PSU talks Uncharted with Naughty Dog Co-Vice President

With Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune set to release next week, PSU decided to hit up Naughty Dog for last minuet details on the technology behind the game and what makes Uncharted stand out from other titles on the market.

In our interview, we chat with Christophe Balestra, Co-President of Naughty Dog. The interview will touch base on such topics as the necessity of Blu-ray and the power of the Cell processor. So onto the interview!

PSU: How does the animation system and graphics in Drake’s Fortune benefit from the Cell and SPU’s?

Christophe Balestra: One of our first goals when we started Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was to push what’s been done in animation for video games. We developed a brand new animation system that took full advantage of the SPU’s. Nathan Drake’s final animation is made of different layers like running, breathing, reloading weapons, shooting, facial expression, etc; we end up decompressing and blending up to 30 animations every frame on the SPU’s.

And this is just for Nathan Drake; we have a lot more than that when you add the NPC’s and enemies.

PSU: The core engine for Drake’s Fortune was built from the ground up. How does the engine itself come to utilize and take advantage of the PlayStation 3’s core architecture and features?
Balestra: The main thing about the PlayStation 3 is the Cell processor and more specifically the SPU’s. We are only using 30 percent of the power of the SPU’s in Uncharted. We’ve been architecting a lot of our systems around this and we were able to take full advantage of that power. A big part of our systems is running on SPU’s: scene bucketing, particles, physics, collision, animation, water simulation, mesh processing, path finding, etc. For our engine, the cool thing about having the SPU’s is the fact we can minimize what we send to the RSX (the graphic chip), it allows us to reject unnecessary information and get the RSX to be very efficient.

PSU: Are there any specific elements, aside from graphics and animations, which could not be done on any other platforms or been a huge difficulty in accomplishing?

Balestra: One of the things I really like about the PlayStation 3 is the combination of the Blu-ray and the hard drive. Without the Blu-ray the game wouldn’t have fit on a disc, for example the audio for the different languages won’t fit on a DVD. We’re only using the hard drive as a cache, the game doesn’t need to be installed, but the fact the hard drive is on every PlayStation 3 helped our streaming technology dramatically.

We are constantly streaming animations, level data, textures, music and sounds. It would have been impossible to get this amount of data at that speed to memory without the hard drive. And of course on top of that we use the SPU’s to decompress all this data on the fly.

PSU: What are some things Naughty Dog has planned for PlayStation Home?

Balestra: I can’t give you specifics about our plans, but I can tell you that we are looking forward to working with the team to bring Uncharted to Home.

PSU: Any plans to introduce downloadable content in Uncharted Drake’s Fortune?

Balestra: No, there is no plan as of today.

PSU: When looking at the size of games, are you happy that Sony provided Blu-ray built in with PlayStation 3? And to tag along with that, how big in Gigabytes is Uncharted currently standing at?

Balestra: As I said earlier, we couldn’t have done Uncharted without the Blu-ray, at least at the quality we wanted to make it. To get such high-resolution textures and movies, a Blu-ray was indispensable to achieve the graphic quality of Uncharted. We fill the disc at 91 percent and it’s optimized, meaning we don’t duplicate any data. That includes all our game data, sounds, 7 spoken languages and 102 minutes of movie.

Talking about movies, I wanted to mention they are pre-render using our engine on the PlayStation 3. The only reason we did this was to eliminate any loading time before or after a movie and make our memory management easier.

PSU: Now that you are finished with Uncharted, what’s next on Naughty Dog’s plate?
Balestra: VACATION!!


PSU.com would like to thank Christophe for the interview, and keep in mind – Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune releases November 20. Stay tuned for our review. This is a title you definitely won’t want to miss!