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Luke
30 Oct, 2007

Naughty Dog Interview Part Two

PS3 Interview | We talk more about Uncharted and what's next for Naughty Dog.
Earlier today we posted up part one of our interview with Naughty Dog's co-president Evan Wells. Well today the conversation keeps going with some more discussion on Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. We also thought we'd try and gauge a bit where Naughty Dog are heading after Drake's Fortune. Don't forget to check back tomorrow for our updated hands on preview with Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.

PALGN: Can you tell us a little bit about the music in Uncharted?

EW: The music in Uncharted was entirely composed by this guy named Greg Edmonson who also did all of the composition for the music in Firefly the series and we're all really big fans of that series and something that really stood out for us was the music and the really eclectic international wide variety of instrumentation that he used. He really found some very unique instruments and it really worked in Firefly because there are lot of these different cultures being melted together and we kinda felt that Uncharted would be helped in the same way because we've got the German U boat, Spanish archetecture, this American adventure, the English privateer so we've got all these different cultures even across history all being thrown together in this one adventure. So we wanted to make sure the music reflected that and so we brought on Greg and he'd never done a videogame before, he doesn't know what an interactive score means but we brought him in and he just loved the game, loved the concept and is our biggest advocate now. He loves Uncharted and he doesn't know if he'd do another videogame but but he would love to do another one with us. It was a great colloboration.

PALGN: Was it tough to make the transition from developing for the PlayStation 2 to the PlayStation 3?

EW: It was extraordinarily difficult and I will be perfectly blunt and honest. It was really really hard and I think a lot of that can be attributed to the fact that on the PlayStation 2 we... I'm not trying to make any commentary on the difficulty of development for the PlayStation 3 and I shouldn't be confused with that at all. On the PlayStation 2 we were programming in our own unique language that we had developed at Naughty Dog, it's called GOAL, Game Object Assembly Lisp. It was all lisp based and the entire rest of the industry is working in C++, nobody I knew was completely, off the wall doing this thing in Lisp. It was started with Andy Gavin who was an MIT graduate, I'm probably showing too much of my geek cred, MIT and Lisp are closely linked and that's where it all started from. So we've been working in that language all through the PlayStation One and the PlayStation Two, now coming to the PlayStation Three we realised these projects are getting so much more complex and they just require so much more effort that we realised across Sony that we'd have to start sharing code. If we develop something we're going to have to make sure that Santa Monica can borrow it if they want too or Insomniac or vice versa, things should be interchangable. So we realised we'd have to put this behind us and adopt C++ like everyone. That meant when we started on the PlayStation 3 we had no code, if we wanted to print text on the screen we had to write a font renderer, these are the things you take for granted, so we had to start from square one and so it was a long process of building up. We were so used to working with this language GOAL which was very flexible and the whole purpose of it was so you could have your game running, you could compile your code and you could update your game right away without restarting the system, it's a really good environment and I miss it, you can tell. So then we went to no code, so we had to build up slowly but i'm really really happy with the team and everybody pulled together and we ended up accomplishing something we can all be proud of.

PALGN: We only started to hear things about Uncharted until this year, was the title always planned to be released at the end of 2007?

EW: Yes, we stuck to our schedule. There were several prominant delays in some games coming out around this time over the last year, but this was always the Christmas we were wanting to hit. We knew from the start that we wanted to, just like we did with the PlayStation One and the PlayStation Two we wanted to come out as the second generation of games, we wanted to take our time, learn the hardware and come out with something that kept up that tradition.

Jump Nathan, Jump.

Jump Nathan, Jump.
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PALGN: Will Uncharted allow players to make decisions which affect the game or will the adventure be more linear?

EW: The plot line is pretty linear and pretty set in stone. But we do provide a lot of variety within our linear path, we call it wide linear. When you come into these environments there are several ways to traverse the environment, to combat situations you know it's cover based gunplay. You can really learn to use the environment to your advantage and find out the best ways to gain advantage on your enemies. It's not like Gears of War where you're stuck to a single plain, you can jump, you can climb, you can run, you can swing you can sort of use all these opportunities to move through the environment and get the higher advantage points so you can shoot down at your enemies or you can come around the side and you can climb up a ledge and use the ruins to shoot at an enemy. So we really encourage the player to use their traversal mechanics while they're in the middle of combat and that was something we wanted to, going back to our animation system you know worked really hard to allow you to move from traversing to shooting to hand to hand combat all seamlessly, so you never feel like you're switching modes.

PALGN: Will Uncharted feature any multiplayer?

