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Another Naughty Dog Boss Leaves...Is Anyone Else Concerned?

I suppose I'm overreacting. I mean, I'm sure Naughty Dog is still well-equipped to produce yet another stunning product.

That being said, I have to admit that it's a little disconcerting to see two very important individuals leave, presumably for greener pastures.

First was lead writer Amy Hennig and without her, the acclaimed Uncharted franchise wouldn't be where it is today. That's a given. Now, as revealed by IGN, Uncharted 4 game director Justin Richmond has left the studio:

"I have, in fact, made the decision to leave Naughty Dog. I love the company and the people and know that they will continue to create awesome games going forward. On a happier note, after careful consideration and exploration I have joined Riot Games. There is some really innovative stuff going on here that I can't wait to be a part of."

For the record, those rumors about Hennig being "forced out" apparently weren't true, as Naughty Dog later clarified that it wasn't the result of a clash with creative directors Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley. But now you've lost the game director for Uncharted 4? Sony claims it won't have any bearing on the title's development, but I find that somewhat difficult to believe.

And while I'm sure Richmond is looking forward to his new job at Riot, and I have no doubt Hennig will be in high demand, I have to ask: Were these two really lured away by projects they'd be more interested in than Uncharted 4? If you ask a hundred designers right now which franchise they'd love to be involved with, I'm willing to bet that a hefty portion would name Uncharted among their top picks. Naughty Dog has just been so far ahead of the curve for so long, as far as I'm concerned.

Now, to have the lead writer and game director disappear within a matter of months...it's just difficult to view this as anything but the result of some internal strife. That's all I'm saying.

Tags: naughty dog, naughty dog games, uncharted 4, uncharted sequel

3/27/2014 9:42:35 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (44 posts)

WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, March 27, 2014 @ 10:17:55 PM
Reply

Yeah I'm worried, I'll be looking at Uncharted 4 with skepticism now.

The real question is, why leave a top tier developer to join a third rate studio that has only made one game back in 2009?

Also why the hell is everyone jumping ship at Sony?

Agree with this comment 7 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Thursday, March 27, 2014 @ 10:21:06 PM

The guys that created Twitter left cushy jobs at Google. Some people just need a new experience and constant uncertainty to help feed their creative juices.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, March 27, 2014 @ 10:25:52 PM

I get that, but I can't help but feel they must have been promised something special and if so I wonder what that might be.

Looks like these dudes did League of Legends which scored well (maybe not a third rate dev after all) but it looks like all their experience is multiplayer. Makes me curious what he would be doing there.

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Akuma07
Thursday, March 27, 2014 @ 11:10:29 PM

dude these people are just moving around. So what.

have more faith in Sony and their studio's!

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ZenChichiri
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 1:35:42 AM

League of Legends is currently the most played game in the world right now, so one could even see it as them moving up in the industry.

Last edited by ZenChichiri on 3/28/2014 1:36:00 AM

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telly
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 4:45:47 PM

It's no one departure or one studio's layoffs, as troubling as they may be on their own. It's that TONS of people are either getting laid off across several studios AND some of the biggest names at Sony are leaving at the same time too. If you ever worked for a bigger organization, you KNOW that's a sign of major, major inner turmoil of one kind or another. Hope I'm wrong, but I'll be bracing for more bad news...

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Lawless SXE
Thursday, March 27, 2014 @ 10:18:13 PM
Reply

I'm not all that worried. Amy's absence was a blow, but Richmond also did UC3, which I (and I'm not alone) thought was inferior, in many ways, to its predecessor, which was directed by Druckmann. That being said, I get the feeling that something of a coup has occurred with Straley and Druckmann power-tripping after the incredible success of UC2 and especially TLoU. It makes me worry a little bit that the two-team set-up has been dismantled. :/

As for the question, I think there is the strong possibility that both of them may be a little bit burnt out on Uncharted. Yeah, it's arguably the best franchise of the last generation, but they've been working on it for eight years(ish), and desirous of doing something different. I have no doubt that a lot of developers would give their left leg to be involved in something like Uncharted, but when you've been working on something for so long, and there is the appearance of such work only continuing, you can understand someone wanting to get the hell out and stretch their wings with something else.

