The second part of our interview with Richard Diamant, Naughty Dog’s Lead Character Artist, is upon us. In this part Richard talks about Uncharted’s art style, lighting, water, the advantages of Blu-ray, and the possibility of swimming underwater or crouching in the next game.
To read up on Richard’s background and the character creation process for Uncharted, read the first part here. Otherwise, lets get going.
Patrick: Uncharted’s art style is very striking. When and why did you make the decision to go with this painterly art style?
Richard: This decision was made really from the very beginning. Naughty Dog has a history of creating all their art by hand. I think this is what gives all their games a very unique look. That is really what we wanted to go for on this project. We wanted to stand out from the rest of the pack. We wanted people to look on the shelves at the stores and see something that was unique and different.
I also personally think it helps minimize the creepy feeling people get when games try to mimic real life and fall somewhat short. Painting everything by hand and creating our own style gives us the freedom to create a world of our own. If we want to break some rules then we can do it without feeling awkward.
Patrick: How long did it take for this vision to take shape? I’m sure it was very important for you to make the characters look at home in their environment.
Richard: It honestly took the entire life of the project for everything to really come together and take shape. I was truly amazed how everything came together in the end. I think it’s a true testament to the talent that is here at Naughty Dog. All of us were able to do our own thing and really focus on our individual tasks.
One huge thing which I think really helped bring everything together was the lighting. From the beginning we wanted to tackle the huge problem in games where the characters just feel “off” from the environments. We decided to go with a global lighting solution which allows the characters and environments to take advantage of the same lighting, thus making everything feel consistent and in place.
Patrick: It’s been common in other games for shadows to either shimmer or have jagged edges. How did Naughty Dog achieve such sharp dynamic shadows?
Richard: That’s all technical!! But honestly, it was a huge goal of ours to make everything smooth and sharp. I think we rewrote the shadow engine like 10 times. We also wanted one global shadow solution. That is why you can see everything cast a shadow on everything else. It’s one giant shadow map!
Really though, I can’t begin to try and explain the technical end of that. All I can say is we have some damn smart programmers working here.
Patrick: Are you sick of people asking how much PS3 power you are using, or how much space the game takes up on a Blu-ray?
Richard: I guess I don’t really mind when they ask. I’m just not sure why people think it’s so important. I guess the power question is a little more obvious. If they see something great and find out it’s only using a fraction of the power, then our hope for the future looks promising.
However, I don’t really understand why it matters how much space we take up. The Blu-ray gives us the ability to do almost anything we want. It’s an amazing piece of technology. I think we should all just be thankful we are no longer limited.
Patrick: With that in mind, could you fit Uncharted on a DVD if the cutscenes were rendered in-engine, instead of being stored as HD movies?
Richard: Honestly, I ‘m not really sure. I think we have so much data in terms of textures, models, and animation that it probably would go over. I guess it is possible though.
The thing is, we never really thought about it since we didn’t have to think about it. We never held anything back, which we might have had to do if we were limited to a DVD. I never really calculated the space the game takes up without the movies or extras, so to answer this question would really just be too hard.
Again though, does it really matter? That’s the good thing about the PS3. We don’t have to worry about storage anymore. I think this question is trying to satisfy all the people who want to know if it is possible to make Uncharted on the 360.
That question will have to remain unknown since it will never happen :) Now if it did need to happen, is it so bad to go back to the days of “Enter Disk 2″! Actually it might be. I guess the PS3 is better…hmm….
Patrick: It’s almost universally agreed that Uncharted has the most impressive looking water on consoles.
Evan expressed in a recent interview that you had bigger goals for the water. In what ways could you improve upon it? Would there only be an improvement in the splash effects, for example?
Richard: Splash effects are one example which can, and will, be improved. We had some really great technology which didn’t make it into this version of the game way back when. It pretty much dealt with the interaction between the water and objects. You were actually able to effect how the water flowed as well as the ability to start and stop where the water comes from. This means changing the environment and having the water react accordingly. You can imagine the game play possibilities with something like that.
That is one example of some of the possibilities we intended with the water. Really we want the water to be as much a part of the game play as it is a visual effect. Hopefully we can incorporate some of this in a future project.
Patrick: Would this allow for Drake to swim underwater in future titles, since this was lacking from Uncharted?
Richard: Drake swimming was one of the things that was cut from Uncharted since we felt we didn’t have the time to tune it properly. Looking back, I think it was a very good decision for the game. Underwater swimming can be very slow and potentially confusing. I’m not sure it really fits with the pace of game that we want to create. But at this point it’s too early to say if we’ll ever take another crack at it.
Patrick: We noticed Drake couldn’t crouch or crawl. Though it may slow down combat, crawling through nooks and crannies has been a staple of adventure titles. Do you see Naughty Dog incorporating this into the next game?
Richard: It actually never was a feature. I’m not sure it even was brought up at any point. I guess with our gameplay mechanics this never seemed like an issue. We’re already using a lot of buttons to control Nate and we want to keep the game as accessible as possible. So whatever we do in the future we will always try to keep the controls as uncomplicated as we can.
The final part of our interview, which will hit this Wednesday, looks at Uncharted’s animation system, inspiration, the possibility of a “Gore Patch” and using objects as melee weapons, in addition to Naughty Dog’s modern relationship with Insomniac. While you’re waiting, read up on our review of Uncharted.
The third and final part of the interview can be read here.