Uncharted 3: 'Almost everyone at Naughty Dog is a game designer'

PSM3 talks to Uncharted's co-lead designer Richard Lemarchand...

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What do videogame designers talk about when they get together?

Usually about philosophy of one kind or another - what approaches are best and the advantages or disadvantages. We talk a lot about games in a formal sense these days. Games are probably as old as language itself - for as long as we've been able to talk to each other and make agreements about, well that's a tree, that's a rock, we've been able to say, 'I'll race you down to the rock and the last one there skins the rabbits.'

When I first became a game designer, there wasn't really much written in an academic sense to help you understand what a game was or what the difference is between a game and a toy. 20 years down the line and thanks to years of Games Developer Conferences, and so much great writing, we understand much better the differences between the various things we lump together as videogames.


The range of possible subjects is stretching out to the horizon at the moment, and part of what we talk about is what kinds of things are possible for the future and the most interesting avenues we can explore next.

What do you this is the most important game of all time?

Oh, wow... my first answer is a bit cheeky and might also be wrong. I would want to say senet. It's an Egyptian game and I think it's the first game of all time, although that might be the royal game of Ur . I think senet is the first game we have the rules for. We know both are races like ludo or backgammon, and they're the first examples where humans invented a physical artefact to help play.

The videogame I would choose [is] Ico, and we could argue about this all day, but for me it's emblematic of a group of games - that also include Shadow of the Colossus - where games clearly became a transcendent form of art.

Sony Japan got Indiana Jones himself - Harrison Ford - to play Uncharted...

It blew our minds, absolutely blew our minds. It came completely out of left field. To see an actor who is such a big hero... I was a Han Solo kid when I was little and my brother Jeremy loved Luke Skywalker; it kind of reflects our characters, I think.

Of course I loved the Indiana Jones films growing up. To see an actor we admire so much, and who inspired us so much not just in Uncharted but in the whole of our careers was really mind-blowing.

What's your favourite Indiana Jones?
I think I'd have to say Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the Last Crusade is my second favourite and then Temple of Doom. And then the Crystal whatever-it-was-called was my fourth favourite .

Indiana Jones didn't kill nearly as many Nazis as Drake kills mercenaries. Does Drake kill too much?

We discuss this a lot at the studio - in fact, Amy Hennig even has a phrase for it. She calls it the Uncanny Valley of Narrative. As the quality of the performances has risen it draws people's attention even more to the gamey aspects of our games.


We know sometimes it's jarring; we go to great lengths not to make it any more jarring than it has to be. We worked very hard to make sure enemies always attack first, for example, so if he doesn't fight back then the enemies would kill Drake. He has no choice.

There's an innocent guard in Uncharted 2 who Drake tosses from a roof. He appears to die, but the observant will spot him swimming to a rock far below. Who flagged that detail as a priority?

[Raises hand] I'm glad you brought it up, because I was involved in that! It could've been any of us, but I happened to see it, and then of course everyone jumped to it and said, "Yeah, it was an unprovoked attack, it would be unfair if he didn't swim to safety." What we could've done better is make it clearer he survived; maybe with a sound effect. Perhaps we could've heard a splash and then had him say, "Why did you do that?"

Is there any room for innovation in Uncharted's model?

We tried a lot of new stuff in U3 and we have many years left in us, I think. We're trying, both in Uncharted and any other game we might make (note: rumours suggest Naughty Dog have a new PS3 game to be unveiled soon...).

Most will never know U3's sinking ship is a giant physics object. Is it w1orth the effort to communicate that kind of cleverness?

It's always worth trying to communicate with the player. That's a clear sign we're at the beginning of something, not the end. The next challenge is to make that cleverness meaningful to the gameplay. Perhaps if Drake had to load cargo on one side to try and steer it so you could get to another place..? There's one idea for a future game for you. It's exciting; there's so much stuff we can do. n

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