How Smart Uncharted Fans Changed Naughty Dog's Game

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Posted by patrickklepek (4623 posts) -
Uncharted 2 introduced the series to multiplayer, and like Assassin's Creed, it worked surprisingly well.

The video game industry sits still for no man, and developers are constantly asked to shift, evolve, and innovate to remain on top. Fans do not accept every change with open arms, and the increased connectivity of communities, fostered by the sharp increase of community managers who try to keep their fingers on the pulse, means developers are listening more than ever.

Arne Meyer is the liaison at Naughty Dog between the community who adores the games coming from the Sony-owned studio and the developers who spend years creating these lavish, spectacle-laden video games.

One of the strange disconnects was the gunplay feeling different between single and multiplayer.

It’s up to Meyer to figure out when the community is making a serious point and pass it on. He started to suspect they were in the last few weeks, immediately following the launch of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. The community started to raise concerns about changes made to the gunplay since the release of 2009’s Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

The debate started on their own forums at naughtydog.com, and quickly spread to the popular gaming message board NeoGAF.

“They felt that Uncharted 2 really had the aiming down, had the gunplay down correctly, so they were trying to dissect what was happening there,” he said.

The key word here is “dissect.” It’s one thing to complain, it’s another to structurally break down what makes the game tick, ripping apart the design logic, and attempting to understand what was causing the feeling of disconnect between Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3. Players were looking at dead zone, velocity and stick aiming changes without any first-hand knowledge.

“A lot of what we were seeing was people driving themselves nuts trying to figure out what it was, and a lot of theories were coming out, so we wanted to make sure that we clarified that,” said Meyer.

Players were uploading videos with commentary, drawing up graphs explaining their theories--clearly, a scale had been tipped.

Meyer sat down with game director Justin Richmond and multiplayer programmer Travis McIntosh to sketch out the changes made for Uncharted 3. He pulled people from both sides because the community was saying the issue was specifically related to singleplayer. The result was a blog post on Naughty Dog's site that Meyer hoped would help fans settle to Uncharted 3.

It didn’t work, so it was back to the drawing board.

“We took some time to investigate that internally because, again, we knew we’d made changes, but in all of our focus testing--probably about three months of straight focus testing--we never got any feedback the aiming was unsatisfactory to those people,” he said. “And for us, it’s very hard. I mean, obviously because we’ve played around with this, so whatever we had internally we’d get used to very quickly.”

Both Naughty Dog and Naughty Dog’s fans were banging their heads against the wall at this point. Meyer threw out the idea of bringing some fans into the actual studio to better articulate the issue, but the idea came and went.

“Justin came by later and said ‘Well, can you do that?’ And I’m like ‘sure.’” he said. “So, I posted on the NeoGAF forum where people were going through it in a very eloquent fashion, really explaining their gripes very clearly, and I said ‘Well, is anyone local that can come in and explain it to us?’”

Two users showed up, each bringing with them another person also versed in Uncharted, and all four were members of NeoGAF. Everyone sat down with Richmond and McIntosh, and plead their case regarding the issues within Uncharted 3 with the very same people responsible for making them.

In order to make sure Naughty Dog was getting the right feedback, the team employed a variation of the Pepsi Challenge.

“We showed them a before and after without telling them which one was changed to see how they liked these alternate settings that our programmer had come up with,” said Meyer. “As part of that process, we iterated on what the feedback was and we were making changes on the fly, and changing different things from what we originally changed to get the right feel for the aiming.”

When the patch launches in the coming weeks, a tweak will reflect the community's response.

It's not hard to imagine how a fan might become easily starstruck. Here you are, chatting with the creators of one of your favorite games, telling them what you think about that game, and having one of the developers implement your changes in real-time. That’s really something else.

The traditional problem with incorporating fans is the inability to get properly articulated feedback, or to have players who are so wrapped up in the idea of coming behind the curtain that everyone's sidetracked.

“They definitely weren’t here ‘blinded by the light.’” said Meyer. “These are our fans, so I don’t want to say they came in with a massively critical chip on their shoulder over it, but the two guys that we brought in, I think they were really sharp in terms of being analytical and being able upfront with what the changes were, and they were very clear and direct about what it was, and it was actually super helpful for us.”

