Uncharted 2's out on October 13th and the multiplayer demo launches this week, so we caught up with Naughty Dog co-president Evan Wells and creative director Amy Hennig for an over-the-shoulder peek at the design process.
This is Part Four. (Part One, Part Two, Part Three)
Game On: You've developed Nathan Drake's acrobatic repertoire in Uncharted 2 substantially. He's much more procedural now, much less robotic or spasmodic when you maneuver him. You look at EA's Madden series, and they've grappled with this issue for years and years...that juncture where your ability to control the character leaves off and motion capture for the sake of realism or visual ballet takes over. Having the visual satisfaction of seeing a tackle or lunge or spin execute realistically often comes at the expense of perfect control of the character. You seem to have the balance just about right here. How'd you pull it off
Amy Hennig: It's a constant challenge, and I think you expressed it beautifully in that you have to be constantly aware that there's this line between the sort of non-interactive parts of the animation, which are there for beauty and responsiveness, and there's a lot of games that fail at either one aspect or the other. Part of it is they may not have the complex procedural blended animation system that we developed, which is really our saving grace in this case. There are games where the animation is beautiful but you don't actually feel like you're controlling them because you can't tell that your inputs are being respected. Or there's such a delay that it doesn't feel like you're really playing the game.
For us, gameplay always has to come first. If there was something we really wanted to see Nate do, but it was going to feel sluggish or unresponsive, we killed it and came up with a different way to do it. So there are certain cases where we'd love his animation to be even smoother, but it would have sacrificed responsiveness, and that's got to be number one. That's why coming up with this blended animation system was such a priority, and actually an absolute necessity. We couldn't have done the game without it. It's the basis of everything, to be able to say I can be running along and still be loading my gun and still be reacting to the gunfire around me and still sort of launching into my next move. Because some of Nate's moves...you're not aware of it playing the game, but there may be literally 30 animations blended up on top of the one motion he's going through right then and there.