EW: No multiplayer, it's kind of selfish at least on my part I actually enjoy these single player adventures and while multiplayer is fun from time to time, I guess i'm an aging gamer. I can't stand getting onto Xbox Live or whatever and having some twelve year old punk crack it at my idea. To hook up with your friends, well we're all busy and it's hard to coordinate times to play together. So we really just wanted to cater to that individual who wants to sit down on their couch, turn down the lights, turn up the stereo and fall deep into the game and immerse themselves.

PALGN: Is there more to tell of Nathan's story?

EW: There's plenty more absolutely. We developed the game as a franchise. We wanted to really pay honour to the classic pulp action adventure, which is really serialised. We didn't go as far as end on a cliffhanger like they traditionally did, but we definitely have lots of opportunities to explore other Uncharted parts of the world.

PALGN: We've noticed with Uncharted is that the AI seems to be rather intelligent. Can you elaborate on that a bit?

EW: I'm glad that it came across that way because that was what we were going for. We wanted to seem intelligent, there is a lot of effort, I don't want to diminish the work that our programmers did on the AI because they did a great job. There's this line that your trying to walk where it's pretty easy to make very intelligent AI that's not fun to play at all because you get frustrated because your looking at this 3D world on this 2D screen and however much surround sound you have people can flank you or get around the side of you and make it a really frustrating experience if they're too smart. The trick is to make them smart enough to make them feel like they are smart we put as much effort into making them play fun as we did having them play smart. They actually do things to to present themselves to you as easy targets in some cases. We do a lot of things to make the experience rewarding and interesting rather than just concentrating on making them intelligent because that's where you would I think fail if you did that. We put a lot of effort into focusing on their animations that you see over and over again, them getting shot, them dying, them taking cover, them flanking you, them brawling with you and really sort of gave them the treatment we gave Nathan Drake our hero, making sure they had really rich and layered animation systems so they could move through the environment easily.

PALGN: How much effort has been put into the voice acting?

EW: We have an unbelievable amount of audio and I am so proud of the job our localisation team did on localising this game into eight different spoken languages and thirteen written languages because we've got probably about in English 30,000 - 35,000 single audio files for all the things that the characters can say throughout the game and you multiply that by eight and it's a lot of lines to keep track of and make sure that they are all checking out that the volume levels are right and that there are no translation issues and it is a big effort and they did a great job.

Nothing like a vehicle turret.

Nothing like a vehicle turret.
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PALGN: So does the game utilise the Sixaxis at all?

EW: We do use the Sixaxis, we didn't want to overly it. We wanted it to enhance the gameplay. We used in a few places, it helps you balance across narrow edges and logs. We use it to help you aim your grenade, one of the problems we're noticing with a lot of games where you need to throw a grenade to throw it properly you need to tilt the camera back so you can't see your character anymore. So we tried to correct that, the Sixaxis is great like that because you can rotate it without moving the camera. There are some nice little subtle touches, you could probably make it through the game and not use the Sixaxis at all.

PALGN: Just to finish up with Uncharted, can you just tell us why our readers should be on the lookout for Uncharted: Drake's Fortune?

EW: The thing that I think is most special about Uncharted is the overall experience. The fact that we want to immerse you in this world, we want you to feel for the characters, we want you to be interested, we hope that nobody wants to button through our cut scenes. We want people to really feel like they are following Nathan Drake along on his adventure. I hope people appreciate the unique experience that we've created. I'm not going to say every last mechanic in the game is new, it's cutting edge like some of these crazy downloadable games that are coming out but we think the collection of mechanics and the way we've presented the game is very unique. I hope people sit down and play it and enjoy it for what it is.

PALGN: Moving onto Naughty Dog, can you tell us a little bit about the history behind Naughty Dog?

EW: Yes I mean the history is pretty long actually I mean it goes back well before me and I sort of divide it into these two sides; there is before Crash Bandicoot and after Crash Bandicoot. Before Crash Bandicoot the company was two guys, Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin and they started this company when they were, I think they were 14. Just a couple of kids in high school working out of their basement. Originally they called the company Jam because it was the 80's and that was cool. So that was their original company name. They made one or two games under that moniker for the Apple II+ and then their first real respectable game came once they got into college and they worked on Rings of Power for the Sega Genesis. By that time they had adopted the name Naughty Dog. Then they started getting even more respectable as they got a deal with Universal Interactive to make Way of the Warrior for the 3DO, not the hottest system but still a pretty cool game at the time and definitely very cool that just two guys made that game and they pretty much did it on a shoe string budget. It got them enough respect to sign a three contract deal with Universal and that's where Crash Bandicoot was born. Now you enter the after Crash Bandicoot days. So we did Crash 1, Crash 2, Crash 3 and CTR. CTR we were already starting to move away from Universal, actually by that point Sony paid for the licensing fees to use Crash Bandicoot and Sony actually published CTR. Then as soon as the PlayStation 2 came out, we realised it was time to go our seperate ways and we developed a brand new IP Jak and Daxter and that's fully owned by Sony so we were able to continue that throughout the life of the PlayStation 2. Then the PlayStation 3 came out and we thought it was time to do it all over again, let's make a new franchise and that's where Uncharted was born.

