Michael Knowland, the lead character artist for The Last of Us, has left Naughty Dog adding to the growing list of top level departures. Knowland had been with Naughty Dog since October 2011.
Over the last few months, Naught Dog has seen three top tier employees hand in their notice. In March of this year, Amy Hennig, the creative director and lead writer on upcoming Uncharted 4, left to join Visceral Games. She was followed soon afterwards by Uncharted 4’s game director Justin Richmond. Earlier this month, Nate Wells left Naughty Dog to join Giant Sparrow; Wells filled the position of lead artist on The Last of Us.
While it might be tempting to chalk this up to typical development team departures (especially in light of the fact that Naughty Dog is a huge studio employing roughly 250 individuals) the number of high level departures in quick succession seems to indicate something else. It feels odd that this many leads would leave a development team as lauded as Naughty Dog. Then again, we might also be reading too much into this.