MPSE Wavelength

Winter 2022

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52 I m ps e . o rg BRUCE SWANSON, NAUGHTY DOG AUDIO DIRECTOR (2002-2015): Yeah, that dude is one of a kind. For me, it starts with, "What do we need to tell this story properly?" A game world is a world of opportunities and also a world of problems. If a certain technology can help me realize those opportunities or solve those problems, I push it. Otherwise, my focus is mainly aesthetic. EM: There have been some intriguing transition points in Naughty Dog's history, and I'm really curious about how audio played a role in these transition points. Let's start way back in 2002. The first Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy was a cartoony, fun experience that expanded on the Crash Bandicoot games and moved into full 3D, but then Jak 2 was a much darker, edgier world. How did that shift a‰ect the approach to audio for the studio? BS: Well, I wasn't in the studio for the first Jak and Daxter. When I came to work for Naughty Dog, they were already working on Jak 2, and the industry was changing— games were a little edgier, more adult themes. I remember an early meeting where Jason Rubin talked about the tweaks that we were going to make to the Jak and Daxter formula, and Jak got darker. It was goodbye to fantasy land, hello authoritarian dystopia. Jak is tortured, pumped full of dark eco, and he's pissed. He also can suddenly talk. I remember thinking at the time, "Can they go that far from the original in just one game?" The answer of course is yes because it's Naughty Dog. These guys can do anything and make it stick. I learned that over and over there. RK: It was the genesis of all this. PK: The primordial ooze. BS: Naughty Dog was in an office on 3rd Street above Benito's Fritos. The sound room was just this big square room that had no treatment and had chicken wire in the walls. Stuff would resonate or rattle with certain frequencies. The PlayStation 2 itself had two megabytes of dedicated audio RAM— that was it. A lot of games dealt with that by using the disc to stream audio. Naughty Dog wanted the Jak world to feel open and seamless without perceptible level loading, so disc bandwidth was mostly devoted to JIT level chunk loading and not available for audio. We did have a bank loading scheme that allowed us to swap some sounds in and out for different areas in the game though. We were able to stream sound and music during cut scenes, as level loading was suspended during them. In-game music was MIDI/Samples with a rudimentary adaptive layer for Jak's four modes: Gun Out, Hoverboard, Dark Jak, and Light Jak. Unfortunately, the instrument samples had to occupy a large part of the dedicated audio RAM. EM: After the Jak series wrapped on PS2, you began creating Uncharted: Drake's Fortune on PlayStation 3. I was immediately struck by the 3D perspective of dialogue and sound effects, as the camera would spin around Drake in the game. What went into the audio experience for the first Uncharted on PS3, and how did your audio philosophies as a studio change because of it? BS: It was a sea change for Naughty Dog audio. It was a whole different type of game with stylized realism, so you couldn't get away with cartoony approximations of things. Just as the graphics were completely pushed way forward, audio had to follow suit. On the PS3, there was obviously a lot more RAM and drive space. It Robert Krekel, Naughty Dog Audio director 2017 - 2021 Phillip Kovats, Naughty Dog Audio director 2011 - 2017 Bruce Swanson, Naughty Dog Audio director 2002 - 2015

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