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Uncharted 2 – Developer Q&A

Bruce Straley, game director of Uncharted 2, spills the beans on Nathan Drake’s latest adventure.


Play: What’s happened to Nathan since the last adventure?
Bruce Straley: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves starts off a couple of years after the first story ends and in that time Nathan Drake has been lured back into the treacherous world of thieves and mercenary treasure-seekers that used to inhabit his shady past. Drake is joined by a new partner and love interest, an Australian adventurer named Chloe Frazer – like Drake, she operates within the same seedy and lawless underworld. She’s Drake’s equal in every way, but she’s a little more reckless and impulsive than he is – which makes her both exciting and a bit unpredictable.
The discovery Drake makes sets him on a new course following Marco Polo’s 700-year-old trail through a diverse range of exotic environments to find out if the lost city of Shambhala, rumoured to lie deep in the Himalayas, really exists. This quest also pits him against a new, more formidable adversary who is after the same artefact – a ruthless, rogue paramilitary leader with a private army and a relentless ambition to recover the Stone for himself.

What’s the biggest change since Drake’s Fortune?
Is ‘everything’ an answer?! Nearly everything has been updated. There has been fine-tuning and major overhauls to almost every system in the game. Grabbing cover is better, moving in cover is more intuitive, enhancements to throwing grenades, new traversal mechanics for Drake, new weapons, a huge reworking of our AI systems – I mean, just about everything has been improved upon!

What aspects of the feedback have you taken most notice of, and how have you implemented the results of it in Uncharted 2?
We received a lot of feedback regarding the length of some of our combat setups in Uncharted, and we agree that some of the numbers of enemy waves introduced in a single combat space was sometimes a bit excessive. We’ve addressed this feedback by reducing the number of enemy waves, and by introducing several new types of enemies that change up the way both gunplay and hand-to-hand melee work.
We also received feedback about how we separated many of our combat spaces from areas the player could explore and climb, but in Uncharted 2 we’re able to overlay these spaces more due to some new mechanics we’re introducing.

Can you let us into some of the locations in the game?
Drake’s quest to discover the truth behind the lost city of Shambhala will take him into the Himalayas, so you can expect to see some very cold and wintry environments. However, his journey covers many areas throughout Asia and he will find himself in a wide variety of environments that range from lush and green, all the way to urban and concrete.

How are you going to keep this version fresh?
The story is a huge driving factor for us to keep things fresh on this next game. We were praised for our storytelling in Uncharted and part of telling a good story is always keeping it new and interesting. The player shouldn’t already know what’s around the next corner or why [they should] turn that corner. “What’s going to happen with the characters?”, “What’s the next beautiful environment Drake will stumble onto?”, “How’s this story going to conclude itself?” These are all questions we want the player to be asking while playing Uncharted 2. It’s something we really strive to do in Uncharted – to never just give the player what they expect.
Obviously our gunplay is also very important to us, so layering Drake’s traversal mechanics with the ability to shoot is one huge way to keep things fresh. The other thing we’ve changed with our AI is adding the ability for enemies to navigate the environment more realistically, like climbing up and down ladders or poles and jumping off of ledges or across gaps during combat.

What have you learned from your past endeavours about creating sequels to
your own IPs?

Not only from our own experiences with sequels, but also from looking at the industry’s trials with sequels, I think a lot of developers have a tendency to lose the heart of their franchise. We took special efforts after completing Uncharted to assess what we had made and boiled down the elements that we thought were the hallmarks of the Uncharted universe. Things like the light-hearted tone, the action-movie pacing, finding the unfamiliar in the familiar, and our character-driven story. We realised these were some of the things that really made up the full Uncharted experience and we can use these as guidelines in creating our sequel.

Do you feel you’ve managed to get more out of the PS3 in terms of performance second time around, or are you still playing with the technology?

We’re definitely utilising more power from the PlayStation 3 this time around. The PS3 is an extremely powerful piece of hardware, as shown by what we were able to accomplish in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, but we’re always pushing the technology here at Naughty dog. The programmers have been hard at work optimising and adding new features to our game engine from the moment we shipped Uncharted. Now, with Uncharted 2, the Naughty Dog Engine 2.0 enables us to display more polygons on screen than ever before, which allows us to battle an even greater number of enemies and to create environments with an unprecedented level of detail. We’re also pushing the snow rendering like we did with water from the first game. If we do snow, we feel that it’s got to be the best snow you’ve seen!

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is due out on PS3 towards the end of the year. You can read more about it in next month’s Play, on sale 19 Feb.

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