spare them all from infection. The guys just outside Pittsburg might get attacked by raiders frequently enough that when Joel and company show up they just assume you’re raiders and lay into you, and that one’s not even too implausible. But nothing in the game actually indicates that any of these is the case, and all you do by providing explanations that the game doesn’t is prove that they could’ve had all the manshootz they wanted and still had a mostly coherent game if only they’d bothered to stop and think about it.

      • Isaac says:

        Alex’s explanation actually makes sense

        • Chamomile says:

          All of the explanations make sense. If you don’t think killer cults and ambitious warlords aren’t plausible apocalyptic enemies whose mooks will do things that aren’t very optimal for them, personally, you don’t know much about historical apocalypse eras. The point is that providing sensible explanations only further condemns the makers of the game for failing to provide those explanations themselves.

  17. Grudgeal says:

    Is it just me, or did those raiders consist almost entirely of black people?

    …I’m not sure entirely how I should feel about that. It could just be an oversight, or a random number generator thing. I mean, I’m pretty certain those Pittsburgh raiders were almost entirely white.

  18. Parkhorse says:

    Parkhorse!

  19. bloodsquirrel says:

    I find it weird how they treat being infected like the threat (Ellie isn’t worried because she’s immmune), when plenty of zombies will just kill you outright, and there are even more bandits around trying to shoot you. You’re not immune to bullets, Ellie.

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