Richard Diamant Interview Part 3: "We Want Melee Objects In The Second Version"
And so we come to the final entry in our three part interview with Naughty Dog's Lead Character Artist, Richard Diamant. It's been a interesting journey of exchanges, from the advantages of Blu-ray, all the way to the meticulous creation of Uncharted's characters.
The final part of our interview explores Uncharted's animation system, filmic inspirations, the possibility of new melee capabilities in the next project, along with Naughty Dog's current relationship with Insomniac.
Please click on these links for the first and second parts of the interview, which saw us touch upon Uncharted's art style, water, character creation process, and Richard's background before joining Naughty Dog.
Patrick: The animation of Drake is extremely impressive - watching him duck bullets, flinch from explosions, and show expressions on his face is a sight to behold. Can you explain your animation system in more depth?
Richard: Our animation system is actually very impressive. It allows us to layer animation on top of each other. That means the animators can animate a walk cycle, then an upper body duck animation, another upper body flinch animation, and then our engine can blend them all together seamlessly without any popping. This allows smooth transitions between animations and gives the illusion that no two animations are the same, when in reality, only a couple poses or additives are there.
In the past, most, if not all games, relied on just going from one animation to another. This caused pops if the animations was not finished, which forced you to jump to the next one. I think everybody saw this as a problem and really focused on coming up with a viable solution.
Patrick: Is this an area that you can see improving? For instance, one of my criticisms of Drake's animation was a slide before his walking/running animation begins.
Richard: Yes. That is something we all wanted to improve. It was one of the last things on the list for repair and we were not able to fix the problem in the time allotted.
To be fair, the reason it is not perfect is because first and foremost we cared about responsiveness. We worked very hard to make sure the player had full control over Drake. We didn't want to give the feeling that the player had to wait for an animation to finish before they could change what Drake was doing. I think this led to a few instances which weren't as polished as we'd like. We had a lot to do in a short period of time and this happened to be one area we felt wasn't a huge make or break.
Patrick: The storytelling in Uncharted is another one of its triumphs, with the in-game chatter being very compelling. Are you happy with how this in particular turned out?
Richard: I'm very happy with the way that turned out. I think the more interaction within the game, the better. It really makes the world feel alive when people are talking, things are moving, birds are flying.
This is something I think all of us felt was a great addition to the game. It's also something we plan on expanding more on in the future.
Patrick: What films inspired the game, Indiana Jones aside?
Richard: Besides Indy, we looked heavily into the Mummy and National Treasure. All movies that had that fun adventure feel to them. I'm sure most people see heavy influences from all of these. We also looked at the Time Machine for reference on how the Descendants might have looked and behaved.
But it wasn't just movies that inspired us. We did a huge amount of research into the entire genre spanning all sorts of media from comics, novels, television and movies.
Patrick: We couldn't help but notice that dead bodies and animals don't react to gun shots. We understand that this was taken out for ratings purposes.
Would there be any chance of a downloadable update that would include this? A "Gore Patch" if you will.
Richard: I wish! It was really funny when it was in there. You could walk all over the dead bodies and shoot them to your hearts content and they would react accordingly. Unfortunately we had to remove it due to ratings.
I'm not sure we would be able to release a "Gore Patch". That probably would cause some legal issues regarding the ratings as well. Would be nice though!
Patrick: In your original Uncharted trailer, Drake wielded a gun and a metal bar. Were you intending to allow Drake to use other objects in his melee combat? Could we expect this in a future game?
Richard: Yes and hopefully. That was always our intent from the beginning. Again, there was a time issue. We really wanted to focus on the main mechanics and that one fell by the way side. It is something that we all still want and will probably be trying very hard to incorporate into the second version. So, who knows? Keep your fingers crossed!
Patrick: Lastly, what kind of relationship do you now have with Insomniac? Do you ever want to share more of your technology with each other?
Richard: Well Insomniac is still independent, just exclusive to Sony. Because of that I think it limits the amount we can share. They have their own engine created in house and we have ours. I think we still have a very friendly relationship with them where, if either of us needed anything, it would not be a problem.
Sony really has made it a point to share between the studios so all of their games are of the highest level. That is something happening between a lot of the developers these days. It would be nice to incorporate all the nice parts of other games into ours and vice versa.
Patrick: Well we suspect most other developers would kill to have the assets and game engine you have created at Naughty Dog, so congratulations on such an impressive first generation effort. And thank you very much for joining us.