Today I caught up with Neil Druckmann and Richard Lemarchand, co-lead game designers of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, to find out more about one of the most asked about games in the comments, and not only did they talk me through the section of gameplay we saw at the SCEA press conference, they showed me a brand new trailer that offers morsels of insight into the game’s storyline.
What came as a surprise is that Chloe Fraser, the female lead in the first game, is back along with Sully and Elena Fisher – a new addition to the series that we heard about some time ago.
The story begins with Drake finding a clue to the location of Marco Polo’s lost fleet. It leads him to the valley of Shangri-La and the possibility of an even greater treasure – the Cintamani Stone, regarded as the Holy Grail of Buddhist mythology that is said to give incredible powers to whoever discovers it. However, a Serbian war criminal called Lazarevic is also searching for it…
As the Jak and Daxter series, also created by Naughty Dog, pursued a darker direction with its sequels, I asked if Uncharted is following a similar path. “We’re exploring darker themes but we don’t want to lose that light-hearted feel,” replied Druckmann. “In the first Uncharted, Drake was kind of thrown into his hero role, but with the sequel we tried to think of what a modern day treasure hunter would be like, who he would associate with and what would motivate him.”
“It gives us the chance to explore different shades of the character,” added Lemarchand. “And the two female characters add to that in the ways that they mirror each other. Chloe has always been a morally upright character whereas Elena is wilder, with more of a thirst for adventure and self-preservation. She is from Drake’s world.”
To bring the characters to life, the actors performed both motion capture and voices, and they acted their scenes on a specialised set as opposed to a sound studio. “It really helps with that off the cuff humour that Uncharted is known for to have Nolan North, the actor behind Nathan Drake, improvising on the set and adding his personality and improvisations,” explained Druckmann.
“I don’t really know why more developers don’t work this way,” Lemarchand added, “but by doing so we feel we aren’t squandering the charisma and talent of our actors. They’re all passionate about the game and their input really helps.”
One of the often mentioned highlights of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was its incredible water physics, so I asked the guys which little details we would all be talking about this time around. “We think we did lush jungle and realistic water really well last time,” said Lemarchand, “and while they’re still there, snow and wind effects have been a big emphasis this time.”
“It’s the little details that you don’t always notice that really immerse the player,” said Druckmann. “For example, in the helicopter gunfight that you saw at the SCEA press conference, the leaves on the trees are actually swaying and rocking in relation to where the chopper is and the rotation of the blades.”
So what did you guys think of that helicopter scene at today’s press conference? I was totally blown away.