Naughty Dog is synonymous with great graphics. And their expertise is about to be on full display with the release of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. It’s their first PS4 game that isn’t a remaster of one of their previous titles. As its May 10th release date edges closer, PlayStation is releasing a series of videos chronicling the game’s development.
Today’s video focuses on the technical aspects of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. I’ll touch on some of what the developers talk about, but be sure to watch the whole thing when you get a chance. And watch the gameplay at 0:50 over and over again. Stunning.
Bigger brings its own challenges
One way developers like to approach the next game in a franchise is to make it bigger. And it’s the same approach Naughty Dog is taking with Uncharted 4.
Kurt Margenau, one of the lead game designers of Uncharted 4, touches on this in the video. “I think the biggest design thing that came out of the new hardware was literally just the bigger spaces,” said Margenau.
“We have bigger levels than we’ve ever had before,” says Technical Art Director Eagan Morrison. “Maybe ten times the size, at least, of explorable space.”
It would be easy to craft bigger areas and call it a day. But it presents a new challenge for Naughty Dog. The developer is known for creating games with excellent pacing. Maintaining this pacing while also giving players more choice “is the thing that’s been super hard,” according to Creative Director Neil Druckmann.
How does Naughty Dog balance the two? Do what they do best, but more of it. Morrison explains it’s all about hand-crafting and hand-placing every piece to make every scene incredibly detailed.
It’s all about the detail
Naughty Dog meticulous approach to detail comes through in their recent games, and Uncharted 4 will be no different.
Art director Robh Ruppel explains this approach extends to areas most of us will never even look at. “It’s not just any old dirt will do. It’s a very specific dirt and how wet is that dirt. How many pebbles are pushing up in that dirt?” says Ruppel. “And you take that consideration, and you apply it to everything. Everything.”
What about gameplay? All this looks pretty, but how does it impact the way we play? We’ve seen examples of it already in trailers. Destructible cover. Explosions knocking over all kinds of objects. The list goes on.
Face cams debut in Uncharted franchise
Ok, this came as a surprise to me. Did you know Uncharted 4 is the first time Naughty Dog has used face cams and facial markings for animation in the Uncharted series? The previous three games were done using hand animation.
But that doesn’t mean hand animation is being tossed out the window. Lead Animator Jeremy Yates explains animators at Naughty Dog still need to be really good at hand animation. Even with the latest face-capturing technology, it still might not capture the exact look and feel the developers are going for.
Uncharted 4 is guaranteed to be a graphical powerhouse. That much is obvious. We’ll see how Naughty Dog wraps up Nathan Drake’s adventure in May. I’m crossing my fingers for a satisfying conclusion.
The above video is one of several videos released by Sony in the leadup to the game’s release. Here’s the rest of the playlist. Also, look for part two to release sometime next week. And The Making of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End: In the End will wrap up the five episode series.