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Amy Hennig: a career worth a story

by Robert Workman, shacknews.com, Mar 6, 2014 10:00AM PST

Amy Hennig's sudden departure from Naughty Dog shocked industry observers. Her ten year tenure with the company helped Naughty Dog become one of Sony's marquee developers. But who is Amy Hennig? Why is she so well-regarded? Today, we look back upon her work, from her early days at Electronic Arts to her recent efforts on the Uncharted trilogy.

Humble Beginnings

Hennig originally enrolled at a film school at San Francisco State University, following her graduation from University of California, Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in tow. However, after being hired as an artist for the Atari 7800/Lynx game Electrocop, she came to realize that the video game industry held greater potential for her. She told the Los Angeles Times "everything I learned as an undergraduate with English literature and in film school about editing and shots and the language of film has come into play, but in a way I couldn't possibly have planned."

She continued her work through the 80s, working with Electronic Arts as an animator and artist, including such games as Bard's Tale 4 and Desert Strike. However, it was with the unlikely platforming/action game Michael Jordan: Chaos In the Windy City that she landed a lead role, after the main designer on the project quit. That would lead to bigger and better projects down the road, beginning with Crystal Dynamics.

Enter the Soul Reaver

In the late 90's, Hennig moved on to Crystal Dynamics, where she worked alongside Silicon Knights on the production of the action/role-playing game Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, a game that would later flourish into one of the publisher's bigger franchises in the PlayStation era.

Hennig would fill a much bigger role for the game's sequel, a 3D action/adventure game titled Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. Rather than focus on the vampiric anti-hero from the original game, however, Reaver instead dealt with the wraith-like Raziel, a lieutenant who worked alongside him, only to be betrayed and revived by an Elder God to seek his revenge.

Hennig played a tremendous role in the game's development, serving as a writer, producer and director. She would continue the role for two additional games in the series: Soul Reaver 2 (2001) and Legacy of Kain: Defiance (2003), continuing on as writer/director. From there, she would move to Naughty Dog.

The Precursor Legacy

Following its success with the Crash Bandicoot games, Naughty Dog worked closely with Sony on a new franchise for the PlayStation 2, one involving an unlikely pair of heroes: the nimble Jak and his transformed friend, the furry (and wisecracking) Daxter.

Hennig would serve as part of the development team on the later Jak and Daxter releases, namely Jak 3 (2004) and Jak X: Combat Racing (2005). However, many would remember her for her work on Naughty Dog's debut franchise for PlayStation 3: Uncharted.

Uncharted Territory

In 2007, Hennig began writing and directing Naughty Dog's debut effort for Sony's next console, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. A departure from Jak and Daxter's cartoony platforming, Uncharted stemmed more from a realistic spirit of adventure, not unlike the Indiana Jones films. The series also introduced a new PlayStation mascot: Nathan Drake, an explorer looking to discover his family roots.

With Drake, Hennig wanted to create a likable but vulnerable hero, not the usual tough guy clad in heavy armor. Throughout the original Uncharted, Drake finds himself running into trouble head-on, with gun-toting mercenaries at every turn. In addition, Hennig made sure that Drake was surrounded by characters to keep the story moving, including his would-be love interest Elena Fisher and his partner-in-crime Victor Sullivan, aka "Sully."

With 2009's Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, the love story between Drake and Fisher would blossom, despite the chaotic goings-on within the game and the return of Drake's former flame Chloe Frazer. In 2011's Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, the focus would turn towards the relationship between Drake and his mentor "Sully," including how they first ran into one another, as well as the introduction of one the trilogy's most defining villains, Katherine Marlowe.

Hennig leaves Naughty Dog having helped create some of gaming's most storied franchises. Her impact on games has been tremendous, and many are eager to see where she goes next.

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