Q&A: Naughty Dog on Uncharted

Copresident Evan Wells on completing Drake's Fortune, the untapped potential of the PS3, and inevitable comparisons with Tomb Raider.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is undoubtedly one of the key games for Sony's PlayStation 3 this holiday season. GameSpot AU caught up with Naughty Dog copresident Evan Wells on a recent trip down to Australia and quizzed him on what the experience was like working on a next-generation console, how much of the Cell's processing power is being used, and whether the team is happy with the game being compared to the Tomb Raider series.

GameSpot AU: Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is now complete, right? How long was the development process overall?

Evan Wells: Yes, we just went gold last week. We were in full production for two years, and we had a small staff of five or six engineers working for about a year before that.

GS AU: What was the dev process like for the PlayStation 3?

EW: It was really exciting. We were thrilled at the opportunity to work on what I feel is the most powerful hardware out there right now and to do something that was brand-new and different. We could have certainly taken the easy route and made another Jak and Daxter game, but we didn't feel that would really push us to achieve something that was fresh and interesting.

GS AU: So why did you decide to introduce a brand-new IP now instead of creating another Jak and Daxter or Crash Bandicoot?

EW: It really is the motivational factor partly, and also because we develop a franchise to really take advantage of the hardware we're making it for. And we felt that with Jak and Daxter--the way we were doing it on a PlayStation 2--was engineered to take advantage of the PS2. We were stylised with our characters because of the limitations of the hardware. We felt on the PS3 it was time to go fully armed and on to human characters set in the modern day.

GS AU: How much more work is required for a PS3 game as opposed to a PS2 game?

EW: The first game out of the box here was a tough one. I think it was hard for everybody to make the transition from last-gen to this generation. The leap was much larger I think than from PS1 to PS2 in terms of technology, and to wrap your head around multiple processors and pixel shaders--it really was just a whole new way of developing games. But now that we've got our IP established and we have our game engine completed, we're moving pretty rapidly now. We can create, I would say, nearly as fast as we could on the PS2 with maybe 30 to 40 percent increase in staff.

GS AU: How much of the PS3's processing power is being used in Uncharted then?

EW: We were just profiling it not too long ago as we were wrapping up production. As far as the Cell processor is concerned, we're actually using about a third to half of that right now, so there's still a bit of untapped potential there.

GS AU: You mentioned more realism in graphics. How important is that to an overall game experience?

EW: Details are what makes the game. They aren't just details--they're what creates the experience, even if they're just subconscious. Those things, even if they aren't hitting you over the head, you're still feeling them. That's what we were trying to do with Uncharted--to immerse you in this experience and make you feel like you're starring in a big-budget summer blockbuster. Now the quality of the graphics has risen to the level that you can feel like you're blurring that line and feel like you're in a movie.

GS AU: Do you think gamers notice these little graphical touches?

EW: As I was saying, maybe they're not consciously noticing them, but maybe subconsciously noticing them--not only the graphical details, but the way the character controls and feels. Even if they're not overt, they're subtly making a strong impression on the overall experience.

GS AU: Apart from better graphics, what has the PS3 allowed you to do that you haven't been able to before?

EW: I would say [the] number one thing is animation, and the fact that the Cell processor has so much raw horsepower that you could just throw more and more at it and it doesn't break a sweat. Our animation system is very complex, and we layer on dozens of frames of animation so you have that fluidity of movement where Nathan Drake can be running across a courtyard, stumbling over a rock as he's ducking under a hail of gunfire, reloading his weapon and rolling into cover, and all of these animations can happen simultaneously.

GS AU: Uncharted has so far drawn a lot of comparisons with the Tomb Raider series. Are you happy with those?

