Part III: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Welcome to Part III of Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era.

I decided to break-up the six parts of my history into individual episodes as well, for more choice for you, the listener. This episode is all about the non-stop development of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. I also dig into how the team designed Nathan Drake’s final game. I hope you enjoy.

Continue reading “Part III: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End”

The Last of Us Part II Photo Mode Pointers – Petri Levälahti

The Last of Us 2 photo mode tips & tricks thread:

Let’s start with a simple portrait. This particular room/spot has a nice, soft, bloomy light. Finding good lights & shadows make about 95% of your shot. This thread can hopefully help you with the remaining 5%.

Petri Levälahti via Twitter

Levälahti takes dope video game screenshots. I initially mistook their work for that of Dead End Thrills. Artists like this make me forget that these shots are from video games, which showcases just how fantastic and talented the studio artists, animators, modelers, and everyone involved is at their jobs.

Ellie brought up a good point in the previous tweet: idle animations. These are animations your character does over time when you don’t control her. This game has tons of good ones. Observe your allies as well!


Idle animations are to thank for the screenshot at the top of this post.

Noir filter at 100% is almost a cheat code for decent shots. I mostly use it at 40-60% for a more desaturated look. I sometimes use other filters, but very rarely.


I have been fiddling with photo mode during my second play-through. I’ve linked some screenshots I’ve taken below, which contain some spoilers.

Noir mode is a cheat code.

Part II: The Last of Us

Welcome to Part II of Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era.

I decided to break-up the six parts of my history into individual episodes as I decided to break-up the six parts of my history into individual episodes as well, for more choice for you, the listener. This episode discusses how Naughty Dog managed developing for two console generations, as well as how much of an impact The Last of Us had for the studio. I hope you enjoy.

Continue reading “Part II: The Last of Us”

The Last of Us Part II sells more than 4 million copies – PlayStation.Blog

The Last of Us Part II sells more than 4 million copies – PlayStation.Blog

We’re delighted to report that The Last of Us Part II is now the fastest-selling PS4 exclusive ever with more than 4 million copies sold through as of June 21.

I had to take a break from writing my review to share this news. The previous record holder was Final Fantasy VII Remake with 3.5 million copies and the previous first-party exclusive to hold the record was Marvel’s Spider-Man with 3.3 million copies. And that 4 million was five days ago.

It became the top-selling first-party PS4 exclusive in Japan its opening week. It outperformed GTA V’s launch on PlayStation in Russia.

For even more context, The Last of Us sold 7 million copies at the end of the PS3’s lifecycle in one year. Combined with The Last of Us Remastered, the original game has sold 20 million copies in six years. The Last of Us Part II did nearly 1/4 of those numbers in three days at the end of the PS4’s lifecycle.

May its survival be long indeed.

The Last of Us Part II and Its Crisis-Strewn Path to Release – Wired

‘The Last of Us Part II’ and Its Crisis-Strewn Path to Release: by Darryn King for Wired

More unique access and insight to the development of The Last of Us Part II. Makes me wonder how Chasing the Stick would have turned out if I waited to publish after the game’s release.

Now, during this agonizing final stretch of development, Druckmann’s team is watching for players’ minute responses to the narrative and emotional beats. In the videofeeds piped out of the playtesting room, the dev team logs and annotates every clench of the jaw and widening of the eyes. Druckmann has even taken to spying on the gamers live from his office.

This is something briefly touched on back in 2013 with the documentary Grounded: The Making of The Last of Us. Even their approach and obsession with playtest has evolved. Playtests were a part of the game’s scope expanding in 2018.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves boasted epic set pieces that unspooled, in the parlance of the industry, “on the stick”—as the player played—instead of in passive cinematic cut scenes.

This is the core of Naughty Dog.

Even the dogs in The Last of Us Part II—which sniff out your scent trail and attack when they find you—are some of the most intelligent, realistic dogs in videogames ever. In Naughty Dog’s offices, playtesters have been horrified to find themselves committing acts of canine carnage. Yelps and whimpers and whines ring out, not all of them from the dogs. “It makes players feel dirty, and that’s part of the point,” Druckmann explains.

I’ve said it before, this game is going to be gruesome.

Druckmann is bombarded with anti-Semitic slurs, death threats, and messages informing him he has ruined the franchise.

