Uncharted 3: Naughty Dog Interview
Your Marlowe reveal trailer shows Drake and Sully being jumped in an alleyway. We’ve seen Tomb Raider visit a modern cityscape in Angel of Darkness, which broke the pacing and feel of the series. How to you hope to maintain the Uncharted vibe in this new setting?
We’ve definitely tackled urban environments before – in Uncharted 2, Drake spent a chunk of time in a modern but war-torn city in Nepal. The trick when heading to a place like London is to take what is familiar and then put an Uncharted twist on it. We also want to put Drake into new environments, and going to a “charted” place is a new and interesting twist that we haven’t tackled before.
Expect epic moments like this to appear in multiplayer.
Women seem to take a very specific place in the first two Uncharted games as Drake’s love interests. In what ways is Marlowe counter to this? What narrative advantages do you get when you cause the suave, playboy attitude of Drake and the tough, villainous edge of Marlowe to clash?
One of the goals we started with at the beginning of Uncharted 3 was to have a different type of villain than we had in Uncharted 2. Lazarevic was a bully and a dictator. This time, we felt it would be interesting to pit Drake against a more intelligent and scheming style of enemy. Katherine Marlowe is the result of those ideas. Ruthless and dangerous, she is the kind of person who is able to press Drake’s buttons and get under his skin more than the enemies have in the previous games.
The advantage this has is that when she and Drake cross paths, she is more often than not able to knock him off kilter. She takes Drake out of his element and gets inside his head. These are the kind of relationships that lead to fireworks, and we are using it to great effect in the game.
In the trailer, Marlowe steals Francis Drake’s ring. This item has been present throughout the first two games but never explored. Is this indicative of how elaborative Uncharted 3 will be regarding Drake as a character?
In Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, one of the key artifacts was Sir Francis Drake’s ring. Drake also wears it around his neck all throughout Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. We are going back to that touchstone with Uncharted 3. With every game we want to expand the player’s understanding of Nathan Drake, and the ring is an important part of who he is. Thus we felt it appropriate to revisit the ring and all that it means.
Naughty Dog has made no secret that Uncharted 3 will explore the relationship between Drake and Sully, and we saw them working together more in the Chateaux trailer than in any other point in the series. What aesthetic values do these moments bring to the table, and how will they help reinforce the duo’s bond?
Sully has always been a fan favorite, and we love him as a character internally as well. When it came time to start working on Uncharted 3 we all wanted to go deeper into their relationship with the story. The term “bromance” came up more than a few times as we worked out the details. Sully and Drake have a very interesting relationship, and we will explore even more deeply in this game.
How will Drake’s relationship with Marlowe pan out?
In order to see both the best and worst of our characters, we always try to place them in interesting, and most of the time dangerous, situations. This allows us to explore what makes these guys tick, and see how they push each other in ways that would never be seen if they were by themselves.
It was also mentioned in an interview last year that you have your sight set on the big boys of multiplayer gaming. How does a developer like Naughty Dog begin to formulate a plan to compete with title s like Call of Duty. What key values are you looking to enforce in Uncharted 3’s multiplayer?
We think that the gameplay mechanics in Uncharted allow a completely new and interesting feeling to online gaming. The characters move so quickly and have so many climbing abilities that it really opens up what is possible in a shooter. Climb a tower, pull someone off a ledge, jump six stories down, break an enemy’s neck, shoot a third, and then roll away while dropping a grenade is a typical fifteen second sequence in our game.
Naughty Dog sand-physics = mind-blown!
With Uncharted 3 we are bringing in yet another element to our online play, which are the epic set pieces that are seen throughout our single player campaign. One of the first competitive multiplayer levels that we showed has a sequence where you are jumping from truck to truck as they speed down the runway chasing a plane, all the while shooting opponents. This then transitions to another part of the level where airplanes are dropping bombs and strafing the playfield. This is an example of the kind of innovative in-game events people can expect from multiplayer in Uncharted 3.
By the third instalment, many franchises start to run out of steam and ideas, but Uncharted is still firing on all cylinders. What principles has Naughty Dog followed to ensure Drake’s Deception is a strong follow-up to Among Thieves?
As a studio, we concentrate on making games that we want to play. A key to this is that we have a very open environment. Everybody in the studio has input on how to make Uncharted 3 the best game it can possibly be. We are all part of the design process, from programmers to artists. This means that if a background artist comes up with an awesome gameplay sequence, we make it.
