Engadget Feature: The (re)making of ‘Crash Bandicoot’

If you have ever thumbed through my blog here, it doesn’t take long to deduce that the original three Crash Bandicoot games were essential to my childhood.

With that in mind, I am very pleased to share my latest piece of professional video game writing: a full-length feature on the process behind remastering Crash Bandicoot trilogy. The feature was published and laid out by Engadget in early July, featuring in-depth interviews with art & design leads on the team at Vicarious Visions (VV), in addition to exclusive process-artwork that outlines their creative workflow.

What stood out to me were the philosophical aspects of VV’s approach, and the pressure they placed on themselves in striking a balance between their vision and Naughty Dog’s original thought process. As a lifelong fan, I had immense expectations for the remaster, and VV went above and beyond — my conversations with them only solidified that trust.

Special thanks to Aaron Soupporis at Engadget for his mentorship, collaborative spirit and going the extra mile on the layout, as well as Jessica Conditt for connecting us. Nicholas Ruepp, Kara Massie, Cory Turner, Curtis Orr, Leo Zuniga and Wiebke Vallentin at VV & Activision were all extremely helping in coordinating the interviews and art assets we needed, all the way up to the eve of releasing the N. Sane Trilogy.


Aside

Although I played the original games into the ground throughout the late 90’s, it was stumbling upon Andy Gavin’s making-of blog series that got me interested in them again. Unfortunately, while I had a working PlayStation, I didn’t have my original copies anymore — I sold them off in order to raise money for my mom’s Christmas gift as a kid, back when allowance was hard to come by.

I began recollecting each one, the original black-label editions, from a variety of regional used game stores. Revisiting the legacy games over the course of my 20’s became an annual hobby, but my years as a professional designer — on top of my game design education — gave me a newfound appreciation for the effort and thoughtfulness that went into each one. What’s fascinating is how they preserve a clear evolution in Naughty Dog’s talents and sensibilities, which you can still see traced in the remasters.

All that being said, I feel incredibly fortunate to have recently authored a feature on the (re)making of Crash Bandicoot for Engadget, just in time for its long-awaited return by Vicarious Visions.

I still remember waiting for the latest issues of Ultra Game Players or PlayStation Magazine to arrive in our mailbox, just to tear them open for any information on the newest Crash Bandicoot game. That excitement certainly had a resurgence as VV began releasing more details on the N. Sane Trilogy. I feel grateful to have gotten to know the team and their vision a little better, and to have an inviting and respected platform like Engadget to publish that experience on.

 

Advertisements

The Mirrors of The Last of Us

tlou-ellie-mirrors

A couple weeks back, I finished Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us — they’ve sure come a long way since Crash Bandicoot (though, I still pine for the franchise to return to its rightful owner).

As the final act came to a close, what struck me the most was how reflective the game was of itself, and how far its characters had come since the opening scene. The critical reception to The Last of Us has ranged from brightly glowing to argumentative and divisive, but what can’t be mistaken is how much thoughtfulness Naughty Dog has put into it. I jotted down my own thoughts on a few “mirrors” between the very beginning and the very end of the game, which I wanted to share here.

Warning: there’s a significant amount of spoilers ahead!

Continue reading

All My Friends Play Video Games – 2: Kentucky Route Zero, Act I

kentucky-route-zero-tv

All my friends play video games,
and one of them joined me to talk about Kentucky Route Zero.

I’ve already written a post about Cardboard Computer’s debut of their new game, but this one calls for conversation. Today’s episode introduces the game and its unique design, artistic influences, ability to tell a story and connections to theatre & film. Kentucky Route Zero may be a haunting single-player experience, but it’s ripe for sharing.

Listen to the podcast here:

All My Friends Play Video Games – 2: Kentucky Route Zero, Act I
Hit the above link to stream it within a new tab, or right-click to download it directly.


CAST & CREDITS

My sole guest on this episode is Hilary Bovay, a talented artist & photographer based out of Rhode Island. She’s got a keen eye for visual storytelling, and her love for the original Crash Bandicoot is all you’ll ever need to know about her taste in video games.

The few musical numbers throughout the episode stem from the game’s soundtrack, which comes with the presale of all five acts.

En Route to Zero & Podcasts

Last night I picked up and finished Act I of Kentucky Route Zero by Cardboard Computer, and just about every inch of its design satisfies my current appetite in video games.

Kentucky Route Zero, Weaver's House

Aesthetically, it’s a stunning game that reminds me of the stylistic work seen in both Team Fortress 2 and Limbo. It utilizes sharp lighting, silhouettes and limited color palettes to tell most of the story, while exaggerated geometry adds even more character to its society. It also manages to reference other forms of art, such as poetry and theatre, without interrupting itself as a game. Continue reading

Playlist 2012: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead PS3 | Telltale Games | December

thewalkingdead-lee-clementine-train

One of the conversations my generation seems most ready to have is what they’d do in the event of a zombie apocalypse:

  • Whose house doubles as a good fort?
  • Which local store would have the best stockpile?
  • Whose car gets away the fastest?
  • What kind of weapons could we make from what’s sitting in the garage?
  • Who would you band with, and where would you all rendezvous?

It’s a fun game to play, partly because there are no right or wrong answers, but mostly because you get to learn something new about the people around you. The Walking Dead runs with these sorts of questions while putting the safety of others in the mix, making each subsequent one more complicated than the last. It tells an excellent story about people you could relate to, and not just for being a game.

Continue reading

Playlist 2012: Dishonored

Dishonored PS3 | Arkane Studios | November

dishonored-home

This was once a great city.

Or at least there are signs of it. Across the river are what use to be people’s homes – homes that are now used to avoid thug infested alleys and a corrupt police force running the suburbs. You can even find paintings on what walls are still standing, mostly of people filling the streets of Dunwall or ships importing goods.

It’s calming though, isn’t it? I’d often climb up here for the view between missions, but every vista in Dunwall is just that: a vista. The city is actually overrun with a rat plague. Looks can be deceiving.

Continue reading

Playlist 2012: Torchlight 2

Torchlight II PC | Runic Games | October

The amount of time you invest in Torchlight II is directly proportional to what you get out of it. Spend part of it exploring the landscape and you will find something worth your curiosity. A band of soldiers surviving together in the wilderness. A ghost ship docks by the riverside. A lonely robot who’s just happy that you didn’t rob him.

The hook of Torchlight II is partly within your curiosity.

Continue reading