Eurogamer: The game starts with a train-wreck sequence but that's not the start of the story! That's outrageous. Why did you decide to do this?
Justin Richmond: It's an awesome narrative framing device. One of the really cool things at the beginning of the project was Amy went to our lead game designers and said, "I want to do this train-wreck sequence, and what if we start you part of the way down the [story] line and reveal little bits of the past as you go?"
And it worked out really, really well, because you get this really cool, awesome set-piece at the beginning of climbing up this collapsing train car, going, "Where are we?", "What's going on?" Then you get these little flashbacks and "oh!", here's what happened. It's something that gets you into the middle of the story very, very quickly. The biggest thing for us was wanting to start the game on a big bang and make sure it was really fascinating straight away.
Eurogamer: The stealth in Uncharted 2 is basic and Drake only has a limited array of equipment - what's the advantage of a minimalistic approach?
Justin Richmond: The big thing for us, gameplay-wise, was wanting to be accessible. What we specifically didn't want to do was turn it into a Splinter Cell where you have guys on patrol and you have to map it out and figure out what's going to happen. What we really wanted to happen was player choice - easy player choice. We wanted the player to very quickly be able to say, "I'm coming into the scenario and I can stealth it - I can climb up over this stuff or sneak around it - or I can go in guns-blazing and kill everyone in the room."
We wanted to be accessible for a large amount of players, and if we'd done any more hardcore stealth it would have shut it down for a large number of people, and detracted from the action-adventure. So we wanted to keep it basic in the sense that you can play it very easily. A stealth game is not what Uncharted 2 is. We wanted to do stealth that kept in-line with what Uncharted 2 is, and what we did is the best possible scenario.
Arne Meyer: We wanted to keep our universe very believable in terms of how NPCs interact with you, and one of the criticisms we'd had from the first game was that enemies might not know where you are in your current situation. If you kill one guy and no one else sees it then obviously no one else is going to react to it. It's keeping up this believability that's really important to what we do, even though we have this stylised world and stylised characters, it's making sure that everything makes sense in a real-world for you.
Eurogamer: Nolan North has won plenty of plaudits for his role as Drake. But Claudia Black (Chloe) and Emily Rose (Elena) fit around him perfectly. How do you go about picking the right cast?
Justin Richmond: Emily Rose actually came about in this very organic way. Emily Rose was originally hired to keep track of the script on the sound stage, but when Amy Hennig saw how she interacted with Nolan she said, "You are Elena." And she became Elena from that point on. That was really cool, because Emily had just moved to Hollywood and had come from nowhere and wasn't really an actress yet. We put her in Uncharted and all of a sudden she's on ER and her own show and all sorts of stuff so that worked out really well.
When they were casting for the next game, they knew they had to have somebody that played as well with Nolan, and when Claudia came in she just fell in. Claudia's great. She's really funny and was able to ad lib with him, and as soon as they saw that - all of those castings were done with Nolan - they were like, "That's it, she's Chloe." It's funny, I get to hear all the out-take audio and stuff, and the two of them are just hilarious - the stuff they're talking about off-set is just brilliant. They acted like old friends from the beginning.
Eurogamer: Would you ever sign a star just to put their name on the box?
Justin Richmond: No, that's not what Naughty Dog's about. If we find somebody who is the right person for the role then that's who we're going to put in. Nobody knew who Nolan was three years ago, but now the guy's a superstar in the videogame world. It was a huge win that he happened to play Drake, and play Drake perfectly, and bring great things for us and Nolan himself. Obviously the guy is now in like every game ever, but he's awesome, and I can't say enough good things about Nolan, he's the nicest guy ever.
The cool thing about the actors, actually, is that they're really involved in the process; they come to the studio and it's really, really cool. The best thing was [laughs], the guy that plays Sully came over to see some of the game we're showing and he was like, "Oh my god this is what it is!" Apart from recording the cinematics, they don't get to see the actual gameplay, so it's really cool to show it off to them.
Eurogamer: It's noticeable that your main bad guys are English and Russian. Have you been watching too many Hollywood action films? Are we really that bad?
Justin Richmond: [Laughs] No you're not that bad. The idea for Lazarevic, that he was this war criminal, was one of the first ideas that Amy had and it came out organically.
Arne Meyer: You're trying to find this archetype of somebody who's really bad and what environment he comes from. And if you're trying to make that believable you've got only a handful of places you can draw upon.
Justin Richmond: We wanted him to be a war criminal, right? And we wanted him to Eastern European... Flynn was just a casting thing. We'd written Flynn and then the guy who ended up playing Flynn just so happened to be British. It's not a choice! It's just the guy who played him had that accent and we're not going to ask him to change.