Neil Druckmann in interview.
Image via YouTube.

Neil Druckmann describes how things changed for Naughty Dog following Uncharted 2

Even legends have limits.

Naughty Dog is one of the big players when it comes to gaming studios. It has given us timeless titles from Jak and Daxter to The Last of Us. The President of Naughty Dog, Neil Druckmann, recently sat down for an interview with the rapper Logic to discuss their career trajectories and their plans for the future.

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It’s an hour-and-a-half-long interview worth watching if you’re interested in learning how Druckmann found his way into the gaming industry and moved up the ranks in Naughty Dog. It also offers insight into how things have changed in the studio over the years and how expectations have sharply risen as it has delivered critical hits.

Nathan Drake at sunset
Screenshot by Destructoid.

The birth of Uncharted

Through hard work, Druckmann grew from being an intern to eventually working on the creative aspects of the games at Naughty Dog. At one point, he was part of the team responsible for a Jak and Daxter PSP game when Naughty Dog president Evan Wells asked him to help with another game they were working on – Uncharted.

At first, Druckmann was reluctant, as he preferred being in a creative position and didn’t want to go back to programming. However, he was assured he would be doing the same creative work, except on this new project. Accepting the offer was a wise choice for Druckmann, as it had him crossing paths with other creatives like Amy Hennig who played a critical role in shaping Uncharted into a genre-defining franchise.

Joel in The Last of Us 2.
Screenshot by Destructoid.

With greatness comes great expectation

Uncharted and its sequels have had an incredible impact on the gaming world and the medium’s approach to its narratives. In addition to being graphically impressive titles, they highlight how gaming can be used to tell character-driven stories that rival those of films and novels.

Druckmann claims that he had the most fun working on Uncharted 2. The team felt like they were onto something special, but there wasn’t an intense amount of pressure or scrutiny of the studio which had developed a deep sense of camaraderie.

This changed after the success of Uncharted 2, a title that has sold over 6.5 million copies as of 2015. The game also features a now-unsupported multiplayer mode that players couldn’t get enough of, and 125 million matches were played in its first year alone.

Now that Naughty Dog had proved itself within its industry, there were expectations that everything it’d put out would be great. Logic relates to this, as he has experienced the pressures of being a successful artist, and how criticisms can stretch beyond the art and become personal.

The intense responsibilities on Druckmann’s shoulders have made him think about whether he can continue for much longer. He states the following: “I don’t see myself doing this forever at this scale. It’s a lot and it takes a lot out of you.” He also has his children to consider, as he doesn’t want to lose out on spending time with them.

One of the hurdles he faces is that he is a perfectionist. Hence, during the development of The Last of Us, he stressed himself out to the point where he believes he shaved years off of his life. He admits that he may not have the capacity for many more large-scale games, and he imagines himself transitioning to projects that are more low-key and less stressful, but still give him a creative outlet. There are plenty of directions Druckmann can go, whether it’s The Last of Us comic books, the television series, or just smaller-sale games.

The tail-end of the interview features a discussion of The Last of Us television series. Druckmann talks about how happy he is that the adaptation was not a film, as it would have been terrible. He learned that to make the best show, he needed the best people in the industry, and that was surprisingly not hard to do, as he discovered that many were already fans of the games and wanted to work on the project.

For now, The Last of Us remains a franchise that keeps growing. A new season of the show is in the works, and although the standalone multiplayer game has been cancelled, a remastered version of The Last of Us Part 2 has been released which features a roguelike mode not worth missing out on.


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Smangaliso Simelane
Staff Writer - Smangaliso Simelane is a writer with a passion for all things related to video games. He has been writing about video games since 2020.