"'Fun' is such an interesting word. We took it off our focus tests. It was just a weird word that people were getting hung up on."
- Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckmann.
Rolling Stone publisher Wenner Media is in the process of launching a new games-focused hub, Glixel, and part of its opening salvo is an intriguingly in-depth interview with Naughty Dog's Neil Druckmann about the design and development of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.
Druckmann's conversation with Glixel covers a lot of ground, but what's especially notable for game developers is his thoughts on "fun" and how the notion of making a game "fun" impacts game development -- and how it can potentially get in the way of making a holistic experience.
"How do you rate the dive sequence at the beginning of Uncharted 4? Is that fun? There's no real challenge," said Druckmann. "But that level is important, to set up how mundane Nate's life is. Just rating it on its own, one through five, that was constantly the lowest-rated level [in focus tests]. But it kind of had to be. We're not going to change that."
This may not be the most tantalizing bit of behind-the-scenes talk Druckmann indulges in during the interview, but it offers a big-budget example of how developers are shifting the way they talk about games and expanding the scope of their ambition beyond making "fun" experiences. Naughty Dog removed the word from its Uncharted 4 focus tests, says Druckmann, and it seems testers immediately had an easier time of things.
"It used to be, 'How fun did you find this level?' Now it says, 'Overall, how would you rate this level?' Druckmann added. "It becomes less about, 'Did I have fun? Did I have an interesting challenge?' and more about, 'Did I like it?' And I hope people interpret that as, 'Was I engaged? Would I recommend it?''"
As a side benefit, Druckmann says removing the word "fun" from Uncharted 4 focus tests actually caused test scores to rise dramatically.
For more of his comments on how Naughty Dog's latest big-budget hit was designed and developed, including how lessons learned from The Last Of Us were applied to Uncharted 4, check out the full interview over on Rolling Stone.