Naughty Dog invents the missing Uncharted chapter at PAX East

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Naughty Dog invents the missing Uncharted chapter at PAX East
Though the original Uncharted was a well paced and cleverly written experience, it wasn't without its share of largely inoffensive faults. For instance, the game's stealth aspects weren't well publicized to the player, leaving Nathan Drake's instant kill abilities unused for most playthroughs. The game's main antagonist, Navarro, wasn't really demonized in the first half of the game. There were also small plot omissions -- like, for instance, how did Elena and Drake get to their plane after the exciting conclusion of Chapter 3?

Naughty Dog recently rectified these three issues during a presentation at PAX East by creating a new, "third-and-a-half" chapter for Uncharted, in which Elena and Drake had to sneak onto an airstrip filled with Navarro's goons, and escape unharmed. With a little help from the audience, the Naughty Dog developers in attendance were able to create a framework for the new chapter, and even bestowed it with yet another clever moniker: "Strip Search."
With the basic outline of what they wanted the chapter to accomplish, the four Naughty Dog representatives on-hand -- game designer Jacob Minkoff, community strategist Arne Meyer, lead game designer Richard Lemarchand and lead multiplayer designer Justin Richmond -- began to create a simple MAYA framework for the setting of the action. The player, as Drake, would have to sneak across a mountain face to a nearby hangar while learning how to execute the game's stealthy ... executions.

The audience was shown the many subtle considerations Naughty Dog takes into account when designing the level -- for instance, curving the mountain path so the player is constantly facing the objective (or "the weenie"), creating "valves" the player can't return through, deciding which segments will be in-game cutscenes, and how to effectively achieve the chapter's narrative objective without making the player feel like his or her hand is forced.

After leading Drake across a treacherous mountain path (during which time he loses his gun, so as not to disrupt the stealthiness of the level), the player comes to a control tower they must climb around while avoiding Navarro's steely gaze. At this time, the panelists took suggestions from the audience as to what should happen next. Suggestions ranged from having Elena get impatient and drive her Jeep into the crowd of pirates to having Drake fall from the tower, only to be saved by Navarro at the last moment.

The audience interaction didn't stop there -- after Drake eventually made it down into the hangar, he faces an overwhelming group of enemies. The game's creators explained that this would be a great moment for the player to be acclimated with destructible environmental hazards. Drake could clear the group by shooting a cluster of barrels, instantly clearing a ...

"He doesn't have his gun," an audience member noted, to the embarrassment of the panelists.

After locating a firearm, Drake began shooting his way out of the hangar while Elena attempted to get the plane on the runway. In what would have certainly been an entertaining scene, Drake fended off pirates while shouting flying lessons to a panicked Elena. After the plane began taxiing, the pair were attacked by chaingun-toting Navarro. Again, the player could only take out Navarro's armored truck by shooting some nearby exploding barrels, toppling a telephone pole onto his car. Elena and Nate take to the skies -- and cue Chapter 4.

Though "Strip Search" will never become more than a MAYA framework and a loose collection of ideas, it was interesting to see the Naughty Dog design process in action -- and to find out that stealth kills were, in fact, in the first game. (We seriously had no idea!)
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