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Inside the Developers Studio: Evan Wells & Richard Lemarchand

Evan Wells's Avatar + Posted by Evan Wells on Jul 06, 2007 // Co-President, Naughty Dog

Like UNCHARTED

We were lucky enough to interview not one, but two Naughty Dogs for this latest Inside the Developers Studio post. Evan Wells leads our Q&A here with help from Lead Game Designer Richard Lemarchand. Enjoy!

Uncharted: Drakes Fortune

1. What game do you have at E3 this year?
EW: Naughty Dog will be showing off our new PlayStation 3 game, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

2. Describe it in five words or less.
EW: Modern day, pulp action/adventure.

3. Tell us more about your game. What’s the story?
RL: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a new character-action game for the PlayStation 3 from the insanely talented videogame makers here at Naughty Dog, creators of Jak and Daxter. It has a mature, realistic, slightly stylized look, and is set in a world that reinvents the classic action-adventure genre of games and movies.

The game is a blend of problem-solving traversal, great cover-based gun combat, hand-to-hand brawling and puzzles, and is huge leap forward for us in terms of what we’ve been able to accomplish in a storytelling action game.

The story centers on Nathan Drake, a fortune hunter and occasional con man, and his quest to uncover the mystery of a family legend linking him with the famous English explorer and pirate Sir Francis Drake.

Hooking up with a young cable history show presenter called Elena Fisher, Drake finds himself stranded on a mysterious island in the Pacific Ocean, battling present-day pirates and dark, unseen forces in a hunt for the mythical treasure of El Dorado.

4. What did you do on this game that you couldn’t do on another platform?
RL: There are so many things that we can do on the PlayStation 3 that simply aren’t possible on any other game system, but probably the biggest thing to mention is our animation system. In a realistic game like ours, it’s a massive challenge to create a character that is incredibly responsive but whose moves still look perfectly smooth and seamless, and so the animation system was one of the first things we started work on at the beginning of the project.

We’ve created a huge number of animations for Nathan Drake that we combined together on the fly using our blending system, so that Drake responds immediately to what the player does with the controls. That’s really important in a triple-A character-action game, where an ‘on the button’ feel is essential. But even more radically, we’ve built a very innovative layered-animation system, which is what gives our hero a staggeringly believable look.

At any given time there might be up to fifteen layered animations playing back in the game at once, so that Drake can be coming out of cover, reloading his weapon, stumbling on a rock, grimacing with exertion and flinching away from incoming gunfire, all at once. When you see him in action in gameplay it’s almost hard to believe that he’s a videogame character, and it’s the unique processing architecture and power of the PlayStation 3 that gives us the ability to pull this off.

5. What do you think is the coolest aspect of this game?
RL: I think that the coolest thing about Uncharted is also one of the things that make it unique. When we made Jak and Daxter we really wanted to push the bounds of what’s possible in an action game that tells an excellent story, and to find new ways of bringing great gameplay and terrific storytelling closer and closer together.

We feel like we achieved a lot with the Jak series in that regard, but we knew that we could do even more if we kept pushing ourselves. So it’s the new ways that we’re combining play elements from platform games, shooters and puzzle games – all the while spinning an enthralling character-driven tale – that makes Uncharted stand out.

The quality of the writing and acting in Uncharted is something special for games – I guess we’re always trying to raise that bar as high as we can. We’re doing more with in-game story sequences than we’ve ever done before and have figured out some techniques to embed concepts from the story in the puzzles and the rest of the game world that we’re very excited about.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a realistic game with more mature themes than previous Naughty Dog games – we’ve done some growing up and we know that the gamers who play our games have too. That said, our main focus is still on getting as much pure fun out of the hardware as we possibly can!

6. When is it being released?
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune will ship this holiday season.

7. If you could sit one person in front of your game for an hour, who would it be?
EW: Daxter. So he could see what we’ve been up to lately.

8. What game do you most want an hour to sit in front of yourself (besides your own)?
EW: Little Big Planet

9. Describe the pre-2007 E3 experience in five words or less.
EW: Hectic as always.

10. Most overused phrase or expression during E3 season
EW: Pixar quality graphics.

11. You are asked to make suggestions for an E3 survival kit- what three items HAVE to be included?
EW: Based on E3’s from the past I would have said earplugs, comfortable shoes and a cell phone set to vibrate. This year things should have changed substantially, but I doubt you could go wrong with comfortable shoes.

