PS4 Exclusive Uncharted 4 Gets Fantastic Environmental Images, WIP Videos and... a Working Watch

April 5, 2016

At Game Developers Conference 2016, 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, while Technical Artist Andrew Maximov talked about the technical art culture at Naughty Dog.

From the panels, we learned quite a few things. We summarized the one about Substance a few weeks ago, but today we finally get to see the screenshots in their full glory. If you want to see the full video, you’ll have to find it manually here, because it’s behind a form that you have to fill in order to gain access. Maximov’s talk is available here.


Here are a few new, interesting and even just funny elements:

  • The first iteration of the wind system was too complicated, so it was revamped. Now the only parameters the artists have to take care of are the wind intensity (how far the wind can push a particular object), and the speed.
  • At times simplistic and even silly solutions to complex problems end up paying dividends.
  • The system that governs hair and gravity is a “cheap hack” which is literally just three lines of shader code.
  • Individual plans moving under Drake’s feet is also a shader trick, and couldn’t have been done otherwise.
  • At times Naughty Dog had to cut a particular implementation out of the game and rewrite it, and discovered that the new one was better. When you realize you have to cut something, it’s likely that you have already outgrown it. Every time they ended up throwing something up, it was for the better.
  • Tools don’t matter. What matters is how they solve problems.
  • Particles in Uncharted 4’s engine freely interact with materials. This allows effects like dynamic damage.
  • When you throw a grenade, it spawns a particles that moves the foliage.
  • Dirt and mud effects on characters is procedural. If Drake gets muddy and then steps in the water, then the mud will be washed away.
  • When Drake is tired a fatigue system changes the animations to make him actually look tired. This actually communicates with the shaders, making him also look sweaty.
  • There’s dust all over the game’s environments. When a character walks through it, a particle is created, removing the dust in that particular location, creating a footprint.
  • The entirety of the E3 demo was made in seven weeks.
  • The secret of Naughty Dog is 100% its people. They’re relentless in seeking perfection and they never give up. There’s no actual secret. Maximov simply never saw anyone else work so hard and so much in his entire life.
  • Maximov remembers waking up a texture artist at 3 AM when he was sleeping with his face on his Cintiq tablet. He was just napping for an hour before he’d keep working. And they can do that kind of thing for a month.
  • Every tool created by Maximov for Naughty Dog has a “Help” button and a “A” button. The first brings up all the tutorials and help files for the tool, the second sends him a note also showing him who pressed that button and what they were seeing at that time. He would make a point to be at that person’s desk within a minute to provide support.
  • A couple of months before starting to crunch really hard, Maximov implemented a button that brings up random quotes taken from social media by players of the Uncharted 4 multiplayer beta. They’re not the “ass kissy” kind of quotes, but they’re there to remember developers what they’re doing it for. It’s not just about making the most polished and most beautiful game ever created. Developers aren’t just making polygons and animations. They’re making memories for people. They’re allowing people to experience things together that maybe they’ll remember and cherish for the rest of their lives.
  • A similar system was then implemented in the script compiler, ending up amusing developers because one of the quote was “you guys should do a dinosaur game.”

Below you can see quite a few screenshots, depicting mostly environments, the way gravity influences hair, and Maximov’s motivational tools. At the bottom of the post there is a video showing off quite a few work-in-progress elements like the wind system, the interaction between particles and materials, and even a surprise that NeoGaf users will probably get a kick from. I will not spoil it, just watch it.

Keep in mind that it’s all work-in-progress footage, and many things (like lighting) are simplified, so it doesn’t represent the final visuals of the game.

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.

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