Naughty Dog, the acclaimed studio behind the Uncharted series and The Last of Us, has yet again suffered the departure of a key team member from its ranks.
According to gaming tipster Superannuation, lead character artist Michael Knowland’s LinkedIn page was updated to show that his position at Naughty Dog has come to an end, showing that he had spent close to three and a half years at the studio. Neither he nor Naughty Dog have officially confirmed his apparent departure.
Knowland’s earlier credits include working at Elite: Dangerous studio Frontier Developments. At Naughty Dog, he was the lead character artist on the very well received post apocalyptic survival game The Last of Us but was not part of the Uncharted team.
It is likely that his departure can be explained by the studio having concluded work on the game’s remaining DLC and PS4 version of the game, titled The Last of Us Remastered. However, what makes this news all the more eyebrow-raising is that it comes on the heels of several other high-profile departures from Naughty Dog.
In March this year, the studio saw the departure of Uncharted 4 Game Director Justin Richmond and lead writer Amy Hennig, the latter joining Riot Games while the former is now with EA-owned developer Visceral Games.
This month has seen the departure of Art Director Nate Wells, who is now working for Giant Sparrow, followed by voice actor Todd Stashwick, who was supposed to play a “significant” character in the fourth Uncharted game before being abruptly recast. He is now with fellow Naughty Dog alumni Hennig at Visceral Games, co-writing the studio’s upcoming Star Wars game.
Knowland marks the fifth high profile departure in two months. There is some speculation that this flurry of losses has something to do with Naughty Dog’s parent company, Sony, who have recently been enforcing a round of layoffs at their other studios. These include layoffs at Evolution Studios, who developed DriveClub, Killzone: Mercenary studio Guerrilla Cambridge, SCE London Studio, who made The Playroom, and God of War developer Sony Santa Monica.