Tower Trouble – The Last of Us Exercise

The following is a level design exercise where I made a level pitch for a sequence in The Last of Us.

Beat 1 – Linear Narrative

Beat 1 Top Down

Beat 1 – Sequence

Overview: Joel and Ellie traverse through a hotel towards their objective, a bank where Tommy is being held.

  • Party drops down from a hole in the wall into the hotel storage room.
  • In front of them is a pool of dried blood and something written on the wall which can’t be made out.
    1. Dev note: Visual storytelling elements to heighten tension. 
      1. Who died? 
      2. Am I in danger?
  • Turning the party catches a glimpse of the bank. Their goal.
    1. Dev note: Use of a weenie.
  • Completing their left turn before them is a T-junction.
    1. Dev note: Option to explore.
  • Turning left the party sees the rest of the storeroom and find supplies on the shelves. 
    1. Dev note: Items are 1 duct tape, 1 blade and 1 part.
  • Turning 180 degrees the party sees an elevator opposite them. 
    1. Dev note: Blood is continued tension breadcrumb.
  • Approaching they see the elevator is tightly sealed leaving them with no option but to take the blood stained path to the right. 
  • The party proceeds down the partially collapsed hallway.
  • The party must shimmy through the gap of the partially collapsed door.
    1. Dev note: Turning tension up with use of confined space and obscure end.
  • On making it through the partially collapsed door the party sees a blocked entrance into what looks like a bar. However, the they cannot enter as it has been blockaded from the other side.
    1. Dev note: Dried pool of blood, ominous sign of what happened inside.
  • They notice the other doors are locked.
  1. The party sees that there is a small overgrown skypool ahead of them. They jump into the water to proceed.
  • They immediately notice a floating corpse that is covered in algae. They proceed cautiously. Reaching near the corpse a shiv is seen protruding from it. The player may choose to take it. Upon taking it the body remains lifeless. No infected here! Phew!
    1. Devnote: Use of algae to try mask potential infected for added tension.
  • As they move towards the other side, cracks at the bottom of the pool can be seen ahead of them. The skypool is not stable. When walking over the cracking sounds are heard.
    1. Dev note: Fear of falling a source of tension. 
      1. Paintover white cracks are illustration of point only.
  • Making it across the skypool the party sees a hallway that is mostly collapsed.
  • Climbing on to the platform from the debris a glimpse of an open door is visible in the distance. Also a hole that looks like it can be traversed by crouching can be seen.
  • The other side of the bar is open from this side of the skypool.
    1. Devnote: Providing multiple routes for exploration.
  • The party holds off pursuing the door behind the debris and enters the bar. There is lots of dry blood and it seems the hotel residents had tried to defend themselves from one side by barricading the door. But from what it seems an explosive and firearms was used by an invading force on the other side causing the barricade to break and wall to collapse. 
  • The party makes their way to the bar and find a rag and alcohol.
  • The party turns and sees another item.
    1. Devnote: Use light from nearby destruction to highlight the item.
  • Exiting the bar the party continues to the find the door behind the debris.
  • The party crouches to proceed through the debris.
  • They enter a corridor with another view to the bank.
  • The party arrives at the debris door.
  • The party sees a flight of stairs, and hopes to use these stairs to descend!
  • The party must jump across to the other stair landing to proceed.
    1. Devnote: Prevent backtracking.
  • The party goes downwards hoping to take the stairs all the way to the bottom but oh noes! The stairs are destroyed!
    1. Devnote: Hide the destroyed stairs beneath to subvert expectations.
  •  The party exits the stair as the lower floor to enter the hotels sky lounge.

Beat 2 – Combat/Stealth

Overview: Joel and Ellie traverse to a Skylounge to get to an elevator to continue their descent down towards the bank.

Beat 2 Top Down


1. Storm the bar!

  • Strategy: Attack the bar directly.
  • Pro: If the two bar soldiers are successfully defeated then the player has total cover with a height advantage.
  • Cons: Assaulting two soldiers head on is dangerous.
  • Tips: The bar has a rag and bottle which can be used to craft a molotov cocktail!

2. Funnel them!

  • Strategy: Attack the first enemy you see and retreat to the corner behind you.
  • Pro: Good defensive position to fight from.
  • Cons: Likely no enemies kill so expect heavy fire.
  • Tip: Use the supplement for survivability if you can before engaging!

3. Assassinate! 

  • Strategy: Assassinate the outlier guards and then kill the center two.
  • Pro: Can half the enemy forces before combat even starts.
  • Cons: If seen can be caught in disadvantageous position.
  • Tip: Use the shiv to assist with dispatching and the nearby brick with distracting


  • Strategy: Sneak past the guards.
  • Pro: If successful have conserved supplies and avoided risk.
  • Cons: Tough to pull off due to vigilant guards.

The following is an example of a successful stealth run. I present intended gameplay in phases purely for clarity purposes.

Guard behaviors:

  • Two guards at bar spent one phase idle starting in one direction, then next phase they move to each other and have a chat.
  • Two guards towards the windows continually patrol in a square pattern.

Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3

Phase 4

Phase 5

Phase 6

Phase 7

Phase 8 – Complete!

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