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Naughty Dog presidents discuss departures and motivations

Balestra and Wells discuss Naughty Dog's shake-ups
Balestra and Wells discuss Naughty Dog's shake-ups
Photo courtesy of Game Informer, used with permission

Naughty Dog is easily one of the most beloved developers for the PlayStation family of consoles. Unfortunately, the company has been attracting attention for all of the wrong reasons lately. It began with the departure of Amy Hennig, the writer and creative director of the Uncharted franchise. Some reports speculated that she was forced out by Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann, though the company later issued a statement denying these claims. Game Informer recently sat down with Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra, the company's co-presidents, to discuss the shake-ups that they had been experiencing within the last several months.

The other departures in question included Justin Richmond (Uncharted's director) and Michael Knowland (lead character artist on The Last of Us), as well as the recasting of Todd Stashwick, who provided the monologue for Uncharted 4's reveal trailer. These combined instances led many to believe that something strange was happening behind closed doors, though Evan Wells stated during the interview that these departures are hardly unusual for the industry.

To us, it's kind of strange because the perception and what's being 'reported' is in stark contrast to the feeling here at the studio. Everyone here is energized and excited to show off what we've been working on. There are no doom and gloom feelings, unlike what's being portrayed by the 'journalists' that are writing these stories. It would be comical if it hadn't persisted as long as it has – it's just not going away. Every single departure, or now even hires, are being reported as if it's big news.

Game Informer continued by asking whether these events and other changes typically happened during their development process. Wells stated that these issues haven't had an ill effect on the team's motivations, while Balestra elaborated that huge problems occur with every game.

If you were to look at one of our games two months before we ship it you'd say, 'There's no way. It's just not going to happen.' That's a big problem, but every single time we manage to fix it. So, we end up in some situations that are more difficult than others, and we just learn to deal with it. It's one of those situations. You've got to keep moving.

Wells and Balestra also spoke about the team's development process, and how the primary focus is currently on the next installment in the Uncharted series, though another project is also in the earliest stages of pre-production. They stated that it will take a sizable portion of their team to get this other project off the ground, but that having Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann dedicate their time to Uncharted won't impact their ability to make it happen.

We're still not sure whether Naughty Dog's second project will be an entirely new IP or a sequel to one of their successful franchises, but we don't expect to see it during this year's E3. However, we wouldn't be surprised to see a bit more Uncharted 4 footage during Sony's show.