Naughty Dog Director "Blown Away" by Indie Games

Naughty Dog Director "Blown Away" by Indie Games

papers, please

Naughty Dog's Neil Druckmann thinks AAA development studios like his own can learn a lot from the innovative stories of independent developers.

Stories in video games have come a long way. Naughty Dog's breakout Crash Bandicoot series was practically devoid of plot, while the studio's most recent title The Last of Us approached complex themes of sacrifice and subjective morality. Neil Druckmann, who joined up with Naughty Dog in 2004 and served as creative director on The Last of Us, is proud of how far game narratives have come - but he still thinks we've got a long way to go, and that it's the indie games that are showing AAA studios how it's done.

"With big AAA titles, it's sometimes hard to make these gigantic shifts as far as what a game is, or what kind of story it could tell," Druckmann says. "As more and more examples come to light, I think more people are pursuing better narratives." He cited two recent indie games, Gone Home and Papers, Please, as examples of games that are changing the way developers think of game narratives.

"A lot of times in AAA games people feel like they need to play it safe because there's so many parts of a giant corporation working on a global scale to launch a title that they don't want to take too many risks. But once you have enough evidence to say 'Hey look, this is actually not a risk, this can succeed commercially,' then creativity can flourish and new avenues can be pursued."

Source: Games Industry

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This is why I love Naughty Dog. They're one of the few respectable developers out there.

A Naughty Dog employee blown away by narrative through mechanics? I did see that coming.

Eh, until they can show that they can tell these "new kinds of stories" whilst still making a good game then I won't be skeptical of what this guy is saying. To me, big devs or even small indie devs saying "I think we should focus more on story like the indie guys do" is pretty much like them saying "We want the CoD audience", and citing Gone Home as an example just furthers my skepticism.

But once you have enough evidence to say 'Hey look, this is actually not a risk, this can succeed commercially,' then creativity can flourish and new avenues can be pursued.

Should probably read:

But once you have enough evidence to say 'Hey look, this is actually not a risk, this can succeed commercially,' then publishers will let you copy that game instead.

Sony understands what makes the indie game dev tick. Ego.

ToastiestZombie:
Eh, until they can show that they can tell these "new kinds of stories" whilst still making a good game then I won't be skeptical of what this guy is saying. To me, big devs or even small indie devs saying "I think we should focus more on story like the indie guys do" is pretty much like them saying "We want the CoD audience", and citing Gone Home as an example just furthers my skepticism.

You're,going to be marketing yourself to one audience or another no matter what though. That doesn't necessarily mean you can't make art, and I would much rather see developers draw inspiration from Indie games, which are more innovative and diverse, then COD, which is basically the opposite.

I'm glad to hear one of the more visible AAA-devs speaking like this, but I think he's still missing part of the point.

Going out in a new direction, straying from the tried-and-true, allowing your people some freedom to stretch and move in creative directions is indeed a risk. But it's a risk worth taking, in part because the safety granted by working in familiar space is, to some extent, an illusion. When there's a flood of derivative work, the whole pool serves to devalue itself, leading to smaller returns for everyone and in particular leading the smaller and less-polished works to flounder when a little "risky" creativity could instead have helped to distinguish it from the field.

Work in creative fields is never going to be without risk. But perhaps it really shouldn't be.

Fox12:

ToastiestZombie:
Eh, until they can show that they can tell these "new kinds of stories" whilst still making a good game then I won't be skeptical of what this guy is saying. To me, big devs or even small indie devs saying "I think we should focus more on story like the indie guys do" is pretty much like them saying "We want the CoD audience", and citing Gone Home as an example just furthers my skepticism.

You're,going to be marketing yourself to one audience or another no matter what though. That doesn't necessarily mean you can't make art, and I would much rather see developers draw inspiration from Indie games, which are more innovative and diverse, then COD, which is basically the opposite.

I'm not really talking about the audience, per-say, I'm talking about the dumbing down that comes with marketing to those two audiences. Most recent story-driven indie games have been extremely easy, interactive stories that last way too short for what they're worth, and with examples like Bioshock: Infinite and the new Amnesia I'd much rather have decent gameplay over a good story. If Naughty Dog can blend those types of stories in with the gameplay then that's fine, TLoU blended a great story with good (albeit linear and scripted) gameplay, but if they go down the route of the walking/exploring sims and "deep" games then I'm afraid their next game will be as casualized as a game made for the CoD audience.

I liked that last paragraph. It was oddly poetic, in a way. But then when I realized how it compromises with cynicism, it made me feel empty and cold... maybe that was the beauty of it.
Anyway, aren't post-apocalypse stories always about sacrifice and moral relativism? I mean, that's kind of the minimum that I expect from stories like that.

Callate:
I'm glad to hear one of the more visible AAA-devs speaking like this, but I think he's still missing part of the point.

Going out in a new direction, straying from the tried-and-true, allowing your people some freedom to stretch and move in creative directions is indeed a risk. But it's a risk worth taking, in part because the safety granted by working in familiar space is, to some extent, an illusion. When there's a flood of derivative work, the whole pool serves to devalue itself, leading to smaller returns for everyone and in particular leading the smaller and less-polished works to flounder when a little "risky" creativity could instead have helped to distinguish it from the field.

Work in creative fields is never going to be without risk. But perhaps it really shouldn't be.

While this is true, he also has a point in that AAA games aren't in a position to be high-risk trailblazing all the time. And what I'm reading here is not him considering to take a jump into the big unknown, but him considering that maybe indie games have paved enough of a way for AAA games to follow.

Is he citing Gone Home as an example of a game that "pursues better narratives"? That's a little worrying.

 

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