Uncharted is one of the best PlayStation series ever. However, before it kicked off in 2007 with the release of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, apparently the team at Naughty Dog had no clue what it was doing with certain aspects of the game. And that if it wasn't for the release of Gears of War a year earlier, the game may have never been the important and great game it was.
The interesting insight comes way of indie developer Lucas Pope, who is coming off the successful release of Return of the Obra Dinn in 2018, and Papers, Please before it. However, before Lucas Pope was a solo indie developer making experimental and critically acclaimed indie titles, he was in the AAA development industry. During this time in his life, Pope worked at Naughty Dog for a bit, and had his hands in both Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Uncharted 2.
Speaking to Ars Technica, Pope relived this time in his life, and shed some interesting details about the development process of the first Uncharted game.
When Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was announced, people couldn't help but make comparisons to Tomb Raider, which it clearly was inspired by. And then when the game released, it was obvious Naughty Dog had taken a page out of the Gears of War notebook, which the year prior had revolutionized third-person shooting with its cover-based mechanics and action.
However, before drawing from Gears of War, apparently Naughty Dog was having trouble with the combat, and actually had something with auto-aiming and auto-rolling controls akin to Tomb Raider. But then a couple months before launch Naughty Dog completely changed the combat in light of Gears of War and its success.
"One of the cool things about Uncharted 1 is, we had no ****ing idea what we were doing," said Pope. "Uncharted 1 was announced, and then Gears came out. And Gears invented the modern third-person shooter. Suddenly, Gears came out and showed them how to do it. So we changed everything, six months before release."
According to Pope, things like the snap and peek cover mechanics and the over the shoulder angled perspective we all recognize Uncharted for, came during this period of change. In other words, it sounds like Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was almost a much different (and worse) game. Who knows if it would have spawned one of the best and most successful franchises of the past two generations if not for these last-minute changes. We'll never know what could have been, but personally I'm quite pleased with the reality we got.