As one of the programmers on Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune I’d like to give you some insight into the development process in creating the game’s characters.
We are a very small team creating the enemies here at Naughty Dog. Therefore we needed to be smart about how we approach creating the characters and deciding where to spend our time. We have some very talented animators here and that was something we wanted to leverage when trying to make the characters come to life.
The final AI in Uncharted is simple, yet also very powerful. We are heavily utilizing the Cell architecture to allow the enemies to be more aware of their surroundings. On top of this, the AI is highly configurable to allow the designers to create custom behaviors. Examples of this are combat distance used for close-combat/ranged enemies, likelihood of moving and reaction times, grenade throwing and shooting styles. The goal was to make the AI ‘seem’ smart. If we could do so without making the code complex, that would be great. The approach we took to this was to use animations to add variations to our characters instead of trying to programmatically add complex behaviors.
Halfway through development of Uncharted I sat down with the animator for the enemies (yes, only one animator) and played the game. We wanted to see what the player sees the enemies do the most because those would be the areas in which we wanted to focus our energy. We found that enemies getting hit and dying made up a large portion, and a fun one. Other areas were enemies entering combat, attacking from cover positions and, what we call, open combat – enemies standing in the open shooting at you.
Knowing this, we went to work. We wanted to give the player a rich experience by being selective in which areas to add variety. I’m pleased to say that the main enemies, pirates and mercenaries, have hundreds of animation variations in these areas. All of this makes the game experience richer and avoids repetition.
This, together with endless hours of fine tuning, resulted in the smooth and believable characters in Uncharted.
Right now we are in the process of making the final disc. Pretty much everyone is playing the game – not because we have to, but because we want to. People are trying to find all the treasures in the game or beat it on every difficulty level, which is not an easy task. I find it amazing that after working on the game for this long we all still really enjoy getting immersed in the story of Uncharted.
I hope you all will enjoy Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune as much as we do.