12. What advice would you have for someone who has never experienced E3?
EW: With the new format, I feel like E3 is going to be a brand new experience for me too, so I’m looking to receive some advice instead of giving it.

13. Describe what you anticipate from 2007’s newly formatted E3 in five words or less.
EW: I’m managing my expectations.

14. What’s your favorite part about developing games for a living?
RL: Wow, where do I start? Game design is a great profession, and every day presents incredible opportunities for fun, engaging work that’s both creative and technical. I’d recommend game design – or any kind of game development career – to anyone smart and artistic who’s passionate about videogames.

I love media; games, movies, books, music, comics, art, and the web are all just pure brain food to me. I see games as a super-medium that can incorporate and eventually exceed every kind of creative human endeavor that has come before them – perhaps most importantly because they’re interactive.

That immense possibility for self-expression, communication and creation is what keeps me jumping out of bed each morning and racing into the office to see what challenges the day holds! So maybe my favorite thing about making games for a living is all the stuff we haven’t done yet! I just can’t wait to see what amazing things – like Uncharted – the future of videogames will bring…

Also See:
Three Speech Q&A with Evan Wells

//Add Your Own

104 Comments

51

+ Terminator on July 6th, 2007 at 1:59 pm said:

Patric he was talking about the Store. You guys are doing an awesome job on this blog.


52

+ SILV3R_ on July 6th, 2007 at 2:00 pm said:

@50

Thanks dood..


53

+ Clover09 on July 6th, 2007 at 2:19 pm said:

Uncharted is gonna be on the top of the charts, just you people watch. I think this game was amazing the first time I saw it and my love for this game has been building ever since.


54

+ Regret on July 6th, 2007 at 2:36 pm said:

Crash ruled! Jak & D ruled! Sir Francis will too!


55

+ ziggyd24 on July 6th, 2007 at 2:43 pm said:

Man im going to be broke in the fall but I can’t freaking wait


56

+ Deathalo on July 6th, 2007 at 2:49 pm said:

I’m very excited about Uncharted, please give us a demo of this game in the very near future, I’m dying to play it!

-DH


57

+ Globox82 on July 6th, 2007 at 2:56 pm said:

Uncharted is a must have!


58

+ aaquib on July 6th, 2007 at 3:01 pm said:

Looks like a freaking sweet game!


59

+ TwoBlack4America on July 6th, 2007 at 3:16 pm said:

These same people created Crash Bandicoot,so I’m sure this game will be great as well


60

+ RexNox on July 6th, 2007 at 3:19 pm said:

This is my #1 this year.


61

+ Noname on July 6th, 2007 at 3:24 pm said:

Patrick Seybold,

This is a bit off topic, but whats going on with third-parties? It seems like Sony in an ever-downward-spinning-spiral with third-parties. Virtua Fighter 5 gets online Vs for the 360 version [http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3160825]
and Medal of Honor: Airborne for PS3 gets pushed back to November while the PC and 360 version come out in August [http://au.gamespot.com/news/6173677.html]. I like what your doing in the first-party space, but first party can’t do it alone just look at what happened to Nintendo during N64 and GameCube. So get third-parties on board or have PS brand no longer mean “awesome third-party support” or something like that.


62

+ Sparx88 on July 6th, 2007 at 3:36 pm said:

I didn’t know about this game at first glance, but the more I read up on the more inrigued I am. I must say that the plot seems similar to National Treasure


63

+ reesimo on July 6th, 2007 at 3:51 pm said:

The trailer on PSN looks awesome. Can’t wait to try it out.


64

+ Cueil on July 6th, 2007 at 4:03 pm said:

Uncharted look interesting… and Naughty Dog is a good developer, but I’m just hoping it’s main focus is on fun and not facial and body animation… that stuff is important, but it’s got to be a blast… TR:Ledgends did well with that


65

+ Celdurant on July 6th, 2007 at 4:08 pm said:

This is just one example of the games I can’t wait to play. The next couple months are gonna put some good games on the market.


