The lights are on
Like most conversations I have with Evan Wells, this one ended with him picking a fight with me. So, if you see him on the street, avoid eye contact, veer out of his way, and as he passes say "you suck at games" under your breath. Before we got to this uncomfortable point, Evan reflected on Uncharted 2's development cycle and dodged every question about a possible sequel.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves isn’t out yet, but review scores are already through the roof. Are you blown away by the response? Yeah, we really are. It’s hugely gratifying to see the response from those who’ve played it. The team worked so hard for almost two years and you start to lose you objectivity. We’re especially thrilled by the reaction that we’ve gotten from the people playing the online demo. There were a lot of people who jumped to conclusions and reacted negatively when they heard that we were adding multiplayer to the Uncharted franchise, so it’s really great to see that we’ve changed some minds. Your personal history of projects includes Crash Bandicoot, Gex, and Jak and Daxter. Do you think the days of the mascot platformer are over? And don’t forget ToeJam & Earl: Panic of Funkotron… it was a 2D platformer too! No, I don’t think that mascot platformers have run their course. You only have to look as far as Ratchet and Clank to see that they’re still alive and well. Of course, the entire industry has changed dramatically over the years and I think the projects that we’re working on now barely resemble the games that we made in the past. Expectations of gamers have risen and if we were to try to release a game like Crash Bandicoot now, it just wouldn’t cut it. So just like everything else, the mascot platformer has had to evolve to maintain relevance. Is this a genre you’d like to revisit? Yeah, I think it would be cool to give it another go. Of course we would do things very differently now… like I said, making sure that we’ve evolved the ideas enough to keep up with industry and gamers’ expectations. Any chance we’ll see another Jak and Daxter with the Naughty Dog logo? The million dollar question! We would love to go back to the Jak and Daxter franchise, but at this time we don’t have anything to announce.Are there any other genres/types of games you’d like to work on? Is there a classic franchise you’d like to bring to the next generation, much like Bethesda did with Fallout? That’s a hard question to answer. Like I just said, we’d love to go back to Jak and Daxter and see what we could do with it, applying everything we learned from the Uncharted franchise so far. But I think you’re looking for something outside of a 3rd person action adventure. That’s really where our expertise and experience lies so it’s hard to imagine venturing too far outside that realm. Sandbox games are certainly intriguing, and I think it would be fun to do something with a persistent world MMO as long as it maintained an action focus and didn’t drift too far into RPG territory. Actually, what I think the world is waiting for is a follow up to Way of the Warrior! After you completed Uncharted 1, you seemed to have a pretty good idea of the things that needed to be fixed. Now that Uncharted 2 is finished, are there any areas in particular you’d like to focus on for the sequel? We haven’t had too much time to think about it yet. We’ll of course be paying attention to comments and critiques from the reviews and message boards once the game is out. And when everyone is back from vacation, we’ll go through an extensive post mortem process to look at every aspect of the game. Some of the most important things to improve are often production and development process related. If you make small improvements to your workflow, you’ll often reap huge benefits in the quality of game you’re able to create. As a company, Naughty Dog isn’t known for multiplayer. Incorporating it on the scale you have in Uncharted 2 is no small feat. What were some of the things you learned from this? And to go back to the previous question, do you see your first effort as a steppingstone? We learned a great deal during production and we’re still learning as we move through our multiplayer demo and into launch. So I guess one of the things we learned is when you’re working on an online game, the work doesn’t stop once you’ve gold mastered! We also found that your character control has to be even tighter for multiplayer games because players are much less forgiving when being killed by another human being (fortunately this had huge benefits for our single player too). We set aside time everyday to have the entire company play the game and we found the feedback we received to be invaluable. We have a wide range of players at Naughty Dog, and we used that diversity to tune the game to be accessible to new online players and hardcore veterans alike. And absolutely, Uncharted 2’s multiplayer is just a steppingstone, as I see every game we do in the future having some sort of online feature set.
Whenever I visit your office, I’m usually greeted by a dog before a human being. How many dogs do you employ, and what duties do they fulfill? We have two dogs that come to the office regularly… Pogo (above) and Trumpet (below). Their official duties include begging for food, knocking over trashcans, leaving “presents” around the office, and napping.
Is the team taking a vacation, or are you getting started on Uncharted 3 right away? I like how you tried to get me to confirm development on Uncharted 3! You’re very smooth. In actuality, we haven’t begun work on our next project. Many people are taking a much deserved vacation, but we also have a bunch of people diving into our DLC and making improvements to the multiplayer that we want to roll out right around launch. When people are back from vacation, we’ll have our post mortems, and then we’ll begin brainstorming on what comes next. Back in the day, I played GoldenEye 007 against you and Jason Rubin. You guys insisted we use radar, which as you might recall, I thought was pretty lame. Have you gotten any better at games since then? Still need radar?I do recall that you thought our use of radar was pretty lame. But let me give you a little justification… our house rules are that you always play the game with the default settings for easiest and fastest setup. Radar was defaulted to “On” in GoldenEye. And for the record I use the default button configuration in Street Fighter too. And as for if I’ve gotten any better at games, the better question would be if you’ve gotten any better at games, since, if my memory serves me, I won pretty handily. I seem to remember it having to do with my superior use of the rocket launcher. But let’s not dwell on ancient history; if you’d like to play a more current game, might I suggest we play a little Uncharted 2 multiplayer? There’s no radar. It’s on! At 2:30 PST, Naughty Dog and Game Informer will lock in battle. Blood will be spilled. Egos will be bruised. Without radar, we doubt Evan Wells stands much of a chance, but… it is his game, so we predict he’ll deliver a six kill, ten death performance. If all goes as planned, we will be using Uncharted 2’s Machinima mode to capture footage of the match. We’ll post it online as soon as we can. Obviously, if we get destroyed, the file will somehow be lost.
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