Back in 2008, Neil Druckmann had an idea for a graphic novel based around a father-daughter zombie tale. He and game director Bruce Straley saw the cordyceps fungus segment of the BBC series Planet Earth, which turned into a major source of inspiration for The Last of Us's plot.
At the time, both men were working on Uncharted 2. After the development of that game had finished, some members of Naughty Dog began work on The Last of Us, while others moved on to what would eventually become Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception.
The game was first teased on a billboard in Times Square in November 2011, featuring the tagline "a PS3 exclusive you won't believe". Initial teaser trailers hinted at an apocalyptic event, including riots, epidemic, quarantine, and violence, as well as a clip of the BBC's Planet Earth showing an ant infected with Cordyceps unilateralis, a dangerous parasitic fungus that usually kills insects such as ants.
On December 9, players of Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception spotted an in-game reference to the game in the form of a newspaper headline which stated that "scientists are still struggling to understand deadly fungus".
At the Spike Video Game Awards, Sony officially unveiled the game, which is a brand new intellectual property from Naughty Dog, created by a previously unpublicized 80-person Naughty Dog development team, marking both the first time that Naughty Dog has become a two-team studio and the first time that it has introduced a second new IP in the same hardware generation.
The first gameplay trailer was released at the same time and featured a man and a teenage girl fending off other survivors and what appeared to be people with unusual fungal growth, before running out into a dilapidated city covered in greenery.
|“||The Last of Us is a genre-defining experience that blends survival and action elements to tell a character driven tale about a modern plague decimating mankind. Nature encroaches upon civilization, forcing remaining survivors to kill for food, weapons and whatever they can find. Joel, a ruthless survivor, and Ellie, a brave young teenage girl who is wise beyond her years, must work together to survive their journey across what remains of the United States.||”|