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Podcast Special: Exclusive Naughty Dog Interview

June 3, 2013, Author: Neil Hickton

The Last of Us. It’s been a long time in the making. Perhaps not on the same scale as “long time” as some others I could mention, but a long time all the same. It was back in December 2011 that staff members from This is my Joystick started placing images of the game on its forum. If truth should be told, it would appear that The Last of Us began production during Uncharted 3 Drakes Deception‘s development and “accidental” Easter eggs within, laid bare the existence The last of Us for all to see that went looking for it. Two games on the go at once, perhaps a first for the “one game at a time” Naughty Dog team. Naughty, Naughty Dog.

The Last of Us is nearly here and I’m really excited that in only a few weeks now, I will finally be able to get my hands on it; some lucky people have of course already had the chance to try it out at a few invite-only events. If you purchased God of War: Ascension, which included the exclusive The Last of Us demo, you may already be playing now. You lucky, lucky people.

I on the other hand, have not had the chance to play it, yet. Though I did have the opportunity to have a good chat with Jacob Minkoff (one of Naughty Dog’s lead developers, if you didn’t already know) and I bring this conversation to you dear reader in the highest fidelity my technology and my ears can muster, and that’s pretty good even if I do say so myself.

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Jacob was one of the founding members of Blue Omega Entertainment and worked there as Lead Designer on Damnation. Following his departure from Blue Omega in 2009, Jacob joined Naughty Dog to serve as a Game Designer on Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and then as a Co-Lead Game Designer on Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Jacob has over 10 years of experience in the video-game industry.

Our own Bryony recently wrote a great article about everyone’s expectation on Naughty Dog to deliver another slice of gaming greatness. It’s must be a heady feeling for all those that work at Naughty Dog with that kind of expectation weighing down on them. Now that I’ve spoken with them directly, I can’t but help feel confident and even more certain that The Last of Us will be their greatest foray on the world of gaming as we know it.

Sat in a darkened studio in England, a call pops up on my computer screen, it’s Naughty Dog. I check I’ve not lost something or forgotten my name and happy I’m not losing my marbles, I click the accept button and start the call. The video pops up and I’m presented with a man who I immediately recognise, and instantly I feel a pang of nerves in my gut. “What if my technology lets me down?” I think to myself. What, indeed.

In my haste to communicate I say “Hi Jacob” with a little wobble that I stifle with a pretend little yawn to hide my inner “geek-out!” Jacob, whom, it has to be said is a really nice guy and one snappy dresser for sure, doesn’t hear me. I speak again, but the same thing, there’s a problem. A wave of stress washes over me as I look over what seems to be the million hardware inputs and outputs of my mixer and software settings that lie before me. I checked everything. didn’t I?


One snappy dresser indeed, KAPOW!

I type hurriedly, “there’s a problem”. Obvious, silly perhaps, but there you go. Jacob and his team respond. I suggest a fix or two and after burning untold embarrassing minutes that felt like hours, it finally works. Jacob hears me. Technology huh, never lets us down.

What do you ask a developer of games you’ve loved so much you couldn’t stop playing? It’s a question I of course asked myself a number of weeks beforehand and drew a blank at first; the enormity of the situation playing on my mind. I ask Jacob how he’s doing, he replies “I am well” and so began an interview I’ll remember fondly for long time.

If you can’t wait for The Last of Us, love Naughty Dog, or like games, interviews, or just love the sound of people talking, you should listen to this interview. If you love life, or hey, you breathe; then you should listen to this interview. Click on the audio podcast below and listen to what’s perhaps my finest creation yet for This is My Joystick. I’m proud of it and I want everyone to know.


Additional audio used in this episode:

  • The Last of Us – Naughty Dog – Gustavo Santaolalla

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