EW: I completely understand them, just because this is a genre which is not that widely used in video games for whatever reason--people tend to focus more on science fiction. This more-realistic, treasure-hunting, pulp action adventure genre really hasn't been tried by that many. So I think just by the very fact that both Nathan Drake and Lara Croft are treasure hunters, there will be comparisons. But beyond that, they diverge pretty rapidly. From a character standpoint, Nathan Drake is an everyman who struggles to get by, who you can see on his face that he's stressed out as he's flinching from bullets ricocheting off the cover he's hiding behind, while Lara is the more stone-faced acrobat, perfect landing every time. And then the gameplay, obviously we were very focused on third-person cover-based play, while theirs is more auto-aiming and a little more heavy on the puzzle-solving.

GS AU: We understand the team actually surfed forums a bit and implemented some gamer feedback into the final game. Is that right?

EW: That is correct. One of the most noticeable ones was just a few weeks ago, I had put a blog entry up on the US PlayStation blog, and I got a bunch of responses asking me about the resolutions we support. Up until that day, we were only supporting 720p and it never really crossed our minds to support anything else. In the US, we have this issue where a lot of early adopters with HDTVs have TVs that only support 1080i. So if you have a TV that supports 1080i and the game only supports 720p, the PS3 will default to 480p, which isn't even high-def and is not the way Uncharted should be experienced. So they brought that to my attention--I mean, it was kind of embarrassing that we didn't know that before--and literally within the hour we had 1080i support up to take care of all those people.

GS AU: What are your expectations for Uncharted? Do you think it will make as much as an impact as your previous games?

EW: I really don't have a good idea of what to expect. I'm really proud of what we've accomplished, and I think the team has done an amazing job. Two years in development may not seem like a short amount of time, but we really did pull it off in a short amount of time. So far, all the previews and the anticipation on the forums have been there, so I'm cautiously optimistic.

GS AU: So can we expect to see more of Nathan Drake?

EW: I hope so. We really developed the game to be a franchise. We've picked the pulp action adventure genre partly because it lends itself to serialisation and episodic content. Part of the storyline involves searching out some of the lost treasures of Sir Francis Drake, and there's a lot more treasure out there to be found.

GS AU: So can you tell us what's next on Naughty Dog's agenda?

EW: I wish I could. But we're still focused on finishing this game up, so we don't have that much in place to roll on to the next one. The next order of business is to get back home and knuckle down and figure out what we're going to do.

GS AU: Evan Wells, thanks for your time.

Written By

Randolph is the managing editor of GameSpot, and needs more time to play games.

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Discussion

145 comments
wwefan4ever
wwefan4ever

This site is owned by none other than...Microsoft That is why this site rates PS3 games lower than 360.

adamska_br
adamska_br

Will someday Naughty Dog make another Crash Bandicoot? Because, I'm playing Crash of the Titans and it's rubbish! ND is a great developer.

killzone_gamer
killzone_gamer

Im getting this game for christmas, is looks a very well established game.

KhanhAgE
KhanhAgE

I can't wait for this game to come out. I've always been a fan of Naughty Dog. I hope they've got a winner with this one. It really does look fantastic.

flow-zae94
flow-zae94

DAMMMMM if its a third to half but if he means about one third OR half thats still a load of power in the ps3

RebornJeremiah
RebornJeremiah

to OmegaBeserk: So what? That shouldn't stop you from enjoying the game. Look at the previous generation before. Did you think that GS is Sony bias because there are a lot of good reviews for ps2 games? There are just way more games in 360 because the fact that it has been released earlier thus there are more good reviews. Talking about bad reviews some of 360 games have gotten its share of bad reviews too. Look at Blue Dragon, it was so hyped and yet the review is disappointing. What about Zelda TP and also Metroid Prime Corruption, they both didn't even touch 9.0 in GS reviews and yet I love all these 3 games and played them to death. Let's put you in the position as one of GS reviewers and try do the review of Halo 3. As you stated before that you didn't feel that the game really touch the hype so automatically this will downgrade your review of Halo 3 to prob around 8.0 - 9.0 or may be even lower. Thus, you will get bashed again with bunch of people for giving such a low score in the reviews. So, now people will think that you are not "professional" thus you lose your credibility as one of reviewer even though you are a gamer. So what now, do you want to say that you have something against all the people that have 360? No but that's how review works, sometimes it hurts sometimes it doesn't.

