The team at Vicarious Visions has poured their hearts into our favorite bandicoot's remastered return. New Q&A goes behind the scenes at the studio.
The team at Vicarious Visions are so excited that the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is finally out! And what a fun ride it has been so far. For this article, we thought it would be fun to focus on the bosses of the N. Sane Trilogy. We know that these baddies are fan-favorites, and we wanted to share our developers’ commentary about working on the characters and delving into their battles.
Kara Massie, Producer at Vicarious Visions: What is the favorite Crash Bandicoot boss that you worked on?
Paulo Dionisio, Lead Boss Designer: The Crash Bandicoot Cortex boss fight, because of the layer of the Aka Aku v Uka Uka battle on top of the Cortex battle, and the three stages of their fight. This makes each phase feel different even though the base mechanic is the same. And in later phases the auto-aim gets turned off, all of which makes this battle feel fun and varied.
Danny Williams, Character Modeler: Papu Papu. Our rendering engine allowed for enhanced butt technology!
James Weir, Character Modeler: Cortex, of course. He’s iconic and has such fun shapes to work with.
Cory Turner, Character Modeler: Tiny Tiger. He has crazy proportions (don’t skip leg day!) and an insane amount of fur. He’s very fluffy.
KM: Which updates did you make that you are happiest with?
Chad Hamlet, Character Modeler: N. Gin’s mechs. I added an actual cockpit so now N.Gin is actually doing things during the fight. And there are tons of details added, like whirling turbines, missile pods, and other things allowing for secondary animations.
JW: It was especially fun and challenging to work with the animators on Cortex in order to deliver what they needed to give him great facial animations. The originals mostly featured him all-teeth and snarling due to technical constraints of the time, but now we can really dial into a bigger range of performance.
PD: The Tiny Tiger fight in Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped. There are a lot of lovely small moments and details added to this fight, because it was clear that Naughty Dog would have done it if they were remaking these with today’s tech. Like when Tiny grabs the trident, we made it more physical as if it really was being grabbed. The audience has reactions to the fight, for example. Note how they do the wave when the lions come out; and when Tiny gets defeated, they throw tomatoes.
You can take your frustrations out on Tiny at the end of the fight as well, that’s new! There’s also a little Easter egg for those fans that know about the sneaky exploit from the original. Also, listen closely to the lions when you jump on them.
KM: Which boss fight is the hardest to beat?
PD: The original third game’s Cortex boss battle. I mean, this is the last fight so that’s to be expected. But there are a lot of layers of gameplay and during each phase, they change. Interestingly, the fight is hardest at the middle, but the tension doesn’t decrease.
KM: What makes Crash Bandicoot boss fights interesting?
PD: They don’t necessarily have any conceptual or mechanical tie back to the levels just been playing. Which makes them feel like a nice break, and you can see that Naughty Dog really wanted to make them feel cinematic.
KM: What sources of inspiration did you draw upon for creating the boss models?
DW, JW, CT, CH: For one, the original designs. And with these, it was trying to understand if shapes and angles were due to limitation in polygon counts, or were intentional. We looked at the original concept art to try to get an idea of the intentions. Promotional renders were also a source of inspiration. You play and watch the battles as well. I mean, how else do you know what you need for details, range of motion, what needs to destruct or spin or whatever.
We also watched animated feature films for inspiration and to look at some archetypes, especially for facial studies. We studied other remasters/remakes, particularly ones where there was a long(ish) break between the games. We really tried to understand that point at which you’ve gone too far from refining to re-inventing. We also reviewed each other’s work, as a team, because we learn a lot from each other.
You’re having a party at your house. Which Crash boss do you invite over?
JW: Dr. N. Brio, because he could mix up some tasty beverages.
CT: …and Dingodile because he’ll bring his own BBQ.
CH: Dr. N. Tropy seems like a snob. He’d bring good food, I bet.
PD: Dr. Neo Cortex, because I bet he has a lot of crazy stories to tell.
Which boss is most like you?
DW: Papu Papu, because we share the same silhouette.
JW: Koala Kong, and ditto.
The original Crash Bandicoot games came out in the mid-to-late 90s, what were you doing back then?
PD: I was in high school studying hard. I wanted to be either an aerospace engineer or a video game designer.
JW: High School! I moved around a lot, but I always drew and I always knew I wanted to get into games. I was taking a side class in AutoCAD and teaching myself 3ds Max.
CH: I was in art school studying how to be a comic book artist. I had a mohawk, and I was a manager at a Taco Bell.
CT: I was in middle school when the original Crash Bandicoot games came out. My best friend had a PlayStation so we’d hang at his house and play it. I was into drawing mascot characters, even back then.
DW: In ’96 I was in college trying to learn how to do this stuff. In ’97, I dropped out to work at an animation studio, to learn how to do this stuff. And from ’98 until now, I’m still trying to learn how to do this stuff!
KM: Who would you like to give some shoutouts to?
DW: Big props to our riggers for being open-minded and willing to experiment with the rigging tools. This was so key to help us nail the cartoony silhouettes. They worked really hard on getting the facial and eye rigs to work for what we all needed. And also our rendering engineer, Ace!
JW: Bless Ace! We gave him such a hard time in order to get the fur working right. Each time we’d ask for a new feature he’d nonchalantly say, ‘Hmm…’ and come back the next day with it working.
CH: The fan reaction to the boss video was cool.
CW: Yeh, I love it when they notice all the little things. Like the fact that Tiny has tighty whities!
The Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is now available on PlayStation 4 as a physical disc or a digital download, and we can’t wait for you to experience it! We hope you have as much fun playing it as we did working on it. Thank you for being such a huge part of what we do, and let us know what you think about the game!