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Naughty Dog: The Fall from Grace - Leaks, Crunch & Agenda

No Spoilers in this Article.

Naughty Dog was one of the greatest and most respected video game studios in the industry, the studio is responsible for acclaimed games like Uncharted, Crash bandicoot and the Jax & Dexter series.

In 2013 the studio made a post-apocalyptic story-driven game called 'The Last of Us" released for the PS3 and PS4. Described as a "post-apocalyptic third-person action-adventure game", following the plight of a teenage girl, Ellie, and her adult protector, Joel, in the post-apocalyptic United States overrun with humans infected with a disease reminiscent of the infection caused by Cordyceps unilateralis. The Last of Us received universal acclaim upon release both from fans and critics.

On March 4, 2014, Uncharted lead writer Amy Hennig left the studio, with Uncharted 3 director Justin Richmond and The Last of Us lead artist Nate Wells leaving soon after

However, Naughty Dog has been experiencing "Crunch" during and after the development of Uncharted 4.

"Crunch time" is the point at which the team is thought to be failing to achieve milestones needed to launch a game on the schedule. The complexity of workflow and the intangibles of artistic and aesthetic demands in video-game creation create difficulty in predicting milestones. The use of crunch time is also seen to be exploitative of the younger workforce in video games, who have not had the time to establish a family and who were eager to advance within the industry by working long hours. Because crunch time tends to come from a combination of corporate practices as well as peer influence, the term "crunch culture" is often used to discuss video game development settings where crunch time may be seen as the norm rather than the exception. The major consequences of crunch are stress, depression, severe fatigue, burnouts, and even mental breakdowns which is obviously unhealthy for the workers.

An extended crunch schedule of 12-hour and up working days toward the end of development of Uncharted 4 caused significant attrition at Naughty Dog, according to a report by Kotaku's Jason Schreier. 14 out of 20 non-lead designers credited in Uncharted 4 left the company after the game was released, the departure of 70% of the team. Straley was quoted as saying that he "would never want to do Uncharted 4 again... Because now we've lived through that". Uncharted Co-writer Game director and creative director Bruce Straley also left the company shortly after release, following a sabbatical. Schreier suggested that the development of Naughty Dog's next project, The Last of Us Part II (2020), was adversely affected and slowed due to the enormous turnover of employees, with few veterans left on the team.

In March 2017, Christophe Balestra announced that he would retire his role as co-president on April 3, 2017, after working at the company for fifteen years. Evan Wells remains in his role as president. In September 2017, game director Bruce Straley announced his departure from Naughty Dog, stating that he "found [his] energy focusing in other directions" following a sabbatical. Creative director/writer of The Last of US Israeli-born Neil Druckmann was promoted to Vice President in March 2018.

In October 2017, former environment artist David Ballard claimed that he suffered a mental breakdown after experiencing sexual harassment by a senior team member while working at Naughty Dog in late 2015, stating that he informed PlayStation's HR department and the following day was terminated from his position and offered $20,000 to remain silent regarding the allegations, which he declined. Naughty Dog responded to the allegations with a statement declaring that it had "not found any evidence of having received allegations from Mr. Ballard that he was harassed in any way".

Naughty Dog began developing The Last of Us Part II in 2014, soon after the release of The Last of Us Remastered.was announced at the PlayStation Experience event in December 2016. It was originally scheduled for release on February 21, 2020, but was delayed to May 29, 2020, in October 2019. On April 2, 2020, Naughty Dog announced that The Last of Us Part II was almost complete but had been indefinitely delayed due to logistical problems caused by the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.

On March 12 2020 Naughty Dog Developer Jonathan Cooper via Twitter @GameAnim says he was threatened to stay quiet about the studio's awful crunch when he left.

 "When I left Naughty Dog late last year they threatened to withhold my final paycheck until I signed additional paperwork stating I wouldn't share their production practices. They finally relented when I assured them that was most likely illegal..."

"The truth is I have no awful crunch tale. The "story animators" as we were known were averaging 46hrs a week when I left and I personally never went over 55. The story team is super organised and we reacted to whatever was thrown at us. That's not to say others weren't suffering."

