Amazing Uncharted 4 Pictures Show Environments and More; Naughty Dog Talks Texture Design at GDC

At Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Naughty Dog Artists Bradford Smith and Rogelio Olguin showcased the work done on Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End using the Substance texture design toolset in a panel, that DualShockers attended.

Not only we got a lot of information on what helped making the game beautiful, but we get to take a glimpse on that beauty, thanks to quite a lot of screenshots of environments and assets that were shared during the panel.

Below you can find a full recap of the most interesting points shared by Smith and Olguin, and all the slides including the pretty, pretty pictures.

  • What has been achieved by using Substance Designer‘s procedural texture creation tools is “very broad and diverse.”
  • Naughty Dog is very open and creative when evaluating external tools. Flexibility is a key component in what makes a successdful product.
  • When work was started on Uncharted 4, The Last of us was in full production, resources were “very tight,” and the art department had to come up with solutions.
  • The implementation of physically based rendering made consistency of the library of materials and material layering were very important. They needed robust libraries that the artists could use quickly.
  • The biggest factor was the scope and scale of the environments, as Uncharted games are rich as they are large.
  • The development team had to find a balance between a standardized workflow and the need for creative freedom. Substance Designer “really fit the bill.”
  • The relationship with Allegorithmic worked both ways. Allegorithmic helped Naughty Dog define its internal pipeline, and Naighty Dog helped define Substance Designer 3 and 4.
  • Initially the artists at Naughty Dog asked themselves several questions, first and foremost if they could really get high quality results with procedural and node-based texture generation tools, or whether their internal artists and outsourcing vendors could use them effectively. There’s a learning curve to them.
  • Naughty Dog hand-sculpts and paints a lot of their assets.
  • A very elaborate early prototype of the material layering system proved to be very successful.
  • The tools generate textures by blending materials. By swapping the height map and tweak a few parameters the developers can get a whole new texture set.
  • After that, Naughty Dog made a small evaluation scene, and that proved very successful as well. They also did a test involving the outsourcing vendors.
  • At that point the artists still had some hesitations on the procedural workflow, and there were questions on whether it was possible to standardize the results.
  • Tests continued, and it was determined that the workflow was pretty straightforward, so Naughty Dog decided to use Substance as a sort of content management system including meshes, Maya files, bitmaps, high polygon meshes. They would be inputted into Substance and it would output the texture.
  • Substance was also used to create bake maps.
  • At that point issues started to spring up, like library management overhead, issues with debugging and training. Trying to stay on top of technical issues and updates also became a challenge.
  • At the point, it was time to learn Python to compile the library to make management automatic, and this solved a lot of the issues.
  • Even shaders were customizable, and that was a really nice feature.
  • Naughty Dog worked with about seven to ten studios to outsource work on Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. They created 3,000 assets, and 2,000 of those are related to background or props.
  • Due to the volume of outsourced assets, training outsourcing studios became important. Naughty Dog created documentation, example files and even videos. A lot of the training was done in-house, flying a lot of Senior and Lead Artists to Naughty Dog, hosting them for a week or more to teach them how to use the tools.
  • In the gallery below you can see a set of weapons made by China-based studio Original Force.
  • Naughty Dog’s own artists did a lot of training as well, and they fully embraced the new workflow. The majority of artists at Naughty Dog used the new tools in different capacities.
  • The character and prop team are starting to use Substance Painter.
  • The team discovered a lot of new things while exploring the new tools. For instance, a tool that was designed to create cracks in asphalt textures actually ended up creating completely new textures that weren’t intended.
  • The same node could be used in different levels and contexts, thanks to the fact that the tools provided an enormous amount of variation and flexibility.
  • By combining nodes together, patterns could be used for different materials, like cobblestone and wood. They can also be made to look damaged or clean depending on what is needed for a scene.
  • Quite a few environments were showcased (you can see them in the gallery below) in which Substance was prominently used to create materials. 80% of the textures used in the E3 demo involved the use of Substance.

If you’re a developer who didn’t have a chance to attend GDC, or this specific presentation, and you’re interested in the full audio recording, we’re happy to share. Just contact [email protected], and we’ll send it your way.

[On location reporting: Steven Santana]

Have something to tell us about this article?
Let us know
Giuseppe Nelva

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.

Video Trailers

Ninjala x Monster Hunter Rise - DLC Trailer
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege - Apocalypse Event - Trailer

Got a tip?

Let us know