“Macro Design Document”, Uncharted 3 Will Be Better Because Of it

by Ernice Gilbert on March 22nd, 2010, under Naughty Dog, Playstation 3, Sony

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has become Sony’s fastest selling first party game to date, a great accomplishment for the giant and the studio that created the game, Naughty Dog. But it was no simple journey, by their own account, the Naughty Dogs said Uncharted 2 was one of the most challenging games to develop because they wanted to achieve things that had never been done in games before, forcing the studio to rewrite “nearly every system in the game” to accomplish the task.

Especially in the much praised train level, Naughty Dog didn’t want to take the same path other games had “where the train is actually static and the ground is scrolling by, creating the illusion of movement,” Lemarchand said to Digital Foundry in a recent interview. Instead the wanted to do it “for real”.

But to do that is no simple walk-through, explained Lemarchand:

“It was amazingly complicated to get this to work. Our programmers had to touch or rewrite nearly every system in the game from the player control to objects to collision to enemies and allies AI… Taking the leap to do something like this took a lot of tenacity and courage, and we had to keep going even when it felt like an impossible task, but it paid off in countless ways – from the collapsing hotel to the convoy, Uncharted 2 was able to stand out of the crowd and wow our players with things they’d never seen before.”

By now you should know these guys and gals take pride in what they do, and in doing so have delivered what is hailed by many as the best gaming experience ever created.

So what did they learn if anything at all? What, in the process of developing Uncharted 2: Among Thieves did Amy Hennig and the rest came out with that would enable future games like Uncharted 3 to be even better and the development process faster? The answer is not a complicated set of codes that would make the regular guy feel ‘out of league’, no, it’s a simple document dubbed “Macro Design”.

“It’s a list of levels and corresponding story beats that shows the locations the game visits, what play mechanics are used in each level and whether they’re core mechanics or special gameplay sequences,” Lemarchand explained. “It shows what enemies the player will encounter and what allies will accompany Drake on each stage of his journey.”

Lemarchand continued: “We wanted Drake to have the ability to pull out a gun and fire no matter what he was doing in the world, whether it was climbing, balancing on a fallen beam – even when he’s in mid-air during a jump.”

“It didn’t take us very long to flesh out his abilities, expanding Drake’s traversal options like this was good for devising combat scenarios because we could throw down some enemies in any section of the game and in that way discover novel combat set-ups in the most unexpected traversal sequences.”

Yes indeed, it’s basically an excel spreadsheet, but not just anyone. It explains in detail a list of Nate’s capabilities such as his moves, making him more adaptable and ready for anything.

There’s no doubt when building future games, like the one we know is surely coming, the “Macro Design” document will come in handy.

Macro Design Document

Macro Design Document

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