One of two things is going on at Naughty Dog: Something’s very wrong, or the talent there is finally getting the recognition they deserve.
Naughty Dog’s Lead Character Artist, Michael Knowland, has left the studio, with his departure being the latest in a recent string.
Knowland follows Creative Director Amy Hennig and Director Justin Richmond, as well as Art Director Nate Wells. Hennig joined EA’s Visceral studio to work on an upcoming Star Wars title, while Richmond ended up with League of Legends developer Riot Games. Wells joined the Sony-owned studio behind The Unfinished Swan, Giant Sparrow.
Rumors flew around at the time of Hennig’s departure that she was forced out, though Naughty Dog was quick to say that the studio and Uncharted director parted on good terms.
So what’s going on? Is something happening behind the scenes of the studio, or are these talented game designers getting plucked with better offers? With much of the credit for The Last of Us going to directors Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann, it’s possible that a creative shift is changing the makeup of the studio and leaving some members in the dust.
Any time a series of departures plagues a company, though, it’ll be quick to deny any problems. It won’t be until Uncharted 4 hits, presumably sometime in 2015, that we see what effects these departures, and any to come, will have on the quality of the games the studio is creating.