Hi, I'm Blake. My first game was '89 Doors', a rage game where you escape mazes whilst being pursued by an insatiable creature of hunger, and now I'm working on a tower defence game called 'Forgive Me My Henchman', where you play as a typical head 'bad guy', deploying henchman and sabotaging a building in an effort to stop a one man army action hero.
If you read the 'About Me' section on this website, you will know how much I was impacted by the Naughty Dog game 'The Last of Us'. As a result, I tried to learn more about the game and its development.
My research led me to a documentary called 'Grounded: The Making of The Last of Us'. It is - in a word - fantastic! It is just over 1 hour 20 mins long, and interviews key players at Naughty Dog who played a part in the game's creation. This includes the actors, director, musicians, sound technicians, and level designers amongst others.
Although everyone will probably get something different out of watching this documentary, I would like to share two of the lessons I learned from watching it.
The first was how complex making a AAA game is! There were specialists using technology I hadn’t even seen before, making it do things I didn’t even know were possible. According to LinkedIn, they employ somewhere between 200 and 500 employees*. Somehow, they had to coordinate the efforts of all these people to ensure that a nuanced and powerful story with incredible gameplay was created for the end user - I started focusing on what they were doing to work effectively amidst all this complexity, which taught me the second lesson.
I learned that Naughty Dog has a structure and culture that enables it to deal with complexity. They have done this by:
a) Hiring people they can rely on – the co-president Christophe Balestra says “When I hire people I always tell them ‘I will have to be able to trust you’”. Hiring reliable people means that there does not need to be micromanagement, people can work together well, and that the standard of work will be high.
b) Doing a great job at communicating the overall vision – Everyone who was interviewed understood the important role they played in development of the final product. In addition, all of them also knew how they could contribute to the story and improve the gameplay. I believe that is one of the reasons that all the elements of the game work so well together.
c) Having a flat corporate structure – what I noticed during the documentary is how people from different departments would always be communicating with each other. This once again ensures that the different elements of the game work well together, and also helps different departments remain flexible and adaptable to changing situations.
d) Offering buffets – In one of the scenes, I noticed that there was a buffet and I assume that people didn’t have to pay a fee for it. If there is one thing I learned about myself and about human nature, it is that nothing contributes to good work and camaraderie as much as free food.
I was fascinated at how many different people and elements had to come together to make The Last of Us what it is, and I congratulate Naughty Dog for doing such a great job at it.
I hope you enjoy the documentary as much as I did. You can find it at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yH5MgEbBOps
*That figure is between 199 and 499 more people than I currently employ (including myself).