Whether it’s a wayward sojourn in the Rub’ al Khali desert, a smoldering mountainside train wreck, or the ever-changing procession of villains trying to spoil the fun, one axiom of the Uncharted franchise has been that Nathan Drake would always be back for more.

Unfortunately, the same doesn’t hold true for Richard Lemarchand, the lead designer for Naughty Dog’s universally acclaimed adventure series. It was revealed earlier this week that Lemarchand has quit the Sony studio and will be taking up a teaching job at the University of Southern California, as well as research on “experimental games.”

According to Gamasutra, Lemarchand’s professorial role at USC will be in the Interactive Media Division — a branch of the institution’s School of Cinematic Arts. With 3 Uncharted games in 4 years under his belt — and the groundwork for a fourth possibly lain out — Lemarchand felt like now was the right time to make a move:

“…even though the Uncharted series isn’t intended to be viewed as a trilogy, maybe there’s something about the number three that felt… there is a certain amount of completeness for me.”

Lemarchand has been on the record touting the game design program at USC as one of the nation’s best. Among other influential minds, it trained thatgamecompany‘s Kelle Santiago and Jenova Chen, who recently contributed to the superbly-reviewed Journey. Perhaps Lemarchand hopes to be responsible for the next generation of the industry’s creative talent:

“I’ve always been a very hands-on game designer. And I’m a big believer that no matter what level you’re working at on a project, it’s a very great thing to be able to stay connected to the practical processes of building out a game.”

“I also love to think and to talk about our approaches to games, about the way games work when they interface with our minds, and what aspects of ourselves they utilize to work.”

Uncharted 3 Designer Quits Naughty Dog

With the rapid succession and raving reception of Nathan Drake’s oeuvre (evidenced in part through our Uncharted 3 review), one might expect Lemarchand to be suffering from a slight Uncharted burnout. He couldn’t sound more passionate about the industry as a whole based upon his tone and tenor, but he did hint that “experimental” projects would now be part of his primary focus.

“I’ve always loved the experimental and avant-garde. I wanted to try to make a game in that sphere for the best part of a decade, now.”

“Some [projects] are to do with procedural narrative; some are to do with space and exploration; I’ve always been very interested in the power of environmental narrative.”

Considering that Naughty Dog has expressed a desire to wait and release Uncharted 4 on the PlayStation 4 (which, itself, might not release until late 2013 or 2014) expect the ramifications of Lemarchand’s departure to be minimal. The studio still benefits from the incomparable talents of creative director Amy Hennig, and after we interviewed her last year we came away inspired by her long term vision of “exploring facets of Drake that we haven’t seen.”

Ranters, where do you see Uncharted heading in the future? Will Lemarchand’s absence have an impact?

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Source: Gamasutra [via Develop]