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Naughty Dog looks back at 20 years of PlayStation development

The studio behind Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted and The Last of Us reminisces

Though Naughty Dog is celebrating its 30th anniversary, we’re also excited to have been along on PlayStation’s 20-year ride that it’s celebrating this year. In fact it was developing for the PS1 that had Naughty Dog hire its first employees – for the first ten years it was just our co-founders Jason and Andy doing all of the art, programming and design themselves. Oh, how times have changed!

Developing the Crash Bandicoot games on the PS1 was an exciting time. The PlayStation didn’t have a mascot to go up against Mario or Sonic, so when Naughty Dog debuted Crash for the first time at E3 in 1996, Sony put it right up, head to head with the other gaming juggernauts. And it worked! Crash Bandicoot became a worldwide success, and the demand for a sequel was immediate.

The first game was developed by just eight people (some who are still here!), and the next three games were all developed in just 12 months each! It was a crazy pace to keep, but over those years the company started to grow. Naughty Dog was a whopping 15 employees by the time Crash Team Racing was completed.

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During the development of CTR, Sony had shipped us some of the very first PlayStation 2 development kits to enter the United States. We began developing an engine and doing early graphics tests as we decided what our next game was going to be.

The promise of what the PlayStation 2’s increased horsepower would allow us to create had our minds spinning. We wanted to stop building discreet levels and build load-free interconnected worlds you could explore. We wanted to put an increased emphasis on storytelling, and give players motivation behind the gameplay they were experiencing. The possibilities seemed endless. And that’s how Jak and Daxter were born.

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The PS2 was an incredible advancement in technology over the PS1 and it allowed us to continue to refine and optimise our engine to get more and more out of the hardware over the course of the next three Jak games. The PlayStation 2 years were huge for Sony. The hardware dominated the console market but Sony was already looking to the future.

While we were still developing Jak 2, Sony was already sharing information with us about the specs of PlayStation 3 and its legendary Cell Processor. In fact, we started a small R&D group called the ICE Team (which is still part of Naughty Dog today) to help experiment with different potential hardware configurations. At one point, there was serious discussion about not including a GPU and relying entirely on the Cell to do the rendering!

As the hardware was finally taking shape, we again got our hands on early development kits just as we were brainstorming what was next for Naughty Dog after Jak and Daxter. Knowing what the PS3 was offering, we decided that it was time to leave the fantasy worlds of our previous two franchises behind and to tackle a real world setting with realistic human characters. After exploration of dozens of concepts we finally settled on what would become Nathan Drake and Uncharted.

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The PS3 turned out to be even more complex than PS2, and while it allowed us to continue to squeeze more and more out of it with each game we produced, it truly was as difficult to develop for as it was reputed to be. We struggled, as many developers did, to wrap out heads around its architecture. But with each game under our belt, the seemingly bottomless pit of processing power that the Cell gave us opened up doors for our designers and artists to dream even bigger.

The culmination of this was The Last of Us. After we thought we’d reached the limit of the PS3’s capabilities with Uncharted 3, somehow our amazing team of programmers found a way to do just a little bit more. Convention says that it’s best not to release a new IP so late in the cycle of hardware, but we’re very happy that Sony gave us the opportunity.

And as we were deep in the middle of development on The Last of Us, Sony, along with Mark Cerny, was busy putting together the plans for the PlayStation 4. Mark has an office here with the ICE Team at Naughty Dog, so we had a front row seat to the whole process.

It was truly impressive the care that went into the design of the hardware and the OS. Years of meetings with all of the publishers and the top development teams helped shape the PS4. Putting complete emphasis on games when designing the console was the through line. And, of course, learning from the concerns that the PS3 was difficult to develop for, the PS4 was built from the beginning to be appealing to the full spectrum of development teams.

Remastering The Last of Us for PS4 let us get our first taste of the impressive new hardware, but switching gears back to Uncharted and developing our first game dedicated to the PS4 is really letting us see it’s true potential.

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Since this is the first time we’ve carried a franchise over from one generation of hardware to the next, it’s amazing to look back and compare Uncharted 1 to Uncharted 4. It’s crazy to see how far the state of the art has advanced in just seven or eight years. Looking at Drake on the PS4 it’s almost embarrassing to see what we considered ground breaking back on the PS3. And we’re only a year into the life of the PS4!

