When it was announced that longtime Naughty Dog Creative Director Amy Hennig had left the Uncharted developer there were initial rumors that suggested she had been “forced out” of the company. Shortly thereafter, however, Sony issued an official statement that hinted the breakup was amicable.
Still, there lingered an ongoing suspicion that all was not right at Naughty Dog, specifically with the Uncharted development team. Then came word that Game Director Justin Richmond had also left Naughty Dog, further fueling that speculation.
Admittedly, Naughty Dog has saved face for the last month, but the troubling evidence continues to mount. In fact, today has brought word of two more shake-ups at Naughty Dog, both as nonchalant in nature as Hennig and Richmond’s departures but no less concerning.
First, IGN has official confirmation that Naughty Dog Art Director Nate Wells is no longer with the company. Some clever Internet sleuth noticed that Wells had changed his Twitter bio at some point over the weekend, listing Unfinished Swan developer Giant Sparrow as his new employer. Wells then confirmed the news shortly thereafter.
While this news isn’t completely surprising considering Wells had finished his work on The Last of Us some time ago, the fact that his was the third departure in such a short amount of time drew a lot of attention. Unfortunately, Wells’ official statement only addresses his enthusiasm with regards to his new creative endeavors at Giant Sparrow, not why he left Naughty Dog.
But, the more damning news has come directly from the Uncharted camp, with Uncharted 4 voice actor Todd Stashwick revealing his role has been re-cast. While we knew very little about Uncharted 4, Stashwick’s involvement, potentially as the villain, was one of things that seemed pretty set in stone. He narrated the Uncharted 4 teaser trailer, served as a mo-cap actor in addition to his voice work, and was practically the face of the game for the past few months. Not anymore.
The good news, though, is that Stashwick has already lined up a new gig co-writing Visceral Games’ untitled Star Wars project with Amy Hennig. Feel free to draw your connections between those two coincidences if you like.
Obviously, with shake-ups of this kind we’re unlikely to get the full story, but it seems pretty clear that “something” is up at Naughty Dog. Four departures in only two months time, and while a high profile game was knee deep in development, does not suggest anything but a significant change is occurring at the house that built Uncharted.
At this point, one of two scenarios seem most likely: either Naughty Dog was unhappy with the direction of the new Uncharted and their decision to switch gears rubbed some high ranking developers the wrong way, or Naughty Dog was unhappy and they let all of these people go. Either way, we wouldn’t be surprised if Uncharted 4 was a no-show at E3 2014, given all of the negative attention surrounding the game.
What do you make of all these recent departures from Naughty Dog? Has a mass exodus by key Uncharted creatives changed your enthusiasm for the fourth game?