Uncharted 4 Director Says They Had To Ask One 'Sexist Focus Tester' To Leave

Not everyone was happy with new Uncharted 4 characters like Nadine "Triceps" Ross. In fact, according to director Neil Druckmann, his team had to ask an angry focus tester to leave the room after he freaked out over the game's portrayal of women. WARNING: Spoilers for Uncharted 4's ending follow.

Druckmann sat down with Kotaku friend Chris Suellentrop for an interview in the newly launched Glixel, an upcoming gaming website by Rolling Stone. (I would make fun of the name Glixel, but hey, ours is Kotaku.) There are a lot of interesting nuggets in there, including Druckmann's answer to a question about game critic Anita Sarkeesian and how her work has affected Naughty Dog. Read this:

You've said in the past that you've been influenced by Anita Sarkeesian's Feminist Frequency videos and the larger conversation about diversity and representation in games. How did that affect Uncharted 4?

Druckmann: When I'm introducing and describing a new character to our lead character concept artist, constantly she will ask, "What if it was a girl?" And I'm like, Oh, I didn't think about that. Let me think, does that affect or change anything? No? Cool, that's different. Yeah, let's do it.

Initially, in the epilogue, it was Nate's son. Something similar happened with the mansion they go into. That was an old English guy's house. She asked, Well, what if it was a woman?

You have some sexist focus testers who were really upset by Nadine beating up Nate, and really upset at the end when it was Nate's daughter. To the point where we had to ask one guy to leave. In his core, it just affected him. He was cursing, "Not you, too, Naughty Dog! Goddammit. I guess I'm done with Uncharted, if you guys ever make another one, with his daughter. This fucking bullshit."

And I was like, Wow, why does that matter?

Two thoughts:

1) There's something both hilarious and depressing about the image of an MRA focus group tester coming in and yelling things like "Not you too, Naughty Dog!" because they dared to make Nathan Drake have a daughter instead of a son.

2) No matter your opinions on Sarkeesian and her work, I hope you'll agree that getting developers to think "What if this were a girl?" rather than assuming a male default is a very good thing for gaming. It's so easy for writers to fall into the routine of telling only stories about people who act and think like them. Pushing those storytellers to consider other options can lead to way more interesting decisions and way better stories. And hopefully we'll get to play as Cassie Drake in the DLC.


Comments

    Isn't it more telling that they didn't even think about making one of the three examples a woman in the first place?

    Also the Nadine fight was such bullshit. You couldn't land one fucking punch on her. Even during the interracial sandwich fight with Nate and Sam you weren't able to touch her. I'm pretty sure if it Nadine was a guy then you would get one punch in.

      The fights with Nadine were scripted as; which was fine, at least the first time I did it the illusion was there I was fighting, just badly...

      You do hit her a few times in fight though. Like when she has you against the bookshelf and you reverse headbutt her or something along those lines.

      Yer that was my thought too. I was like wtf she's invulnerable. First thought was ohhh its a chick - game won't let you hit ladies. Sure enough i don't think you hit her once she just kicks your ass even two on one. Only the bad guy hits her.

      Difficult rope to walk - if they allowed violence by beating up a female you'd get all sorts of backlash from minorities mean while if you don't have a strong female lead you get more backlash from a different group of minorities. Can't win.

        Except every other game in the series has had women being both capable and not immune to violence.

        feeeeeemales

      I guess Street Fighter 2 was the most diverse game around then, different nationalities and different genders wailing on each other.

        Given that Blanka was designed as a racist caricature of Brazilian people (and lets not get started on Dhalsim), I don't know if Street Fighter is the best example of diversity.

          Since when are Brazilians caricatured as green electric animal-men?

      I'm fairly sure I got a punch in. Have you tried gitting gud? :P

      I'm not concerned anyway - it was a scripted event! Nate isn't a trained soldier - I'm fine with the concept of a trained soldier (male or female) kicking his ass in close combat.