Naughty Dog is currently working on a patch for Uncharted 3 that will address, among other things, the gunplay concerns. There’s no date for the patch, but when it goes live, there will be an aiming toggle that brings the settings closer to Uncharted 2. This is merely an option, though, and anyone who’s just happy with how Uncharted 3 plays won’t have to make the switch.

Meyer said Naughty Dog didn’t have a policy for bringing fans to the studio, but that may change.

“Justin and I always talk about, when we’re on our press tours, that one of the awesomest things when we’re doing press is when we have the opportunity to meet with our fans,” he said. “For Justin, it was great to actually have somebody come in and have actionable changes happen in front of them.”

Staff
#1 Posted by patrickklepek (4623 posts) -
Uncharted 2 introduced the series to multiplayer, and like Assassin's Creed, it worked surprisingly well.

The video game industry sits still for no man, and developers are constantly asked to shift, evolve, and innovate to remain on top. Fans do not accept every change with open arms, and the increased connectivity of communities, fostered by the sharp increase of community managers who try to keep their fingers on the pulse, means developers are listening more than ever.

Arne Meyer is the liaison at Naughty Dog between the community who adores the games coming from the Sony-owned studio and the developers who spend years creating these lavish, spectacle-laden video games.

One of the strange disconnects was the gunplay feeling different between single and multiplayer.

It’s up to Meyer to figure out when the community is making a serious point and pass it on. He started to suspect they were in the last few weeks, immediately following the launch of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. The community started to raise concerns about changes made to the gunplay since the release of 2009’s Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

The debate started on their own forums at naughtydog.com, and quickly spread to the popular gaming message board NeoGAF.

“They felt that Uncharted 2 really had the aiming down, had the gunplay down correctly, so they were trying to dissect what was happening there,” he said.

The key word here is “dissect.” It’s one thing to complain, it’s another to structurally break down what makes the game tick, ripping apart the design logic, and attempting to understand what was causing the feeling of disconnect between Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3. Players were looking at dead zone, velocity and stick aiming changes without any first-hand knowledge.

“A lot of what we were seeing was people driving themselves nuts trying to figure out what it was, and a lot of theories were coming out, so we wanted to make sure that we clarified that,” said Meyer.

Players were uploading videos with commentary, drawing up graphs explaining their theories--clearly, a scale had been tipped.

Meyer sat down with game director Justin Richmond and multiplayer programmer Travis McIntosh to sketch out the changes made for Uncharted 3. He pulled people from both sides because the community was saying the issue was specifically related to singleplayer. The result was a blog post on Naughty Dog's site that Meyer hoped would help fans settle to Uncharted 3.

It didn’t work, so it was back to the drawing board.

“We took some time to investigate that internally because, again, we knew we’d made changes, but in all of our focus testing--probably about three months of straight focus testing--we never got any feedback the aiming was unsatisfactory to those people,” he said. “And for us, it’s very hard. I mean, obviously because we’ve played around with this, so whatever we had internally we’d get used to very quickly.”

Both Naughty Dog and Naughty Dog’s fans were banging their heads against the wall at this point. Meyer threw out the idea of bringing some fans into the actual studio to better articulate the issue, but the idea came and went.

“Justin came by later and said ‘Well, can you do that?’ And I’m like ‘sure.’” he said. “So, I posted on the NeoGAF forum where people were going through it in a very eloquent fashion, really explaining their gripes very clearly, and I said ‘Well, is anyone local that can come in and explain it to us?’”

Two users showed up, each bringing with them another person also versed in Uncharted, and all four were members of NeoGAF. Everyone sat down with Richmond and McIntosh, and plead their case regarding the issues within Uncharted 3 with the very same people responsible for making them.

In order to make sure Naughty Dog was getting the right feedback, the team employed a variation of the Pepsi Challenge.

“We showed them a before and after without telling them which one was changed to see how they liked these alternate settings that our programmer had come up with,” said Meyer. “As part of that process, we iterated on what the feedback was and we were making changes on the fly, and changing different things from what we originally changed to get the right feel for the aiming.”