Absolutely disgusting and saddening for this to happen to anyone. The anonymity of the Internet gives people a shameful boldness. Odds are too, that these despicable people will be buying the game day one. It fills my heart with grief.

How Chasing the Stick was Made

This project expanded so fast that I think it never would have seen the light of day if I had planned out all this scope from the get go. What started out as an idea to just chronicle the history of one game turned into the history of four. I wish I had kept track of the time I spent on Chasing the Stick. I replayed Uncharted 2 through The Lost Legacy. I earned the platinum trophy in both The Lost Legacy and The Last of Us. All of the gameplay alone has to be around 100 hours. If playing games doesn’t really count in your book, then I know I spent months waking up early to work on the story before having to go to work. Researching articles, listening to interviews, watching documentaries, writing, rewriting, reading drafts out loud, editing, creating assets. I have easily spent hundreds of hours making this project come to life. I don’t say all this to brag: I think it is just super rad.

I wanted to share a behind-the-scenes post about the making of Chasing the Stick. I share all the apps I used, the locations I worked in, the tools I used, and creative decisions I made to make it a reality. Hopefully it answers any questions you may have.

Continue reading “How Chasing the Stick was Made”

How Much of the Fake E3 2016 The Last of Us 2 “leak” was Right?

Back in September 2016, a magazine scan detailing “The Last of Us 2” leaked. This was supposedly follow-up coverage from the game’s announcement at E3 2016, something that never happened. The Last of Us Part II would be revealed months later in December 2016. Some theorized that Sony cut The Last of Us Part II reveal from E3 2016, instead filling the end slot with a live demo of Days Gone, a game that was featured near the beginning of the press conference as well. This would have, theoretically, lead to this magazine article never being published.

In September 2016, I was gullible. 2020 Max is educated now. It helps by writing a complete history on The Last of Us Part II’s development. Just looking at the spelling and grammar points to a fake. But now that the game is just 10 days from release, I have a pretty confident in looking back at what this “leak” actually got right. I thought it’d be fun, so I transcribed the scan below with my comments interjected. You can see the original Imgur post here.

Our team wanted to focus on the realism, from facial expressions and characters movement to the narrative and story. And speaking about the story…As the game is scheduled to 2018 and its precursor was launched in 2013, Ellie will be 5 years older, aging 19, exactly the same time that separates the two games.

Naughty Dog certainly had a focus on realism with facial expressions. They poured a ton of tech into creating digital doubles. Ellie’s age is also correct, despite the gap in real world time being either the reason why.

According to Neil Druckmann, director of the first game, Ellie “(…) grown up and got more mature, just as the players did, and you will see that through her journey.”

The grammar / structure of this “quote” is bad.

Bruce Straley – who has also worked with the first game and in the recently launched ‘Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End’ – gives us a sneak peak in regards of the new possibilities we will have in this sequel:

Outside of the grammar, this is rather telling of the validity of this “leak.” Bruce was likely a part of early discussions and design for the sequel, but he did end up leaving Naughty Dog not terribly long after the launch of Uncharted 4.

“The larger scenarios leave many possibilities of interaction, and this was a big deal to the team. The gameplay freedom is huge. We want the player to be creative and explore these mechanics as much as possible, using anything they have at their disposal in each location.

According to the producers, the game will not be a ‘sandbox’, but it will bring open-world features, being able to explore between – and I quote – ‘city scaled areas’.

This is by far the most accurate claim, but also, arguably, the easiest to predict in a post-Uncharted 4 world. The direction the studio was taking with wide-linearity was no secret. It is surprising to look back now though with the knowledge that Seattle is the main city that The Last of Us Part II takes place in and appear to be quite open.

“Ellie will show herself as a strategist in these occasions, given that in these 5 years she’s learned a lot with Joel, much more than what the previous gave has revealed”, says Straley. “But that doesn’t mean she won’t show us her wilder and more violent side. However, that will depend a lot on the situation, and maybe, even the players.”

Very generic, safe, but plausible early dev talk. I imagine this is pretty easy to cook up.

Finally, Druckmann tells that the game will show us important moments that shaped the personality of this new Ellie we are getting to know. “They are directly related with what we wrote in The Last of Us storyline structure. It’s all we can say at the moment. The Last of Us 2 is about a journey of seeking answers, and we want to impress the players with revelations and the way they happen.”It’s possible that The Last of Us 2 will be coming with the new version of PS4, that supports 4k resolution. A new version of The Last of Us Remastered, also with 4k support, is in Naughty Dog plans as well.