66

+ seph1r0th00 on July 6th, 2007 at 4:13 pm said:

The PSN trailer for this game makes it look like a ton of fun. I can’t wait to get my hands on this game. Definitely a day one purchase for me. Keep up the good work Naughty Dog :D


67

+ Kxpuc27 on July 6th, 2007 at 4:15 pm said:

If Heavenly Sword gets pushed back again i’m getting Uncharted day one. If it ship on time i’ll pick Uncharted up once i finish it otherwise i would probably stop playing it. Between Uncharted and Stranglehold very good run/cover animations. Can’t wait to see which is better but they both look good


68

+ Godofwar55555 on July 6th, 2007 at 4:35 pm said:

Uncharted comes out this fall!!!!!!!! I thought it was nowhere near being done yet. I cannot wait for this system seller.

[]^XO


69

+ Savage on July 6th, 2007 at 4:49 pm said:

I think the update that #20was refering to was the usual PS3 firmware update. My guess is that they missed one to make the one during E3 bigger. How much bigger, only time will tell.


70

+ SonnyJim on July 6th, 2007 at 4:59 pm said:

this game is gonna be awesome. can’t wait to get it. brings up fond indiana jones memories.


71

+ joel on July 6th, 2007 at 4:59 pm said:

to patrick saybord

#20 was talking about the thursday ps store update. But hanks to the Official ps3 myspace we now know that you guys might bring e3 demos to the ps store next week any confirmation on this and is it possible?


72

+ tattoos13 on July 6th, 2007 at 5:46 pm said:

Any chance of Naughty Dog doing a ps3 game for Way of the Warrior – great game – also looking forward to this one as it looks excellent!


73

+ pico21 on July 6th, 2007 at 6:46 pm said:

You’re right, i meant the Store update but it’s true also that Sony needs to start kissing some third party tail or we’ll be seeing too many games go multiplatform. Don’t get me wrong, i have no problem with everyone getting a game, the problem i have is when a developer makes the game for the less powerful console and merely ports it to the stronger one, which means all the glorious little strengths of the PS3 get utterly wasted. Sony needs to pick it up before microsoft steals the market.


74

+ gamer812 on July 6th, 2007 at 7:15 pm said:

I can’t wait to see more of Uncharted. It looks fantastic.


75

+ Vassago on July 6th, 2007 at 7:46 pm said:

i think Lara Croft can put her boop in the wardrobe lol this games look crazy …… so much games …… I wait the drop price to buy my ps3 but if games like all that list keep going out i think my waiting will stop :) please Sony drop the price u will sell so much then !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


76

+ jagged_edges on July 6th, 2007 at 9:38 pm said:

Hey Evan,
will we be fighting creatures like crocodiles, pythons, mountain lions?


77

+ roadclimber on July 6th, 2007 at 11:09 pm said:

Like most people here.. i’m blown away by the trailer. It looks like a nice mesh of a number of different styles of games.

Lara Croft meets Prince of Persia meets Farcry.

The only thing i’m apprehensive about is that usually when a game has this much detail and development it seems to be short on gameplay. Multiplayer is fun, But i always hit the campaign first.

Darkness was a good example. A very pretty game but even with side quests it didn’t take long to finish.

Anyway… you’ve got my money. Definitely a game i’ll pick up when it comes out.


78

+ DocEvils on July 7th, 2007 at 4:40 am said:

OMFG!!!!!!! THIS GAME WILL OWN ALL!

I can’t wait!!!!!


79

+ Kedaro on July 7th, 2007 at 5:18 am said:

I’m both excited and put back by all the great titles lined up, I see a lot of great titles that are all fighting through levels or shooting through levels… or this and that through levels, where’s our RTS’s where’s our RPG’s, I’ve played pretty much every ps3 game out, bring out the goods already, come on, I got big money on Sony this E3… take that game of the show award people…


80

+ chacal81 on July 7th, 2007 at 5:30 am said:

This game is like a wife except that it is fun.