When the patch launches in the coming weeks, a tweak will reflect the community's response.

It's not hard to imagine how a fan might become easily starstruck. Here you are, chatting with the creators of one of your favorite games, telling them what you think about that game, and having one of the developers implement your changes in real-time. That’s really something else.

The traditional problem with incorporating fans is the inability to get properly articulated feedback, or to have players who are so wrapped up in the idea of coming behind the curtain that everyone's sidetracked.

“They definitely weren’t here ‘blinded by the light.’” said Meyer. “These are our fans, so I don’t want to say they came in with a massively critical chip on their shoulder over it, but the two guys that we brought in, I think they were really sharp in terms of being analytical and being able upfront with what the changes were, and they were very clear and direct about what it was, and it was actually super helpful for us.”

Naughty Dog is currently working on a patch for Uncharted 3 that will address, among other things, the gunplay concerns. There’s no date for the patch, but when it goes live, there will be an aiming toggle that brings the settings closer to Uncharted 2. This is merely an option, though, and anyone who’s just happy with how Uncharted 3 plays won’t have to make the switch.

Meyer said Naughty Dog didn’t have a policy for bringing fans to the studio, but that may change.

“Justin and I always talk about, when we’re on our press tours, that one of the awesomest things when we’re doing press is when we have the opportunity to meet with our fans,” he said. “For Justin, it was great to actually have somebody come in and have actionable changes happen in front of them.”

Staff
#2 Posted by RKTJMP (16 posts) -

I dont even have a console.

#3 Posted by jkuc316 (981 posts) -

NOW I can believe ND is a people's studio!

#4 Posted by PieGuy (313 posts) -

Great developers.

#5 Posted by AutoBarn (80 posts) -

Well played Naughty Dog. Now if you'd just let me come in for the next 2-3 weeks to take you through the issues with storyline.

#6 Posted by hbkdx12 (779 posts) -

On one hand i commend ND for their commitment to their fanbase
 
On the other hand i really hope this doesn't set a dangerous precedent where ppl (on GAF specifically) just constantly shit all over a game with the expectation that they have the power to get it changed

#7 Posted by Metal_Mills (2997 posts) -

I'm glad you wrote a piece on this. I saw stuff on GAF about it but never heard or knew the full story.

#8 Posted by NaDannMaGoGo (338 posts) -

@hbkdx12 said:

On one hand i commend ND for their commitment to their fanbase On the other hand i really hope this doesn't set a dangerous precedent where ppl (on GAF specifically) just constantly shit all over a game with the expectation that they have the power to get it changed

Well that kinda depends. If people really have a good point then yeah, go ahead with that. If something as basic as the gunplay is bad in some way then that can really ruin someone's experience.

That said, mostly it's just shit coming out of gamers who think they know shit when they obviously do not. But the developers should be easily capable of filtering out who has a point and who doesn't. In this case they probably knew that something was indeed different so they gave it a try.

#9 Posted by Village_Guy (2579 posts) -

So they screwed up and let their fans fix the issues?

On the other hand though, they connected with their fanbase to help make the game better...

I'm kinda conflicted on this one.

#10 Posted by dropabombonit (1490 posts) -

I love Naughty Dog and didn't have a single problem with the controls in Uncharted 3 but you can't please everyone. So it's cool of ND to do this for the fans that are having problems

#11 Posted by dvorak (1496 posts) -

@RKTJMP said:

I dont even have a console.

What a fantastically purposeful comment.

#12 Posted by Yummylee (21652 posts) -

That's great and all, but for me it's a little too late. After completing Uncharted 3 on Crushing, I'm really not all that motivated to ever play through much of it again besides to rack up some loose trophies.

Maybe I'll give the game another full run once the aiming has been tweaked, but the campaign still has a few more issues that's kept it from reaching the heights of Uncharted 2 regardless of how the shooting feels. The game still feels far too slow, for example, with Nate's movement marring against Uncharted 2's silky smooth haste.

There's too much that needs to be addressed that simply can't with a patch or anything, but this is still a pleasant gesture all the same.

