With the Uncharted 3 beta kicking into high gear, we caught up with Naughty Dog co-president Evan Wells who explained the company’s evolution through the Crash Bandicoot era, the creation of Jak & Daxter, the development of some of gaming’s most memorable characters in Uncharted, and what’s next for the blockbuster studio.

Quick Naughty Dog History Lesson

Naughty Dog was founded by Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin in 1986 as independent studio “Jam Software” (Jam short for “Jason and Andy Magic”). The high schoolers went on to develop titles for Apple II under Jam Software in the late ‘80s and made their debut as Naughty Dog upon release of Rings of Power in 1991, a console RPG released for Sega’s Mega Drive system. The studio’s new name was inspired by Rubin’s dog, Morgan, a mischievous pup that spent every day at the team’s office. Naughty Dog’s next big project was Mortal Kombat-inspired Way of the Warrior on 3DO where Gavin and Rubin hired friends to dress up in costumes and shot photos for the game. The multiplayer title caught the attention of Mark Cerny of Universal Interactive Studios leading to an agreement with Naughty Dog for three additional games leading to the creation of the iconic Crash Bandicoot.

PS One Crash Course

Wells: Crash Bandicoot was made with Jason Andy and five other employees – three of which are still working here today. It was interesting (and challenging) because it was in the early days of 3D, and the machine could barely do proper 3D. In fact, there were a lot of shortcuts taken and we were doing our best through software to compensate for some of the hardware limitations. Back then everything was so new Naughty Dog was able to stand out by creating a game that didn’t exhibit a lot of the same problems of other early PlayStation games. The larger the polygons got, the more distorted the textures became, so we came up with this way where we’d render smaller polygons so you didn’t get graphical distortion. The way we got around that was by streaming data off the CD. Most games would just load off the CD and be done with it, then you could play your five or 10-minute level and then it would go back to a load screen. Because the camera would follow a fixed path through Crash Bandicoot we were streaming in more data. We were only rendering the polygons that were needed and we only had loaded the polygons that were needed to display the composition in the world.