We also always end up cutting things out of our games. This means that all the cool ideas that we left out of previous installments due to time constraints are finally getting put into Uncharted 3. We also feel the pressure of success, and we all want to put out a game that is a worthy to successor to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The last thing we want to do is let our fans or, worse, ourselves down.
Perhaps the most realistic fire in any game. Ever.
Third person action games are starting to include co-op modes almost as standard. There’s obviously an environmental design trade-off in implementing campaign co-op. Is the co-op formula compatible with a cinematic, action driven title like Uncharted?
This question came up quite a bit when we announced multiplayer cooperative play in Uncharted 2. Naturally, we’ve had a lot of internal discussions on how we could support cooperative play within the structure of our single-player campaign and if that was the right choice to make.
With Uncharted 2, we chose not to support cooperative play because maintaining the integrity of the narrative, and keeping the player focused solely on the story of Nathan Drake as they played him, was of utmost importance.
Looking forward to Uncharted 3 – when we announced our next game in the series, we made a mention that we’ll be supporting cooperative along with competitive multiplayer modes. We’ve recently revealed our plans for the competitive multiplayer aspect of Uncharted 3, we’ll be discussing more what our plans for co-op are in the future.
We’ve seen Uncharted revealed for NGP, how closely are you involved in the game’s development?
Obviously, we aren’t working on the Uncharted title for NGP so Naughty Dog isn’t in full control of the game, nor would we necessarily want to, given that we’re a one-team studio and that team is focused on developing Uncharted 3.
Logistically, were you ever concerned about the technical aspects of squeezing Uncharted onto a handheld console? What is your opinion of the console so far?
Well, we’re not developing on the new handheld ourselves, so we’re not exactly qualified to to talk to that level of detail. From what we have heard and seen – which is pretty much the same as has been revealed publicly – there’s a lot of impressive, innovative technology and features in the NGP and we’re looking forward to seeing games that take advantage of that potential.
Our sister magazine Play recently had an interview with your co-lead game designer Richard Lamarchand. He mentioned that Uncharted 3 will have ‘traversable physics objects’. Can you give us an insight into what this is, and how it will effect puzzle and environment design in Uncharted 3?
For Uncharted 3, we are using a bunch of new systems, including one that lets Nathan Drake climb around on objects which are using physical simulations to determine their animation. This opens all kinds of possibilities for neat climbing and physical puzzle based gameplay.
Traversable physics objects are just another layer that allows us to further ground Drake in his world. The more things in the game react how the player expects them to react, the more they can buy into what is going on and the more they feel connected to the character.
That’s gotta hurt…
Last year we saw a quote from Naughty Dog saying that if gamers still want to play Uncharted, you would continue to work on the series. In what ways has this now become a supply and demand industry? Are we now at a stage where big ideas must be sustainable as a franchise for them to become a reality?
We’ve always said that we’ll keep making Uncharted games for as long as people want to play them, so I don’t think we have any preconceptions about how many adventures Nathan Drake will have! We hope that he’s a strong enough character to support a good number of adventures, and we feel like the colourful, exciting world he lives in has a lot of potential.
It terms of supply and demand, the entertainment industry as a whole is always going to be driven by the consumer. We are very fortunate that our fans have been so good to us in terms of supporting the franchise. A huge thanks to all of those Drake and Naughty Dog fans out there.
Sony is also a fantastic partner, and has always allowed us to make the games we want, in the way that we want to make them. We couldn’t ask for a better company to bring our games to market.
As for big ideas, they often have big costs associated with them as well. If a company is spending tens of millions of dollars on creating a new original IP, that company is going to want to see a large returns on their investment. Thus a franchise is always going to be a more attractive prospect.
The first game might not make as much, but the second in a series almost certainly will earn more if it is well made. That isn’t to say that there aren’t exceptions, but people tend to lose sight that the entertainment industry is just that, an industry, and investors expect to make money back on their properties.
Battlefield eat your heart out. Uncharted 3 has planes, too.
There seems to be have some recent confusion over details for the Uncharted movie. How closely involved has Naughty Dog been during the conceptualisation of the script, and will you continue to be an active presence during development?
We’ve worked with the director, David O. Russell, and our producing partners, Arad Productions and Atlas Entertainment, to give them plenty of story background, a bible on the Uncharted universe, and a ton of reference material that the producers and filmmakers can source from to aid them as they make the Uncharted film.
We have a great working relationship with both the producers and director, and we speak frequently to discuss Uncharted and just touch base with each other. As much as we are the keepers of the Uncharted canon and we spend time ensuring others outside the studio understand our universe, our day to day focus is on making the best Uncharted games possible.