#13 Posted by Delta_Ass (3280 posts) -

Well played Naughty Dog. Now if you'd just let me come in for the next 2-3 weeks to take you through the issues with Elena's face.

#14 Posted by SiN13 (237 posts) -

No matter how great a game is in every department, if the controls are bad it's a complete game killer for me. I barely was able to finish Uncharted 3 because of the input latency. There were points near the end of the game where I was just sprinting past enemies to try and trigger the next scene. I hope they are able to fix it cause Uncharted 2 was one of my favorite games of all time.

#15 Edited by Vitor (2821 posts) -

@dropabombonit said:

I love Naughty Dog and didn't have a single problem with the controls in Uncharted 3 but you can't please everyone. So it's cool of ND to do this for the fans that are having problems

The aiming issues aren't immediately noticeable (I didn't pick up on it until I'd nearly beat the game) but I don't think you can lay the blame on 'not pleasing everyone'. The issue is definitely there once you pick up on it but it's very hard to say exactly what's wrong at first which is why I think it got overlooked by so many:

That's the video I submitted to NeoGaf and used as part of the campaign to get ND to change things. I could tell something was 'off' when I first started playing - I had a hard time being as accurate as I was in UC2, but it wasn't until I began fooling around with the aiming that I picked upon the way the reticule would 'stick' to the x and y axis and not actually give you a full 360 degrees of motion. Whether or not this was down to a massive deadzone I'm not sure, but that was my initial guess.

#16 Posted by Sweep (8861 posts) -

Big respect to them for taking the time to do this, and actually listening to their community.

Oh, and Patrick: I believe 'singel' should be 'single' and 'said' should be 'sat'. No worries, happens to me all the time ;)

Moderator
#17 Posted by Lazyaza (2183 posts) -

I knew I wasn't the only one who thought they were going crazy. Uncharted 2's shooting was so good, or well, good for what it needed to be and in 3 man they really did fuck with it way too much and imo it ended up being even worse than the first games. How the heck did their QA people not pick up on it to begin with, makes no damn sense.

#18 Posted by LiK (922 posts) -

GAF FTW

#19 Posted by muttjones (95 posts) -

@AutoBarn said:

Well played Naughty Dog. Now if you'd just let me come in for the next 2-3 weeks to take you through the issues with storyline.

Too true.

#20 Posted by Soap (3592 posts) -

Only Naughty Dog could spin fixing their broken ass aiming into something positive.

#21 Edited by MindChamber (345 posts) -

"Meyer said down with game director" Proof read please

#22 Posted by wickedsc3 (1046 posts) -

Hmmm.....so maybe its also a good thing to voice your opinion and not just "vote with your wallet" as some ppl on this site always seem to say. Just voting with your dollar does nothing, the devs. might just think oh less ppl bought this one because of _________ (whatever they speculate). With out people complaining they companies have to guess why there item didn't sell well.

#23 Posted by igloochan (26 posts) -

Has anyone else been getting weird bugs? It worked perfectly for me on my two playthroughs. But I had my friend come over to try out a few levels and everytime some game breaking bug popped up. For example: In the desert when the guys on the horse first ride up to meet Drake, the main guy kept getting stuck running in place. No amount of reloading check points changed it.

A little bit later, in the horse battle against the trucks, after you jump on and off the first truck, for some reason all the trucks would explode leaving drake alone on the battlefield. We ran across the desert for a few minutes but nothing ever happened after that.

Maybe it's just me but this uncharted game seems slightly more rushed than previous efforts. I still thoroughly enjoyed the game, however. And these problems only cropped up when I was replaying isolated levels.

#24 Posted by Helios1337 (325 posts) -

Good to know it wasn't just me getting pissed off with Uncharted 3 and the controls.

#25 Posted by Dimorgh (22 posts) -

@Helios1337: Why would anyone care about what you dont have?

#26 Posted by MushroomSamba (171 posts) -

Brad's one of the few reviewers I actually look to when making purchasing decisions, and the fact that he missed this issue in his review (even saying the gunplay controlled exactly like before) is a bit disappointing.

#27 Posted by Sveppi (128 posts) -

Bravo, good job ND. I guess I'll wait until the patch to play through on Crushing. Still really enjoyed the game despite some combat gripes, the overall experience eclipses them.