    Firstly, not exactly keen on this franchise to begin with so I don't care about spoilers.

    Not going to badger a guy for having strong feelings about an IP he likes, but yes getting agitated over what MIGHT happen in a future game while being asked to comment on the production of one currently being produced/tested, because of your pre-disposition, is beyond the pail.

    I haven't heard of Glixel, sounds interesting.

    The tester sounds like a jack ass, but maybe they should have listened on the Nadine part. I said this in my comment on the community review page, but the Nadine fights where only half your buttons do anything (you suddenly can't dodge) are the worst part of the game. Having since completed the game, the question they maybe should have asked is "do we need this character at all?" Nadine never actually did anything beyond being a tough chick. I like the idea, but it was utterly tokenistic.

      I think the writing overall was quite poor when put up against the past games. Probably has to do with the lead writer leaving.

      There are tough guy characters in loads of things that are there to be cool and not much else. Boba Fett comes to mind, really he does stuff all. There was the big bald guy in the last game, you barely got a hit in at all and no one complained. I think Nadine was awesome

        But it would be fair to say Boba Fett was a let down precisely because they did stuff all with him towards the end. The reason we loved him was because he was so badass that even Darth Vader had to tell him to reel it in. The Bounty Hunters were the guys who blew up a planet for the hell of it saying 'ok, now we're bringing in the loose cannons'. That whole scene promises some serious shit from all these guys. Empire half delivers with Boba Fett's role in the Bespin trap but in Jedi he doesn't get a real fight and it's a bit disappointing.
        I think why people don't really dwell on it is that he's used in Empire and in Return of the Jedi he's part of some really good stuff that leads directly into more good stuff. They still use him reasonably well. It's not just that he's male.

          I was rather disappointed that Boba wasn't a female character under the armour and synth voice.

        I've genuinely never understood the Fett obsession. He's barely in the films. That said, he does have a pivotal role by tracking Han. Nadine doesn't get anything like that.

        Nonetheless - my main problem was with how the fights were implemented. It seriously felt like she could only beat me because the game took away all my moves. Thats not bad ass, thats lame.

          Her leading the army you fight all game isn't a pivotal role?

            No. You could have pretty much had Rafe alone for all the difference it would have made. Indeed, the army seemed to reflect his mercenary attitude more than anything about Nadine. I think there's a reason her story doesn't really end - her character doesn't matter any more than the 10000 mooks you killed on the way.

          I felt the same. It's like the game was taunting me as a player. Kinda like,

          Game: "Hey, time for a fight! Look you can press buttons and everything!"
          Me: "Uhhh Where are all my fighting moves? I can't dodge, can't counter..."
          Game: "Moves? What moves? Oh look, she kicked your ass, you should have tried harder."

          It's like why even give us control of Nate If she's scripted to win? It just seems like an jerk move to give us control and then take it away all at once.

    Okay sure but Elena is a pretty cool guy.
    The coolest of guys.
    10/10 guy would get Nate to marry again.

    Wait, I'm confused. When it's the game developer that wants that evil diversity and not the damn SJWs, is it still about ethics? What am I meant to post on r/theredpill?!

      Still a lack of Inuit's.

      Last edited 24/05/16 10:52 am

      "They were totes pressured into it by those commie SJW nazis, they just wo'nt admit it yo."

    I thought Nadine was a great character but I can understand the complaints people have about the fights. It's like they are trying to play both sides of the coin. They introduce a strong female character who can beat anyone in a fight, but a man isn't allowed to touch her 'cause that would be sexist so she's invincible.

    It's a bit flawed but the comments from the tester are worse. Fortunately most people aren't like that now days but I often run into people who are like that. I was talking to someone the other day who said "I can't watch the 100 series because of the feminist agenda in the show. It's ridiculous that a woman can beat a man in that show". If you can ignore every scientific flaw in that show and only have issue with the strong female characters then you don't have an issue with the realism of the show.

