PS2 Introduces Two New Characters

Wells: When the PlayStation 2 became realized we saw it was a very big leap forward. The Dreamcast was out there and we thought that we would be able to really blow the doors off of it and make some really great games. What we’d done on PlayStation one with Crash Bandicoot was design a game that took advantage and tried to hide the limitations of the hardware so we made a game with a big-headed mascot with big eyes that expressed the emotion of the character. On PlayStation 2 we were like, “Ok, we could take a step closer to reality, still fantastic, but we can try a game that has a more humanoid character. He’s still an elf so we were still rooted in stylization, but we can give him a voice and we can start to consider doing a more story-based gaming experience.” That’s sort of what drew us to create Jak & Daxter. We were obviously inspired by Mario 64 as the first real free roaming 3D platformer and we wanted to do something like that, but on a much more detailed scale. The N64 didn’t allow them to put a lot of detail in environments so we wanted to have giant vistas where you could stand on a mountain and see across the world. Our first tech challenge was taking what we had done with Crash Bandicoot and creating high detail on a fixed path in an open world environment.

Cutting Room Floor: Jak Had Three Ponytails

Wells: Jak went through several iterations. Initially he had three ponytails. We definitely modeled Jak a number of times. We also went through a lot of iterations with our engine as far as how we were going to render those big vistas. The very first three or four environments that we modeled and put a lot of work into ended up on the cutting room floor because it was just going through the early stages of grappling through PlayStation 2 hardware. It’s part of the process of getting your feet wet with new hardware. We had a level we called “Yosemite” – this giant half-dome mountain in Yosemite that we modeled with a forest at the base – and we really tried to get it into the final game. We came back to it as one of the last levels to see if we could apply some of the knowledge that we had accumulated on previous ones to see if we could shoehorn it in the last second, but it was too late.

Will Jak make a comeback?

Wells: What I hear a lot recently [from fans] is to make another Jak & Daxter game. My answer always is we’d love to do it, there’s a lot of love for the franchise and it has a special place in our hearts for sure, but we’re sort of heads down, working on one game at a time now and are focusing on Uncharted, but we’d love to go back to it at some point.

Naughty Dog was sold to Sony back in 2000 and as of January 2001 became a wholly owned subsidiary. Gavin and Rubin’s contract ended with the release of Jak 3 in 2004 and they have since left the company.

Going From Bandicoot To Elf To Human Treasure Hunter

Wells: We looked at the [PS3’s] hardware specs and what we thought we could do with it, and thought that we could design a game around taking advantage of everything it had to offer. We went from an animal with a big head to a stylized slightly human elf character so we thought now we finally have the horsepower to tackle a real world environment with real human characters and actually tell a story that was more cinematic and treasure driven. That was the first thing we decided. We were definitely going to do something modern day, realistic, with humans.