This year in gaming is shaping up to be one of the most memorable ones on record—and E3 (the trade show where new games and consoles are usually announced) hasn’t even happened yet. One of the most anticipated titles here at Complex HQ is coming out this November in Uncharted 3, and we're ready to get our monthly update of what’s going on over at Naughty Dog, the development studio behind the game.
Thankfully, Justin Richmond, Uncharted 3's game director, was happy to oblige us. And while he didn’t give away what’s in store for their grand E3 rollout, we got a full rundown of where the game stands, how it’s going to compete for the hearts and minds of competitive gamers on the PlayStation Network, and—speaking of which—what he thinks about Sony’s disastrous month of outages and hacks. Oh, and we have a possible Uncharted 4 semi-spoiler announcement and who at Naughty Dog does the best Nathan Drake (or, rather, Nolan North) impression. Read on while the reading's still good...
Interview by Troy Mounis
We’re less than six months away from the debut of Uncharted 3. How far along is the game?
Richmond: We’re still in the middle of development, so I don’t want to talk too much about how far along we are. We’ll continue to develop, tweak, and add things up until the very last moment. That’s just part of our nature. But I will say this—you haven’t seen anything yet. Be prepared to be blown away at E3.
Yes, we’ve got a Cintamani Stone’s worth of crap in our pants waiting in anticipation. So, why set this one in the desert anyway?
In every one of the Uncharted games, we focused on unique locations with amazing visuals and an intriguing historical mystery. During some of our early research, [creative director] Amy Hennig came across the legend of Ubar, or the “Atlantis of the Sands,” a prosperous city that mysteriously disappeared in the Arabian Desert. We were fascinated with the true-life mystery. And like the past Uncharted games, we also wanted to take on a new technical challenge, something we hadn’t done before. In the previous games it was water and the jungle, or ice and snow. So, as we started to talk about where we wanted to go for Uncharted 3, the desert just appealed to us. Not only was it a part of the world that Drake had never been, but it also presented one of the greatest technical design challenges: the way sand blows over and curls over the tops of dunes, the way it displaces and flows, almost like a liquid. Organic elements like water, fire, and sand are technically difficult to credibly render, and we wanted to push ourselves to see what we could accomplish.
What's been the biggest obstacle thus far in the game's development?
Our constant need to out-do ourselves. Each game set a high bar not only for the PlayStation, but for us as a developer. We’re constantly trying to top what we’ve delivered before—creating amazing new experiences for players while still delivering an engrossing story that's engaging enough to bring in new players, as well as being rewarding to fans of the franchise.
Tell us some of the major new additions to the single-player experience.
In the single-player campaign, we’re building out a bunch of new and improved gameplay mechanics and systems. For example, we’ve included a new melee fighting system that allows Drake to take on multiple enemies at one. We also have some new stealth moves that allow us to play with different contextual takedowns. This has given us the opportunity to create new scenarios and battles that were never possible before. We’re also expanding our traversal gunplay to give you more ways to engage in combat. We’ve expanded Drake’s maneuverability by introducing traversable objects that let Drake climb around free-standing environmental objects with fully realized physics—such as a swaying chandelier—especially during puzzle-based gameplay.
That sounds like you’re throwing in a bunch of stuff we know fans wanted from the second game. You’ve mentioned in the past that Uncharted 3’s multiplayer component is being built to rival some of the other popular multiplayer titles out on the market, the CoDs and Halos of the world. What do you think those games bring to the table that attracts their fans?
I think that both Halo and Call of Duty bring different things to the table. With Halo, you have one of the best examples of a tournament ready, skill-based multiplayer experience on any console. A better player will beat a less skilled player 99 percent of the time in Halo. They also have amazing user-generated content and tools with the Forge system. Call of Duty excels at making every player feel like they are advancing and moving forward with every game. WithModern Warfare, they brought the idea of progression in competitive multiplayer into the mainstream. The idea of an XP grind in a multiplayer game became hugely influential to the rest of the industry.
Are you hoping to replicate that with an Uncharted spin to it, or are you building a more novel experience? What makes it unique?
We’re taking our signature Uncharted gameplay and incorporating it into multiplayer in a very unique way that we think brings something completely fresh to online gaming. With Uncharted 3, we're introducing an action-adventure multiplayer experience where we’ve taken the big, cinematic set-piece moments of our single player campaign and integrated them into our multiplayer mode. These events create incredibly intense moments in competitive play that are different from other online multiplayer games. The unique gameplay mechanics in Uncharted have also opened up the possibilities for multiplayer.
How are you changing things up to take on some of the big boys in multiplayer?
Since we announced Uncharted 3, we’ve stated that multiplayer is going to be a huge focus for us in this game, and the multiplayer you’ll find in Uncharted 3 is a noticeable evolution from Uncharted 2. We’re expanding on the gameplay technology, the depth, and overall experience is so many different ways. We’re introducing new features like 3D stereoscopic support, single-console splitscreen sign in, and brand new competitive modes including Three Team Deathmatch (2 vs. 2 vs. 2) and Free For All. And that’s just the beginning.
Customization is a major focus for us this time around and we’re introducing countless ways for players to create their own unique play styles and characters. Players can now make their own hero or villain characters and choose from hundreds of customizable accessories, as well as weapon customization and modifications. Uncharted 3 is also introducing a Paid Booster slot, allowing players to spend some of their cash for a one-time booster, along with Medal Kickbacks, which allow players to activate a performance-based reward after collecting a number of medals during a match. With all these options to keep track of, we’ve also added player load-out slots to help them choose their weapons, mods, Boosters, and Kickbacks to create their own individualized load-out that matches their play style for each game and map.
We’re also introducing a host of new social media features and functionality to multiplayer in Uncharted 3. In addition to being able to directly upload to YouTube and Facebook, we’re also deeply integrating Facebook in ways that that are unique to console games so far. We’ve also expanded the Cinema Mode for creating and sharing videos, and we’ll be launching a new feature called Uncharted TV that will showcase some of the best user-generated content and videos from You Tube, viewable directly in-game.
Obviously there is so much more to come as we continue to talk about Uncharted 3 in the coming months, but this should give you a flavor of what to expect.
Damn, Gina. That’s a lot to look forward to. Is there anything that you guys actually left on the cutting room floor?
I wish I could give you some juicy tidbits, but those ideas are often the ones that integrated into our future games, and I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag!
That’s cool—we’ll assume you just accidentally announced Uncharted 4. Quick question, since it is so timely and relevant to you, considering the larger focus on multiplayer: How much did Sony screw the proverbial pooch with all that’s going on with the PlayStation Network?
As fellow gamers, we can understand how this can be frustrating. But we know that Sony is taking the situation very seriously and is committed to doing everything they can to make sure the network is a safe and secure environment. We’re heads down right now developing Uncharted 3 and are looking forward to kicking off our multiplayer beta this summer.
Which is June 28, last we heard. For shits and giggles: Who at Naughty Dog does the best impersonations of Nathan Drake and Sully?
For Nathan Drake, I kinda have to give it to [lead animator] Jeremy Yates. He does some of the mocap for Drake as well, and he has the character down. As for Sully, I have to say that there isn’t a person on the team who doesn’t give a hearty “Goddamn it!” with that signature Sully rumble every now and then.
You heard it here first, folks. Naughty Dog: Dedicated Breakers of the Third Commandment.