All of Naughty Dog's GDC stuff is on their site now in PDF form, including all the slides. There's the full Uncharted Post-mortem and other more technical presentations.http://www.naughtydog.com/corporate/press-events.html
Naughty Dog's take on auto-aiming
For a long time, in fact through the late winter of 2006 (through our first year of full production), we'd planned to use an automatic lock-on aiming scheme.
We were skeptical that manual aiming could create the fast-paced kind of gameplay we wanted to go for, and we were worried that the transition between the Mario 64-style follow camera we were using for traversal and the over-the-shoulder camera that manual aiming implies would be jarring.
We tried every possible lock-on auto-target selection mechanic and target-selection control scheme perturbation that we could think of, and lock-on aiming didn't give us the visceral fun of taking a bead and loosing a round that we wanted to capture. Also, it wasn't challenging and interesting enough from a gameplay point of view.
A number of people on the team felt that manual aiming could work, and we were already big fans of Resident Evil 4.
So in Naughty Dog's spirit of experimentation and iteration, we tried it - and liked it! We managed to solve the camera transition issues, making it nice and snappy so that the game didn't feel like it had two gameplay modes, and was one seamless experience instead.
It seems like we were telling ourselves even back in the days of our first E3 teaser trailer, then that manual aiming would be possible. Though we then had a lot of new issues to puzzle over
Manual aiming in a Third-Person Character-Action Game proved to be a lot harder than we thought it would be.
We knew that we would have to have an assisted-aiming, or Enemy Adhesion, system that was as superb as that in Halo - so that when the player aimed near a target, the game would have to subtly, almost imperctibly, move the reticle onto the target, and travel with the target, to help the game be optimally fun.
We also knew that we'd have to overcome the issues associated with manual aiming in a third-person game as well as Gears of War had done (which is a game that we really love, BTW) - issues like those arising from the differences between the line of sight from gun-to-target and camera-to-target, among many other things.
So we studied those games a lot, and we eventually managed to get it right.