Last week was a rough one for Naughty Dog, with a damning new report published by Kotaku shedding light on the company’s culture of crunch, something that they’ve been notorious for over the years and that reportedly has only gotten worse with recent releases like Uncharted 4, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, and the upcoming The Last of Us Part 2.
Something that the report brought to light was the fact that this crunch had led to several key staff leaving the studio, leading to Naughty Dog having to hire relatively inexperienced people to fill in the gaps.
Amidst concerns about the game’s development that have arisen following the aforementioned report, its co-director Neil Druckmann recently took to Twitter to assuage fans, saying that The Last of Us Part 2 boasts “one of — if not the — best animation team in the industry — both in raw animation skill and technical knowledge.” Druckmann said that he is “still blown away by the animation”, and that he can’t wait for fans to “experience [the animation team’s] incredible work.”
If you’re wondering why Druckmann has singled out the animation work in The Last of Us Part 2 in particular, it has almost certainly been said as a direct response to statements made by an ex-Naughty Dog animator.
Not long after Kotaku’s report’s publication, former Naughty Dog developer Jonathan Cooper took to Twitter to corroborate much of what it wrote in a lengthy thread.
One of the key things he said was that due to the studio’s reputation for extreme crunch, it became “near impossible to hire seasoned contract game animators to close out the project”, which led to them having to hire film animators, who, in Cooper’s words, though “super-talented” were lacking in “the technical/design knowhow to assemble scenes.”
The Last of Us Part 2 is due out exclusively for the PS4 on May 29.
Even after years of working on it, I’m still blown away by the animation in Part II. We have one of — if not the — best animation team in the industry — both in raw animation skill and technical knowledge. Can’t wait for you to experience their incredible work.
— Neil Druckmann (@Neil_Druckmann) March 13, 2020