The Last Of Us Director Reveals Why He Left Naughty Dog

It's because Uncharted 4's development took a toll on him.

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Now Playing: GS News Update: The Last Of Us Director Reveals Why He Left Naughty Dog

When The Last of Us launched back in 2013, Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann established themselves as effectively the face of developer Naughty Dog. Together, they went on to lead development of Uncharted 4, further cementing their reputation as a directorial duo. But Straley left the studio after the game launched--and now we know why.

Appearing on Kotaku's Splitscreen podcast, Straley revealed that his departure was due to the stresses and pressure of Uncharted 4's development. It was the first time that a project had felt more like an obligation to the team and company, rather than a passion project for himself.

"Uncharted 4 showed up and it was like, I guess there's a difference between doing something for yourself which feels passionate--and I had my own theories that I was trying to expand upon between Uncharted 1, 2, and The Last of Us--and then Uncharted 4 became more like, 'How do I do this for the team and for the company?'" he said.

Straley and Druckmann also had a relatively short timeframe to work on Uncharted 4, which further contributed to Straley's feeling of burnout. They only had two years to work on the game; for comparison, their work on The Last of Us began in 2009, four years before its release.

"We needed to get the game out the door, and we needed it to be something good, so that it didn't put a mark on the Naughty Dog name," he said. "I felt like, I guess in hindsight I took on that role more for the team than for me personally... Two years to create that beast, that then became the hardest project [I had worked on]."

He explained that his break and later departure from the studio had "nothing to do with Naughty Dog, nothing to do with games." Instead, his thought after Uncharted 4 launched was, "'Oh my god, it's time to take a break. It's just time to step away.'"

Straley hasn't announced what he's working on, but he's expressed excitement to continue the creative process. Neil Druckmann, meanwhile, remains at Naughty Dog and is leading up development on The Last of Us: Part II.

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Avatar image for mondoblasto
mondoblasto

Things like this should hopefully make people seriously consider not espousing the "Y U no make fastur" attitude when it comes to AAA game development.

Avatar image for pcps4xb
PCPS4XB

I thought UC4 started development in 2011

Avatar image for cacadodo666
cacadodo666

Straely. Born 1978. Acting like a millenial. What a lil bya!

Avatar image for clay544888
clay544888

The Last Of Us 2 might suck because of this. It's never a good thing when one of the main things for something being great quits.

Avatar image for pcps4xb
PCPS4XB

I don't agree with his decision one bit. The company has privided for him all this time and when it's time for their need, he needs a break? Wow. Should be happy because all that work paid off nicely.

Avatar image for clay544888
clay544888

@pcps4xb: I know right? That shit pays more than enough. These guys need to try to work In some hard ass BORING labor job that people do because they need to pay bills, not because of PASSION and with shit pay? The guy is weak as shit mentally. It's called work for a reason. He's privileged for being in that position at all. He should be a little more grateful for having his position. Then again who am I to dictate his decisions..if that's how he wants to handle his life well then Wtf can I say.

Avatar image for pcps4xb
PCPS4XB

@clay544888: yea IMO he should not have taken a job with responsibilities he can't handle

Avatar image for tfaith065
TFaith065

Solid game for being rushed.. I enjoyed it a lot more the second time I played it. The first time was like, meh. But it's a nicely done game. I'll still rank them 2, 3, 4&1 (tie). But all good.

Avatar image for jgarbuz
jgarbuz

YEah, it takes at least 3 years of hard work to put out a decent AAA game worth the price, and to do it in 2 years is really pushing beyond the breaking point. So I can fully understand, after having done as much as he had, that he'd had enough. Passion for your work can only push you so far, and after that it's no longer fun and it's just a drag on health, mental and physical.

Avatar image for clay544888
clay544888

@jgarbuz: It's funny because I never did any kind of work because of "passion". I'm not passionate about any job. That's why it's called work. I must be the only one. I ONLY ever worked because I needed to.

Avatar image for jgarbuz
jgarbuz

@clay544888: I can understand your POV, because I did work for a fraction of what I could have made otherwise because I believed in what I was doing and why. As time went on I realized my passion was misplaced. But passion always dies, sooner or later, be it in work or marriage or whatever. But in an era when workers are only seen as pawns and nothing more, I can understand your POV. To live without purpose or belief is a hard life, even if it is the truth. It's the way slaves felt for thousands of years, living and working with no hope.

Avatar image for TacticaI
TacticaI

@clay544888: Lol good for you. Good luck with that.

