Concept Artist Nick Gindraux was tasked with the design of a homemade flamethrower for protagonist Joel in Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. Here is what he came up with.
“I started working at Naughty Dog during the last eight months of production, so I did a lot of specific designs like the flamethrower, but also things like landscaping and geology.
Bruce [Straley, Game Director] came to me and told me that they wanted to add a flamethrower to the game to take down infected and other enemies. They thought it would be a fun element to add even though it was at a later stage of development. Some of the parameters were very specific. It had to look like someone built this thing in their backyard with objects that are easily available.
At the studio we always do tons of research before we move forward on anything and this was no exception. I watched a lot of videos of homemade flamethrowers. People apparently build flamethrowers all the time in their backyard. I got so much useful information from the website HowStuffWorks.com. There are three basic elements, air pressure, fuel and ignition. And with that in mind I set out to work.
It started with a first round of sketches. I did four different ones, trying all sorts of combinations and shapes and mechanisms that could work in real life. I used things like a crutch, or a CO2 canister from paintball guns, or a handlebar from a bike. Things like that. Our Lead Foreground Artist Mike Hatfield suggested that the ammo could be a small propane tank you would take for camping. All the basic elements you need to get a homemade flamethrower to work are there in different types, sizes and lengths.
After that first round reactions were mixed. They liked some of them, but in order for most of these designs to work they had to make new animations, like specific ways for Joel to hold the flamethrower and to reload. Something they didn’t want to do in this stage of development. So we decided on something he could already hold and figured that the M16 was the perfect size for the flamethrower.
So I took a screenshot of Joel holding the assault rifle in the game and started designing right on top of it to make sure the proportions were exactly the same. It also gave me a good idea of what the fire would look like when it shoots out of the nozzle. It answered more questions, like how he pulls the trigger, where his hand is placed and what we can do to protect his hand from the heat.
I made about 10 designs before the final version was decided upon. I thought it looked cool, not quite sure if it would work in real life but that’s not the point, is it? It just has to look believable. After that my job is pretty much done. I pass it on to the effects artists and the foreground artists that make most of the guns in the game and they do awesome stuff. I mean the final design looked exactly like what I had designed, so for me it was very impressive to see it in game.
The flamethrower was really fun to make. I wanted to actually build this thing in real life but unfortunately I never got around to actually do it, haha!”