PALGN: So Naughty Dog is finished with Crash Bandicoot now?

EW: Yeah, we have to be. Unless we go back to Universal and pay them a lot of money to work on the game that we created then we're done with Crash Bandicoot. Unfortunately I love the character to death and those games have a special place in my heart, in fact CTR is the one game that i'll continue playing for years to come.

PALGN: Is it disappointing to see other developers work on Crash Bandicoot?

EW: Yes, a little bit. It's, I don't know if you want to quote me on this, It's a little bit like watching your daughter do porn (heck yes we want to quote you - Ed).

PALGN: The story is a little bit different with Jak though as Sony own the IP, do you want to continue the Jak franchise?

EW: Yes, it's certainly something that a lot of Naughty Dog staff still feel very passionate about. We were sort of getting creatively tapped out. We spent our last five years on the franchise and we definitely needed this break. But I fully expect we'll be doing some Jak and Daxter in the future, I don't know when but yeah.

And again because we're such big fans.

And again because we're such big fans.
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PALGN: Because Insomniac did such a good job with Ratchet and Clank...

EW: Oh yeah definitely that inspired us. I think it's fantastic and I have played it and it is fantastic. I'd really like to do Jak and Daxter but i'd like to do something very different, I wouldn't want to just do something we did on the PlayStation 2 I'd like to do something really special.

PALGN: Naughty Dog appears to be making the transition to mature games, is there a reason for this?

EW: Probably due to the technology. As I was saying earlier you were really limited by the expressions in your characters faces back then, so you had to go with these big eyes and these big heads and these very iconic characters. Even on the PlayStation 2 we kind of took a step towards realism by saying well we're not really an animal anymore now we're an elf, it's kind of human but it's still very cartoony. Now with the PlayStation 3, all of those things that we were hoping we could do one day and all of those things we were on the cusp of being able to do now there is enough power to do all that and we really felt we could tell that story and get you involved with those characters, so that's why we've gone more realistic. The maturity level, I mean you're killing a lot of pirates. We ended up getting a teen rating in the United States, PG-13 as far as movies go was the line we were trying to tow.

PALGN: Naughty Dog hasn't developed for the PSP, is there a reason for this?

EW:It's a matter of resources. We really want to stay focused on making one game at a time. I really feel that to divide our effort would end up hurting the end product because we would all of a sudden have this split focus and we wouldn't have all the talented people at Naughty Dog working on one single project. If we were to do a PSP game, it would also mean that not only would we most likely have to split into multiple teams, but if we were to say we'll take a break after Uncharted and do a PSP game, we'd have to split our technology because the PlayStation and the PSP are vastly different. We actually have done a decent amount of research with the PSP, working with Ready at Dawn on Daxter and being involved with Sony first party games we're very familiar with the technology and it doesn't lend itself well to much technology sharing there. We want to make sure that every line of code that we write from here on out after leaving GOAL behind is building on a code base that we can keep around forever.

PALGN: So what next for Naughty Dog?

EW: I am about to take a nice little break. That's next for me. When I get back into the office we'll get back together we'll have some post mortems talk about what went right, what went wrong and talk about how we can improve the process and then decide what to do next because we really haven't talked about it at all.

PALGN would like to thank Evan Wells for his time. We'd also like to thank Rebecca Rice and Adrian Christie for their hard work organising this interview. PALGN flew up to Queensland courtesy of Sony.

Related Uncharted: Drake's Fortune Content

Future of Uncharted and Jak and Daxter sequels discussed
08 Dec, 2007 Naughty Dog talks briefly about the future.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune Review
23 Nov, 2007 Worth spending your small fortune on?
Uncharted demo now region free
11 Nov, 2007 Well, what are you waiting for?
7 Comments
6 years ago
PALGN wrote
PALGN: Is it disappointing to see other developers work on Crash Bandicoot?

EW: Yes, a little bit. It's, I don't know if you want to quote me on this, It's a little bit like watching your daughter do porn (heck yes we want to quote you - Ed).
Gold.

