EN­GINE TROU­BLE

EDGE - - PUSHING FORWARD -

As a project, Un­charted 4 hardly lacks for step changes, but one of the more ob­vi­ous is the move away from ren­dered cutscenes. Run­ning Un­charted 4’ s cin­e­mat­ics in-en­gine in re­al­time has meant character mod­els have to be of cutscene qual­ity through­out the game, hence the 800 an­i­ma­tion bones in Drake’s face. As lead pro­gram­mer

Christian Gyr­ling ex­plains, the new gen­er­a­tion means nav­i­gat­ing the Un­canny Val­ley’s dark­est depths. “You need skin de­for­ma­tion. If Drake laughs, you need the skin on the fore­head to move a lit­tle bit, and if it doesn’t, it feels like he is not quite alive. The bulging of your skin un­der your eyes when you’re blink­ing, laugh­ing or squint­ing – that’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween talk­ing to some­one who has skin, [rather than be­ing] made of plas­tic.”

The project has al­ready in­volved a tremen­dous amount of work for Gyr­ling and the tech team, but the tools the stu­dio is mak­ing for A Thief’s End will see them through the en­tire gen­er­a­tion. That doesn’t mean, how­ever, that the hard part is over. “We learn new things about the hard­ware ev­ery week,” he says. “Know­ing what hap­pened on PS3, that’s go­ing to con­tinue for four or five years. It just keeps on go­ing.”

It was a painful start, too. Naughty Dog, a Sony sub­sidiary, spent the past gen­er­a­tion work­ing ex­clu­sively on PS3, and while it pushed the fussy Cell pro­ces­sor fur­ther than any­one, that counted for noth­ing when PS4’s specs came in. “If you’ve never made a con­sole game be­fore, or if you have a PC en­gine, it’s much eas­ier [to de­velop for],” says Gyr­ling. “It’s a very de­vel­oper-friendly con­sole. But we had an ex­tremely spe­cialised en­gine for PS3, and we didn’t have a PC ver­sion. We had to im­ple­ment one very, very quickly – we have 150 peo­ple on the other side of the build­ing that need to be pro­duc­tive. It wasn’t that much fun, but it had to be done.”

Naughty Dog is no stranger to crunch. Staff spoke out about the bru­tal hours re­quired to get

Un­charted 3 fin­ished, and sim­i­lar graft was needed to make the se­quel’s PSX demo. One staffer ex­plains that he shaved his head dur­ing the stu­dio’s most re­cent spell of down­time; now it almost touches his col­lar at the back. You’d un­der­stand if morale were low. “Ev­ery­one was su­per-ex­cited to be on PS4,” Gyr­ling tells us, “but while we were work­ing on Win­dows, it didn’t re­ally feel like a project that would ship. Morale and ex­cite­ment def­i­nitely took a swing up when we switched. We have a game, it’s run­ning on PS4, it’s start­ing to look beau­ti­ful, and we have a lot of time to keep push­ing in all di­rec­tions. It’s awe­some to work with th­ese guys. Ev­ery day I come into work, it’s fun.”

02 01 Lead pro­gram­mer Christian Gyr­ling has been at Naughty Dog since 2006, work­ing on

The­LastO­fUs as well as the Un­chart­eds.

02 En­vi­ron­ments will re­flect the mood of the story. Here, Drake – wak­ing up alone and empty-handed – has his mis­ery re­flected in the tor­ren­tial rain.

03 Con­cept art it­er­a­tions of the demo’s moun­tain­ous is­land set­ting show how Naughty Dog is us­ing colour fil­ters to gen­er­ate a vibe

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