Just a day after unveiling the first trailer for Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception at the Spike Video Game Awards, Naughty Dog gave the gaming press their first look at gameplay. The press event hosted by a handful of the game's developers in balmy Los Angeles granted a tantalising first glimpse of the PlayStation 3 exclusive, due out next November.
Before the live demonstration, representatives from the Naughty Dog team provided some background on the game's plot, new features and the status of their development team. Community strategist Arne Meyer revealed that Naughty Dog had just moved into a new studio in anticipation of hiring as the game progresses. (When Uncharted 2 went into crunch time in 2009 their old workspace became overcrowded. Some folks had to work on card tables.)
The new Naughty Dog space has a small, on-site motion capture studio to aid in creating the game's uncanny character animations. Sony is providing a larger, fully-featured motion capture studio for the Uncharted 3 team in Culver City.
Creative director Amy Hennig – the scribe responsible for helping make Nathan Drake and his many friends and foes feel down-to-earth – lays the groundwork for Uncharted 3's plot. Based on the game's debut trailer it's evident that Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception will take the treasure hunter to the desert. He'll be following in the footsteps of T.E. Lawrence, the British army officer whose life story was told in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia. But Uncharted 3 isn't as concerned with Lawrence's participation with the Arab Revolt in the early 1900s as it is with his archaeological interests.
Lawrence was fascinated with a lost city – a place he called The Atlantis of the Sands. He travelled the world looking for clues of a civilisation mentioned in the Qu'ran. Iram, the city of pillars, was once a centre of trade before, according to Hebrew lore, God struck it down and buried it under sand. Lawrence's life was cut short before he could travel to the vast and deadly Rub' al Khali desert to search for the city.
In Uncharted 3, Nathan Drake will pick up the trail with friend, mentor and father figure Victor "Sully" Sullivan. That means following in T.E. Lawrence's footsteps in search of clues, and that's how Drake and Sully find themselves in a rotting Chateau in France – a long, lost medieval site where Lawrence once trod in search of the fabled city.
The live demo of Uncharted 3 catches Drake and Sully just as the action begins to ramp up. They're deep inside the bowels of the wooden medieval ruins. The place has been overrun by ivy and moss. Shafts of light shoot through gaps in the roof and a four-post canopy bed is crowded by creeping foliage. The setting, as one would expect, is lovely – perfectly expressing the Uncharted series' strengths in recreating vivid ruins and out-of-control nature.
The pair have little time to breathe as they're quickly ambushed by villains. Amy Hennig notes that Drake's enemy this go-around wouldn't be just an evil warlord or a greedy dealer in antiquities, but members of an ancient order that uses fear as a weapon. She alludes to some of the players in the days of the Drake's ancestor Sir Francis Drake, particularly John Dee, the Hermetic adviser to Queen Elisabeth I. In addition to Dee's interests in mathematics and astronomy, the man also dabbled in magic and the occult.
How Drake's pursuers are connected to Dee remains a mystery for now. But it's clear that these men don't want Drake and Sully to live to find another treasure. Drake spies a pair of the gun-wielding thugs on a floor below them – they're pouring cans of gasoline, soaking the building's splintered timbers with fuel. Soon the place is ablaze and the chase is on. Drake leads the way, leaping across gaping chasms, scaling the decaying walls of the ruin in hopes of opening new routes that his less agile partner can use. Soon the action reveals subtle new tweaks to the way that Nathan Drake plays.