Inside the Developers Studio: Evan Wells & Richard Lemarchand

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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

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104 Comments

  • comment no. 1 woo hoo!

  • comment no 2

  • Great interview. Uncharted is probably one of my most anticipated first party games this year.

  • Awesome interview. Can’t wait for Uncharted. this game looks great!

  • Can hardly wait for this game

  • yes, this and warhawk are a MUST.. i have bragged more about this game than any other game.. awesome trailer… on the psn, a demo wouldn’t hurt, keep it up fellas

  • Cool interview. You should have asked if Jak and Daxter will come to the ps3.

  • oh yes uncharted day one purchase!

  • Another great Q&A session. Keep them coming!

  • Hope this game is going to play as good as it looks. I played the promo over and over. Love the acting!

  • If there is one game I am infinitely hyped for, it’s Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. The animation system looks truly amazing, and the game itself looks very fun to play. Best of all, this engine can serve as a base for future Naughty Dog games as they continue to develop for the system.

    I don’t buy very many games when they hit day one, I’ve already paid in full for this one.

  • Wow you made me even more pumped for this game. It looks awesome and I can’t wait!

  • *off topic, but I just read that Sony will be releasing E3 content on PSN. Can you also please post E3 content on this blog to download. It seems like it takes twice as long to download off PSN. Thanks :), and I’m glad you are sharing your E3 content, great move.

  • This game is on my Wanted List.

  • I hope POST-E3 that the blogs keep coming as regular as they are now…

    That being said, this is the game I have been waiting for! I am a huge fan of the Jak series and I cannot wait to get my hands on this title. It looks amazing and I doubt I will be let down!

  • Hey Evan, Hey Richard! :)

    Youre doing a great job on the new ND game, it looks definitely awesome already. Im awaiting uncharted with great anticipation. I love the vibrant colors and the ND-esque look of the game, totally gorgeous. As long as you could just adjust that little lacking vegatition and perhaps some like being able to make headshots :P (we gamers havent gotten pretty spoiled).

    Also, Evan, I heard you on the Fullmoon show. You sounded quite stressed :( sort of makes me concerned. I would’ve tried to formulate some sort of message for you to ease the pressure, but I hope you’ll overcome it and get rewareded, man. Just a few words from a loyal ND fan :).

  • How do you get your Gravatar to appear???

  • u guys are really listening to us u now have high res pics for us to look at. OHH by the way the game looks amazing and seriously i don’t think an other platform can do that good of an animation. this game is giving us a preview of how killzone 2 is really going to play and how it will look like.

  • Looks awesome. Please tell me it will be 1080p…

  • Kratos_ate_Snake

    I love how sony just completely ignores the fact that there was no update yesterday.

  • Can’t wait!! This is THE game I want most this year, if I could only pick one this game would be it. thanks for the blog post guys.

    when will we get a demo, don’t break your NDA to answer, just nod once for soon and nod 2 times for never…waiting

  • Wow, so uncharted, warhawk, lair, heavenly sword… your running out of games to dodge around! We want killzone 2 interview!

    Also Uncharted is another of my ‘Must have’ games, including all the ones i said above

  • What to buy…what to buy…VF5 360 with online or Uncharted? Hmm…no brainer. I played VF5 4 months ago.

  • Besides MGS4, Uncharted is my most antecipated PS3 game!!!

    Oh, and LBP!

  • SONY has the best Developers…period

    And ND is their No1

    Looking foward to your game

    SPARDA

  • Good read, this is by far my most anticipated Sony release this year.

    Rock on!

  • Nice now I just want to know when there will be a demo that will hit PSN and what month this game will come out so I can sink several hours into this game.

  • The game will be amazing, but that current screenshot isn’t very appealing. A more polished screen grab would have been a better choice.

  • I like it, just don’t pull back on the release date.

    according to this site http://www.us.playstation.com/PS3/Games/Uncharted_Drake_s_Fortune

    release date is: 11/2007

  • Uncharted looks to be another winner in the PS3’s line-up and I’m looking forward to getting this game as soon as it’s released. One thing I hope it improved upon though in the retail game is the explosions.. there seems to be a lack of animation for the explosions in the trailer. Are you guys going to add in more frames of animation for the explosions? ie; I don’t think a barrel blowing up should just disappear and be replaced by fire.

  • From all the footage I’ve seen, Uncharted truly has the best animations I’ve ever seen in a video game.

    I’ve loved Naughty Dog since the first Crash days when I was a kid.

  • I hope there is a playable demo on PSN soon :)

  • Thanks for the interview. The animation system sounds really cool.
    I wonder how this game is going to play. I know Naughty Dog gives us really fun games so I am not to worried.
    That video of the gameplay that is making the rounds on the internets is worrying me. Though it is probably an early build so I am not going to knock it too much.

  • nmc75 you are right, the explosions need a little more Holywood oemp.

  • cant wait it would be nice 2 get a demo

  • uncharted looks amazing best console game I ever seen w/ best graphics

  • Killzone 2 Interview next please!

  • I agree with #38, Killzone 2 should be next, actually it should have already gone up. As for this game, I’m going to wait and see how it plays.

  • Yeah, the lack of update yesterday kinda pisses me off and i think the only way to make up for it is to release a demo for Uncharted and Heavenly Sword… come on sony, tough love ain’t going to fly.

  • thumbs up to #38

    Also an image from the in-game

  • Patrick Seybold
    Patrick Seybold
    Patrick Seybold

    @20. We did post yesterday. It was Warhawk with Dylan Jobe. Check it out.

    Also, a heads up to everyone, Uncharted will appear on tonight’s episode of GameHead with Geoff Keighly. For more info: http://www.spiketv.com/index.html#shows/ss/t=ss/sid=5

  • Silver R. Wolfe

    Been waiting for this game for a bit. It looked spectacular when it was first shown off and has been looking better and better as we get closer to release.

  • I dont have a ps3 and I cant wait for this game!!

  • Patrick, he ment the PSN store…i think. you guys keep this thing up to date very well. but i know you didnt update the store because of E3, its cool! love you guys! Uncharted looks amazing!

  • @20, although it is disapointing, I believe next week won’t be as bad. You should expect a Heavenly Sword demo (if “very near future” is as near as everyone thinks) and a lot of trailers and E3 info. So go play R6:Vegas or Ninja Gaiden until next week. :)

  • This game looks like a lot of fun can’t wait for it to come out.

  • @42 Patrick,

    I followed the link.. what is the right time?
    The site said 1AM on July 6

  • Also to those who are expecting a Killzone blog post before E3…don’t count on it :p . We’ll have to wait until next Tuesday to hear about it.

  • @48

    Check your local listings. It’s on Spike TV. It is on at 1am on my tube.

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