2013 saw the release of The Last of Us a landmark game that will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the best. Receiving massive critical acclaim and huge commercial success, the game rocketed it’s already highly successful developer, Naughty Dog, to new heights, creating many new fans for the developers future work. With a new uncharted game on the horizon and early rumours about The Last of Us 2, the future seems bright indeed.
Unfortunately recent news has surfaced concerning the developer, namely the departure of several of its leading employees, now legends in the industry. The first and biggest departure was that of Amy Hennig, the lead creative director of the Uncharted series who has moved to Visceral games to work on an untitled Star Wars game, we are lead to believe by a Sony insider that this was the result of creative differences on the upcoming uncharted game. While some suggest that this was due to creative directors on The Last of Us, Neil Druckmann and Burce Straley “forcing” their college out of the company, the co presidents of Naughty Dog refute this claim in an official statement
This is groundshaking news on it’s own and has big ramifications for the Uncharted series and the future of Naughty Dog, but is unfortunately accompanied by further departures from the developer such as Justin Richmond, the game director on Uncharted 3 and it’s upcoming sequel who moved to Riot Games, known for League of Legends. This was then followed by Nate Wells, the lead artist on The Last of Us to Giant Sparrow, and indie developer known for Unfinished Swan and Michael Knowland, the lead character artist on The Last of Us who has not been snatched up by rival companies as of yet.
Finally, a rather interesting addition to this list is Todd Stashwick, an actor and writer involved with Naughty Dog with the upcoming Uncharted title who is also co-writing Hennig’s upcoming Star Wars game, was removed from Naughty Dog, although no official reason has surfaced, the claim that there is bad blood between Hennig and the company that she brought such success to is certainly convincing.
Apparently these departures are not unique to Naughty Dog but have rippled across other studios owned by Sony such as Seth Killian leaving Santa Monica, the studio that brought us God of War. Pete Dodd, an industry insider talks about these Sony Lay-Offs in conjunction with the Naughty Dog departures, although they are most likely unrelated:
“Amy Hennig has creative differences about the direction that UC4 should go in. Egos swell, she leaves. She’s happy, she will make another studio much better when she gets there. Justin Richmond, an ally of Hennig’s, gets an offer he can’t refuse from Riot. He leaves.”
“These things happen. Naughty Dog is going to be fine. UC4 will still be awesome. Riot will be better with the pickup of Richmond and whoever gets Hennig will be better off. The sky isn’t falling.”
No one can deny that the foundation of Naughty Dog has most certainly been shaken with this unprecedented string of losses to the team, but with Sony urging us that none of this will affect the development of Uncharted, we’ll just have to survey the damage as more news surfaces about Naughty Dog’s PS4 titles in the upcoming Uncharted game and the Last of Us sequel in the coming year.