OmeGaBeserk
OmeGaBeserk

Seriously I look at reviews for all ps3 games on gamerankings.com, and gamespot almost always has the lowest reviews, and for Ratchet, they did. But when it comes to 360 games, they are usually at the top of the review spectrum, same as for the wii. this is seriously retarded. I mean I am a fan of all consoles, but Halo 3? Good game, But for me it didnt touch the Hype that was built for it. But the reviews were off the charts! But if you look at user feedback on some of these games the ranking is much much lower than the "professional" reviewers. But remember when you read these reviews, they are gamers, you are gamers. you have to try the game before you can rip it apart and seriously reviews are all about opinion, but gamespot just has a thing against the ps3. Im done my rant.

Agermemnon
Agermemnon

@Enzo_gt go look at the stuff on psn please then comment .

robx360
robx360

Well i am a Xbox guy. It's good to see exclusive games on the PS3 though.

v8nnwilder
v8nnwilder

I've been tracking this game since the first time I heard of it and I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on it.... One think that really impressed me is that Naughty Dog actually worked hard on this title and found their way of making games on the PS3 and how to start using it's power... maybe now some other developers will actually follow their example and really take on the challenge of creating something new and different for the PS3. I feel too many developers takes the "easy" way out and say that it's so hard to make a game for the new PS3 but they are basically not up for the challenge of making it work... I mean they just used one third to about half of the processing power so I can't wait to see someone use it all... I say hive it a year and we'll have that as the standard... If Naughty Dig keeps this up I will keep buying their products I'll show them support if they show theirs by always pushing harder...

corp-hicks1
corp-hicks1

"Cell processor is concerned, we're actually using about a third to half of that right now, so there's still a bit of untapped potential there." Why not use it all?

dagundam_26
dagundam_26

"LoneStranger I think we need a new Crash Racing game." I agree all the way! Crash Team Racing was and still is one of Sony's best. IT's Sony's own kartracing!!!

hitman1988
hitman1988

if i can afford it. I will be getting this one

Enzo_gt
Enzo_gt

Agermemnon how does this game look bad to you? I saw it on Saturday on Space channel and I have a 32 inch Sony trinitron (not high def).They were showing some gameplay scenes and it looked amazing.

CaptainHerlock
CaptainHerlock

I understand why people compare this game to Tomb Raider. Because it's "easy". They see a jungle and they make what's an obvious comparison in their minds. When I first saw this game I said to myself "wow! This looks an awful lot like Dirk Pitt!". Who's Dirk Pitt you might ask? He's the character created by Clive Cussler that's been searching for lost treasure well before Lara Croft was a twinkle in a programmers eye. The way wells describes Nathan Drake as an "everyman" is the same way Clive Cussler refers to Pitt in his novels. I'm thinking Wells or someone on the Naughty Dog staff is a big Clive Cussler fan. If you're up for reading check out the books Cyclops, Sahara, or Inca Gold. Their fast paced and have tons of action.

Agermemnon
Agermemnon

After watching the vid on psn i was shocked at how bad it looked , kratos_karmaker i don't know what vis you were looking at but it couldn't have been the stuff from psn thats for sure .

kratos_karmakar
kratos_karmakar

i absolutely digged the way evan destroyed all notion of this game being a tomb raider clone with "Nathan Drake is an everyman who struggles to get by, who you can see on his face that he's stressed out as he's flinching from bullets ricocheting off the cover he's hiding behind, while Lara is the more stone-faced acrobat, perfect landing every time."

