Read part one here: The Playstation and Me: Evan Wells, Part 1
In this section of my talk with Evan Wells, he speaks ill of a long-dead console, Sony’s PSP conundrum and the way that technology inspired Naughty Dog’s successful Jak & Daxter franchise.
Do you remember the first time you saw the Playstation? Or did you hear about it before you saw it? What was the buzz about it like from your memory?
Yeah. We were at Crystal because Mark Cerny was the big figure in the game industry, he was working at Crystal at the time, and had great ins with Japanese game development. So we actually had the very first Playstation dev kit at Crystal at the time. We ported our 3DO game Total Eclipse to the Playstation. It was the very first approved Playstation title for Sony by a third-party developer. Overall, it was amazing to see the leap forward that Sony had been able to make in 3D technology and CD-ROM based tech media from the 3DO. The 3DO console came out at like $700 when it launched and I think it was even less capable of 3D than the effects chip in the Super Nintendo was. I mean, it was really barely able to run a game at 15 frames per second. So, to see the Playstation come out and just be that far ahead of the competition, was like, wow, this is really going to change gaming.
What were the launch titles that made you think, hey, this thing might have the legs, or that really impressed you with it?
Wow. The launch titles. There were some really cool ones. I am probably going to really age myself by being able to remember these.
We are probably in the same ballpark.
[laughs] OK. Warhawk was just phenomenal. That was an amazing experience. Jumping Flash was a real breakthrough for me, because I’m sort of a platform game enthusiast, and to see what a first-person 3D platform game would be like was huge. I just played the heck out of that game. Those were probably the highlights. Well, Ridge Racer was everybody’s favorite. But those were what really struck me as amazing.
So, let’s fast forward a little bit to Jak & Daxter is where Naughty really made their name on the PS2. Where did that series come from? I mean, you’ve mentioned your love of platforming, but it’s kind of a blend of a lot of different genres. So where did the inspiration come from, and how did your relationship with Sony kind of progress in building the game?
Don’t forget, we developed the Crash Bandicoot series on Playstation 1.
Right. I totally skipped over that. I apologize.
No. That’s just fine. It’s not a Sony property anymore. We don’t get to talk about it much. So we developed Crash Bandicoot.
I’m going to jump in for just a quick second, if only to say that Ted [Price] mentioned yesterday that you always felt that your two companies are kind of symbiotically linked, going back and forth. And he name-checked your Crash work and the Jak & Daxter work as stuff that pushed those guys forward.
Yeah. And vice versa. I don’t know if he told you the story. But our companies were located next door to each other on the Universal Studios back-lot back in 1995-96, somewhere in there. And, yeah, we were literally sharing the same printer. It was just great to be able to hang out with those guys and just, again, be inspired by how they were pushing technology and gameplay forward. Yeah, with their Spyro and Ratchet games, definitely there was a little bit of friendly competition between the two of us to push our efforts, because we were kind of playing in the same sandbox in that genre.