Friday, 16 October 2015

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection Q&A with Bluepoint Games and Naughty Dog

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection Q&A with Bluepoint Games and Naughty Dog

Answered by:
Daryl Allison, Senior Producer, Bluepoint Games
Eric Monacelli, Community Strategist, Naughty Dog Inc.
Eric Monacelli, Naughty Dog

What can we expect with the Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection?

You can expect to play updated versions of the original three Uncharted games which have been lovingly brought to the PS4 with enhanced graphics and new features, all running at 1080p with a nice boost to frame rate.

What’s been the challenge bringing these games over to PS4?

The biggest challenge of every one of our remaster projects is maintaining integrity of the original vision. We do not remaster games like Uncharted to put our stamp on them or to do something “how we might have done it”. The Uncharted games are already beloved classics. We want to preserve as much of their spirit as we can while enhancing as much as we can. So, half the challenge is ensuring the remaster properly captures each and every one of those elements that give its personality; the other half is ensuring all our work to enhance do just that - they enhance the experience without changing it. We hope the final results of our work is a game that meets or exceeds expectations and looks and feels “like how you remember it”.

Are there any exclusive features for the games?

There are many new features and improvements featured across all three games. New modes include Speed Run, Explorer mode (for players who enjoy the story without the difficulty) and the aptly named Brutal difficulty (added to challenge even the most hard core Uncharted players). We implemented a robust stat tracking system which tells players how well they are doing compared to their friends. We also included a bunch of new trophies and brought Photo Mode to all three Uncharted campaigns.

Are there any moments that have been specially spruced up for the PS4?

Uncharted is filled with fantastic moments that look even better due to many of the updates made for the PS4 collection. Uncharted Drake’s Fortune feels significantly better with the gameplay updates bringing it closer to the feel of Uncharted 2.

What’s the challenge of upgrading these games to 1080p / 60FPS?

There’s always a fear that certain cinematic qualities will be lost and faster won’t necessarily be better. We constantly play the games at 30 and 60 to watch for these and other issues introduced due to the change in frame rate. Most of the times the changes are obvious, where something flat out doesn’t work at the higher framerate because it was customized to the lower frame rate or bugs that weren’t exposed until running things twice as fast.

The true challenges are the subtle ones that don’t expose themselves without thorough testing. The helicopter reveal in the PSN Demo, which takes place in Uncharted 2, was a perfect example of one of these moments. When we played the PS3 version the helicopter just felt more menacing. We stared at this for two or three days trying to figure out why. We analyzed one screenshot after another trying to spot a difference, but in still images everything looked correct. We then realized that bullet tracers, when drawn for twice as many frames while moving the same world distance, expressed a visual feel closer to one continuous stream than a barrage of individual bullets. Running at 30 FPS allowed bullet tracers to jump further in world space each frame. This allowed a perceptible and desirable stuttering within the stream of bullets, which provided appreciation of a rapidly firing weapon, one that was both visually better and better matched the audio. Once we identified this we were able to make the necessary change to capture the same threatening feel as found in the original PS3 version ... and then we the helicopter further with additional effects to amplify that feel.

What’s the enduring appeal to you of Nathan Drake? How does it feel to have created an icon for the PlayStation?

Daryl Allison
It’s tough to pinpoint one thing as it’s really different for everyone who plays UNCHARTED. That’s the key. Drake is a relatable, everyman kind of guy. He’s aspirational in many ways, but he’s also someone that everyone can relate to. Everyone has had a plan foiled or made a fantastic mistake in judgement that’s led to unforeseen consequences. Drake does that all the time and it’s endearing and outrageous when he does. It commands attention. Being the way he is that’s something players can readily associate with their own experiences…although they might not have to combat fantastical elements like Djinn or Guardians.

It’s remarkable to know that players have beloved Drake to the point at which he’s now an icon. Having 21 million people buying the games is a staggering fact and a testament to the appeal of the character and his adventures. It feels awesome to know he’s iconic within the gaming space and it’s even cooler to see Uncharted inspiring other mediums like film (i.e., Mission Impossible Rogue Nation). 

Watching the video from with the 11 minutes of footage, you say this is the moment that defined Uncharted’s chase ethos – talk us through the development of those scenes and how hard it was to make reality?

We did a Twitch live stream that covers a lot of what it took to make this. You can watch it here:

The cinematic that sets up of the chase itself – a heroic rescue by a strong female character (Elena), humorous exchange by Drake and Eddy, and the wily, lucky survival from Drake – is crucial to create the proper impetus for the chase. Drake does superhuman things and survives when all the odds are stacked against him. This chase establishes that.

Building the chase in 2006 was no easy task. Performance capture tools were in place, but it was early days for us as we made this scene into something that would work in-game. For instance, we thought we needed a real jeep on a sound stage to make the jeep look realistic enough. So that’s what we did: We had a real jeep on the stage. It wasn’t truly necessary, but at the time it helped guide the process. Another cool bit of trivia is that the tow hook that Elena applies to the bars on the jail cell was added after we had already rendered out a lot of the cutscene. It’s meant to add a bit of humor. These little details became a hallmark of our future cinematics and helped establish the trademark tone of the UNCHARTED franchise.   

A lot of people will be excited for the Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Multiplayer Beta, what can you tell us about that?

The Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Multiplayer Beta will be coming December 4, 2015. It’ll run until December 13, 2015. We’ll have more details about multiplayer very soon. The beta will be a great way for players to familiarize with the core mechanics and gameplay of our unique, new multiplayer. We’re excited to get the player feedback as well!

And can you give us a sneaky spoiler for the Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End release….?

Well, any spoilers wouldn’t be sneaky. They’d be spoilers and we really don’t have much to say in the way of those. It’s going to be another hallmark Uncharted thrill ride – which is something you can be sure of.

What does the future hold for Nathan Drake – we had the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles years ago, and a Tomb Raider reboot, would you be tempted to look at something similar?

That’s an intriguing idea. We’re not sure what will happen with the UNCHARTED franchise but we can tell you that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the final chapter in the Nathan Drake story. What does that mean? Well, you’ll have to play the game in March 2016 to find out. We’ll definitely drop some hints as the date approaches.

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