More generic talk, but they were right about The Last of Us Remastered getting PS4 Pro 4K support. An easy prediction at the time, for sure.

If you want a real and in-depth look at the development of The Last of Us Part II, I’d encourage you to look at Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era. I spent the last four months working on the story. You may read it or listen to it as a podcast. I’m biased, but I don’t think there is a better way to prepare for The Last of Us Part II.

The Last of Us Part II: Accessibility Features Detailed – PlayStation.Blog

The Last of Us Part II: Accessibility Features Detailed – PlayStation.Blog

The Last of Us Part II features more than 60 accessibility settings, with expanded options focused on fine-motor and hearing, as well as completely new features that benefit low-vision and blind players. We encourage everyone to take advantage of these features to create a gameplay experience that’s right for them.

Even more in-depth details on the accessibility features in the The Last of Us Part II. There are fully settings for customizable controls, visibility, motion sickness, navigation, audio, and more. It is incredible to see these types of features built-in from the ground up for such a huge AAA game. Naughty Dog seems to be raising yet another bar here.

My personal favorite line in the break down though was this.

Trophies are not limited by difficulty.


The Last Of Us Part II: how Naughty Dog made a masterpiece – Sam White

The Last Of Us Part II: how Naughty Dog made a masterpiece by Sam White for GQ

UPDATE 12:05 PM: GQ has changed the headline from “The Last Of Us Part II: how Neil Druckmann made a masterpiece,” replacing Neil’s name with Naughty Dog. I agree with the correction since hundreds of people made this game. I have updated my headline to reflect their correction.

Sam White has spent the last two years behind-the-scenes with Neil Druckmann, Halley Gross, and Naughty Dog while they made The Last of Us Part II. Sam got to tell the side of this story that I could not with my history of the game’s development and Naughty Dog as a whole.

Sam told a side I wanted to tell.

Sam’s feature offers insight into the minds of the team. It is an emotional look at the past two years of development. There are tons of good quotes. I’ll leave most of my favorites at the end of this article. One in particular though, captured the spirit and inspiration behind Chasing the Stick.

Part II uses interactivity to create a story not possible in TV, books or film and something not explored in this way in video games. You are Ellie and you’ll commit acts you feel repulsed by. Throughout the course of the story you’ll begin to question some characters you loved and begin to empathise with characters you hated. But therein lies the point. Druckmann hopes he’s found a way of communicating what he felt – a young boy, traumatised in front of his TV; a grown man reflecting on his past – to players in their living rooms, all through the buttons on your PlayStation controller.

Video games have powerful potential due to their interactive nature.

Thank you Sam for telling the side of the story I could not. I hope I can tell a similar story someday.

…no, we’re gonna double down and we’re gonna expose what this ending means. To take some of the things that people hold sacred and just… dismantle it.”

Technology, DIY and blind faith – that, I learn, is video game development. To make a game like this, Naughty Dog has spent the past four years on and off Sony’s performance capture stage. The Godfather Part II was shot in eight months; Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, one of the most expensive productions in Netflix’s history, shot in 108 days.

Gross eventually gave up deleting the abuse she was receiving on Instagram. They have competitions to see who’s getting the worse flak. He usually wins. As for the other developers, the mood at the studio was low. One team member described the situation to me as “a nightmare”. Another told me it was like getting repeatedly punched. As the online abuse intensified, one of the game’s actors received death threats against their family. Druckmann’s confidence, he tells me, was “shot”.

“As you start wrapping things up, creatively there are fewer and fewer responsibilities and my mind can’t help but think about the next thing,” he says. “So, yeah, the next thing could be a Part III, the next thing could be some new IP.” Ultimately, the best idea wins.

“There are games that are just comfort food. This is not one of those” – Eurogamer

“There are games that are just comfort food. This is not one of those” by Aoife Wilson for Eurogamer

Eurogamer was able to sit down with Neil Druckmann for an interview as a part of their preview coverage for The Last of Us Part II. It seems the big names in game coverage have had the game for at least two weeks, and based off how Aoife starts the article, it’s safe to assume they have beaten the game. Kind of interesting to think about when reading this interview.

