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Could the PS5 Actually Cure Naughty Dog’s Infamous Crunch?

Last Updated September 23, 2020 2:02 PM
Thomas Bardwell
Last Updated September 23, 2020 2:02 PM
  • The Last of Us Part II launched in June after months of well-documented crunch.
  • Naughty Dog VP Neil Druckmann says the PS5’s fewer technical constraints gift developers a new sense of freedom.
  • The SSD could be pivotal in reducing crunch by providing designers with less-resource intensive methods to implement Naughty Dog’s famed level of detail.

The human cost of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part II is well documented . Months of crunch, 12-hour work-days, rapid staff turnover, revision upon revision, multiple delays: The Last of Us Part II took its toll.

There may be light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to the shift to the next-gen PlayStation 5 (PS5). It’s a technical marvel that could lessen the burden of the studio’s dogged pursuit of perfectionism.

PS5, naughty dog
The Last of Us Part II’s development was plagued by months of crunch. | Source: Naughty Dog/PlayStation 

PS5 Is a Revelation for Perfectionist Developers

Former Nintendo president Reggie Fils-Aime hosted Naughty Dog vice president Neil Druckmann  in the final episode of the Talking Games With Reggie and Harold podcast this week.

After touching on Druckmann’s path in the industry and the divisive yet successful launch of The Last of Us Part II, the discussion turned to the upcoming PS5 console.

Druckmann explained his excitement at the technical possibilities that the console will usher in, notably the repeatedly-lauded SSD.

The Naughty Dog VP compared the end of generation constraints to “pushing against a bunch of walls.” The aging hardware forces developers to find creative ways to push it further, which requires considerable resources and time.

With the arrival of the PS5 later this year, Druckmann described a sense of freedom afforded by the new hardware:

Oh my god, we can breathe again!

A Cure for Crunch?

Druckmann then offered a concrete example of how the SSD will change how Naughty Dog approaches the development of its games:

We do so much work, on our end, once you start the adventure, you never see a load screen. And there’s so much work that happens behind the scenes of how we design the levels, how we chop them up, and it’s all invisible to the player; you never see any of that work.

But now, knowing that we’re going to be able to load things more quickly, it just means the designers don’t have to be as constrained by how they lay things out. How we think about things. When we load new characters. So, I’m excited to see the doors that open for us.

In the context of Naughty Dog’s infamous crunch, the PS5’s SSD could provide a much-needed cure. Or at least more resource-efficient ways for designers to implement Naughty Dog’s voracious appetite for detail into upcoming games.

The PS5’s SSD could significantly reduce crunch. | Source: PlayStation 

The SSD as a potential crunch cure will be particularly relevant because Naughty Dog is a first-party PlayStation studio.

While unhealthy crunch culture remains endemic across the industry – especially for multi-platform developers – that could change for studios under PlayStation’s banner.

With only one platform to concentrate its efforts on, Naughty Dog’s close collaborative relationship with Sony will invariably translate to a firmer understanding of the hardware. Sony will be sure to funnel development tools and techniques through to its studios.

Naughty Dog won’t be the only beneficiary. The development of Santa Monica Studio’s God of War (another first-party title) necessitated a similar cocktail of long hours and intense crunch periods .

With developers free of the stringent optimization constraints of the current-gen, the SSD could minimize the intensity of the crunch-riddled dash to the finish line that often characterizes game development.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.