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Naughty Dog

June 16, 2012

Naughty Dog is by far my favourite developer, not because their games are usually of the highest quality and give me the best gaming pleasure, but because  – out of all of the developers out there –  they have endured with me through my childhood into my ‘adulthood’.

As I matured so has the developer, but they haven’t compromised that part of them that gives their productions that sense of wonder and joy. Of any developer, I would say Naughty Dog has defined me as a gamer, which is perhaps a rarity nowadays when so many developers jostle for your attention.

It’s a mark of the character and persona that Naughty Dog possess that they have at least endured in an industry that has become insanely competitive in the last decade.

Naughty Dog was founded by Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin in Santa Monica, California in 1984. The studio was originally named ‘Jam Software’ and was fully independent. Jam Software known as Naughty Dog, Inc. after a rename in 1989. They produced Power for the Sega Genesis and Way of The Warrior for the 3DO. Although modest, these games gained the attention of Universal Interactive Studios who signed Naughty Dog for a three-title deal and would fund the company’s expansion. Naughty Dog was getting noticed, but it was their next title that would produce one of the most enduring characters in gaming history.

Taking advice from Mark Cerny who produced Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for Sega, Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin decided to focus their own and their employees’ combined resources to create a character-based platformer which would take full advantage of the new Sony’s console, the Playstation, and create a 3D platformer.

In August 31st 1996 Crash Bandicoot was released on the Sony’s Playstation. The game showed off the new console’s abilities and created a marked impression on the gaming community. Platformers didn’t just have to go left to right. Crash Bandicoot 2: The Wrath of Cortex and Crash Bandicoot 3:Wraped followed in 1997 and 1998 respectively. The series was a smash-hit and showed what the community could do. The games all stuck to a simple but an appealing brand of zan,y colourful platforming that has never been completely matched in my view. It was simple and addictive, filled with crazy characters and a reluctant clumsy hero.

That hero was Crash, the wily, fuzzy, orange marsupial, and became a precursor template for all Naughty Dog’s less than perfect protagonists.  Crash was rendered in 3D but he had a layered personality, unlike his competitors Mario and Sonic. Mario was a plumber who didn’t even fix that leaky faucet and Sonic was a blue hedgehog who could just run fast in a straight line… left to right…

Okay, I may be biased, but Crash was the first character I can remember really enjoy playing as in a game. He was a little gormless, a little clumsy, a tad heroic and a little cheeky. Naughty Dog managed to instill these attributes into a character who did it all with a crazy line dance.

 

Crash was also the precursor to a lasting relationship, that still remains today, between Naughty Dog and Sony Computer Entertainment that began in January 2001. While Naughty Dog gained from Crash’s success, studio co-founder Jason Rubin left the company on good terms to work on his own projects.

Naughty Dog bravely jumped into its next project.

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy took a lot from Crash, its platforming elements and colourful artistic sensibilities, but Naughty Dog wanted to create a seamless world, a world you could travel through with no load times. You could travel from the Sandy Beaches all the way through high snowy mountains, to deep water ruins, speed along on a zoomer through ancient volcanic pipelines to the dark oppressive citadel at the end of the game.

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy introduced two new main characters: Jak, the blonde haired mute hero, and Daxter, the wise-cracking loud mouth orange ottsel sidekick. Their first outing was criticised however for its short story and simple gameplay. It was, however, one of the most powerful memories of my early Playstation 2. It was a technical achievement that Naughty Dog would build on to create one of the best open world franchises in the Playstation 2 library. Jak 2: Renegade and Jak 3 gave Jak a new attitude. Jak was more moody and angry, maturing but frustrated like most teenagers out there, voiced wonderfully by Mike Erwin. The tone was darker and more serious, but still remained fun and rewarding, still filled with the charming Naughty Dog humour.  The simple platform gameplay was given new life with a mix of run and gun action and vehicle missions. Jak 2: Renegade and Jak 3 still stand out as two of the finest Playstation 2 games out there, and they have released a HD collection on the PS3 so if you were unlucky enough to miss them first time around, go buy them and just let the action, humour and emotion wash over you.

 

And of course I can’t go on about Naughty Dog and not mention this guy!

 

Yes, the brilliant, heroic, everyman fortune hunter Nathan Drake, cruelly named ‘Dude Raider’ at first. Nathan Drake has been one of the banner men for the Playstation 3. Naughty Dog took their maturing audience and gifted us with a guy who is far from perfect, but we can forgive him for that, because he’s clever, caring and a big damn hero. The Uncharted series is again a masterpiece of puzzle solving, high octane action and wit, known for putting you right in the middle of the action where most games would cut off for an interactive cutscene or put you in the cruel torture of a dry distant quick-time event.

 

Naughty Dog has a good attitude towards the gaming industry. They are a developer that isn’t happy putting out all the same old conventions  in their games, they take what sendss gaming’s pulse racing, but don’t bore us with details. It’s all about the pure joy of gaming and for a company, their track record is simply amazing. There is a reason they are my favourite developer, I grew up with them and associate them with what I love in gaming. It can’t just be me though, from Crash through to Jak up to Nathan, Naughty Dog has given us lots of happy memories.

I’m very excited for Naughty Dog’s next outing in The Last of Us and looking forward to see how far Naughty Dog will push the darker mature edge they have been growing, though now they have split their company into two development team,s will we see another outing for Drake, a long awaited return to Jak and Daxte,r or will we be having something new all together?  All I know is I can’t wait.

Comment about your favourite developer, and remember to like and share this article.

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