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LimitedVertigo
Thursday, March 27, 2014 @ 10:22:36 PM

I agree that UC3 was inferior to the previous2 games but that's like sleeping with 2 10s then finding fault in the 9.5.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, March 27, 2014 @ 11:05:23 PM

I agree too, but that's the problem with great success. Folks expect more from you.

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Akuma07
Thursday, March 27, 2014 @ 11:17:14 PM

According to Pete Dodd:

-Amy Henning left due to creative differences with Uncharted 4.

-Justin Richmond was offered something big at Riot. So he left.

And the others:
-Stig Asmussen was directing a large new IP at SSM, after spending nearly $100 million and several years (since GOW3) developing the IP they had NOTHING plausible to show. The game wasn't coming along at all. So Sony shut it down. He was offered a role in SSM's other project, but he wouldn't accept anything lower than a director position.

- Guerilla Cambridge was working on a new vita game which apparently isn't coming along well, and they were downsized as a result.

- Driveclub director couldn't get the game done in time, then asks for a delay, then the game STILL doesn't get finished, so he get's replaced. You can't have a project constantly be delayed and expect the people running it to be allowed to get away with the delays.

- Jack Tretton was apparently due to him not being able to move up in the company and make more money, so he went elsewhere.

All are very plausible and 'normal' things to happen in ANY industry. In total only 2 projects were cancelled.

EDIT: ahahahahahahaha LV. I love your comparison.

Last edited by Akuma07 on 3/27/2014 11:19:15 PM

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Lawless SXE
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 12:05:31 AM

Yea, I saw that too, Akuma. The stuff pertaining to ND still seems a bit weird in that the co-directors of Uncharted PS4 have both left, while Druckmann and Straley remain behind. Also, consider that idea of creative differences - who was she disagreeing with? Considering that she got along with Richmond on UC3 (never mind that he is also gone now), prior to the acclaim for the gritty realism of TLoU, it occurs to me that she was being pressured by either Druckmann/Straley or the higher-ups at Sony to push Uncharted in a direction that she didn't think fit. I'm not necessarily saying that the two were forced out, as other rumours have indicated, but maybe things were intentionally made too difficult for them to continue at ND?

As for the rest; that Sony would pump that much money into Stig's project is incredible. I mean, he did an awesome job of GoWIII, so you can understand their support, but surely someone had reservations when it wasn't starting to come together after the second year... (looks to The Last Guardian. Hmmm.) And you can understand the ego bit. I mean, it's hard to take a lesser position after you've been at the top.

The news about Cambridge is odd. I mean, it was announced that they would be working on the KZ franchise from now on, so either there was a new KZVita game in the works, or they were creating an accompaniment game for GG-Proper's new IP. In either case, it's easy to imagine Sony killing the project due to the flaccid sales of the Vita in the West.

As for the rest, yeah. It happens.

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JackC8
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 7:30:35 AM

I feel the same way about Uncharted 3. It seemed the product of people who were bored to death with working on the same old franchise and they'd just quit caring or trying.

Probably best to move on when you find yourself in that position.

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berserk
Thursday, March 27, 2014 @ 10:20:20 PM
Reply

I guess they just had enough of uncharted .

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Beamboom
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 4:15:27 AM

Won't blame'em. :p

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LimitedVertigo
Thursday, March 27, 2014 @ 10:23:15 PM
Reply

Sure seems like a lot of people leaving in such a short time frame.

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bigrailer19
Thursday, March 27, 2014 @ 10:40:32 PM
Reply

Yeah, I'm worried.

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Akuma07
Thursday, March 27, 2014 @ 11:09:41 PM
Reply

Wow really guys?

I always thought the community at PSXE was a lot more level headed then this.

People come and go in companies all the time. Did you all honestly think that the Uncharted team was just going to stay together for the rest of their lives? This was coming, sooner or later.

People move around from studio to studio, industry to industry. This is normal.

Pete Dodd has put up some information about the various people leaving lately, and it sounds perfectly reasonable on all accounts.

PLEASE read this:
http://www.dualshockers.com/2014/03/27/after-the-layoffs-sony-is-now-working-on-hiring-again-insider-explains-what-happened/

Agree with this comment 4 up, 2 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 12:09:40 AM

I don't need your lecturing tone and stop jumping down everyone's throat, as if we're all just morons and you know the truth of the matter.

