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The Past, Present, And Future Of Naughty Dog

Uncharted [Underwater] Territory

Wells: We went through a lot of iterations with different ideas. Our very first tech demo we built with our water technology was called the “moon pool”. In one of the early concepts we had, the game was going to take place in some underwater facility. Actually, it had a resemblance to BioShock. It was funny because we read an interview with Ken Levine and he was saying that one of their initial concepts was this tropical island and I was like, “Wow, we’re both crossing paths there with those ideas.” We started off building this underwater facility. It was in our first green light video we put together when we were pitching the idea to Sony to show off our water tech and how we evolved into getting all the different types of water in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

The Birth Of Nathan Drake

Wells: We bounced around a lot of ideas and thought, “What are some of the core things people want out of video games?” We sort of got to that aspirational quality. They want to be a spy. They want to be a bounty hunter. They want to be a military covert operations guy. We saw that a lot of games were doing those things that were much more militaristic or on the sort of space marine bada** side of things, and we thought, “What can we do to distinguish ourselves from that, but still have that aspirational quality?” We looked to a lot of stories of the first part of the 20th century and landed on treasure hunting and how that was part of a lot of people and how it shaped their views as they grew up. We wanted to make a game that had blockbuster cinematic action, but still had a character that is very personable and grounded and relatable.

We looked at Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis, the Indiana Jones movies, The Fugitive, Patriot Games – basically any movie that Harrison Ford was in. We also looked at the Die Hard movies with Bruce Willis for the character that can hold his own, but as he does it you can see the struggle and it’s not so easy for him.

Uncharted 3D

Wells: When we were first approached with the idea of putting 3D in the game [Uncharted 3] it was still very early. We hadn’t seen any implementation from other developers with the 3D. We weren’t sure if it was worth the effort because we were already pushing the PlayStation 3 to its limits to render a single frame 30 times per second and in order to do 3D we’d need to render two of those frames at 30 frames per second. It just seemed insurmountable.

When we shipped Uncharted 2 we looked at what we wanted to do with the third game and one of the things that was at the top of our list, and one of the things fans were asking for in Uncharted 3 was split-screen multiplayer. That was a feature we wanted to include in Uncharted 2, but since it was our first game with multiplayer at such a scale it was a feature we didn’t have time to support, but it was our first order of business when the programmers were getting back on Uncharted 3. To do split screen you have to render two points of view at 30 fps so as we started looking at the optimizations we could do to achieve that for split screen we realized all of those same things would allow us to do 3D. When we did it we thought it was actually pretty cool. It immerses you in the world quite a bit. We went for it and realized we didn’t know exactly what we were getting into when we embarked on it because it permeates every aspect of game development. The game designers have to be conscious of it when they’re scripting their cameras to show where Drake has to go next when he’s climbing up a pole or we’re showing off a vista. The designers have to go in there to set the 3D convergence points. You have to make sure you’re transitioning smoothly between convergence points because if you do it too suddenly or rapidly it can cause eye strain. We have to render our cutscenes in 3D and 2D so it doubles the amount of space we’ve got on the disc for video so it’s mandated that we go to a dual-layer disc this time. It really did have a ripple effect across every aspect of development, but in the end, I still fully think it’s been a great addition to the game and will be the best way to play the game.

What Does The Future Hold For Naughty Dog?

Wells: That’s a really good question and one we ask ourselves as we’re approaching the end of Uncharted 3. I can honestly say we don’t know. Throughout the course of all these games we’re always heads down, everybody – especially the people that would be responsible in planning what we’re doing next – are the very ones that are super critical for completing the current game. We end up rushing all the way to the finish line, take a break, and when the people are recharged enough to get back to the office we decide what to do at that point. So I can say with 100 percent we do not know what’s coming next – with the exception that we fully intend to support Uncharted 3 with a lot of DLC and community support. We’ve got some really cool ideas with how we’re going to continue to foster a really good multiplayer community for sometime after we ship.

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