Originally, a Rat King is a collection of rats whose tails are intertwined and bound together by one of several possible mechanisms, such as entangling material like hair or sticky substances like sap or gum or getting tied together. However, the Rat King soon became a popular horror creature featured in many famous novels by Stephen King, Annie Proulx, Daniel Kraus and Chris Wooding. Games like the Last of Us are not strangers to this kind of monstrosities. Therefore, Naughty Dog included a Rat King as a result of the Cordyceps virus in their latest release, The Last of Us Part 2. According to most players and fans of the franchise, the Rat King is ranked as the scariest enemy from the TLOU universe.
The company wanted to introduce the Rat King to their games for some time before but couldn’t find where to put him. “Even during development of the first game, we were thinking about what two infected stuck together would look like,” says Anthony Newman, co-director of The Last of Us 2. “Visually, it was just a really exciting idea.” In addition, during the original The Last of Us development, sketches of this monster appeared, but the Rat King was never added to the game until the release of Part 2.
In the sequel, the developers seized to opportunity to include this horrible foe to Abby’s story. “We wanted Abby to have this really intense thing that she overcomes, because she’s kind of on this redemption mission to get the supplies for Yara’s arm,” explains co-director Kurt Margenau, “and so it seemed like the perfect place for the Rat King. She’s gone through all of these trials: Overcoming her fear of heights climbing to the sky bridge, fighting through hordes of infected on the way down, and coming out the other side thinking the worst was over – only to be thrown right into this nightmare boss fight.”
A small side note here, special thanks to Beau Anthony Jimenez for the awesome roars and howls that he composed for the Rat King. “The only information I had at first was concept art, design prototypes, blockmesh level art, and prototype motion-capture animations,” says Jimenez. “It seemed like an exciting but daunting task, requiring a lot of high-level conceptual work and sound design. I knew that if I finished all the other infected sound design first, I could use those assets as layers in my final vocal designs of the Rat King. It wasn’t until quite late in production where I went all-out on fleshing it out and finalizing its sound.”
“Initially, the introduction was a jump scare,” he says, reflecting on the earliest days of development. “That didn’t excite me, because I felt it wasn’t enough time to tell the sonic story of the Rat King. I fell in love with this idea that you start to hear something coming in the distance, and that your preconceptions of infected sounds will try to fill in the gaps as to what exactly was approaching.” Jimenez continued. “A lot of inspiration came from the mutant bear scene in Annihilation, which was why you hear the blood-curdling stalker cries initially. The player may think a clicker or stalker is approaching… but a couple seconds in, the cries pitch down into a rumble, which vibrate objects inside the ambulance with subsonic bellows. I felt that this approach raised the spook-factor to the nth degree.”
The addition of the Rat King to The Last of Us Part 2 was really hard for Naughty Dog’s team. “To achieve the ultimate capture solution that we ended up using for the game assets, we built a cage on large caster wheels,” Yates recalls. “We knew our two actors would need to be incredibly strong and have a lot of endurance for this shoot, so we had the stunt actor Chris Robbins play the bloater half and pro parkour athlete Jesse La Flair play our stalker.
Jesse has incredible upper body strength from his parkour athleticism and was able to build in the ravaged dog movement we were looking for. These two actors were joined at the hips again, but the cage held Jesse in somewhat of a hammock that kept most of his body weight off of his arm. This gave him explosive speed with his left arm and allowed Chris, and a number of assistants, to move and swing the cage around very quickly.”
The Last of Us is truly an amazing game combining smooth gameplay with video-game art. In case you’ve missed it, be sure to read everything about future multiplayer and DLCs. If you enjoyed the article and want to support the site, feel free to throw a like at our official facebook page.