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Celebrate a quarter century of Crash this Wumpa Day as we sit down with Paul Yan of developer Toys for Bob, to discuss the longevity of the series and the passion that goes into each and every title.
Since the game’s inception in 1996, Crash Bandicoot has become a hallmark entry in the precision platforming genre, known for its wild environments filled to the brim with the evil Dr. Neo Cortex’s minions and traps.
Today marks Crash Bandicoot’s 25th anniversary, and it’s a great time to be a fan. Earlier this year, we released the Crash Bandicoot - Crashiversary Bundle, featuring five full Crash Bandicoot games in one, with the Crash Bandicoot™ N. Sane Trilogy, Crash Bandicoot™ 4: It’s About Time, and Crash™ Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. What better way to celebrate Wumpa Day than by reliving some of the greatest titles in the series?
To celebrate the marsupial’s 25th anniversary, we interviewed Paul Yan of developer Toys for Bob, to discuss the series in general and Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time in specific, the latest entry in the series now available on all next gen consoles plus Nintendo Switch.
As chief creative officer and co-studio head of developer Toys for Bob, Paul Yan spent a lot of time submerged in the world of Crash Bandicoot during the planning stages of It’s About Time.
“The first thing we did was try to identify the core DNA of the franchise. Crash Bandicoot spans a long period of time, debuting in 1996 with a new release every year until 2008 when the franchise went quiet for a bit. That’s a lot to draw from.”
What did they discover? It was the gameplay itself that resonated with players.
“Remasters live and die on two things,” says Yan. “One is the authenticity of the play experience…when it all comes rushing back whether you’re playing on a controller or a mouse and keyboard. Then you’ve done something good, and it takes a lot of time and finesse to get to that point.”
“The second and probably more challenging part is that you’ve got a ton of room for visual updates if you can capture the same tone and feel while taking things to a new level,” says Yan. “That’s a really difficult and subjective thing to measure.”
Where do they look for inspiration? “You just have to constantly engage with fans,” says Yan. The Crash Bandicoot community is thriving, and that interaction is crucial to the game’s success. They hire them, too. “Whether it’s in design, engineering, QA, wherever, we have people we can go to who make sure we’re not veering too far off base or straying from what feels right. That is very helpful for us.”
It’s about accessibility, too. With today’s tech and resources, Toys for Bob can implement features that appeal to a wider, more inclusive audience. “There are more expectations now and these accessibility options are becoming the standard. This is great and we want to make sure we’re opening up the game so that everyone can enjoy it based on whatever abilities they have.”
Another point of discussion: difficulty. Yan describes how the Crash franchise originated in the 90s, when platforming games were easy to pick up but often brutally difficult to master. “For those of us who grew up with those games, we love them and the memory of those days. We want to capture that sentiment and at its core it’s still a precision platformer,” he says.
“At the same time, we want to make the game more accessible and approachable for new audiences who didn’t grow up with that expectation.”
He cites the example of player lives. It’s About Time offers the option of Retro mode, granting players a limited number of lives to complete the game, or Modern mode, giving the player infinite lives. “The game itself isn’t any different, but every time you die you get to respawn at the last checkpoint. The game is still preserved, the punishment just isn’t so masochistic.”
There’s no single approach to game making, and that’s true for bringing back classic games and franchises, too. The one element that connects them all? They’ve got to be fun, for old and new players alike. We hope we’ve succeeded—and continue to succeed—in making that a reality.
Thanks for reading.