Eurogamer: Amy Hennig was talking about Naughty Dog as a company the other day. You're quite small, yet you've smacked the PS3 around like no other - what makes you special?
Justin Richmond: It's the people; the environment that we work in. It's super collaborative, we're really careful about who we hire, so we spend a long time vetting people.
Arne Meyer: We might not hire someone who's traditionally a tools designer - they might come from a completely different background. Our tools designer, who's awesome, if you looked at his background you'd never have placed him where he is, yet he's probably one of the best programmers we've ever worked with. It's really just about how they fit in the environment. A lot of our artists come from Hollywood doing CGI work.
Justin Richmond: The people we hire... You can't just be good at what you do; you've gotta work with people really, really well because Naughty Dog is 100 per cent collaborative. If you can't handle people coming over to your desk telling you that what you're working on sucks then it's not for you. I can go over to Paul, the engine guy, and say, "Hey, I noticed this sun thing here, what's going on with that?" And he'll go, "Oh, I should fix that," or, "Oh, we have a plan in place."
Alternatively, he can come over to me and say, "The cover in this multiplayer map is terrible! What's going on?" So we'll fix that. We get a lot of that stuff; everybody plays the game and everybody has input. The level of acceptable work is very, very high, and everybody knows that and everybody is pushing the bar in their own field. Nobody at Naughty Dog is willing to accept anything less than the best. If that means going back and doing something over again or spending more time on it then that's what we're going to do.
Arne Meyer: We have a flat hierarchy and the reason it's like that is because everybody is working at such a high level that we don't need a deeper hierarchy. Everybody is of the quality to be a lead in their own department.
Justin Richmond: The cool thing is that you'll literally have access to the presidents when you need to. So if some character artist thinks something is not working he can literally go to Evan [Wells] and say, "I don't think this is working." Or go to the lead of that department and say, "Hey, what's going on with this? We need to make this better." All those things.
And on top of that we just have some brilliant programmers. I can say, "I have this really crazy idea!" That's how it usually starts. And then someone will go, "That is crazy, but let's figure out how to do it..." Now that the tech is where it is, there's nothing we couldn't do at this point.
Eurogamer: Do you still play Dodgeball with Sony Santa Monica?
Justin Richmond: Actually, they've just started a league this week! What was the name of our team? Naughty Balls I think.
Arne Meyer: Yeah!
Justin Richmond: It's them and Infinity Ward and Sony Santa Monica and Insomniac and a bunch of people just from LA.
Eurogamer: Ah! And do you still have a close relationship with Sony Santa Monica?
Justin Richmond: Yeah! I mean, we share tech with all those studios. Guerrilla gave us all this stuff and we gave them some stuff. Media Molecule came over and we did some stuff with them.
Arne Meyer: Insomniac... It seems a little closer with Sony Santa Monica because they're two blocks away. Ha ha.
Justin Richmond: I have lunch with Warren, one of their designers, like every other week. Actually they were working on some stuff and they called Cristophe and I to go over there and talk to them. But again, we would do that with any other studio - actually, even non first-party studios: we talk to Infinity Ward a lot. We'll talk to anybody. If you want to talk to us, we'll talk to you.
It's really cool that we foster these relationships with these other studios, because actually you'll see in the multiplayer when the game comes out that all these other studios have tags. We have the paw for Naughty Dog, but Infinity ward and Insomniac and Guerrilla all have their own little tags too.
Eurogamer: What are you doing next? You can tell me.
Justin Richmond: [Laughs] I don't know what we'll do next actually.
Arne Meyer: We definitely think of Uncharted as a franchise and we'd love to work on another one. But it's really about what is fresh and what we want to do next.
Justin Richmond: People right now are just like, "It's out the door let's go to the beach!" But it's funny, because you'll come to the office and people will be like "Hey, check out this cool thing I'm working on." There are already people doing cool stuff and brainstorming.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is out today for PS3 and reviewed elsewhere on the site.