As much as I've enjoyed the cinematic spectacle of the Uncharted games, my favorite non-Jak & Daxter game from Naughty Dog is The Last of Us. It's why I couldn't help but wince when The Last of Us game director Bruce Straley announced he was leaving Naughty Dog, after 18 years at the studio.
Straley was also game director on Uncharted 4: A Thief's End and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and was commonly linked to Neil Druckmann, who acted as creative director on several of their collaborations.
"This has been the hardest decision of my career. Naughty Dog is home," said Straley in a blog post.
Citing the workload of "three extremely demanding projects," a vacation away from Naughty Dog seemed to provide Straley with some perspective; he came back with "energy focusing in other directions," which he came to understand as a message to move on from Naughty Dog.
"I'm leaving Naughty Dog with the strongest team it's ever had, and that's saying a lot," he said. "But more than the talent, it's the people that I'll miss the most. The work culture at Naughty Dog is about getting out of your seat and solving problems together. It's what has allowed me to build so many friendships and gain so much respect for this stellar group of people."
Straley joined Naughty Dog in 1999, starting as a texture artist on Crash Team Racing, before becoming a creative lead at the developer. Though he was the game director on The Last of Us, when the sequel was announced, he revealed he would not be directing the follow-up, leaving Druckmann in charge.
There's no indication what Straley will be working on next.
"Knowing I was a part of creating something that touched or moved any of you made this whole thing worthwhile," he said, "and now I, too, get to anticipate the next Naughty Dog masterpiece!"