The past few months has been interesting for Naughty Dog, with The Last of Us Remastered getting announced, Art Director Nate Wells leaving the studio, Uncharted PS4 Game Director Justin Richmond leaving the studio, and Uncharted PS4 Writer Amy Hennig left the studio.
As part of a large interview with Game Informer, Naughty Dog Co-Presidents Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra addressed these recent personnel changes, with Evan talking about how the mood at the studio is great:
To us, it’s kind of strange because the perception and what’s being “reported” is in stark contrast to the feeling here at the studio, Everyone here is energized and excited to show off what we’ve been working on. There are no doom and gloom feelings, unlike what’s being portrayed by the “journalists” that are writing these stories. It would be comical if it hadn’t persisted as long as it has – it’s just not going away. Every single departure, or now even hires, are being reported as if it’s big news.
Balestra then said how, “Statistically, it’s not unusual,” with Wells adding:
It’s not significant at all. In the course of the last generation, we’ve had art directors, creative directors, co-presidents, and co-founders, leave the company and we just keep going. We’ve replaced that talent and we’ve filled the gaps. Some bumps are harder to smooth out than others. We work it out.
With the Uncharted PS4 Writer and Game Director gone from the project, The Last of Us Game Director Bruce Straley and Creative Director Neil Druckmann had stepped in to help the game through this transitional period. As Wells revealed in the interview, they’re now actually leading the project:
It’s not so much a transition period, actually. We’ve asked them to lead the project. They are excited as veterans of the Uncharted franchise to take the responsibility and they’re doing great.
Since Druckmann was Lead Designer on Uncharted 2 and Writer for Uncharted 1 and 2, and Straley was Game Director Uncharted 2 and Art Director on Uncharted 1, they are both very familiar with the franchise.
Even with these changes at the top, Wells was quick to point out that development on Uncharted PS4 won’t be slowing down, saying, “It was not a difficult transition at all. Everybody just sort of accepted that as the new order of things and soldiered on. I mean we’ve been making enormous progress. If anything, things are accelerating instead of slowing down.”
Now that Druckmann and Straley are in charge of Uncharted 4, Balestra says, “They’ll make the changes that they think are right. They’re going to have to adjust what they’ve got and make it what they think is right for this game. There are some changes, obviously, that they will be making.” Wells added, “They also had a lot of really good experience with the development of The Last of Us and some production philosophies that they’re able to incorporate into the production of Uncharted. That’s benefited the team a lot as well.”
Moving away from Uncharted, Wells revealed that, when it comes to hiring new staff members, “We have two full-time recruiters working here just to maintain status quo. We are really trying to grow rapidly at this point just to keep the seats filled that we need. It takes two full-time recruiters doing nothing but recruiting for us.” Wells continued by saying, “It’s been like that for a while. Again, nothing has changed recently. Some are going to go, and some are going to join us… and that’s it.”
What do you think about Druckmann and Straley taking the reigns of Uncharted PS4? Let us know in the comments below.