Sometimes… mostly in the middle of the night… when I finish a new covers series and take a glimpe at the clock, I wonder why I keep doing this? Why I stay up long into the night when I know I’ll have to get up for another day’s work five hours later. And why I meticulously scan the whole internet for that one perfect template, retouch every dot and reallign every line and keep fiddling and tweaking until the very last pixel perfectly sits in its right spot. It’s a ridiculous amount of time I’m spending on these things, it’s crazy.
But when I observe my newly created covers, it dawns on me time and time again: This is what artists do! We make compromises and go to our limits to deliver the best possible work of which we are capable. This is what we love to do and – let’s be honest here – we can’t sleep anyway, until every little detail is nothing but perfect.
And with Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us gamers worldwide could learn first hand what is possible when artists reach for the utmost perfection. This game is a narrative and staged masterpiece – and I can say that wholeheartedly without ever owning a PS3 or even the game itself.
The Last of Us works on so many levels. It’s not only a great game to play (I was told), but also an excellent example of good storytelling, a fascinating characterization of disparate human beings and a mirror reflecting our society in an admittedly exaggerated end times dystopia.
I wasn’t really urged to create custom covers for Gustavo Santaolalla’s soundtrack album, since the original artwork transported the mood of the game very well. But when the ad machinery got going, publicity was pleased with countless promotion stills, renderings and wallpapers. And as usual… you know the story.
For the first few custom covers I’ve used various promo-material from Naughty Dog. It’s no wonder almost all key art out there focuses on the characters (and I would like to expressly include the desolate environment here), rather than the action elements or – surprisingly – the infected. There’s one for supporters of gender equality with switched roles of Joel and Ellie (#2), an atmospheric picture that literally begged to be cropped to square (#3) and a really beautiful shot that stood out from the crowd with its vibrant colours and crystal clarity (#4). To stay true to the official artwork, I took and rearranged the album credits from it.
While variations of the original cover are cool and definitely appreciated, I always try to come up with at least one radical change in style. Sony Computer Entertainment Europe may have thought the same, because they hired UK design studio FLUID to develop a package for a limited edition media kit to be handed out to gaming press worldwide. Since it spoke to me on so many levels, I just had to recreate it as a custom soundtrack cover (#5). It was, however, a bit of work, because I had to extract and recreate all necessary elements from different sources. For example, I improved the cracks to make them pop out a little more and I also went for a textured background, so it looks more like a physical object. In the end I had five different versions and chose the best in my opinion.
Cover #6 is made of the background wallpaper of the official discussion board and this ridiculously huge game logo (22374 x 8973 pixels!!) I found on another WordPress blog. I wanted the logo to be vertically and tried several ways to implement the album credits, but nothing really worked. My idea then was to add the composer’s signature to make a so-called “Signature Edition” without any other text elements on it. First I tried to recreate it with handwriting font types… not good! Then I tried to sign it myself and scan it in… even worse! Salvation came in the form of an autograph card I found on ebay. So what you see up there is Mr. Sanatolalla’s original signature.
The last two covers (#7, #8) were inspired by the special Joel and Ellie Editions of the game. Again I had to recreate them from scratch using various filters and Photoshop effects. Please view in full screen to get every detail.