A smorgasbord of early concept art and animation detailing Naughty Dog's early vision for Uncharted has been revealed.
In a feature at The Verge, Uncharted writer Josh Scherr goes over Naughty Dog's thought process at the time and includes the original pitch video for Uncharted - then codenamed Project Big - that sold the title to Sony.
As you can see from the screenshot below, Nathan Drake sure looked a lot different in these early stages. His face was more plucky, cartoonish and expressive.
Then the studio cast a then unknown character actor named Nolan North for the part and everything changed. "When Nolan came in, it was fairly clear that he was going to be the one," Scherr reminisced. "He had that right kind of devil may care feel to his voice, but he could also get serious when he needed to. And most importantly, as we discovered, is that the guy was hilarious."
North was also able to provide motion capture and he had the perfect physicality for the role. One of the features Scherr was most proud of was "additive animation" meaning the animations would change based on context. For example, Drake sprints differently when he's being shot at versus when he's not. In danger, he'll panic and flail his arms around wildly whereas when he's leisurely running he'll remain cool and collected. "It looks very simple now compared to [how it looked] back then," Scherr said. "But we were doing a lot of things that we had never tried before."
Not everything from the pitch video made it into the final game. The underwater bits were cut, as was the multi-enemy hand-to-hand combat system where you could steal weapons from foes. Amazingly, the jet ski level was built in less than a month at the 11th hour.
Naughty Dog's biggest aspiration with Uncharted was design a game where the narrative was front and center, rather than a flimsy excuse for action sequences. "The thing that we wanted to focus on from the get-go were characters and story," Scherr said. "That was something we felt that - particularly back in 2005, 2006 when this first started getting developed - was something that was sort of an afterthought in the majority of video games out there. So we really wanted not only to tell this pulpy, action adventure-style thing, but also really try to develop some relatable, entertaining characters and have the story be what pulled you through the game."
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection will be out on 9th October and will include access to the Uncharted 4 multiplayer beta running from 4th-13th December.