Avatar image for itswinter
itswinter

@clay544888: I assume you're intentionally disingenuous based on post history, but I'll pretend you're not. Do you work in a creative field? Does your work rely on creating [hopefully] meaningful and quality experiences? Probably not based on your comments. It may as well be contract work: your livelihood depends on what you can create. If you can't create, then say goodbye to your job.

Why do you think you're entitled to him working? Would you prefer he worked on subpar games, which you would then criticize him for? He has no obligation to you or anyone else, including Naughty Dog. He did his time and got out when he felt necessary.

Avatar image for pax_augusta
Pax_Augusta

Good for him. It was ridiculous for Naughty Dog to put those kinds of expectations on him after Amy Hennig left halfway through Uncharted 4's development. Whenever work begins to affect your health and mental state, it's time to change careers.

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urbanman2004

@pax_augusta: Well Amy Hennig left ND for EA and look how sh!t ended up for her. Guess it isn't that much greener on the other side of the fence

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king_moe

Wtf? Don’t see this at all as a reason to leave a great company and team at naughty dog wtf was Bruce thinking?? Smfh...

Avatar image for pax_augusta
Pax_Augusta

@king_moe: That's obvious. Crunch time sucks and he didn't have any flexibility after Amy Hennig left. I'd leave too.

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Heartagram_03

I can see his reasoning. Uncharted 4 was a slog for me to get through, it felt too "samey" compared to the other games in the series. Nothing can top that train sequence in Uncharted 2 or the cargo plane crash in Uncharted 3. U4 felt like it was all done better in previous games in terms of cinematic set pieces.

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LoganX77

When well known western devs leave their team they always seem to go off and become nobodies. Good luck!

Avatar image for jgarbuz
jgarbuz

@loganx77: Hey, in the end your health comes before everything. He's not a soldier sworn to do or die. They drove them beyond the breaking point, and he finally broke. Had enough.

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JVII

It was also for the fans, but who cares about them, right?

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sakaiXx

Amy henning departure(or kicked out) also probably affected more than it should. He and niel take over and rewrite the whole plot for uncharted 4.

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Pax_Augusta

@sakaixx: Of course Amy Hennig leaving threw everything into chaos. Naughty Dog was dumb to not delay the game after she was gone. They forced this guy out.

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ASnakeNeverDies

@sakaixx: It was both Neil Druckmann and Josh Scherr who were responsible for the writing, not this guy.

Avatar image for sakaixx
sakaiXx

@asnakeneverdies: of course. Just worded it wrongly. He take over as director and they change direction mid development.

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Hillsy_

I agree about UC4 being a tech demo, the gameplay was definitely compromised. The legacy game afterwards had a better build up with the last few chapters being the icing on the cake.

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SythisTaru

So, he got lazy? :(

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TheWatcher000

@SythisTaru:

Lazy? Are you thick?

You really have no clue what crunch time on a game that had to be rushed out that quickly can do to people, do you?

Avatar image for clay544888
clay544888

@TheWatcher000: BIG DEAL. Try working in BORING, demanding labor jobs with shit pay for years where no one knows your name, no fame like this guy, living paycheck to paycheck barely getting by. This guys job is a privilege to have. Even if it's hard, it's worth it. Working in dead end labor jobs with long dead end hours with no end result. Now that beats your mind to nothing. Now THAT is tough work.

Avatar image for TheWatcher000
TheWatcher000

@clay544888

Yes, you're right. ONLY people who work in those types of jobs have hard lives, clay. You sound like a bitter little bitch who is so pissed off about his own life, you have zero understanding, compassion, respect or empathy for others.

Avatar image for clay544888
clay544888

@TheWatcher000: And you must be a little bitch just like Mr. Quitter over there too considering you're working pretty hard on defending him to justify your sissy life. I bet you're the type of person who says "they ain't gonna make me do that" when shit gets hard. I've known too many people like that. When someone defends a sissy like that guy, it's because they're sissies as well. It's for the point of justification. It's your excuse for your own sanity on living with the decisions you've made in your own life. I HIGHLY doubt you're tough as nails on the job based on how you look at life. I'm bitter? Nah, I just have no sympathy for a man making millions who quit on his passion because the fuzzy little feeling died for ONE project. Such an ungrateful bastard. Life is tough for everyone. The guy nor you obviously has any grit whatsoever. And me typing behind a "keyboard" or not doesn't change that fact. Such a pussifying generation.

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G4m1ngOn

Uncharted 4 > other adventures for sure. But it felt pushed out, too much of the same from 2-3 games. Actors saved the whole game.