      Or maybe she is just awesome at fighting and they wanted to show that? Elena and Chloe get shot at by men all the time. I think people are reading too much into it.

        I think people are reading too much into it.
        This.

        Are people forgetting she's a trained, battle hardened mercenary and a leader at that?
        Nate and Sam are really just glorified bar fighters with no "real" training.

    I don't care about Sarkeesian but that's because the argument gets complex and I don't have the headspace or attention span. I like Nadine, it was clear to me that she was a badass and Nate was punching above his weight (er, kind of). I'm hoping to see more of her *coughhinthintNaughtyDog*
    The dialogue between Nate and the women he encounters also denotes a respect and awareness of equal capability.

    It didn't feel out of place, and neither has Elena, Chloe or Cassie's cameo in the epilogue. I get stoked to see diversity in the cast; as long as there is credible context.

    The women in The Last of Us were also strong, capable and independent; traits I find far more interesting and admirable than that outdated damsel-in-distress stereotype.

    If writers can always ask these "what if?" Questions, our experiences will be all the more richer and diverse.

    I don't get it. One tester who didn't like 2 female characters in the game for whatever reason gets obfuscated with a 'MRA focus group tester'. Was the tester an mens rights activist? I mean, the tester didn't like those characters...who cares? A tester has no creative control. But of course, this makes the news because a game tester disliking a male character in a game would totally get the same attention.

      They are using it as an example of why we still have a problem. It's not the entire focus of the article.

    I hate diversity when it's done solely for the sake of ticking off a diversity checkbox to appease and pander to people... When shit like that is forced it feels completely unnatural.

    In Uncharted 4 though, it really didn't feel forced at all.

    Nadine was explained to be the trained leader of a mercenary group, so it was absolutely no surprise when Drake got his ass kicked. My immediate thought as soon as the first fight with her started was, "There's no way this ends well for me."

    As for the epilogue... I thought that was pretty damn great also.

    Last edited 24/05/16 11:06 am

    Problem I had with the Nardine fight scenes was they suspended my disbelief even more than Nate's climbing skills and drake has some pretty inhuman climbing skills.

      I just picked up the last Tomb Raider (speaking of the strong female model) again after finishing with Nat and co. The fact that Lara can change direction in mid air and double jump/climb walls makes anything Nat can do seem quite pedestrian.

        Was more making the point that Nate's complete and utter physical domination by Nardine is more unbelievable than his climbing skills but while were on the topic have you played Uncharted 4 yet? they added a grapple hook to Nate's repertoire nowadays his right up their with Assassins Creed and Tomb Raider rebooted esque climbing skills.

      What part needed your belief suspended? Nate has shown time and again he isn't a particularly good fighter, just resilient and sneaky. He's never been good one on one.

        That also makes him no stranger to fighting and there have been times where his shown adept technique such as yemen in UC3, how do you go from that to completely being unable to make a strike besides the occasional hold breaker even in a 2vs1 situation.

        Last edited 24/05/16 12:23 pm

    There’s something both hilarious and depressing about the image of an MRA focus group tester coming in and yelling things like “Not you too, Naughty Dog!” because they dared to make Nathan Drake have a daughter instead of a son.

    You're doing the exact same thing he did... You're immediately jumping to the conclusion that this guy was a hardcore MRA nut the same way he immediately jumped to the conclusion that Naughty Dog went blind SJW on Uncharted. I don't want to defend the guy too strongly because there's every chance he's a total asshole but you're both making the same stupid leap with equally over dramatic results.
    I mean if he's a Naughty Dog fan it's safe to say he's a Last of Us fan so it's pretty unlikely he finds the concept of women in games inherently repulsive. It stands to reason his reaction was spurred on by something in the execution. He clearly thinks that Naughty Dog's motivation for making these characters was part of a social agenda and while his feelings are probably due to at least a little paranoia on his part according to Naughty Dog he's right.