kratos_karmakar
kratos_karmakar

if uve seen the graphix and texture on this one ull b sure to know which is the most powerful console of this generation. uncharted looks amazing animation, graphix, and gameplay wise .fellow ps3 owners ....i feel we may hav ourselves a 9 up pointer here.

dewey1991
dewey1991

This is the game that makes me want to get a PS3 along with Ratchet and Clank Future: ToD and MGS4 and others.

frostbach_basic
frostbach_basic

"Most of us grew up in the american school system. There, a 69/100 (6.9 when based out of 10) was an F" What America are you living in?

korichy
korichy

ClawBoy: I was in the same track as you, I read almost all the reviews on Rachet & Clank and they are good. I downloaded the demo and it's fun, how come that gamespot gave it a 7.5 if it only had a little trouble with the story or should I say 'bit' as they used, they are really, really hard on ratings. Gamespot it's my major gaming site but on rating I don't like them. I have found some Xbox likeness in almost all the reviews and previews of 360 games, also not to blame 360, they are hardcore gamers ,all of them, by this how can they rate a kids game if they don't like that kind of games, I don't know if you get my point. They can't be ask to rate a game gendre they don't like...finito. see ya' folks

l34052
l34052

This game is one of the main reasons I took the plunge and got a PS3 yesterday, Naughty Dog have never let me down before with the Jak series so im confident this will have the same fun factor and high production values of their past efforts.

MarcjinJaume
MarcjinJaume

I've got my ps3 since the month it came out here in Europe and I just have one game and I don't think I'll buy this one not because it doesn't look good but because I don't want games to follow movies path. I'd prefer less games but of all time with important online modes when not MM although that meant more expensive games. PD: I wouldn't buy more games if gta was downscaled. looking forward to new ps3 exclusive rockstar's franchise

dorohala
dorohala

This developer is really good because he understands the power of the PS3 and he also said that the quality of the PS3 games can be increased! Now thats what you call a real developer!!!

exokun
exokun

game looks fun hopefully jak 4 is next

ketsuatama
ketsuatama

Hope this is the game that prompts me to fire up my PS3 and rest my 360!

mastertimx
mastertimx

this game is going to be awesome. naughty dog, sucker punch, and insomniac for the win.

MasterChief725
MasterChief725

meh...i would rather have tomb raider anniverary for 360, PS3 users wait for Tomb Raider 8 which is multi-platform...Tomb Raider is 20 dollars less, is critically acclaimed, and has Lara Croft in it...! She is hot!

Latinbro1
Latinbro1

"pandadude01 @Latinbro1: Kill.switch was a great game!" And I agree 'cuz I played it through to the end and enjoyed it. But it didn't do that well in terms of sales therefore very few remember, and when games come out that have a similar control type people jump to the conclusion that it copies gears and don't realize that gears is KS with more graphics and a nice reload system.

clawboy
clawboy

7.5 for R&C? 8.5 for Madden 08? Anyway I can't wait for Drakes Fortune but I'm afraid of Gamespot's reviews. Ryan Davis will probably give it a solid 7.0.

motherboop
motherboop

Now all we need is a demo. I check my ps3 daily.

Dunta22
Dunta22

jocaju: Hey everyone, for reviews from this game, go to any other gamesite except gamespot. 7.5 for R&C? They got to be kidding!! Gamespot WAS "the place for reviews" as I said WAS WAs Was was... yeh thats what i was thinkin....dont go by gs game reviews anymore theyre bullsh**

pandadude01
pandadude01

@Latinbro1: Kill.switch was a great game!

jocaju
jocaju

Hey everyone, for reviews from this game, go to any other gamesite except gamespot. 7.5 for R&C? They got to be kidding!! Gamespot WAS "the place for reviews" as I said WAS WAs Was was...

ahyumifan
ahyumifan

FINALLY, the PS3 having its worthy game... I guess... lets wait for the review, and if it's good, It's time to buy my PS3.