I’ve got nothing but respect for NaughtyDog now, I mean it’s not that I didn’t have it before its just that these guys seem to have nailed the PS3 on the head in terms of getting it right. To hear these guys say it was such a challenge to work on the PS3 and then to prove what they have done (to early to say? Wait for reviews?) by releasing a top game, just goes to show that all the other developers who had a sook over the PS3 just don’t want to change the way they do things, lazy.
6 years ago
What the hell are Sony doing? They aren't providing developers with libraries for the simple things like printing text?

Good interview, one of the best and honest ones I've read for a long while.
6 years ago
Great Interview Luke - you had so many questions for him, and much better prepared than some of the more commercial gaming websites.

So they flew you up to Queensland? What else did you do up there? Play the game? Do some other interviews?
6 years ago
[quote="odzendz"]
PALGN wrote
(to early to say? Wait for reviews?) by releasing a top game, just goes to show that all the other developers who had a sook over the PS3 just don’t want to change the way they do things, lazy.
Agreed! Although I was really worried at one stage, at this year's E3 that it looked pretty generic and just another third person tomb raider-esc game. But they've added a really intriguing story and quite frankly there's nothing else like it at the moment.

And any review that docks this game points because of a lack of multiplayer and/or linearity is going to have me fuming! Can we just rate the game on the quality of the experience, rather than a bunch of feature points on the back of a box please? Not every game needs to be 25 hours + multiplayer with 5 game modes. But I LOVE the reviewers at PALGN so don't worry guys, you write great reviews!

Oh and the box art is DELICIOUS! How could you not pick this game up!
6 years ago
arbok wrote
And any review that docks this game points because of a lack of multiplayer and/or linearity is going to have me fuming! Can we just rate the game on the quality of the experience, rather than a bunch of feature points on the back of a box please? Not every game needs to be 25 hours + multiplayer with 5 game modes. But I LOVE the reviewers at PALGN so don't worry guys, you write great reviews!

Oh and the box art is DELICIOUS! How could you not pick this game up!
I can see what you're saying arbok, but when writing a panorama of reviews and associating a scoring system to them, you do look to comparatives. And that includes the absence of important features like multiplayer. In my opinion, games without a multiplayer component these days are actively refusing to recognise an intrinsic part of what this current generation of consoles are pushing - a more community, social and networking aspect to gaming.

Don't get me wrong, I can just tell uncharted is going to be right up my alley. But its failure to consider the multiplayer crowd too will probably mean it will never score that elusive 10 points that ALL game developers should be striving for.
6 years ago
Good on ya Evan (and PALGN) for an interesting and open chat!
6 years ago
Windburn wrote
arbok wrote
And any review that docks this game points because of a lack of multiplayer and/or linearity is going to have me fuming! Can we just rate the game on the quality of the experience, rather than a bunch of feature points on the back of a box please? Not every game needs to be 25 hours + multiplayer with 5 game modes. But I LOVE the reviewers at PALGN so don't worry guys, you write great reviews!

Oh and the box art is DELICIOUS! How could you not pick this game up!
I can see what you're saying arbok, but when writing a panorama of reviews and associating a scoring system to them, you do look to comparatives. And that includes the absence of important features like multiplayer. In my opinion, games without a multiplayer component these days are actively refusing to recognise an intrinsic part of what this current generation of consoles are pushing - a more community, social and networking aspect to gaming.

Don't get me wrong, I can just tell uncharted is going to be right up my alley. But its failure to consider the multiplayer crowd too will probably mean it will never score that elusive 10 points that ALL game developers should be striving for.
Actually I've kind of given up on scores, its become so objective rather than subjective these days that Im tired of them. One of my very favourite gaming experiences on the PS2 was Silent Hill 2, it was single player, I finished it in two nights and it was totally awesome. I find that a lot of gaming reviews are trying to drag in non-gamers by describing all the features of a game like a check list and that the game length is a big factor. That might be true to people who buy one or two games a year, but now that the industry has gotten so much bigger, there are consistently going to be games to play. Its not a reviewers job to decide for the gamer, a review piece should be how the game played, what his feelings were, whether he had any frustrations. The gamer should decide for himself whether its the right length for him/her if the reviewer has done a good enough job because everyone has a different opinion. I still find a 'score' useful because it shows how it fits into the scheme of things, but bumping the score up or down because it didn't cover all the bases isn't right.

Also I think games like Stranglehold and The Darkness showed that not every game needs multiplayer. Don't worry I can see where you're coming from, we just have different opinions and that's cool!

Oh and i think that every game strived for that elusive 10 because you need the best/same feature set then its all a matter of pouring resources into a project.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  6/12/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $109.95 AU
Publisher:
  Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre:
  Adventure
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  1

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