Moving away from PS2 and immediately starting work on PS3, Naughty Dog’s Bruce Straley, who’s also director on The last of Us, said that they had warped expectations of what PS3 could do, believing the then new console would be able to render movie-like visuals. Obviously that wasn’t true, and although Naughty Dog is able to come pretty close, building an engine from scratch at the start of a generation for a console you thought would be so powerful, only to find out that none of it was true, add on top of that the complex build of the PS3′s cell technology, induced only chaos at Naughty Dog.
Hence the studio’s new stance. No new engine at the start of a console generation. Just optimization, a la Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Ghosts strategy.
Here’s Straley, in an interview with Digital Spy:
We learned a big lesson coming from PS2 to PS3.
There was a lot of hype over what next-gen was going to be. It was all going to be like movies, like a pre-rendered cutscene-style fidelity.
That turned out not to be true. Granted, what we’re able to do now is pretty damn close, but it took Naughty Dog four games to get there – one of the top developers in the industry with some on the most amazing scientists working in our programming department.
We scrapped everything at the beginning of Uncharted 1, and we had a perfectly good engine with the Jak & Daxter franchise.
We could have started with something there and then built off of it and only changed the pieces and parts as we needed, when we needed. And that really caused a lot of turmoil.
Again, we were creating a new IP, with a new engine, with a lot of weird expectations. Nobody had a dev kit soon enough, and as we all know, trying to figure out how to program for a whole new piece of hardware was really difficult.
We learned our lesson in saying, as we move into development into next-gen, we want to take our current engine, port it immediately over as is and say, ‘Okay, we have a great AI system, we have a good rendering system’.
We have all these things that already work. Only when we hit a wall will we say, ‘When do we need to change something? When do we need to scale it?
‘When does the gameplay, when does the story, when does the world that we need to create – when does this engine hit the wall? Right, now we need to change this part of the engine.’
Hindsight’s 20-20, and it sounds obvious to say it, but it’s one of those things that you learn in development. We’ve gained something from this experience, and now we want to apply it moving into next gen.
We have not a clue as to what the renowned developer is working on for PS4, however we’re sure that one of Sony’s top studios isn’t sitting around smiling at its PS4 developer kit.
Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us goes on sale June 14th. See the first review here. It’s a perfect 5/5.