81

+ Finalsquall on July 7th, 2007 at 5:37 am said:

Game looks mad :D I can’t wait to play it. Exclusive to the ps3 :) Way to go Naughty Dog :D


82

+ Kaze88 on July 7th, 2007 at 5:40 am said:

Mostly ppl are waiting Heavenly sword on the ps3, but this game will rock as much as heavenly sword on the ps3.
Nowadays almoust every gamedevelopers are going for scifi fps games T_T.
So i think that Uncharted will be fresh change to all that. It looks great and fun to play, cant wait to get hands on this =)


83

+ Elsa43 on July 7th, 2007 at 9:41 am said:

The game looks incredible and is normally something I would buy, but lately I’ve been looking more at co-op games as they allow for myself and my husband to do something other that watch TV in the evenings. With the two primary characters, it’s too bad that this didn’t have a co-op mode!
It’s odd… but with the PS3 being attached to the main HDTV, gaming has become more of a family thing, rather than a solo thing for me to do on the “small TV” while my husband watched TV in the living room.


84

+ Savage on July 7th, 2007 at 10:01 am said:

@Elsa43 : great to see more women getting into gaming. I hope Sony, and game developers in general, listen to your plea of more co-op this is a market that needs to be tapped more oftern and it over looked in many games.


85

+ sneakattack28 on July 7th, 2007 at 9:34 pm said:

yeah this is off the subject but when r u guys gonna give us a killzone2 dev interview i mean seriously these games that ur showing are amazing especially HS AND UNCHADTED but everyone is still thinking about KILLZONE2. I have been told u guys are gonna show it privately but that is a bad idea b/c everyone is looking forward to seeing it even non sony fans so please show it to us in the press conference and show alot of it. If it looks amazing like u guys say it will, then u shouldn’t worry about anything.


86

+ gamesadict on July 8th, 2007 at 9:02 am said:

“Daxter. So he could see what we’ve been up to lately.”

Daxter is FTW!!!!!!!!!


87

+ zane_7849 on July 8th, 2007 at 10:08 am said:

I can’t imagine how gorgeous they could make a PS3 Jak and Daxter game look…………….crazy.


88

+ Jeigh on July 8th, 2007 at 10:26 am said:

I’m seriously hyped about this game! It’s going to make this the best gaming year thus far! Keep it up!


89

+ Lp47 on July 8th, 2007 at 11:02 am said:

Im thinking Naughty Dog will show a Jak and Daxter game at E3. Im loving this game though.


90

+ Scarecrow on July 8th, 2007 at 11:45 am said:

Naughty Dog never fails.

I hope you guys continue on Jak and Daxter.

Or probably a new fun character like Crash Bandicoot was…really miss the cool levels in that game(specially the snow ones…)


91

+ DooM on July 9th, 2007 at 2:24 am said:

This game takes my breath away ..the jungle looks like the juble in Crysis and that is a verry big complement and verry impressieve….
Nuf said…..


92

+ sirnh1 on July 9th, 2007 at 3:28 am said:

And another game I must have on my playstation 3…

Naughty Dog games are the best!


93

+ PimpButtah on July 9th, 2007 at 5:12 pm said:

Naughty Dog:

Work on the Jump animation a bit. It looks very awkward from the videos I’ve seen. Other than that, this is looking awesome. Can’t wait to play it. :)


94

+ buruchaga on July 14th, 2007 at 9:56 am said:

work on the movement towards the edge. In tomb raider you walk slowly to the edge so that you don’t accidentally fall. I think you can have similar.
This is one of the very nice adventure games to come.


95

+ gamesblow on July 14th, 2007 at 1:28 pm said:

Naughtydog and this game are basically the main reason I bought my ps3 at the outlandish price of 600 bucks. I feel Naughtydog & insoniac together bring enough quality to the table for that price to be warrented. I’ve never been let down by one of their offerings. I’m just happy they’re on board with Sony and Sony only… If they weren’t, I don’t think I’d be. You got my 64 bucks day and date that this thing ships. Bank it.


96

+ gamesblow on July 16th, 2007 at 12:47 pm said:

If I could I’d like to re-iterate here for a moment… I just say Joysticks review thing for this game and I gotta say, it was less than impressive. The guy who did it was a complete crotch stick, though. I normally don’t like going to Joystick for my material but they’re the only runs doing hands on stuff it seems right now. Anyways, all I have to say is fix this game. Please! This is the game I got my Ps3 for… I mean, litterally. Do not turn this game into a “just ok” or a “Good substitute game” I want this game to kick all the ass it can. Delay the damn thing, if you have to. Just don’t release it with all these problems. I know you have like 4 more months to fix it and that’s cool… but if it takes longer, that’s even more cool. I want this to be PS3′s GOTY.


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