The quote turned headline reminds me of the discussion about how Naughty Dog doesn’t use the word “fun” when talking about design in The Last of Us Part II back around E3 2018. I thought there were some salient points brought up in the interview and wanted to offer my two cents.

That’s the game on a high level, right? It’s the pursuit of justice to the ends of the earth. But when you go deeper it’s about tribalism, trauma, and how we often see ourselves as righteous and other people as wrong, and how we can – and this is a universal human thing – associate ourselves with a tribe. Often when there’s a conflict with another tribe, we dehumanize them, we make them less than us, so we can justify the things that we do in the pursuit of justice.

PlayStation vs Xbox: a small and inconsequential point of comparison. These brand loyalists come out in droves in comments and tweets. The hatred and vitriol they spew is frightening, disheartening, and pathetic all for a box of electronic components from a company.

Aoife – …Were you offering support to the staff when it comes to that portrayal of violence – was there emotional support going on in the studio? Because I think I feel like if you’re doing that over a period of time, it must have quite an effect on you having to see that all the time.

Neil – …Some people just have the complete separation. Like they’re crafting something, and they’re looking at the details of it. And they’re not like thinking about the greater context is like, how do I replicate the way light is reflecting off of this liquid surface – they have complete separation.

There’s other people that might be affected by it. And what we’ve done with this game for the team is to say, look, if there’s any content you feel uncomfortable working on with it for a short period of time, a prolonged period of time, there’s plenty to do in this game, right? There’s plenty of other things to work on that aren’t those things. Let’s give you the tasks and make you comfortable. At the end of the day we want people that are passionate about what you’re doing. That’s when they do their best work. If something ever makes them feel uncomfortable, or they’re not into it, they’re not going to do their best work. We want to craft the best game possible.

Encouraging to read, especially after the taste of violence Naughty Dog and Sony were willing to showcase at a public games show in Paris in 2017. This game is going to be gruesome. Looking back on the reports of PTSD surrounding Mortal Kombat 11, it’s a positive response to hear from a developer.

Neil talked about Naughty Dog’s response, or perceived lack thereof, to the leaks that happened in April.

There’s a lot of the feedback that came out, our take on it is, you don’t know. Right? There’s so many false things out there. We don’t want to go out there and correct anything because that would be spoiling the game in a way – by saying what it isn’t, we’re kind of saying what it is.

Their hands are completely tied. With the game being over a month away from when the leaks occurred, Naughty Dog just has to sit back and let the rumors and lies spread. They can and have reminded people about the importance of actually playing the game in context. This is what I said when discussing the leaks in Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era:

Even in the aftermath of the leak with all the reductive, half-baked summaries and the click-bait outrage videos, context to the story is crucial to remember. The backbone of the stories Naughty Dog tells is the power of the medium in which they tell them—video games. The best way to experience the story is the way it was intended.

The Last of Us Part II Pre-Orders Surpass God of War in Brazil

The Last of Us 2 supera pré-venda de God of War no Brasil by Diego Lima for IGN Brazil

PlayStation announced on Friday (5) The Last of Us 2 exceeded God of War in pre-sale in Brazil, becoming the title with presale largest retail exclusive games from the PlayStation in the history of the country.

Courtesy of Google Translate

First Europe and now Brazil. I wonder how the game is doing State-side. God of War broke 3.1 million sold in three days. Marvel’s Spider-Man broke 3.3 million in three days. I also just learned that Final Fantasy VII Remake sold 3.5 million units in same period of time.

My final guess is that The Last of Us Part II will break 3.7 million units sold in three days. I’m not intentionally increasing it by .2, I swear. That was my guess before I learned about Final Fantasy VII Remake.

If you missed it, I finally published Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era yesterday. It covers Naughty Dog for the whole generation. Including the long development of The Last of Us Part II. You may read or listen to the entire story for free right here.

Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era

I’ve always had an inclination toward Naughty Dog and their games. I first saw the Crash Bandicoot games around 2001-02 as a first or second grader at a neighbor’s house. I was a Nintendo kid growing up, but I liked going over to their house just to play Crash. I thought Crash was cool. Around that same time, the Jak and Daxter games were also being released. I mooched a PS2  off a different neighbor to play bits and pieces of that series. I’d also be introduced to other PlayStation classics like Sly Cooper and Kingdom Hearts. It was my early indoctrination into the PlayStation Nation. I’d finally get my own PS2 second-hand around 2007. The first games I bought were from those three series.

