When The Last of Us launched back in 2013, Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann established themselves as effectively the face of developer Naughty Dog. Together, they went on to lead development of Uncharted 4, further cementing their reputation as a directorial duo. But Straley left the studio after the game launched–and now we know why.
Appearing on Kotaku’s Splitscreen podcast, Straley revealed that his departure was due to the stresses and pressure of Uncharted 4’s development. It was the first time that a project had felt more like an obligation to the team and company, rather than a passion project for himself.
“Uncharted 4 showed up and it was like, I guess there’s a difference between doing something for yourself which feels passionate–and I had my own theories that I was trying to expand upon between Uncharted 1, 2, and The Last of Us–and then Uncharted 4 became more like, ‘How do I do this for the team and for the company?'” he said.
Straley and Druckmann also had a relatively short timeframe to work on Uncharted 4, which further contributed to Straley’s feeling of burnout. They only had two years to work on the game; for comparison, their work on The Last of Us began in 2009, four years before its release.
“We needed to get the game out the door, and we needed it to be something good, so that it didn’t put a mark on the Naughty Dog name,” he said. “I felt like, I guess in hindsight I took on that role more for the team than for me personally… Two years to create that beast, that then became the hardest project [I had worked on].”
He explained that his break and later departure from the studio had “nothing to do with Naughty Dog, nothing to do with games.” Instead, his thought after Uncharted 4 launched was, “‘Oh my god, it’s time to take a break. It’s just time to step away.'”
Straley hasn’t announced what he’s working on, but he’s expressed excitement to continue the creative process. Neil Druckmann, meanwhile, remains at Naughty Dog and is leading up development on The Last of Us: Part II.