#28 Posted by Architecture (6 posts) -

@AutoBarn said:

Well played Naughty Dog. Now if you'd just let me come in for the next 2-3 weeks to take you through the issues with storyline.

I'm not sure that's enough time to fix everything wrong with the plot. It's also time to eschew some of the game's tropes--what was charming in 2007 feels dated and lazy in 2011.

#29 Posted by RuthLoose (816 posts) -

Where did the Uncharted 2 gun mechanics files go? Could they not have opened both up on a computer and looked at the differences between the two?

I understand that there are slight differences in the games and their respective engines but it seems like the shooting mechanics should be fairly comparable between these two games.

#30 Posted by Korolev (1707 posts) -

Oh thank god. When this patch comes out, I'll play through the whole game again.

#31 Posted by MiniPato (2741 posts) -

@Village_Guy said:

So they screwed up and let their fans fix the issues?

On the other hand though, they connected with their fanbase to help make the game better...

I'm kinda conflicted on this one.

I don't see why you should be. You basically stated the same thing except one is a positive spin and one is a negative spin. They got feedback from gamers and patched the game to make it more enjoyable. Pretty much the same thing every game has done. Fans voiced their opinion and the devs fixed the issues. ND has done more than most would and listened to their fans to fix their game instead of ignoring them and leaving them in the dust. Saying they screwed up and left it to fans to fix is a misunderstanding.

#32 Posted by QKT (250 posts) -

singel and multiplayer ;)

#33 Posted by Kartana (218 posts) -

Better aiming: this game needs it!

#34 Posted by RuthLoose (816 posts) -

@hbkdx12 said:

On one hand i commend ND for their commitment to their fanbase On the other hand i really hope this doesn't set a dangerous precedent where ppl (on GAF specifically) just constantly shit all over a game with the expectation that they have the power to get it changed

THIS.

I am a member of GAF but I cannot think of a more lurid den of sycophants and holier-than-thou attitudes. A community manager is responsible for taking the pulse of the general gaming community not turn their entire focus to one "albeitly large" wing of their online fan base.

#35 Edited by LegendaryChopChop (1210 posts) -

@Village_Guy said:

So they screwed up and let their fans fix the issues?

On the other hand though, they connected with their fanbase to help make the game better...

I'm kinda conflicted on this one.

I don't know what there is to be mixed about. Even the great game designers make mistakes, very seldom do they actively reach out and let their support actually play a part in what goes on inside of a game. Kudos to Naughty Dog for this, and while Uncharted 3 was underwhelming as a whole, it was fantastic enough to be a top game of the year regardless. Expectations hurt it more than these technical issues, which I never found a dilemma with. The multiplayer is greatly improved, however.

#36 Posted by ikwal (225 posts) -

I'm glad they're working on a patch to change the gunplay. At first I though I was just imagining it being different from U2 so it's nice to hear that I'm not the only one who had a problem with it.

Great article Patrick!

#37 Posted by rickwilliams (32 posts) -

lotta typos...

#38 Edited by LiquidPrince (15949 posts) -

As a fan who has beaten Uncharted 2 five times, and Uncharted 3, three times, with a platinum in both, I can say that there is very little difference between the two. There are only two aspects that have changed:

1. The diagonal movement of the reticule has reduced speed. So movement left to right, or up and down is the same as it was, but diagonal movement speed has been reduced, making the overall shooting feel slower.

2. Naughty Dog mentions on the disc special features that they changed how the bullet leaves the gun. They say that in Uncharted 2 it was possible for the bullet to leave the gun at an angle, however in Uncharted 3, it always leaves completley straight. Meaning that unless the reticule is EXACTLY on top of an enemies head, it is possible the bullet will fly past him, even when it looks like it should have hit.

In Uncharted 2, I assume since the bullet could leave the barrel at an angle, there was a sort of pseudo auto aim, that ever so slightly helped the player direct their bullets.

Overall the changes are super minor however.

#39 Posted by Napalm (9020 posts) -

Well that's... pretty great, actually.

