Before we get into the writeup of the Crash Bandicoot Then and Now panel at San Diego Comic-Con, we would like to extend a massive thank you to all of the Crash Bandicoot fans out there. Because of you, the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy was the number one physical video game console title around the world for the month of June*! And that’s a Crash-sized accomplishment since the game was released on June 30, 2017.
That would not have been possible at all without the dedicated Bandicoot fans around the world, and we wanted to thank you from the bottom of marsupial hearts. Just don’t tell Crash, because his head will get even bigger. Now, let’s take a look at how the team at Vicarious Visions put their heart and soul into reviving the classic games created by Naughty Dog many moons ago.
By Will Pasquin, Guest Writer
San Diego Comic-Con is in full swing and in true marsupial style the Crash Bandicoot Then and Now panel was full of surprises, behind-the-scenes looks and insider tidbits. The panel consisted of Charlotte Francis (Texture Artist, Naughty Dog), Justin Monast (IT/Lighting, Naughty Dog), Taylor Kurosaki (Game Design, formerly of Naughty Dog), Dan Tanguay (Game Director, Vicarious Visions), John Paul Rhinemiller (Cinematics, Vicarious Visions), and Ian Tucker (Editor, Dark Horse), and Geoff Keighley served as the moderator.
Panelists Charlotte Francis, Justin Monast and Taylor Kurosaki, all from the original Naughty Dog team that worked on Crash Bandicoot, began by explaining how the first Crash game came into being. Did you know Crash wasn't even his original name? He was originally known as Willy the Wombat. His name changed to Crash when the team realized a Willy the Wombat already existed, and that Willy had a slightly different connotation in Europe.
Heavily inspired by Looney Toons characters and Roger Rabbit, with the book Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life open at all times, Naughty Dog aimed to imbue their character with more personality than they had seen from other games of that time. The wacky facial expressions and cartoony movements were the results of their efforts, and over a dozen games later, those same features are still an important part of Crash’s essence. That Crash essence even found itself into the final name the team picked out. According to Taylor Kurosaki, the way they came up Crash was to “Take a verb, and incorporate it into a proper name.” They put Dash and Bash into the possible mix as well, but Crash won out unanimously.
The team at Vicarious Visions, being fans of the series themselves, knew it was important to keep the characters true to the originals, tapping heavily into the nostalgic feels of fans everywhere. Talking about the angular design of the OG Crash, John Paul Rhinemiller said, "We wanted to make sure we kept that, but in an updated fashion." Dan Tanguay added that they would test out during development,
While the Naughty Dog team had to make magic with limited resources, Justin Monast remembered that that they faced difficult time constraints, and that “Sometimes it would take two to three hours just to load a level!” But that cinematics were relatively easier, taking “only two to three weekends to complete.” Charlotte Francis provided more insight, explaining that “One of the reasons the cinematics were one of the easiest things to do is because it’s the only time in the game when we control exactly what’s being seen at any given time… we could orchestrate exactly what we wanted.”
Vicarious Visions had access to vastly improved tech, but as it turns out, these benefits were actually more of a challenge. Having better technology at their disposal presented a temptation to stray from the classic and explore territory that wouldn't really be true to the series. Rhinemiller added, "We didn't have limits, we really had to restrain ourselves. We had vastly more resources, but we learned restraint to keep him on model."
Perhaps most exciting of all, while the panel was in the middle of discussing everyone favorite levels, Crash Bandicoot himself busted into the room and started complaining that his own favorite level, Stormy Ascent, was only a secret known to hardcore fans. Well, it's never a good idea to piss off the star of your game, so the developers announced that as of noon on July 20, the remastered and finally released level will be downloadable on the PlayStation Store, free for 30 days.
Tanguay also announced that July 2017 would bring an exclusive Crash Bandicoot item to fans through LootCrate Gaming, with a special N. Sanity Beach t-shirt. Also shown were images of the amazing 9” PVC Crash Bandicoot painted statue from First 4 Figures, which is now available to pre-order from Best Buy. We’ve seen these in person, and they are seriously impressive. The statue will be available first at Best Buy stores beginning in September.
Also, Dark Horse editor Ian Tucker revealed that they are "Doing something that's a little bit different..." and explained that they will release The Crash Bandicoot Files: How Willy the Wombat Sparked Marsupial Mania in March 2018. This 150-page, hardcover book is a beautifully crafted reproduction of the developer's bible itself, and is a must-have for every Crash fan's bookshelf.