We couldn’t be happier to have grown right alongside PlayStation these past 20 years. They’ve consistently provided the best hardware for gamers and game developers. And, just as importantly, they have fostered the best development community, creating hands down the strongest and most diverse stable of first party and platform exclusive games out there. It’s been an exciting ride so far, but I have a feeling things are just getting started.

34 Comments
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if you think nathaan drake looks good on ps4, wait until you see next gen crash bandicoot.

That could be so creepy if they made him too photo realistic xD

underwordsofsorr 03 December, 2014 @ 15:20
2

This was a great read. Always loved Naughty Dog and of course PlayStation. Can’t wait to see Drake on PS4! Would be overjoyed if they bought back Crash though…

I wish you or Sony would get the rights back to Crash. :(

Thank you for all great games you did! Crash was one of the first games I played on PSX!

But please DO remember that Vita is not dead as long as there are many impassioned owners. Sure with the lack of support from SCEE side its future is painted in black colours…but still, you are awesome studio capable of creating miracles!

As Crash was system seller for PSX… we also do need system seller for Vita! I know that you can do it! After all Vita is far superior than 3DS!

4.1

You mean PS1.

PSX was a video recorder with PS2 integrated. Never sold outside of Japan.

@MaxDiehard
Wrong.

Official name was PS. (just PlayStation not PSOne, not PSX, not PS1)

Hmm… oh take a look at wiki
“The PlayStation (officially abbreviated as PS and unofficially but more commonly known as PS1 or PSX, not to be confused with the PSX console which Sony also released)”

So yeah, people called PS a PSX a long long long time before PS2 was even created. Pretty much everyone called it that way, starting with gaming press. When PSX a system you are talking about was created… everyone was already calling a PS a PSX.

Where does it come from? most probably from a codename PlayStation had before release. Remember how Vita was called NGP? Well… PlayStation had also codename “PlayStation EXperimental”. You probably get it by now why people called it PSX instead od PSOne.

@MaxDiehard

Oh and one more thing.

PS1 is rather “new” name. Because to call something 1 you need to know that there will be also number 2. Back when PlayStation was released nobody really was awared that someday they will create PlayStation 2.

That would be like calling Wii a Wii 1. When Wii U would be released as Wii 2 than from that point it would be reasonable to call Wii a Wii 1. Do you understand? Or did I make it even more complicated :P ?

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So exited for uncharted 4, Keep up the good work Naughty Dog!

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Uncharted collection I’m really hoping this is announced with a February/March/April at latest release date (tlou was announced like a Month before ps4 release so as early as January wouldn’t seem impossible..)would love this to be the case.

You guys have become masters of the third person genre with Uncharted and LoU. Still the best animations and controls in the genre.

I do hope you get Crash back. He needs to be saved.

Can’t wait for more ND games in the Future :P :P :P

Glad to have Naughty Dog in the PlayStation camp for these 20 years. Best of luck! I have no doubt that you will achieve amazing things on the new hardware.

What you guys did with TLOU made me think that the PS3 never reached its true, full potential.

Not only pushing hardware to its limits in terms of graphics and sound but pushing gaming forward with your tremendous approach to storytelling. Thank you Naughty Dog for the endless hours of entertainment.

13

Naughty Dog you guys just keep doing what your doing, you put other studios to shame! Ps jak for ps4?

I would love to see a remastered Uncharted collection, especially since I won’t be playing U3 on the PS3, I’m still stuck getting all the trophies on U2 and won’t play U3 because of it.
So as long as you keep the horrible multiplayer trophies out of your games (incentificing boosting but punishing those who do) I will buy this collection, I’m still in the middle about tLoU since I’m not sure how much of a bother the mp will actually be, but apparently it’s pretty doable on PS4.
However still need to get roughly 1000 kills in U2 before I decided to start your next game with multiplayer.

