So, a few weeks back we asked for your questions for Evan Wells, and here are the answers - which make very interesting reading. Questions on the possibility of Jak and Daxter for PS3, rag doll physics and new challenges are all answered. The second part of the interview will follow tomorrow.
What technologies went into creating the game? - subsurface scattering/ parallax mapping/ procedural textures etc etc
There really are too many to list out. The answer to this question would just end up looking like a laundry list of all of the industry’s next-gen buzz words. Our engineers have really pulled out all of the stops and given our artists and amazing set of tools to work with. And all of the tech in the world isn’t going to do you any good unless you have a talented team of artists to work with it.
How long did development time actually take from the first snippet of code to the final product?
Full production on Uncharted lasted almost exactly two years. We had an internal team of about 70 employees working on the game as well as about dozen contractors. There was also about a year of pre-production where we had a small team working on early ideas and tech.
Will you be utilising the uncharted engine for upcoming titles - PS3 Jak anyone?
We will most definitely continue to build on the Uncharted code base with all of our future titles for the PlayStation3. We have a lot of very sophisticated systems that are general purpose and could be used for a wide variety of genres. It’s very exciting to think what we can do with this tech now that it’s in place and we can focus on accomplishing something even more ambitious. And Jak and Daxter is a definite possibility some time in the future. There is a lot of interest around the office in going back to that franchise and seeing what we could do with it using the Uncharted engine.
Best physics in a game, but why not incorporate the rag doll physics on downed enemies? I know they are there, but they only react when you run over them. Nothing happens when you shoot them. What was the reason behind this?
Actually we had the bodies reacting to bullets all the way up until the last couple of weeks of development. It came down to a ratings issue, and we really didn’t think that it was worth the risk of receiving a more mature rating for such a small feature.
There are beautifully animated fish in the water, but I can’t shoot them?
Same thing here. We had hit reactions and even some death animations for the wildlife in the game but we chose to remove it. It was flagged as a potential issue by the ESRB and it seemed like a small concession to make in order to maintain our “Teen” rating. It may have also affected the rating in Europe.
I’ve watched a few of the development videos, so can imagine the front end of many of your tools. Other items I guess are developed on other software such as model designs, audio design. However, eventually, it needs compiling down to the best software code for the Playstation3 architecture. How did this work? How do they test their math? How did the technical side work? How do they tweak and get the best out of our baby? What have they learnt?
With all of the development tools that we use, the most important feature is iteration time. We want to cut down the time it takes for our artists, designers and programmers to see their work show up in the game. This means that they will get the maximum opportunity to experiment which is the only way to make a great game. A lot of our tools were designed and created at Naughty Dog including a level editor, a shader and material editor, an asset management system and a scripting language that can be compiled and uploaded to the PS3 on the fly.
In regards to optimizing for the PS3, our engineers have gotten to the point were they’re familiar enough with the hardware that their first pass code has already taken the SPU’s into account. So when it comes time to move a system over from the PPU to the Cell, it doesn’t take a very long time.
Do you intend to tackle a similar project in the future, or would you fancy a new challenge? From a third person action adventure, to a racing game for instance, or a flying game.
For the most part I imagine we will be sticking with the 3rd person, action/adventure genre. It’s the kind of game that everybody at Naughty Dog enjoys playing the most, so we have the most passion for creating them too.
Clearly you’ve done a great job. Business wise, how difficult is it to obtain, and now keep the talent, and skilled staff?
Obtaining the talent can be tough. We built this staff over many years and thousands of interviews, looking for just the right team. Keeping the talent is just a matter of offering them creative environment to work in and a great game to work on. I really think that’s the most important thing (of course nice salaries and bonuses don’t hurt either). If your team isn’t inspired by what they are working on and the people they are working with, then that’s when you run into issues with retaining your staff.
Are you considering a sequel? There are more treasures to be found out there after all. Perhaps some in old Italian cities, like Venice.
We developed Uncharted as a franchise. The pulp action/adventure genre lends itself perfectly to serialization and continued episodes which is one of the reasons we were attracted to it. Right now we are brainstorming on what Naughty Dog’s next project will be, but even if we don’t do an Uncharted sequel right away, you can pretty much count on us doing one in the near future.