#40 Posted by Sawboss (95 posts) -

Well I'm getting both Uncharted 3 and Batman: AC for my bday in 2 days...I was debating which one to play first, but if this patch is indeed happening, I suppose not harm in playing the Batman first. Best case, when it time for Uncharted 3, the patch will be live and I can decide for myself which control scheme I like more. I am glad that ND cares enough about these complaints to put this effort into fixing it.

#41 Posted by McQuinn (651 posts) -

The dedication and effort put forth by Naughty Dog is astounding. I wouldn't think any developers would give a shit to do something like that.

#42 Posted by bybeach (4831 posts) -

I got used to Uncharted 3 and finished the game..ended up more frustrated by missing triangle button in melee sometimes. I knew what they wanted, I thought.

It seems to me if they tighten up the aiming, they would have to nerf Drakes tank armor to taking shots. I was playing Fear 2 last night, and if quickly wounded, a single shot would do you, least with the Replicas. Uncharted 3 allows you to ignore hits to some degree, and eventually..I thought, you learned to take cover and line up before aiming. Someone mentioned it to me, and It was already becoming pretty clear.

The aiming was just different, and I do prefer tighter aiming, but that was not how Uncharted 3 was designed. Fine, great game. I will probably like re-speced aiming, in and of itself, more.

#43 Posted by Hizang (8532 posts) -

The people who wanted to play Uncharted 3 have already played Uncharted 3.

#44 Posted by Marz (5653 posts) -

I don't see why they couldn't just implement the multiplayer aiming settings into the single player... instead of doing this fan feedback.  Could have saved them alot more time.

#45 Posted by AmericanNinja (157 posts) -

Sad thing is there is no aiming problem. It's working fine for me. The kids at NeoGAF have talked themselves into thinking there is an aiming problem. Its all in their heads. Can't believe ND listened to some kids at a videogame messageboard.

#46 Posted by Afroman269 (7387 posts) -

Finally.

#47 Posted by UltimAXE (386 posts) -

I haven't played Uncharted 3 yet, but this seems like the kind of thing that should have never made it out of QA. From the videos I've seen, they shouldn't have needed any fan input to fix it. Good on ND for not turning a blind eye, though. Maybe Capcom should start paying a little more attention to what their fans say about their games.

#48 Posted by spiralcut (118 posts) -

@AutoBarn: lol Touche.

#49 Posted by Foggen (848 posts) -

Hey, instead of tweaking the aiming, why don't you focus on the streaming errors that cripple the game on old consoles.

#50 Edited by Vitor (2821 posts) -

@LiquidPrince said:

As a fan who has beaten Uncharted 2 five times, and Uncharted 3, three times, with a platinum in both, I can say that there is very little difference between the two. There are only two aspects that have changed:

1. The diagonal movement of the reticule has reduced speed. So movement left to right, or up and down is the same as it was, but diagonal movement speed has been reduced, making the overall shooting feel slower.

2. Naughty Dog mentions on the disc special features that they changed how the bullet leaves the gun. They say that in Uncharted 2 it was possible for the bullet to leave the gun at an angle, however in Uncharted 3, it always leaves completley straight. Meaning that unless the reticule is EXACTLY on top of an enemies head, it is possible the bullet will fly past him, even when it looks like it should have hit.

In Uncharted 2, I assume since the bullet could leave the barrel at an angle, there was a sort of pseudo auto aim, that ever so slightly helped the player direct their bullets.

Overall the changes are super minor however.

I'm going to have to direct you to the video I posted on the first page of comments for this article - that DEFINITELY did not happen in UC2. And that's not an issue of bullet flight trajectory or diagonal movement. Something is causing the reticule to 'stick' to the x and y axis - and that was not the case in UC2.

@AmericanNinja said:

Sad thing is there is no aiming problem. It's working fine for me. The kids at NeoGAF have talked themselves into thinking there is an aiming problem. Its all in their heads. Can't believe ND listened to some kids at a videogame messageboard.

Go check the videos Gaf posted. Or the video I recorded and put in the first page of posts here. You're the delusional one if you're willing to ignore all that evidence, not the people over at Gaf who actually collected the info and presented it in a coherent manner for ND to work with.

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