15

A great read, congratulations to ND & PlayStation on their birthday milestones.
I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us

darth-cruncher 03 December, 2014 @ 20:15
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I love Uncharted & TLoU. Perfection in gaming throughout, you guys are the best.
I have been married over 20 years and got a PSX for my anniversary, never had a better present

darth-cruncher 03 December, 2014 @ 20:16
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Oh, and re-make CTR, so much fun.

Yeah, we need a new carting/racing game with similar awesome mechanics as CTR. Nothing I’ve tried has even come close to the racing engine in CTR ;)

18

True masters of the art of great game making, unfortunately it seems the dlc nonsense is also another of your to be remembered as well contributions, is it over 200 plus for TLoU (PS3)?, and though I understood other publishers/devs using the online pass I really couldn’t believe it when I found out one was needed for Uncharted3, great games over the years, best in business? Off course, deserved of all kinds of praise and platitudes? Why, what you Give us? not even a upgrade for the last to this gen’s title, seriously not cool, but if it’s only about saying how good a xp you provided then 10/10.

I loved this read. Brought some joyful memories. I have loved and will always love Naughty Dog. For their passion of creating games. I know I may sound biased saying this but, I think Playstation has the best family in game developers. Naughty Dog, Media Molecule, Polyphony Digital, Guerrilla, Santa Monica, London Studios, ThatGameCompany, Sucker Punch, … All those studios who have brought my best gaming experiences.

PS: I’m still waiting for a next gen “Getaway” from London Studios!

Naughty Dog IS PlayStation. For me it is the main reason to have and stick with PlayStation and I love the amazing stories their games tell. Thanks for all your hard work. TLOU for PS4 was just bought and is downloading for 3 days now.

21

I grew up on Naughty Dog games and it is incredible seeing how the studio developed so much over the past 20+ years. I was the skeptic when they first announced Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and didn’t feel the immediate appeal, but boy I was wrong. Nowadays no other game franchise makes me skip a heartbeat like hearing the sound of the Uncharted theme music. But the greatest triumph for them, in my opinion, was The Last of Us. Probably the only game that made me shed tears left and right, and that was only after 10 minutes into the game.

Thank you for such amazing experiences and for making my childhood much more brighter.

22

now if we could get Jak x HD with cross buy and cross play for ps3 ps4 and vita, i ll be glad. but I know its not up to you guys, its up to sony

Though I do like the Uncharted series, I still think it’s nothing compared to your abilities to make genius cartoony platformers.
Please bring back the style and humor of ‘Crash Bandicoot’ and ‘Jack and Daxter’, the lack of good games like that is the reason I’m not playing as much on the new gen consoles :(

Keep up the great work, Naughty Dog! I got to know you guys only last year when I got a free PS3 with my sony TV and I immediately went to buy the Uncharted trilogy and, of course, The last of us, and I have to say that I’ve loved you ever since. I have played a fair share of videogames in my life and I can honestly say that your games are some of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever played. I’m really looking forward to Uncharted 4 and, hopefully, TLoU 2 :-)

It would also be awesome if you revived the Crash series. I remember having a blast by just watching people playing Crash on TV like 20 years ago. I can’t even imagine how awesome it’d be able to actually play Crash on my own!

I hope they’ll go back to fantasy settings as well and give more depth and variety to their Uncharted 3rd person shooting formula right now.

Or I would love to see a game with a sci-fi setting from Naughty Dog.

Anyway, doesn’t really matter in the end, because they’re pretty good at what they do regardless and always end up delivering great quality games.

Though, in my book, the Uncharted games are not as good as people make it out to be. Uncharted 1 & 3 are really not that amazing especially, still good games, but not outstandingly great games. So I’m surprised so many people always ask for a collection of those on PS4 when the games look great graphically on PS3 already and when Uncharted 1 & 3 are not that amazing.

DragonSlayerSLO 06 December, 2014 @ 11:36
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Can’t wait to see what will they come up with. Love the Uncharted series and I’m sure the new entry wil be amazing. ND sure is one of the best game developers out there right now.

ummagummachild 07 December, 2014 @ 21:17
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Didnt enjoy Guacemelee much cz platforming is really not strength. Hope thiis game iwillbe sans-platfotming?

STATIONFREAK73 22 December, 2014 @ 13:42
28

yes 30 years,thanks 4 amazing good hours playing your games.

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