Following the reveal of the gameplay of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End at PlayStation Experience, Naughty Dog 3D Environment Artist Anthony Vaccaro had some interesting insight to share about the demo and more on the Polycount Forums and on Twitter.
First of all, he teased a bit on the levels we still haven’t seen, and explained how those are built.
Looking at just the designer blockmesh of some of these Uncharted 4 levels. Man, people are gonna lose their shit when they see these : D
We don’t have an “engine” like UE4. We just build everything in Maya. For AI/Enemy pathing we have a separate program.
For those unfamiliar with the term, block mesh builds are simplified renderings of a level built with only the most basic geometrical elements made in order to study and refine the layout.
Vaccaro also mentioned that there are a few developers behind the demo that are part of a wave of New Blood at Naughty Dog:
Brian Recktenwald and Andrew Maximov (both fucking awesomely talented dudes!) are the only new additions to the art team who worked on this demo and didn’t work on any previous Naughty Dog games.
Everyone else has worked on previous Uncharted games, The Last of Us or both! Although Brian started here before TLOU was finished so I wouldn’t say he is “new”.
Super proud and inspired by the team that made this demo. They fucking killed it.
He later added more information on the character art side:
I realized I was only talking about the Environment/Lighting team. I think almost everyone character art side who worked on this demo is new to ND. Ryan our character TD is not new though.
Vaccaro also commented on those that would have wanted to see a completely different kind of gameplay from Uncharted 4:
Uncharted is a Action/Adventure game and is made for people who enjoy those types of games. If thats not your thing, or if you feel you want a different game there are plenty out there for you.
The indie scene is the best place for unique gameplay experiences that are different from the big AAA titles.
If you are looking for different experiences try out Portal, Gone Home, The Stanley Parable, OctoDad, Journey, Flower, Unfinished Swan. The list goes on and on. There are tons of games out there for you if you are over the AAA style games. We are not making those games though, we are making the best Action/Adventure game we can and the best Uncharted game in the series. So much more awesomeness to come.
He then continued by explaining why Naughty Dog is balancing the core gameplay of the series with some new elements:
First lets all remember this is just but a small demo of all the cool new stuff for Uncharted and there was already a lot of new mechanics in there. The rope, stealth grass, pitons in the rock.
When you are dealing with any franchise game you must balance keeping the core mechanics of the game intact while adding new features that benefit those core principals. Changing things so drastically takes away from what the original game is and in a sense, makes it a different game entirely. Which is not what you want to do.
You don’t want to alienate your fan base that loves the game for what it is by drastically changing things just because your on a new console or because your a squeal. But you also don’t want to have the exact same game that would be stale for those players.
Its a balancing act of adding new features that add and enhance the core experience of the game while still maintaining those original core concepts. If you change things too much you might as well make a different game, which we did. It was called The Last of Us
Finally, he tackled the controversy about the differences between the E3 trailer and the gameplay demo, explaining quite clearly what many seem not to understand, referring to a particular (and rather trollish) comparison image:
Here are just a couple of things about those comparison shots.
1.Time of day is different in both. – Our first trailer is at night, moonlight. Our gameplay demo is early morning. So the moonlight is slightly over exaggerated to give more contrast to give it that night feeling but enough light so you can see whats going on. Dawn is not a time of day where you have a lot of contrast.
2. His face is so spec-y [editor’s note: specular] in the first image! – Have you seen the trailer? He literally just gets up out of water so his face/chest/shirt are wet and have a high sheen. Bottom one he is not wet so of course he looks dry.
3. Trailers are Art Directed for every frame – A trailer is not gameplay so we have the ability to do a lot of art direction in that shot, that could otherwise hamper gameplay. It allows us to give a lot more emotion to a trailer.
Incidentally, Rockstar North Principal Lighting Artist Owen Shepherd (who is one of the main men behind Grand Theft Auto V‘s lighting tech) also chimed in, defending Naughty Dog’s work and further elaborating on the reasons behind the differences:
There’s a difference in what you can do for a trailer and actual in game, not in respect to technology but in terms of art direction.
For example, you have a dynamic exposure system, you tend to have to be conservative for in game to avoid players not being able to see, this will then mean that your cutscenes need to be consistent with the game, so you tend not to have as much deep shadowing and less contrast.
You don’t have these issues with a trailer that’s viewed in its own bubble.
Having said that, the image above looks like its in the wrong colour space giving it the washed out look that i didn’t see when viewing the trailer in some video players.
I honestly think you could get 90% similar images in similar lighting conditions.
I think it looks great, looking forward to playing the shit out of it.
While this is pretty much in-line with what I explained in my editorial yesterday, hearing it from developers (including one who isn’t directly involved in the development of this game, but comes with demonstrated technical expertise) holds much more weight and provides a lot more and more interesting in-depth details.
That said, considering the masterful level design we’ve seen in the gameplay demonstration, I’m sure I’m not the only one quite eager to “lose my shit” when more levels will be showcased.