    I love the idea of more diverse casts in entertainment, but I really dislike the way Naughty Dog's writers reached it. This makes it feel like a trend they're participating in or worse a gimmick. This makes it feel like if the various campaigns for diversity in games ended tomorrow they'd forget about it and go back to men in every non-romantic role. This makes it feel like the motivation is outward based. As if they're doing it to make a point about themselves.
    I'm not trying to come down harshly on Naughty Dog here because I like the end result but the way they tell it they're the bad guys. They're the ones who apparently write all their non-romantic characters as males. They're creating more diversity in games which is fantastic but behind the scenes they've apparently just pinned a Diversity Flow Chart to the wall in their writers room.
    I understand that storytelling is formulaic. Good writing is well structured. However this feels different. This feels more like notes from an executive demanding female characters for reasons unrelated to the story.

    I really struggle to understand how writers can be like that. I mean I seriously doubt the Naughty Dog writers room is so bland and uninspired that all their ideas start out with straight, white males and then work from there.

    And just to clarify I have no issue with Uncharted 4. The end product is great and will hopefully contribute to making women in games feel less alien. This comment is all about behind the scenes stuff.

    Last edited 24/05/16 2:26 pm

      Awful lot of supposition to make the point that conclusions drawn from a small amount of information are bad.

      Well considering the reaction had him cursing and making such a fuss that he had to be asked to leave I think it was more than that. It was a focus test so if he was making a complaint about how it was implemented that would be the kind f feedback they were looking for,
      To go to such a level you have to ask to be removed is not just a disagreeing with the implementation

        It's clearly an over reaction and I'm certainly open to the idea that he's what he comes across as, but I don't think being pissed off and over reacting about the idea of a game straying into a 'political' hot topic is exclusively the domain of MRA nuts. People have these reactions to a bunch of stuff. If Uncharted had anti-Trump stuff it'd turn me right off the game even though I'm totally anti-Trump. On top of that fans are passionate. It's not always pretty but we see it all the time. I mean Kingdom of the Crystal Skull saw the same feedback about Shia LaBeouf. It's almost word for word.
        If he's not a MRA nut I think he's still being really over sensitive and his reaction is totally inappropriate, but I think this rush to apply the evil psycho MRA label is what pushes a lot of people to actually side with those nuts. The world feels very oppressive right now if you're not on board with a very narrow, simplistic 'progressive' mindset that seems to be championed by young, aggressive, white men. It feels, and I stress again feels, like we're not allowed to decide for ourselves. It paints a very twisted picture of what things like feminism actually are and those twisted ideas cause more friction than anything else (if that crazy version of feminism in was accurate we'd probably all be anti-feminist).

      They were ready to go to war to keep Ellie on the cover of Last of Us, so I think the evidence points to them actually thinking this way and not doing it for outward appearances.

    Gamer gaters and the anti-Anita (and/or Feminists), are idiots that really are ruining gaming. They really make my brain cells die a slow and stupid death. Society has moved on you updated fools. Grow a pair and move on with you might even find the world isnt flat either. Likewise anyone who ever uses the term SJW as shorthand for anyone is morally a decent human being who doesnt see gender, race or the like. In fact if anyone uses the term SJW is not worth listening to, it immediately negates everything they say after it. Its the most stupid term ever created by gamers.

    Last edited 24/05/16 1:01 pm

    I'm a female gamer, and I'm quite happy with how many female characters there are now. But honestly, my biggest complaint for Naughty Dog, and many other studios is that we don't kill enough women. And by that I mean... goons, grunts, random NPC's etc. How many men do we shoot in this game, hundreds and hundreds of Shoreline men. And not one of them would be a women? Highly unlikely. Assassin's Creed Syndicate did it well, I'd say the random enemies on the streets were almost 50/50 male and female. I want to see more of that in game, when you're being attacked by hoards of disposable NPC's in a game I want at least some of them to be women.

