Over the last month we have seen four major contributors to the Uncharted series all leave Naughty Dog. The first of these major departures was Amy Hennig, who left Naughty Dog after a 10 year spell with the developer. Amy was the Leading Creative Director behind the Uncharted series and, according to IGN, was originally believed to be ‘forced out‘ by Naughty Dog. The developer on this occasion decided to respond and deny all accusations. Amy Hennig went on to join Visceral and start work on their unnamed Star Wars project.
Justin Richmond was the Games Director behind Uncharted 3 and shortly following Hennig’s resignation, joined Riot games – the developer behind League of Legends. This departure seemed amicable and Justin had nothing but praise for Naughty Dog. With both Hennig and Richmond out of the picture Neil Druckmann, one of the masterminds behind the critically acclaimed The Last Of Us, was called in to spearhead the Uncharted 4 project.
Just when the dust was appearing to have settled, we have had two other contributors leave. Art Director Nate Wells joined Giant Sparrow, the studio who developed Unfinished Swan. Once again, this move appears amicable, as Giant Sparrow have been enlisted by Sony to work on three separate exclusive projects. So this side step is still effectively within one of Sony’s studios. So far, it is unknown whether Wells was actually working on Uncharted 4.
Finally on April 21st Naughty Dog recast voice actor and writer Todd Stashwick. Todd lent his voiceover to the opening Uncharted 4 teaser trailer and was in line to be cast a the new villain in the Uncharted series. However, Naughty Dog decided to recast Stashwick, who has followed Amy Hennig all the way to Visceral to work on the Star Wars project. Initially Naughty Dog were adamant that Hennig and Richmond’s departure wouldn’t have an impact on the targeted release date of Uncharted 4 but with one of the major voice actors having to be recast, surely a delay is inevitable. If this was simply a case of finding a new actor to redo the voice, then maybe Uncharted 4 could escape any delays. But Uncharted are renowned for using motion-capture technology to truly convey their cinematic vision. If any footage is used with Stashwicks body being mo-capped, but dubbed over with a different voice, the results may be noticeable.
Many have insinuated that there are conflicts within the Naughty Dog studio. Conflicts that Naughty Dog have refuted. Whilst four departures certainly raises question marks, the explanations could actually be very simple. Amy Hennig is a huge Star Wars fan and was at Naughty Dog for 10 years. Maybe a change was needed from her point of view and the prospect of working on a Star Wars game, published by EA who Amy had previously worked for, seemed to good to pass up? Richmond and Wells both moved on to different studios, whilst Stashwick was re-cast. None of this is actually uncommon in the gaming industry and when you factor in the time of year, there isn’t necessarily anything suspicious here at all. March/April spells the end of the financial year for all developers and publishers. Sackings, resignations and transfers are all commonplace around this time of year and the media could quite easily be attempting to drum up a story where there isn’t one?
The only thing that seems remotely unusual is how quiet Amy Hennig was upon her initial departure. Her silence prompted some speculation that she may have signed a confidentiality agreement as part of her severance package. Again, this is pure speculation at this time.
Twinstickgaming intend to keep you up to date with any updates or potential delays to Uncharted 4.