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 The Last of Us  art director talks ego-less game development

The Last of Us art director talks ego-less game development

July 16, 2013 | By Kris Ligman

July 16, 2013 | By Kris Ligman
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"When it gets down to the wire [you just have to] grab a mop and start mopping. If you got time to lean you got time to clean!"
- Naughty Dog art director Nate Wells, in an interview with I.Eat.Games.

Nate Wells, whose art credits include both BioShock and its successor BioShock Infinite, left a position at Irrational Games to become art director on The Last of Us for Naughty Dog. There, he was impressed by the company's semi-flat hierarchy and ego-less approach to development, as he shares in a new interview.

"In the twilight hours of finishing The Last of Us there were a bunch of tiny things that needed to be done. One of them was the pop-up training screens. You know, with graphics and text to explain you how you use a new object or tactic. You read it real quickly, they're very short and you click through and now you know how to use a Molotov Cocktail, or whatever. The last week before we went gold I was doing the text on those training screens and -- game director, Bruce [Straley] -- he was actually going in and hand-arranging all the text on the training screens.

I have never seen that! I have never even heard of a game director doing that! That's like... an intern task. That would be an Art Intern thing, that's what you give them...

[I.Eat.Games:] But it's such a prominent thing to the player, it smacks us in the face.

Right! And it's important it be right, and he wanted it to be pretty and clearly communicated. And he's the director of the entire game! But because he’s a former artist and a former developer, he knows when it gets down to the wire he just has to grab a mop and start mopping. If you got time to lean you got time to clean!

That spirit, that willingness to not have an ego, not to take that work and delegate that to someone else -- because there is no one else, everyone else is too busy -- to just take that work, that spirit of... I don't know if you want to call Esprit de Corps, or leading from the front? It's really the defining feature for me of Naughty Dog."

The entire interview is a worthy read, discussing the span of Wells's career to date as well as his aesthetic influences. You can check it out here.


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