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Uncharted 3: 'Almost everyone at Naughty Dog is a game designer'

PSM3 talks to Uncharted's co-lead designer Richard Lemarchand...

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Was there much from your early ideas that didn't make it in?

There was going to be a vehicle crash on a bridge - the vehicles had fallen off the edge but got tangled up in the ropes and the struts. There would have been a mess of machinery hanging down and live enemies. Drake and Elena were right at the bottom, having to climb and shoot their way back to the top. I think we were planning to have it be partly a traversal sequence, partly a combat sequence . There were going to be pirates on the bridge and in other vehicles.

I think we hadn't yet learnt enough about putting together that kind of sequence to pull it off. We didn't bin it; we maybe did a tiny bit of work on it but we just never built it out. The idea kind of made it into Uncharted 2 as the opening train crash sequence.

What's the one thing you've never been happy with in Uncharted?

I wouldn't say there are any big things, because overall I'm very satisfied. Oh, but there's one thing that always bothered me about Uncharted 2... I worked in collaboration with lots of different colleagues on the tank battle in the formerly-peaceful village, and there's one little place where it's confusing where to go next.

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The tank is ahead and you have to run across the path and I wish I'd put more effort into fixing that up. I should have made it more interesting from a gameplay point of view, so there was some kind of strategic challenge to crossing that little courtyard.

The criticisms of Uncharted 3 have come from people who would prefer more control over the action. Is your way really the best way to tell a story?

I've been thinking about storytelling action games for a long time, as has Amy, as has Evan, and the other people at Naughty Dog. I like to think we've helped discover one good way of making storytelling action games. That's not to say we believe it's the only way.

I think Rockstar's games are absolutely magnificent in the way they embrace openness and interactivity. They've done so much to advance games as a narrative form, with great performances and great writing while honouring the systemic nature of videogames. Theirs are so interesting in so many different ways - Red Dead Redemption is a different game from L.A. Noire, but they're both interesting .

Every approach has its own strengths, weakness. Overall I'm really satisfied with the way the Uncharted games have come out. It's a deliberate creative choice on our part. It lets us deliver these emotional performances in a way that meshes really well with second-to-second action. I think the response from audiences to U2 and U3 is proof that for a lot of people, it does work really well.

Have you thought about ways to get more choice into scripted action?

We work towards that all the time. We love to put in little moments for the player who is looking for them - kicking the ball in the peaceful village, for instance. Even though it's a very simple thing and we don't pretend it's rich gameplay, it's just a little interactive moment that helps flesh out the reality of the world.

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Uncharted has shaped what other devs are doing - the influence is clear on the new Tomb Raider. Are you pleased?

I am very satisfied with the way games are going. In fact, I'm tremendously excited about it. There are so many brilliant games in such diverse styles.

Then there's the world of indie games - things like [iPad adventure] Sword & Sworcery EP, which takes a radically different approach to storytelling, does some unique things with atmosphere and mood and some interesting things in terms of gameplay as well . I love indie games for their ability to be experimental, to be part of an avant-garde.

If we've had an impact that would be incredibly flattering, and it's great to hear you feel we've had an impact. I do hear from developer friends that they feel we've set a big challenge for in terms of melding storytelling and gameplay, and that's very flattering.

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