Re: Uncharted 2 Interview
Part 2: Amy Hennig (Creative Designer)
IGN: OK, Amy. So, creative director: what all does that entail?
Amy Hennig: Well, on this project — I mean every company's different, right? — but on this project, we have a creative director and a game director, and that's Bruce Straley as game director and I as the creative director. So really, the creative director's job is to keep an overall view of the holistic aspect of the project. Kind of maintain a view of the forest for the trees and in my case really shepherd the whole story development and the writing and the whole working with the actors, which is a massive job, whereas the game director's more the nuts and bolts — the layout, the mechanics, the implementation of that holistic vision, but we really have to work as a yin and yang to make it all happen.
IGN: So managing the forest — setting out here, you guys have already talked about having a little bit darker of a tone in Among Thieves going into this seedy underbelly, was there concern about losing the fans who like Drake as just that normal, everyman guy?
Amy Hennig: Well, absolutely, and I'm very sensitive about that word darker and getting applied inappropriately because we really aren't going darker; I think we're just trying to tell a little bit more of a complex story, and obviously the sort of romantic veneer and the charm and the humor is just an absolute touchstone for us and our series. All we want to do with this is sort of say that these are all real, fallible, relatable characters. They're not cardboard cutouts; we want to see all of their complexities. We want to see this world that Nate normally inhabits. So “darker world,” that doesn't make him a dark character if you see what I mean.
IGN: No, I do. I have to ask.
Amy Hennig: I'm glad for the clarification.
IGN: Next, as a huge fan of the series, where is Elena? Why are you hiding her?
Amy Hennig: [laughter] We've buried her. She's in the crawlspace. No. It's so funny; we always get this question, and if you note — if you read all of the things we've said — we've never said that she's not in the game; we just didn't say that she is. The thing is, obviously, what we're focusing on in talking to you guys in these previews is that we really want a larger cast of characters and a more diverse cast of characters because the whole goal is to tell a character-driven story and to have those characters all reflect these different facets of Drake's sort of complications and contradictions in his character. That means more characters and a more varied cast, and that doesn't necessarily mean that there aren't people returning. But we really wanted to focus on some of the new characters that are playing a role — Chloe Frazer being the one we've focused on so far.
IGN: I don't trust her yet. In terms of timeline, how much time has passed since the events of Uncharted 1 now going into Among Thieves?
Amy Hennig: Just a couple of years because we left the characters in sort of this Sullivan/Nathan/Elena snapshot leaving at the end of the first game, but we pick up a couple of years later and obviously things have changed. Drake's in a slightly different place in his life — or back to the place he used to be. He's good at being the romantic lead and the hero when he's called to but probably not very good at human relationships back in the real world. He's better at being a little bit of a shady guy. And so, our starting point is that he's a little down on his luck at the beginning of this one — again, not necessarily a darker place but back in the world he normally occupies — and we sort of explore a little bit of how he got there and where he's going from there. Again, without the expectation that anyone had to have played Uncharted 1 to enjoy Uncharted 2, but for those that did play Uncharted 1, they'll get a lot more of those resonances.
IGN: How hard was it to make that jump to try and expand upon these characters? A lot of people immediately connect with it whether it's Sully telling his story walking through the jungle of the bar maids — how do you expand upon that and bring in more characters while keeping it connected?
Amy Hennig: It is challenging, actually, because everyone's always afraid when they're doing something — another game in a franchise, another story in a series — that they don't want to mess up what they've created by adding to it, but at the same time, if you just repeat yourself, that's not good either. Stories are about conflict, right? Stories aren't about happy endings. You can't really take the happy ending of the first story and start from there and say “Everybody's great, everything's awesome and now let's go have more adventures.” You really need to say, “What are the obstacles these character have in their lives and how are they going to overcome them?” When you tackle it that way, it becomes a lot easier to think about what characters you would introduce, you know? What we say when we talk about this internally is if you say Drake is part of this sort of seedy underworld of smugglers and thieves and that's part of the world of treasure hunting, you have to ask what kind of people would he have around him and can he trust them.
IGN: I know you talked a little bit about the research that goes into this. How do you start? Is it just one day you're kicking around old explorers who Nate could go try and plunder? The Sir Francis Drake stuff I had never even thought of let alone Marco Polo.
Amy Hennig: Yeah. Well, it's tough because you have to do a lot of research and you do start from a blank slate. You just start kind of plucking certain items out of the air and then do a bit of research and see what develops. It's funny; sometimes there's a serendipity to it where you'll just start researching one thing and it'll lead you to discover something else and you get this ah-ha moment and you learn something — this is one of the most fun things about this job anyway is that you learn things. Through all this research, you're constantly — it's like you're in school all the time. But what we try to do is start from something that's familiar to everybody — what we call a sort of grade school level of knowledge. A historical event or a person or a character from history that everybody's familiar with, and then we teach you something about them that you maybe didn't know and then we take it a whole step farther with our “What if?” So, it really is kind of stepping into that void and starting to read books.
IGN: Do you just Google “unexplained explorers?”
Amy Hennig: Yeah, thank God for Google.
IGN: “Empty caskets?” “Lost ships?”
Amy Hennig: No, you just start reading. There's actually been a recent biography that was written of Marco Polo that's really excellent and that was just one of the things that grabbed our attention and I read it and there were all kinds of interesting hooks in there. One thing kind of led to another.
IGN: I know it's early, and I know — obviously — you can't say everything. For you, what's the big thing that's going to draw people back to this world? What gets you excited for Uncharted 2?
Amy Hennig: Well, it's what I was saying when we were talking earlier — I think what differentiates our game from a lot of other games is that it is character driven. People may be initially attracted by spectacle, but they stick around for the substance of the story. It's something that I think we're doing that a lot of developers — or maybe no other developers — really aren't doing, which is joining the spectacle of creating a summer blockbuster experience with the substance of creating a great movie-like experience for the player where they're in control. By thinking always about how the story's character driven — not just sort of external obstacles or visceral obstacles but also emotional ones — I think it makes you want to constantly keep the controller in your hands and not put it down. I think that's what will draw people back to Uncharted 2 if they loved Uncharted 1.
IGN: What haven't I asked you that's on the tip of your tongue? What's that one question you keep wanting me or somebody else out there to ask?
Amy Hennig: Probably something I'm not supposed to answer. Well, I think that it's basically that something we've been talking about/thinking about internally is that all of the things that drive the player and really pull the player through the game have to have an emotional context. I mean, you need the visceral context, too, but you want to have the emotional context to really keep you immersed. The example that I've used internally is — and this isn't a literal example for the game so I don't want anyone to get any expectations — there's a visceral response to have to run into a burning building that's collapsing around you. There's a much different response to have to run into that burning building that's collapsing around you to save someone you care about, and it's even more intense if you're saving someone you care about who you suspect may have betrayed you. That's the difference between a shallow, visceral sort of spectacle/experience and one that's actually got substance and heart.
IGN: And body. You want to get behind it.
Amy Hennig: The difference between a shallow film and a great film, and it's the same thing for games.
IGN: OK. Great. Thank you so much.
Amy Hennig: All right. Thanks, Greg.
So, I think Co-op is a go surely? I also think that at some point in the game, Chloe and Elena will make Nate choose between the two and that will effect your ending. As for the Trophies intergration. You think that if you have 50 kills with an AK you could spawn an AK straight away? Maybe something like that?