    I'm all for diversity and equality... But soon as Anita Sarkeesian's views are identified as influencing game development i begin reminiscing about when games were aimed at entertainment rather than educational tools and pushing agendas.

    Anita is an expert at extracting money from the gullible .. even tho the slightest bit of research will show that most of her viewpoints have been debunked.

    I wonder if 5 years ago he'd of cared. I think he's seeing it as this character is only a woman because of person I hate not Oh ok girl 50/50 chance.

    Sometimes the equality conversation is a weird one when you get articles like this. The point being made by Neil is that it doesn't matter if it's a woman, but what his concept artist asks is "Why can't these males be women?" Ironically, if the sex doesn't matter then why can't they be male?

    I do get why the conversation exists though. The question is really "Why are they all men?" which is more important than the individual characters.

    Last edited 24/05/16 1:40 pm

    The only bad thing about Nadine, was that she was the one that dropped Nathan into possibly one of the worst boss fights I've ever had to play.

    Everything else about her was fine. I would have also preferred to have played as Marlene in the last of us.

    Dear Kotaka,
    I'm half way through playing Uncharted 4 and totally missed the spoiler alert.
    Damn it!

    They should've named Nathan and Elena's daughter Cassie "Lara", just to fuck with people.

    Last edited 24/05/16 7:59 pm

    Anita Sakesian (whatever the f*&k her name is) can jam her bs opinion right back up her a$$ where it came from and where it should be. Given that the majority of gamers are hetrosexual males, why the f*&K should a developer waste their time and resources pleasing idiots like AS when morons like her doesn't even play games. Take a page from CDProjektRED, make the women hot and feminine and stop making manly characters like Nadine, Cassandra (DAI) or Ashley (ME3). Jesus Christ people....is some common sense that much to ask for?!?

      Actually I think if you look at the proper statistics gamers are almost evenly split between males and females, and at least 10% of them won't identify as heterosexual either. The gaming community is just as diverse as the rest of the world honestly. Also your examples of women acting 'manly' are more or less rendered moot when DAI is an rpg with a multitude of characters that fit the definition you give for the Witcher's characters, such as Vivienne or Josephine and even Lilianna. Mass Effect has its plenty of femme fatales to with Samara and Morinth, Miranda, Liara and Tali. And as for Uncharted, would you call Chloe or Elana manly? The fact of the matter is there are more masculine women in the world, but it doesn't stop at that, everything has diversity, it's meant to reflect reality to provide a personal connection to whoever's playing the game. Helps improve sales etc. I'm not entirely sure the argument you're trying to make honestly

      There's as much Mad as there is Wrong in your post.

      You should try to cut down on both. They are bad for you.

    What the hell is everyone talking about?!? It's a video game give it a break. Whoever stated that Nadine is a "manly" character is most likely an adolescent whose best experience with a woman that's not his mother is internet porn. Nadine is beautiful, tough, accomplished, and what some here obviously hate BLACK! It's not very far fetched that an experienced ex-military special forces seasoned veteran of war well versed in many styles of martial arts and hand to hand combat would beat the crap out of a guy with even exemplary street fighting skill.

      As a fighter myself, I'd have to disagree with the implementation put forth in the game. No one is invincible, I've seen some of the best fighters in the world take it on the chin every so often. But even so, it's a video game. Why give the player control if they're just in a no-win fight anyway? It feels a lot like cheating. Especially since the game makes sure that Nate can't use any of his skills/abilities in the fight.

    Yeah except the thing is Nate beats 20 trained, battle hardened mercenaries at a time in fist fights in the previous games.

    I have no problem with Nate being beaten by Nadine in a fight, but the curb stomp nature of it was just dumb. Nate's been shown to have Batman-like fighting abilities in the past. This fight is like Bruce Lee coming up against an opponent (a lean opponent at that) and not being able to land a hit or dodge a punch.

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