"For the demo shown last September, the gameplay animators crunched more than I've ever seen and required weeks of recovery afterwards. One good friend of mine was hospitalised at that time due to overwork. He still had over half a year to go. There have been others since."

"The reason I left is because I only want to work with the best. That is no longer Naughty Dog. Their reputation for crunch within LA is so bad it was near impossible to hire seasoned contract game animators to close out the project. As such we loaded up on film animators."

"While super-talented, they lacked the technical/design knowhow to assemble scenes. Similarly, the design team ballooned with juniors to make up for the attrition of key roles. Every aspect of finishing this game took much longer due to the lack of game experience on the team."

"Don't get me wrong, these kids are mostly awesome and the best were great. It's just when the junior/senior ratio is out of balance things can really grind and more time is spent training than actually working. (LA teams, make sure and pick them up when all the contracts end.)"

"Contract work is a huge part of the LA ecosystem to ship large games. Unlike game design, there is a thriving animation industry here and seasoned animators can (often) choose their projects. Most of the contract story animators quit last year."

"Those that don't can be at ND for 2-3 projects (with pauses inbetwen) and, while paid overtime, never receive benefits or the security of a full-time gig. This is the way the industry is moving so workers need more protection rather than the carot of a fulltime job "one day".

"There are ND stories worse than this but like everything on my twitter I'm focusing on animation. For TLOU2 fans, the game should turn out great with industry-leading animation. I would just not recommend anyone work at Naughty Dog until they prioritise talent-retention."

"Ultimately, ND's linear games have a formula and they focus-test the shit out of them. While talented, their success is due in large part to Sony's deep pockets funding delays rather than skill alone. A more senior team would have shipped TLOU2 a year ago."

A day after Mr. Cooper's Tweets on March 13 David Szymanski @DUSKdev  Creative director of indie FPS game Dusk tweeted.

"AAA employees are not highly paid athletes.

They are normal people trying to scrape a living in their field and being exploited by corporate interests.  They are not rewarded with fame or glory or money.  They are chewed up and spit out and forgotten."

This is far beyond crunch, way too far to the extent that it's dangerous and inhumane, things would've gotten done if Naughty Dog treated their employees like people instead of exploitable tools. Employees are human beings with individual minds and they can only handle but so much.

On April 27, an unknown Naughty Dog employee made multiple videos with cutscenes, gameplay, and the plot of The Last of Us Part 2 available on the Internet. Sources claim it was a disgruntled employee that was arguing over payment. Many also assume he did it because of the horrible crunch work conditions and the many delays. This is not the first time Naughty Dog had a leaked game, in 2016 some stores have started selling Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End early be it a computer error or some retailers just not caring. And people who had played the game early had spoiled the game online.

Later the same day, Sony announced that Part II would be released on June 19, 2020. Druckmann tweeted that he was "heartbroken" for all the fans and the team at the studio who devoted years to the game's development.

The leaked content contained EVERYTHING to the entire plot, full footage, and gameplay, But the biggest thing was the massive negativity to Neil Druckmann's story of the game containing mass wokeness of identity politics, LTGBQ agenda, and depicting Christians as a racist/homophobic cult. This plot received massive backlash on the internet many said that they will not buy the game or play it even if it's free.

Naughty Dog has dramatically changed in the mid-2010s of many employees (as seen in the timeline) quit and leadership changes from the studio, consequently making the company not being what it used to be.  

I've read the spoiler's myself, never played the first game. It's hot garbage. It is TLJ and GOT S8 levels.  It's Naughty Dog's fault for treating their employees inhuman like shit. I cannot confirm, but a few sources have said that Iraqi-born/Canadian feminist Anita Sarkeesian was a consultant in development. (((Neil Druckmann))) should be fired to greenlight a mess of a fan-fiction storyline. The leaker is a hero, I believe he saved many others from buying this flop of a game. The leaker is the Snowden of video games; some think of him as a traitor and others see him as a hero. Fans should be grateful they didn't have to spend 60 bucks to find out about this trash fire on their own. Drunkman's little fan-fiction universe will flop very hard this year. We now must be very cautious when buying triple AAA video games from big developers. 

If you want to see FULL Spoilers check out Babyface's video.

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