Is AI the future of storytelling? Fans react to Naughty Dog’s strategy

Is AI the future of storytelling Fans react to Naughty Dog's strategy

Naughty Dog, the studio behind legendary titles like Uncharted and The Last of Us, is making headlines for their interest in using AI for game development.

Crunch Time and Keeping Talent

In 2020, a former Naughty Dog animator, Jonathan Cooper, spilled the tea on the studio’s work culture. While his team wasn’t pulling all-nighters, he admitted others were crunching hard, some even facing health problems. Cooper also dissed their reliance on temporary animators, which meant a lack of experienced crew and delays. This sheds light on why Naughty Dog might be eyeing AI – trouble keeping top talent happy due to demanding work practices. Basically, they might be looking for a way to do more with less.

“For the demo shown last September, the gameplay animators crunched more than I’ve ever seen and required weeks of recovery afterwards. One good friend of mine was hospitalised at that time due to overwork. He still had over half a year to go. There have been others since.”
– Jonathan Cooper, former Naughty Dog Animator

AI: Friend or Foe?

The idea of AI helping build games is still up for debate. It could automate repetitive tasks, freeing developers to focus on the creative stuff we love. But here’s the thing: Cooper’s comments suggest Naughty Dog might be looking at AI as a replacement for experienced developers, not a teammate. This has gamers worried about a drop in quality and a boring, cookie-cutter approach to game design.

“AI will allow us to create nuanced dialogues and characters, expanding creative possibilities. However, it’s crucial to precisely direct these tools to achieve the intended outcomes.”
– Neil Druckmann, Studio Head and Head of Creative, Naughty Dog (via Sony)

Naughty Dog Neil Druckmann
Screengrab Courtesy thegameawards (via YouTube)

The Human Touch

Games like The Last of Us are incredible because of their deep stories, immersive worlds, and characters that feel real. To pull that off, you need a deep understanding of human emotions, what makes us tick, and how to tell a killer story. These are areas where AI is still learning the ropes. AI can definitely speed things up, but there’s no replacing human creativity.

“The reason I left is because I only want to work with the best. That is no longer Naughty Dog. Their reputation for crunch within LA is so bad it was near impossible to hire seasoned contract game animators to close out the project. As such we loaded up on film animators.”
– Jonathan Cooper, former Naughty Dog Animator

PlayStation Plus Premium free game trial, the last of us
Image Courtesy of PlayStation

Naughty Dog’s interest in AI isn’t bad news in itself. But it should be a tool to give developers superpowers, not send them packing. Their past struggles with keeping talent suggest focusing on a chill work environment might be a better long-term plan than relying more on AI.

“With technologies like AI and the ability to do motion capture right from home, we’re reducing both costs and technical hurdles, opening the door for us to take on more adventurous projects and push the boundaries of storytelling in games.”
Neil Druckmann, Studio Head and Head of Creative, Naughty Dog (via Sony)

The future of making games is a team effort, where AI could complement and boost the work of amazing human creators. That’s the only way we can make sure games continue to deliver the emotional gut punches and artistic vision that define this awesome medium.

Fan Reactions

Naughty Dog’s pro-AI move has divided the fanbase. Some see it as a chance for even more mind-blowing visuals and smoother gameplay, but many fans do not favor it.

  • Many gamers worry that AI-generated content might lack the soul and depth human creators bring. They’re picturing a future of generic games that feel empty, missing the emotional connection that makes Naughty Dog titles special.
  • Another concern is the impact on game development jobs. Fans are worried that a reliance on AI could lead to layoffs, especially for animators and artists.
  • Many fans are cautiously optimistic. They believe AI can be a valuable tool to free up developers and improve their work, but they stress that human creativity needs to stay at the heart of the development process.

Fans react to Naughty Dog's AI stance

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