Uncharted 4’s Nathan Drake Is Still Being Perfected; Naughty Dog Developers Talk About Creative Process

on November 2, 2014 5:36 PM

Recently Naughty Dog held a Twitter Q&A with Technical Art Director Teagan Morrison, Art Director Erick Pangilinan and Environment Artist Todd Foster aimed at students who would like to get a coveted job in the gaming industry and at Sony’s popular developer in particular, and they all gave some very interesting insight on the studio’s creative process and more.

Below you can read a summary of their responses:

Todd Foster

  • At Naughty Dog the environment team is split evenly between envinvironment modelers and texture artists.
  • There is constant back and forth between the environment artists and concept artists. Concepts artists also work closely with designers.
  • A degree is not a must to be a game developer. If someone has the ability, they can get a job in the industry. A degree can help develop that ability.
  • According to Foster the development of an environment follows the following steps: block-out (creating the environment, normally in Maya, using the most basic shapes to get an idea of it). Concept. Iterate. Iterate. Iterate. Iterate. Iterate faster. Optimize.
  • Individual artists are given a huge amount of ownership over “their” level.
  • Foster takes inspiration and reference from architecture, and art/design books, he also likes to dig into fiction and non fiction related to the game genre he’s working on. For The Last of Us he brought The Road as an example.
  • Research is done with lots of Flickr searches, Google Earth, and there are tons of books, movies, etc. When lucky, they even do location scouting in the real world. Usually local.
  • Drawing skill can be foundational. All the environment artists Foster knows started out drawing like crazy. It teaches to deconstruct the world in order to recreate it.
  • Models can take a variable amount of time to create. Levels can take a long time. The Last of Us took about a bit over a year for roughly one hour of gameplay.

Erick Pangilinan

  • The most important elements looked for in a candidate are good artistic eye, smarts and a great attitude that fits Naughty Dog’s culture.
  • Erick draws inspiration and reference mostly from movies, travels, artists, and Naughty Dog’s “awesome concept team.”
  • Concept and block-out can inspire each other. It’s a back and forth process.

Teagan Morrison

  • The artists involved in crafting the face of Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4: a Thief’s End are still perfecting it. It’s taking years to get the right result.
  • According to Morrison the process for developing an environment ideally would start with concept, then designing the block-out, then concept again, then environment art. Usually it’s more haphazard.
  • Having an awesome portfolio is much more important than having experience.

Personally, I have a feeling that we’re going to see the results of that creative process soon at PlayStation Experience. December can’t come fast enough.

 /  Executive News Editor
Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.