Newsflash, my friend: No, this is not common. During AAA production, especially once the meat of development has started (and by all indications, that has happened at Naughty Dog for Uncharted 4), the team is expected to stay together. Having the GAME DIRECTOR leave is not a common thing to have happen DURING this process.

Seeing the lead writer and the lead director leaving in the midst of development within a few months of each other is worth noting. The only thing that isn't "level-headed" is your dismissal. Richmond was offered something "big" at Riot? Exactly what is bigger than lead game director for freakin' Uncharted 4?

These are all perfectly legitimate questions. We like to use our heads, thanks.

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 3/28/2014 12:10:29 AM

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xenris
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 12:29:57 AM

Doesn't seem like he is really lecturing anyone, just trying to give out the details he has heard.

Look at all the people who left Irrational when Bioshock infinite was being made. The game still turned out pretty good although a bit more of a typical shooter in gameplay than I would have liked but still a great game none the less.

I don't think its anything to worry about they have a lot of talent at that team.

As for what could be bigger that uncharted 4, maybe it was pay? Riot games makes an insane amount of money off of League of Legends, the game is a huge cash cow right now.

It could just be a matter of money to be honest, or maybe they are cooking up a new IP that is really innovative?

They are legit questions though, I'm interested to see how the next uncharted turns out with all these people leaving.

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sirbob6
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 12:30:36 AM

Roit is expanding again next year (it's already 4x the size of Naughty Dog), is one of the topped rated game developer to work at, and brings in lots of revenue (LoL has approximately 27 million daily players vs Uncharted 3's 6.3 million total units sold). If he was offered something "big" there, it's probably bigger than Uncharted 4, especially if it's a new game.

Agree with this comment 6 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Ignitus
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 2:36:37 AM

Gosh, Akuma wasn't lecturing anyone, he was sharing his opinion on the matter at hand.

That administrator must have mind issues of some sort to respond like that.

Now what? Akuma is going to stop posting like some others recently?

Agree with this comment 9 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

Xombito
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 2:41:27 AM

What xenris and Ignitus said in defense of Akuma. Plus this exodus isn't exclusive to Sony. MS just lost two top executives in the xbox division, There was that female member from 343 industries that jumped ship to Sony I believe it was Naughty Dog, I'm not sure what developer exactly and Epic pretty much lost all their creative talent. I not going to worry about anything until I see the game running. Naughty Dog still has plenty of talent.

Last edited by Xombito on 3/28/2014 2:42:55 AM

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Shams
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 4:39:24 AM

I'm not too concerned how Uncharted 4 will turn out, as I'm sure it's still in very talented hands...but I'm even less concerned with stuff like 3D, Move, and Morpheus...unnecessary stuff that has affected Sony Studios's resources, development, and schedules all across, more so than a couple undelivered projects...this is something Peter Dodd obviously omits in addition to the the timing of it all.

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xenris
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 12:25:17 AM
Reply

Riot games doing some innovative stuff? League of Legends has such a crappy free to play model I don't know what he could be talking about.

Unless they have some plans for a new IP and he is really interested in the idea.

I dunno sounds kind of fishy but who knows what is actually happening behind closed doors.

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ZenChichiri
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 1:52:07 AM

It seems like it would be an appropriate time for them to be working on something new, so it could very well be just that.

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Knightzane
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 1:41:53 AM
Reply

Meh. Don't leave Neil that's all I gotta say.

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Underdog15
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 2:09:22 AM
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The only thing that ever left ND that ever made me sad was Crash.

