The departure of Amy Hennig from Naughty Dog in early 2014 was one of the saddest surprises in Uncharted 4’s development history. Hennig had been creative director at the company and had written and directed large parts of the trilogy. Essentially, without Hennig, the world of Nate, Drake and Sully would be very different indeed.
Nolan North had this to say about the transition: “We had shot 8 months of her story and it was all thrown away. The Last of Us guys came in, and you have to understand, new producers, new people, they want to do it. I don’t know what happened exactly. Amy is still a very dear friend of mine and she’s brilliant but the Last of Us guys were the next team there so they took over and they just wanted their own flavour.”
The ‘Last of Us guys’ refers to Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley who are now helming development of Uncharted 4. So it would appear that the new duo wanted to take the story in a different direction than the one Hennig’s was headed. This sounds like a pretty big overhaul for the game so late in development and we’re presuming we’re going to be seeing a much different script. That delay into 2016 suddenly became much clearer too.
Druckmann has a designer background, has co-written with Hennig on past Uncharted entries and was the creative director of The Last of Us. Straley also has directorial history with the adventuring series. So, it’s not like the pair are coming in as newbs to the Uncharted series. But then again, it’s widely acknowledged via past dev diaries and interviews with the cast, that the Uncharted story and the warm character interactions between the cast have been the creation of Amy Hennig. To simply throw out eight hours of scenes seems like a very drastic move and we’re hoping this doesn’t mean too much of a shift in Uncharted 4’s narrative tone. As much as we enjoyed The Last of Us, they’re night and day in terms of story and feel.
Not all the changes are bad. It would seem the inclusion of Drake’s brother and the subsequent hiring of Troy Baker was a move made post-Hennig as North also added:
“They got rid of some of the other people that were involved and just redid their thing. Great move they made with Troy Baker [who] played my brother and they knew that was going to work because Troy and I are friends and he had done Joel and they knew he and I had good rapport. So it’ll be fun, the tone I think is gonna be slightly different. It has to be, you know, you can’t have a Robert Ludlum novel that’s going to be the same as Steven King. It’s just that they’re different styles. But it’s true to the story.”
From what we saw at E3 2015, Uncharted has lost none of it’s blockbuster action set-pieces, but we’ll have to wait until we see more of the story to be able to make a decent call on how much Hennig’s absence is felt. With a lot of talk from Naughty Dog about this being Drake’s last adventure, we could be seeing some dark times ahead for him. We’ve had dark moments in the series before, but they’ve been fairly short-lived in all honesty.
And as you probably already know, Uncharted’s (potential) loss is Star Wars’ gain as Hennig now has a leading role at Visceral Games as they work on a new Star Wars IP. Hennig and North remain friends and it would seem she’s been telling him a bit about the new project: “If you’re a big fan of Amy Hennig with her styles of stories, the big thing bout her is that she’s gone to EA and is going to reboot a brand new Star Wars franchise in the style of Uncharted and I happen to know a lot about it and it’s gonna be awesome.” You big tease, Nolan. Given the general output of Star Wars games, I think this image sums up how fans feel about Hennig’s hiring.
If you want to watch the full Q&A panel interview with Nolan North at Metrocon, take a look below at the video shot by mrgeekmeout.