Kenshiro_san9
Kenshiro_san9

This game does look truly amazing. Wanna hear a crazy theory though? I think Sony is playing a neat game and let some of their exclusives slip, just so the disparity between the two systems can be established more strongly. Just an opinion. Very sweet looking game . . . just hope it's not a complete TR rip. That would be disappointing.

Prinze
Prinze

Probably the best animations I've seen in a game. Hopefully the holiday season coupled with the new 40GB SKU can help boost sales for Sony and Naughty Dog.

Scubei
Scubei

THIS GAME IS GONNA MAKE OR BREAK ME ON WHAT I THINK ABOUT MY PS3. So far its great. playing my ps2 games and for the 1st time playing FF11 on my ps3 feels great, but I need to see more......As. Creed, Drake, tiger 08, even army of 2.......But Drake will tell the tale....i think anyways

ironcreed
ironcreed

Cannot wait for this title, as it looks like it is going to be amazing. I do not expect a good score here, but I am betting that it will be considered AAA at places like IGN. Regardless of scores though, I am certain that I will love this game, and that is all that matters in the end. I just want to see more PS3 titles start to get some legitimate recognition is all.

sascha23
sascha23

This game looks stunning and the story looks like another Naughty Dog gem. Gameplay that's easy to get into, characters you'll grow to love or hate (depending on whether they're good or evil) and oodles of style.

Latinbro1
Latinbro1

Sony needs to get on the ball and start promoting this game . Their marketing machine seems really sluggish. I've not seen any commercial for Warhawk and have only seen TV spots on Heavenly Sword late at night, really late at night. This game looks like it borrows from a lot of games. When I first saw it I thought of a jungle max pain w/o bullet time. The jungle reminded me of Pitfall and Tomb Raider. The cover system reminds me of dead to rights and that other Namco game that didn't do that well... Killswitch (which is never given credit to the type of control scheme found in GeOW). I hope it is fun

lamprey263
lamprey263

this game looks like it can be good but I just don't see it yet as a franchise material... then again, I haven't even played it yet so who knows

man007_s
man007_s

It looks like GeOW + good animation + interesting story = definitely will get high review form gamespot and the other sites, but I'm still worry about the control and I hope this time NO FRAMERATE ISSUES

harhuge
harhuge

"Plus they are two totally different types of games...one looks like it's fun and has a good story and acting, and the other looks like a boring sci-fi talk-a-thon. ZING! I couldn't hold back." You are suggesting that Uncharted has a better story and acting than Mass Effect? Wow. Early reviews of ME has spoken. It's a high AAA, GOTY contender, with the best story in video games in a long time. And you actually think a game by Naughty Dog can compare to something Bioware made? Ha. This game will get a 7.0-8.0. Nothing more, nothing less. It looks like a fun game, it just that I am getting the feeling that it will be incredibly short, with no replay value.

MrSickVisionz
MrSickVisionz

Sounds cool. WTF @ this though: "So if you have a TV that supports 1080i and the game only supports 720p, the PS3 will default to 480p". That doesn't sound right, but I don't wanna doubt a game developer cuz I feel like if anyone knows, they do. -- "Do you call a 2/4 star movie bad? Then why should you call a 5/10 game bad? And why should you consider 8 or even 7.5 too low for a really good game with some flaws? 9 and above should be reserved for the truly special." Most of us grew up in the american school system. There, a 69/100 (6.9 when based out of 10) was an F (failing). I think alot of people, myself included, still think of that when they see these ratings. 5/10 is a bad grade to me. Its like 50% of the game is utter and complete garbage. A 7/10 is barely making it and is still a bad grade. Its like your game is crap but theres one redeeming quality so it didn't get a 69.

NandoSupes
NandoSupes

I remembered Greg Kasavin,probably one of the best reviewers GS ever had ,he knew how to review a game regardless of platform whether it was a Sony,Microsoft or a Nintendo game.

LoneStranger
LoneStranger

I think we need a new Crash Racing game.