Bruce Straley, co-director of The Last of Us and Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, announced on Wednesday morning his new studio, Wildflower Interactive. Straley joins as its studio director, while the rest of the company is made of industry veterans whose previous work includes Call of Duty, The Last of Us, and Astroneer.
With WIldflower, the stated goal on their website is to make "'small-ish,' creatively-charged, uniquely-stylized games that explore the possibilities of our medium...Let’s enjoy our work and appreciate the people we get to work with. And let’s try to advance our industry in the process."
Part of that advancement involves maintaining a proper work/life balance. Currently hiring for their first game, Wildflower wants to hire developers that want to become better creators, "have a say in the process, feel respected for their contributions...and still lead a good life outside of work." Wildflower is currently a 100 percent remote studio, and promises to maintain a hybrid workspace should things change.
Straley previously worked at Naughty Dog for 18 years before leaving in late 2017. "After heading up three extremely demanding projects," he wrote at the time, "and taking some extended time away from the office, I found my energy focusing in other directions, and I slowly realized this was the signal that it’s time to move on.”
Leaving Naughty Dog is nothing new
In the years since Straley left Naughty Dog, other prominent developers have followed suit. After working with Naughty Dog for seven years, creative director Shaun Escayg left it in 2018 to become creative director for Crystal Dynamics' Marvel's Avengers.
Last week, Josh Scherr, the co-writer of Last of Us Part II, announced he was leaving Naughty Dog. Scherr had worked at Naughty Dog for 21 years, and thanked his former coworkers for the time spent with them, while also announcing he was leaving to pursue "something new."
Prior to the release of The Last of Us Part II in 2020, Naughty Dog received reports of crunch culture, including some that would have overlapped with Straley and Escayg's respective tenure at the studio. The following year, co-presidents Evan Wells and Neil Druckmann discussed solving those complaints with working groups to help prevent burnout.
Naughty Dog's next two projects are both Last of Us related, ahead of the game's TV adaptation for HBO. A remake of the original game is due for a PlayStation 5 and PC release in September, and a standalone multiplayer experience is in development, set in the game's universe.