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The art design of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Unlike previous installments of the franchise, this Uncharted DLC is set in a single locale. Artists delved deep into a specific architectural style to create wondrous structures and artifacts and obstacles.

Game Developer

August 25, 2017

6 Min Read

In Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, the treasure-hunting series is jumping into new territory, with protagonist Chole Frazer taking the reins on an excursion to India.

Tate Mosesian, art director for Naughty Dog's hotly anticipated new DLC, says that some of the design goals for The Lost Legacy were relatively straightforward. For instance, they wanted to stick to the visual look of the Uncharted series, including the expressive use of colors.

But they also had to tackle a challenge that the team didn't have to face on past Uncharted titles: this DLC was only taking place in one location, instead of spanning several continents. In a sense, the country-hopping in the other games made it easy to create what they call a "progressions of looks." For The Lost Legacy, the team had to try to make one single area feel much more diverse.

The location gave the team a gift however, in the form of the real-world reference point: what Mosesian calls the "really beautiful and intricate and stunningly awesome" Dravidian architecture style that developed thousands of years ago in South India.

The game's memorable structures and artifacts and obstacles are the result of carefully studying real world referents...but also knowing when to take liberties.

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The team drew from the several distinct Dravidian empires from different historical eras: Pallava (AD 600-900), Chola (AD 848–1280), and the Hoysalas (AD 1100-1343).  "We could use it, but we could also get variety out of it, and even move the story forward by utilizing the different variants of this particular architectural style," Mosesian says.

While their sources of inspiration were the cultural products and aesthetics created by real ancient empires, that's not to say that the in-game creations are a model of historical accuracy.

"There are no actual massive twin Ganesha statues anywhere in the world. But there is in our game world."

"There are no actual massive twin Ganesha statues anywhere in the world (that I'm aware of), but there is in our game world," Mosesian says.

"We take those artistic principles and apply them to whatever is it we're trying to do ... as long as there's consistency there, then generally speaking, the player will accept it as being plausible."

That trade off with reality also comes into play in another area of Uncharted games, as well: the decay and wearing of the ancient ruins that players explore. If everything was accurate to how the natural elements would interact with a structure, there might not be a whole lot left.

"It's good to have portions of a level that are accurately weathered," Mosesian says. "But you have to throw a little bit of that out for the sake of the visuals."

"Mosesian recalls getting feedback after the first Uncharted from somebody who was angry that the metal bars in prison should have long ago eroded away."

Mosesian recalls seeing feedback after the first Uncharted from somebody who was angry that the metal bars in an ancient prison would have long ago eroded away.

"OK fine, that's fine, but then...how do we keep Drake in prison?" Mosesian told them.

"It's those little things where you're like, some bizarre circumstance meant that this particular bar did not rust out, and you just kind of have to let go of those things and go with the suspension of disbelief," Mosesian says. "Just play the game and have fun."

Besides, he insists, "everything starts looking the same after 1000 years."

The Lost Legacy

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