Did the actual structure of the team stay pretty much the same from Uncharted 1, or did the team grow? Did you apply different practices?
ND: We grew a little bit. The company is still pretty flat. You have different departments, and the leads of those departments, and the game director, creative director, and the art director. Then, above those, you have the co-president.
The thing that's unique about Naughty Dog is that everybody's working on the game. Even the co-presidents are implementing stuff in the game. Christophe Balestra, the co-president, and Evan Wells do a lot of game design. As a lead, even, I'm in charge of levels. I'm doing level design and I'm scripting.
We did get two guys off of the design department that are dedicated scripters and have really freed us up to do a lot more of these scripted cinematic sequences. So that was a change.
We grew some from Uncharted 1 to Uncharted 2. I'm not sure by how many. Maybe by 20 or 30 people. Some of those were contract workers and are not here anymore.
Another thing that changed is that there are no producers. Everybody is working on the game, and the people making the decisions about what needs to be cut and what goes in and out of the game are the people implementing the stuff. We find that really helps us make the best decisions about the development of the title.
As I'm playing this game, it's a very focused game, and a linear game. Game reviewers will sometimes knock a game for being linear. But when a really good linear game like Call of Duty 4 or Uncharted 2 comes out, they love it. Is it necessary to have a very linear, focused game, in order to tell a good story?
ND: I think it would be pretty damn hard to do if it wasn't so linear. I wouldn't say it's impossible, but I think back to all of my favorite story-based games, and they're all very linear in nature. We set out to make a linear story. We're not letting you affect the story in any way. Drake is always going to make the same decisions. What we try to do is mirror those emotions Drake is feeling through gameplay.
[*Mild spoilers*] For example, in one part, Drake is fighting with Chloe about leaving Jeff [Elena's camera man] behind after he was shot. That whole sequence is meant to show the frustration that Chloe is having and the desperation that Drake is feeling, and to give you both sides of the argument so that at the end, it doesn't feel like you betrayed her.
It feels more like, "Well, she kind of has a point, but Drake also has a point. He's trying to save this guy." The gameplay is helping the narrative, not letting you make your own narrative.
A lot of games don't do that. Uncharted tried to express themes through the gameplay. Is that something you tried to do throughout the whole game?
ND: Yeah. We really tried to. It's no coincidence that when you're running off with Jeff, the whole atmosphere of the level changes. It's raining, and your whole gameplay is constrained to make you feel that frustration. We did that throughout the game.
The whole part with the village... there's a reason why we did a slow pace where you get to know the villagers. You see the village in this peaceful state, and you meet a guy who didn't speak any English. It was for a reason, because we really wanted you to start trusting this guy and get to know this guy, so that when things flip, you have an emotional reaction to it because of what you've played.
I got to that village on the mountain, and you can't run during that part, you can only walk around at a slow, deliberate pace. I did manage to jump off the mountain, though. I just wanted to see if you could do that. I was able to jump over the fence and die.
ND: (laughs) Did you shake anybody's hand or pet the yaks?
I did pet the yak. Drake said something snarky to it. You also have your guide, Tenzen, telling Drake to follow, and I realized, "Wait a minute, I can move around and explore this area." I kicked a soccer ball with some kids. Little touches like that, like how you can pet the yak or kick the ball...
ND: To go back to you talking about polish, that's one of the areas that we've had for a while. Initially, you were just following Tenzen. We watched focus testers play the game, and we had punching in there at the time. They were running around and throwing punches, and going up to people and yaks and trying to punch them. We were like, "They're trying to do something interactive. Why don't we do something more contextual and meaningful for this situation?"
So now if you throw a punch and nobody's around, Drake will try to throw the punch but his side is hurting. He was shot, so he caresses that wound. And when he goes up to a guy and tries to punch him, he'll shake his hand or say hello. When he goes up to the kids, he'll play with them. The mechanic is still there, but it's replaced with something more contextual that helps the story.
You guys are constraining the player, and there are a lot of developers who are all about letting the player do whatever they want. Obviously, that's not necessarily what you guys wanted with Uncharted.
ND: That could work in something like GTA, where you're a criminal and a murderer and it's okay for you to run people over and shoot them. But that wouldn't be true to Drake's character. We have to contextually change what your mechanics are to make you feel like that character. You're not playing yourself. You're playing Nathan Drake, and everything you do has to be appropriate to Nathan Drake's character.