It turns out there’s so much more to bringing Nathan Drake to PlayStation 5 than just making him look even better. We spoke to Naughty Dog’s Kurt Margenau (Co-Lead Designer on Uncharted 4 and Game Director on Uncharted: The Lost Legacy), and Shaun Escayg, (Creative Director on Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and Lead Cinematic Animator on Uncharted 4 ) to find out why and how the new and improved Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves collection for PS5 and PC was created five years after we fell in love with the original.
“It’s about how do we leverage this awesome technology to really, you know, fully immerse our fans and our new players. The PS5 is the best way – literally the best way – to live those stories and live with those characters,” explains Escayg. “You experience things differently now, playing it on PS5. The market in the opening sequence [of The Lost Legacy] with Chloe and Meenu and they barter, I didn’t care. When I was playing it, I was like ‘oh my god, this stuff is amazing’. For example, you can smell all the clothes and almost touch them. You can see the temples in the background. The places become more alive.”
Once again with feeling
Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection has been scaled up – 4K resolution, up to 120fps in Performance+ mode – but the PS5 has other tricks up its sleeve, too. There’s 3D spatial audio technology, and the DualSense’s nuanced haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Even what we might see as a simple scene – remember Uncharted 4’s opening on the boat? – becomes a totally new experience when you can really feel it.
“The boat in the opener was the very first thing people experienced, so we were like, ‘OK, that’s a big deal, we want to make sure it feels good’,” he said. Margenau said.
“We know where the body of the boat is rubbing against the water, so we model that in stereo. When the boat turns right, you won’t just feel it on the right side of the controller, but also through two other layers of feedback. There’s a g-force meter, so any impact on the boat is reflected in an impulse, which is based on the physics of what’s happening.And there’s a “prop hash value” in the boat simulation, it’s like the propeller is coming out of the water and bouncing; we have special haptics just for that. All of these layers of these things are all working at the same time.”
And when you’re in action-packed hero mode, feeling Nathan Drake’s heart beating while he’s in danger, driving off-road, or taking down bad guys in a shootout, the haptics will also be effective. Escayg says you’ll want to keep browsing through the game’s arsenal just to try it all out.
“These things stand out in a big way, even when you switch guns. The 12 gauge or the P90, you feel it in combat. It’s a very unique experience, just a subtle way the gun vibrates through the controller, right I literally go through all the guns I can play with just to see what the differences are – what they feel does me feel more powerful and in control. It’s really interesting how the subtle changes change the experience.”
And adding those haptic effects was no small feat, so spare a thought for the developers when enjoying the feel of this Condor semi-automatic rifle. “We had to build a new pipeline to create them, because it’s such a more faithful haptic experience than the old controller rumble, so we had to think about it in a different way and involve audio programmers, because the fidelity of the haptics is so high that it is an audio signal that we send to the controller,” says Margenau, with the holy patience of a man explaining a highly technical system to a layman. , when you get shot, you can only feel it on the side of the controller where you got shot.
“It’s a subtle effect, but it’s something you couldn’t do on the old controller because you had asymmetric motors, you had a big motor and a small motor. Every time these things run, the whole controller feels like it’s vibrating, which is nice by hardware design, but on PS5 you have the same motors on both sides, vibrating a bit like speakers, so you can actually do very specific effects such as stereo panning and others.
While Uncharted 4 came out in 2016 and the amazing standalone follow-up starring Chloe Frazier as the hero – Lost Legacy – came out in 2017, the adventures are still fresh, aging like an ancient golden relic. A lot of it is the writing, Chloe, Nathan and their allies and foes all have heart. OK, some enemies have less heart, but they still feel real.
“Uncharted is about hearts, struggles, complex characters and seeing them persevere, and I think that struggle is in all of us,” Escayg says. “Being light-hearted and being able to laugh at things during those epic adventures when you’re trapped and enemies are shooting at you, and you always have witty banter. That’s Uncharted’s special sauce, that just makes you want to go back there for more. You appreciate the world so much.”
But with Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection reminding us why the series is so special, fans will want to know if we’ll ever get an Uncharted 5. Maybe even one where a new character, like Chloe, takes on the role of hero treasure from the hunt ? Of course, none of the Naughty Dog guys would divulge studio secrets, but there was a silver lining.
“I think we can say with certainty that we can never say never. Yeah. Uncharted is a franchise that we love – that the studio loves. I love and Kurt loves. It’s a world we want to see more of. So I can definitely say that,” Escayg said.
At least fans have the movie, Uncharted, which will be released on February 18. Sadly, despite their roles as dads from the original, neither got a chance to get a glimpse.
“The two of us aren’t directly involved in that. And, you know, I’m excited to see the Tom Holland character. I don’t know anything other than the trailers that we’ve seen,” Margenau says. “I’m just excited. It’s like it’s finally here! We’ve got Uncharted on the big screen, and it’s not going to change directors, and it’s not going to be in development much longer. And I think Tom Holland is a good choice.”
“And they’re inspired by the games, so it’s really satisfying to see this coming to the big screen.”
Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection will be released on PS5 on January 28 and will come to PC later this year. Read our thoughts on the remaster here.