T1X reportedly began development at Sony Interactive Entertainment‘s Visual Arts Service Group, which normally helps finish off games developed by other Sony Interactive Entertainment studios, but in 2018 decided it wanted to be a lead developer.
Michael Mumbauer, who founded the Visual Arts Service Group in 2007, recruited about 30 developers from both internal and external studios to form a new development unit within Sony Interactive Entertainment, and began working on a remake of The Last of Us.
The team originally planned on remaking the 2007-released Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, but deemed the project too expensive and requiring of too much additional design work. So they settled on a remake of The Last of Us, updated with a similar look and feel of The Last of Us Part II, as it was more modern, would require less budget, and could be packaged with a PlayStation 5 version of the sequel.
While the project was approved on a probationary basis, Sony Interactive Entertainment kept the team’s existence a secret and did not allocate them the budget to hire additional staff. But by spring 2019, the team had completed a section of the game designed to showcase how the rest would look and feel.
Hermen Hulst, the former head of Killzone and Horizon Zero Dawn developer Guerrilla Games, was named the head of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios in November 2019, and thought the remake project was too expensive. Running on a brand new graphical engine, the budget was much higher than past Sony Interactive Entertainment remakes. And while Mumbauer needed to hire more people to help rework the graphics and redesign gameplay mechanics, Hulst was not convinced.
After The Last of Us Part II was delayed from 2019 to 2020, the Visual Arts Service Group was tasked with helping Naughty Dog polish it off, slowing down the progress of T1X. But after that work was complete, Sony Interactive Entertainment sent staff from Naughty Dog to help the Visual Arts Service Group team with T1X, stripping it of its long-sought independence. The game was moved under Naughty Dog’s budget, which was given greater leeway, and before long Naughty Dog was the lead developer while the Visual Arts Service Group was once again its support team.
By the end of 2020, most of T1X‘s top staff at the team formed within the Visual Arts Service Group had left, including Mumbauer and the game’s director David Hall. Today, T1X remains in development at Naughty Dog with support from the Visual Arts Service Group. The future Mumbauer’s team, jokingly referred to as Naughty Dog South, remains unknown.
The Bloomberg story also notes that Days Gone developer Sony Interactive Entertainment Bend Studio tried unsuccessfully to pitch a sequel to its game in 2019, but despite the first game’s profitability, its development was long and reception was mixed, so a sequel was not deemed viable. Instead, the developer was assigned to help Naughty Dog with a multiplayer game, while a second group was tasked with developing a new Uncharted game supervised by Naughty Dog. Some staff, including top leads, were unhappy with this decision and left. Fearing they might get absorbed into Naughty Dog, leadership asked to be taken off the Uncharted project, and were granted their wish as of March 2021 and are currently working a game of their own. Whether the Uncharted game is still in development remains unclear, but it was “all on paper at Bend.”