The next Naughty Dog game I’d catch a glimpse of would alter my attention toward the studio from a passerby to an active seeker. Probably around 2009, I saw a demo kiosk for a PS3 and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves inside a Target. I remember the demo vividly: It was the first section when you arrive in Nepal. A massive armored truck chases you down an alley while you run and shoot at its grill and engine. At the end of the alley, when I felt like I was running low on ammo, the truck burst into flames and I escaped. But I didn’t really do those things, the character (who I didn’t know at the time), Nathan Drake, did them: I just controlled it. I think a connection was made then and there. Instead of using a cutscene, Naughty Dog games let me control the action and the story unlike anything I had experienced before.

From then on I was trying to get my hands on a PS3 and was acutely aware of Naughty Dog’s next game. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was incoming and I could not wait. The reveal demo of the burning Chateau blew my mind. I wouldn’t get my own PS3 until Christmas 2011, bundled with Uncharted 3. I played the first few opening chapters before putting the game down, determined to play the series in order. I borrowed Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune from a neighbor on Christmas Day. I played the entire game in one sitting the next day with my PS3 hooked up to my CRT television: I wasn’t even playing in HD! I’d then go out and buy Uncharted 2 and then finally play Uncharted 3.

A few weeks prior to that Christmas, on December 10, 2011, the Spike Video Game Awards revealed Naughty Dog’s next gameThe Last of Us. Leading into the awards, other teasers were dropped like breadcrumbs. I remember watching the cordyceps fungus video and seeing the cracked newspaper casing. I was hooked from the get-go, before Naughty Dog was even attached to the game. Finally having my own PS3 just a couple weeks later, I was eagerly anticipating The Last of Us. I went on a total media blackout for it, even hiding my eyes and plugging my ears during the trailer at movie theaters.

Naughty Dog was my reason to own a PS3. I remember reviews for The Last of Us dropped on my birthday in 2013. Reading Colin Moriarty’s 10/10 review on IGN was like unwrapping a birthday present. The game launched just over a week later on June 14, 2013. It is a time I will never forget.

I think the powerful allure of Naughty Dog games comes down to their uncanny ability to intertwine gameplay and storytelling. A saying that I’ve probably heard before, but it never clicked until writing this story, is “telling it on the stick.” Simply put, it is a design decision to tell as much of the story via gameplay as possible. Using the joysticks before text boxes or cutscenes to tell the narrative. This actively puts the player in the shoes of the character, creating a unique, empathetic bond. It clicks with players on an emotional level. It certainly has with me.

As The Last of Us Part II nears its release on June 19, 2020, I had an idea to write a history/editorial on the game. I had done so for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate; this seemed like a logical next history piece for me. I love looking back, gathering context, and analyzing how a game came to be. I find it educational and helpful to provide that information all in one place. My eagerness and drive quickly got the better of me.

What started out as an idea to explore the history of The Last of Us Part II has (in a Naughty Dog-like fashion) turned into something more ambitious than I anticipated. I want to take a look at Naughty Dog’s PS4 legacy; analyze their game design, explore their developmental history, and compile it all in one place. The Last of Us Part II didn’t just happen out of thin air. It is a sum of years of hard work, lessons learned, and the tireless pursuit of perfectionism.

Continue reading “Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era”

The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era

Welcome to the audiobook version of Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era.

What started out as an idea to explore the history of The Last of Us Part II has (in a Naughty Dog-like fashion) turned into something more ambitious than I anticipated. I want to take a look at Naughty Dog’s PS4 legacy; analyze their game design, explore their developmental history, and compile it all in one place. The Last of Us Part II didn’t just happen out of thin air. It is a sum of years of hard work, lessons learned, and the tireless pursuit of perfectionism.

How did Naughty Dog actually pull it off though? What lessons did they learn, implement, and explore on the PS4? What did it cost their team, both personally and professionally? How has their PS4 catalog defined the studio in a way no previous generation has?

Chasing the Stick is also available online at and as an e-book. Check out the links below to download your preferred format for free.


Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era




Sony First Party Releases
Sony First Party Metacritic Scores
Sony First Party Metacritic Averages
Sony First Party Metacritic Averages with Three or More Releases

Sources Bookmark Folder with all cited sources

You may reach out to me on Twitter @MaxRoberts143 or via e-mail at max@maxfrequency(dot)net