Gritty Xbox Shooters Influenced Uncharted Development
The Uncharted series has become one of Sony’s most successful new intellectual properties of this generation, both critically and commercially. However, Nathan Drake’s adventures were conceptually quite different in the early development stages, featuring more of a fantasy themed setting. Don Poole, former Environment Modeller at Naughty Dog, has shared details regarding how the Xbox’s success in the shooter market eventually helped shape the Uncharted franchise into the more realistic game it is today.
Speaking about early Uncharted concepts in an interview with Play magazine, Poole stated:
We were talking about a more ‘realistic’ game in terms of how it was modelled and rendered but the concepts were much more far out. One was a forest world where the antagonists lived underground. It had elements of Tolkien in for sure. Sony kept pushing for a more realistic game in all respects. The market had changed a lot by then. The demographic was older and gritty shooters were really dominating. Sony wanted very much to get into that market share, it pushed all of its developers in this direction.
So the big push from Sony, not just at Naughty Dog but at all of Sony’s development companies at the time, was to craft games for PlayStation 3 that were much more realistic. The pressure from Xbox’s success with gritty shooters was a very real force on our direction at that time. We had a lot of internal grumbling about the realist bent. More of the old dogs were from the Crash and Jak era and preferred that more whimsical style. But alas, that was a losing battle.
It is interesting how market trends can shape game development, especially with new intellectually properties being such a big financial risk for game publishers. Luckily, Sony seems to be up to the task, as they continue to produce some of the most compelling exclusive games on the market.