Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Uncharted 4: Naughty Dog's Arne Meyer on the evolution of Nathan Drake

With just a few days to go until the release of Uncharted 4, Nathan Drake's last adventure, we scored an exclusive chat with Naughty Dog's community strategy manager Arne Meyer.
Nathan Drake, the main character in Uncharted 4, which is released on Tuesday next week.
Nathan Drake, the main character in Uncharted 4, which is released on Tuesday next week.

What is it that makes Nathan Drake such a great video game character?

He's very approachable, he's very down to earth, he's the type of guy you'd meet in a bar, at a cafe or on a plane trip and chat him up and have no idea about the life he leads. You'd never think it, he doesn't broadcast it. He's someone you could be friends with, he just happens to have this other life to him.

NZ Herald: What are some of the new things players will see in Uncharted 4?

Arne Meyer: For the first time ever in Uncharted, you're driving a vehicle. You drove a jet ski in the first Uncharted, but you've never driven a vehicle on land.

We're trying to create a livelier space, a space where we're giving the player an opportunity to explore and find their own path while still driving the narrative forward in a linear fashion. We can create an vaster environment because you're not hampered by being on foot, you can use the jeep, get out and explore the environment. This was a big deal for us.

Was Uncharted 4 always a sure thing? Did you always think there was another story there?

Not at the very beginning. We've always said we'd keep making them as long as there was a story to tell. Was there a story there? Is there something we can do that's interesting? Were there things we could innovate with technology as well? Eventually the answer was yes, but it wasn't always a sure thing.

Arne Meyer, community strategist at Naughty Dog.
Arne Meyer, community strategist at Naughty Dog.

How much work goes into making enemy AI react intelligently and naturally?

We put a lot of work into it. Our systems are very complex. Nate's also got allies, Sam and Sully, so we want everything to play out as naturally as possible. This is a combination and evolution of our The Last of Us AI and our Uncharted AI. The enemies react correctly, and search for you in the way you'd expect.

During demos do you ever see the AI react in ways you didn't expect?

Definitely in how people break stealth or how they approach a situation. What surprises me the most is the dynamic ally AI. If you stick together they'll help you, take out enemies, things happen that we don't know can happen.

It must be cool to have made something that can go off script like that.

It's cool but it's a little nerve-wracking. It's hard to test for and make sure everything is working the way you want it to.

Nathan Drake in a scene from Uncharted 4.
Nathan Drake in a scene from Uncharted 4.

What impact did the success of The Last of Us have on Uncharted 4?

With each game at Naughty Dog it's an evolution of the previous one. Everything we learned from doing that, something that was slower paced and took chances with the narrative, as well as stealth and AI, were things that entered our tool set. When we approached Uncharted 4, we said, 'What part makes sense from Uncharted 3 and The Last of Us' to grab to expand our tool set? The direct influence was the technology with The Last of Us Remastered - it really helped us transfer our engine, our tools, to Playstation 4, and gave us a leg up.

Nathan Drake appears in a scene from Uncharted 4.
Nathan Drake appears in a scene from Uncharted 4.

Is there any pressure on you to follow up The Last of Us, widely considered one of the best games of all time?

We're always trying to make a better game than the one before. If we were sitting here right before Uncharted 2 was released, the question would be, 'Well, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune really set the standard, do you feel the pressure?' We're always striving to innovate, we're always striving to achieve what we feel is perfection. We really set high standards for ourselves. Thankfully it's always met or exceeded the standards of our players.

What are the biggest changes players will see from Uncharted 3?

The graphics, the level of details, everything feels grounded in this world. Also the non-linear fashion really give players choice. There are multiple ways through levels. You can completely circumvent finding treasures, or find more treasures. Paths will be wildly different from player to player We're trying to create individualized experiences.

Every Uncharted game has a great story. Is this the story you first thought you'd tell when you decided to make the game?

As we work out the game design, and as we work with our actors, things start changing. Some of the major beats, some of the themes we wanted to explore, stayed the same, but the details were constantly evolving. (Drake's brother) Sam's personality type definitely didn't start off how he's ended up.

Is this the end of Nathan Drake's adventures?

We definitely feel that this is the closing chapter. The way we build up the narrative, it does end with a good sense of closure of the journey.

Competition

* Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is released exclusively for Playstation 4 on May 10. Chris Schulz travelled to Sydney courtesy of Playstation NZ.

- NZ Herald

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