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___________
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 3:58:41 AM
Reply

its not internal strife at ND, its internal strife at $ony!
how many game directors have upped and left in the middle of development over the past few years?
how many people who were with the company from the start have suddenly jumped ship?
especially worrying the timing, i mean their new consoles out, morpheus is finally been announced, you would think they would be brimming with excitement, ideas and cant wait to get started!
not jump ship!
all puts it down to one question, why?
why are so many big name men jumping ship like its the titanic?
and not men who have just been there for a few years, but men who have built their whole career around the company!
who have been there from the start!
thats the question we should be asking.

oh, and $ony, please stop treating your fans like they were born 2 minutes ago!
you could take a 2 year old baby, pour down half a bottle of absinth down its throat, and it still would not believe half the sh*t you put out!
ok, a bit of a exaggeration but you get the point.
there is no freaking way in hell that development of uncharted ps4, a game which was just announced not even 5 months ago, and we have seen NOTHING on, not a gameplay trailer, no story details, hell zero screenshots even!
NOTHING!
a game thats still so early in development, it loses 2 of its biggest main participants, and its not going to effect it.
yea, sorry but no ones that gullible!

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Lawless SXE
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 4:23:07 AM

... Development would have started early 2012 at the latest, so UCPS4 certainly isn't early in development.

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___________
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 9:05:06 AM

still would be.
several months pre production, several months spent just on tools retooling their old engine for the ps4.
plus half the team was working on the DLC last piece that did not come out that long ago.
not to mention the updated F2P MP version they popped up onto the PSN store for those who havent bought the game.

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Underdog15
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 11:51:33 AM

How does several months + several months = 2 years?

Not "early development".

As for internal strife at Sony, not likely. Sony is well known for allowing devs to take time to get it right. If anything, they should pull the chain tighter from time to time. (I'm lookin' at you, Last Guardian)

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Lawless SXE
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 6:07:22 PM

They stated as early as February last year that they had their tools ready to move onto "something superior to the PS3". Mind you, that was just before the announcement of the PS4, so they would have been told to keep things under wraps, implying that they were already working on it. That indicates at least a year's worth of earnest development. ND is two teams. The TLoU team would have done Left Behind. The Uncharted team would not have been involved.

Also, like Guerrilla, they would have known that UC4 was on PS4 pretty much as soon as they started on it, and if the former can push out SF in 2.5 years, Naughty Dog can as well.

Last edited by Lawless SXE on 3/28/2014 6:12:33 PM

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Japanese_Gamer
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 5:27:29 AM
Reply

YES Japanese Games for the Win!

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PlatformGamerNZ
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 5:40:56 AM
Reply

yeah it's a little worrying from a gamers stand point

happy gaming =)

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Banky A
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 6:31:10 AM

So not worrying for any other stand point. I see. Logical

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Banky A
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 6:30:21 AM
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The end for Sony#lol

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Vivi_Gamer
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 7:46:40 AM
Reply

There is reason to be concerned... but I remember hearing this during Bioshock: Infintie's development on a weekly basis... and the game turned out to be one of the years finest, so I am not worried yet.

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Underdog15
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 7:53:10 AM
Reply

Meh... maybe they just want to work on something different for a change. Makes sense if you're an artist at heart.

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telly
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 11:20:36 AM
Reply

I'm deeply concerned -- not necessarily about the quality of Uncharted 4, or even the state of Naughty Dog, but the state of ALL of Sony's studios. Layoffs galore, huge names departing left and right despite stellar hardware sales of late. That to me suggests a financial situation that utterly dire within Sony.

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Underdog15
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 11:54:13 AM

That does not at all indicate poor financial state. All Sony divisions are still posting dividend payouts to shareholders. No one's panicking.

If anything, they may be restructuring, and high end developer minds are VERY likely to get tired of working on the same franchise for a decade. Who wants to repeat that for another decade if you're so high up you could walk into any other studio and get a job?

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telly
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 4:42:54 PM

Hope you're right -- but this many layoffs and high-profile departures across even the biggest and best studios Sony has is highly unusual. And in my experience, where there's smoke, there's fire.

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Gamer46
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 8:33:30 PM

Yup, Sony's financial situation definitely factors into this. It's something that effects the entire organization which includes the game division. The fanboys can, and will, keep sticking their heads in the sand and pretending everything if fine. But there is reason to be very, very concerned about the future of this console, all of Sony's first party studios and, if you like its other products besides just PlayStation, Sony as a whole.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 12:03:00 PM
Reply

Am I the only person who knows that statements about these kinds of things are always cleaned up versions of the truth or outright BS?

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Lawless SXE
Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 6:13:53 PM

No, but one does like to remain optimistic :)

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