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wexorian

Even if next game will be bollocks and still it WILL BE BEST game for Fans ofc because OF IT"S name it will sale like hotcakes that's CASE so far what we had seen and read.

Avatar image for jgarbuz
jgarbuz

@wexorian: What next game? Played Legacy, and it was okay but nothing special. Not memorable like Uncharted 2 or Last of Us. You are only as good as the talent you have. When you burn out your best talent, you are not going to get the best output later on.

Avatar image for deactivated-5ad5af79a96e8

If he was burnt out by the stress and pressure I pity his development team. Might just be me, but when do the guys at the top actually do any of the heavy-lifting?

Avatar image for pax_augusta
Pax_Augusta

@Fallenlords69: You obviously aren't familiar with Naughty Dog's development process. The directors at Naughty Dog are dictators. They oversee EVERYTHING. Amg Hennig was infamous for being meticulous and looking at every aspect of Uncharted 1-3's development. It's part of the reason she was forced out, because she was a control freak. He had to fill that void, and the pressure and expectations on such a short time frame were just too much for him. I don't blame him for leaving. The game should have been delayed.

Avatar image for deactivated-5ad5af79a96e8

@pax_augusta: That is fair enough, nothing wrong with being a control freak when quality is on the line. But I re-iterate what I said before, the people at the top are rarely the ones that have to do the heavy-lifting. But I don't know the guy, don't know the team. He may be hands-on, good knowledgeable boss, who really gets stuck in and involved. I am just speculating.

Did actually just see another article with Bruce Straley about the same story and he commended his team and talked about a good problem solving environment where everybody does get involved. So it does appear in this instance I may have judged him a little harshly :) (That article said more about the family atmosphere, the people he would miss, didn't come across as just a burnt-out Game Director taking a break with no mention of his team etc).

Avatar image for Xan26
Xan26

@Fallenlords69: Actually, it's quite possible that the people at the top worry much more than the people working for them. This guy has a company name, a few hundreds of people, fans and himself to take care of through his management and development capabilities. His workers all have one thing to worry about: do his own job well. They may feel related to the developer's goal, they may feel the company's vision (or lack of it), but whether they stress themselves more or not depends on how much importance he put on this project and how responsible he felt for it.

But it's worth interviewing their employees.

Avatar image for deactivated-5ad5af79a96e8

@Xan26: Anything is possible. But from experience stuff rolls down hill, to put it politely, too easily and too fast. And when things don't pan out as expected, the culling always starts from the bottom up. Overall I don't know, this 'took one for the team' sounds good but I wonder if that was the reality.

Avatar image for TheWatcher000
TheWatcher000

@Fallenlords69:

"the people at the top are rarely the ones that have to do the heavy-lifting."

Is this something you have seen for yourself, personally? Do you work in game development? You said you had seen this from experience.

Avatar image for deactivated-5ad5af79a96e8

@TheWatcher000: I was in software development for a while. Thing I tended to notice to was the idiots that couldn't do the job, tended to be the ones that got promoted. A case of those that can't - manage. I am old and jaded, had too many idiot bosses. Which is why I started working for myself, now I only have one idiot boss and that is me.

Avatar image for TheWatcher000
TheWatcher000

@Fallenlords69:

Appreciate the input. It's always valuable to hear from people who have ACTUALLY worked in the trenches. I have many friends in the development end, and it is really, really hard work. A lot more goes into it than people realize.

Avatar image for clay544888
clay544888

@TheWatcher000: "Really hard work" is an opinion. Your version of hard work and my version of hard work are guaranteed to be two different things. So based on how much you defend Mr. quitter from earlier, I can't take your version of what "hard work" means seriously. You probably think walking your dog is hard work Lmao.

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Corsaro

Never knew UC4 was made on a tight schedule... I still think it delivered though and it ended nathan’s story perfectly

Avatar image for icing
ICING

Man UC4 had some problems but I never woulda guessed it was pushed out the door. Just shows how good Naughty Dog are at what they do.

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meedokicky

Aww well thanks for the great game :<

Avatar image for Renunciation
Renunciation

Reminds me of Reggie Jackson's comment about facing legendary pitcher Nolan Ryan:

"'Every hitter likes a fastball, just like everybody likes ice cream. But you don't like it stuffed into you by the gallon.''

Avatar image for PSYCHOV3N0M
PSYCHOV3N0M

@Renunciation: "just like everybody likes ice cream"

I used to think this was true but sadly I have a friend who doesn't like ice cream nor cake.

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