Key artists from Vicarious Visions walked me through their approach to remastering Naughty Dog’s iconic PlayStation trilogy, and how they handled inheriting a legacy with millions of nostalgic fans. You can read the full-length feature on Engadget.
As a lifelong fan of Crash Bandicoot, and I am incredibly grateful to have told this story. Within it are in-depth interviews with art & design leads who oversaw the remasters, as well as exclusive behind-the-scenes looks at their process and even some of Naughty Dog’s original concept art. What stood out to me as I worked on this 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 (circa 1996).
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 helpful in coordinating the interviews and art assets we needed, even on the eve of the game’s release date.
Although I played the original games into the ground throughout the late 90s, 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 mark a clear evolution in Naughty Dog’s talents and sensibilities, now lovingly preserved in Vicarious Visions’ renditions.
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 Crash Bandicoot. That excitement certainly resurfaced as VV began releasing details on the N. Sane Trilogy. I’m thankful to have gotten to know the team and their vision a little better, and to have an inviting and respected platform like Engadget to share that experience through.