It never ceases to amaze, this fickle thing called fate. A small action might turn out to be a world-changing event, or an action bore from impulse might escalate into disaster. Thankfully, in one particular case, a couple of gifted youngsters created a product, never knowing it will years later shape and define an entire industry.
We cast our attention to 1984 where high school students Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin gave in to curiosity while doodling with Lisp and C++. These two teamed up, establishing JAM Software (Jason and Andy's Magic Software) creating software for the Apple II and a skiing game for their second title. In a freak accident during the development of the skiing game, Gavin accidentally copied bootleg games over the only copy of their game. This lead Rubin to create a new title over the course of a weekend titled Ski Crazed. The game was eventually bought and published by Baudville for $250. After this, the duo programmers created another title, this time a graphic adventure game called Dream Zone. It released in 1988 and was ported over to the Atari ST, Amiga, and PC.
To break away from Baudville, Rubin and Gavin renamed JAM Software to Naughty Dog in 1989. Electronic Arts picked up Rings of Power, another Naughty Dog title, and published it for the Sega Genesis in 1991. Rings of Power marks the world's introduction to Nijay Pande, who by present-day standards, needs no introduction. Rubin and Gavin went on to create an interactive multiplayer title called Way of the Warrior, which they presented to Mark Cerny of Universal Interactive Studios. Cerny was impressed by their work and signed Naughty Dog for three additional titles at the studio. Motivated by there new deal, Gavin and Rubin worked tirelessly on an action-platform game.
This title would force players to constantly be looking at the character's rear, hence the project was jokingly titled "Sonic's Ass Game." Naughty Dog expanded their team, all the while creating a development tool called Game Oriented Object Lisp, to create characters and gameplay. Cartoonist Charles and Joe Pearson were recruited to assume character creation duties for the game. After more than a year, all the changes and grown Naughty Dog has gone through, culminated in the creation of the titular character we know as Crash Bandicoot. Showing off the game to Sony Computer Entertainment, it was immediately signed and published by the company. Crash Bandicoot's first public appearance was at E3. Needless to say, the game went on to become one of the highest-selling titles for the PlayStation console, clocking over 6.8 million copies sold.
Naughty Dog created two more Crash titles and a spin-off Crash Team Racing game. Afterward, the studio wanted to create games for Sony instead of Universal Interactive, but Universal held the rights to the Crash Bandicoot series. Sony bought Naughty Dog in 2001. The studio shifted gears and created the Jak & Daxter series while operating under Sony's banner. The series was met with similar praise and success to the Crash Bandicoot series. Somewhere between the development of Jak 3 and Jak X: Combat Racing, Rubin and Gavin were slowly grooming Evan Wells and Stephen White to become the new co-presidents of Naughty Dog.
Starting in 2007, Naughty Dog began work on the Uncharted series. This marks the studio's first foray into the more realistic worlds and characters of games. The Uncharted series - praised for its narrative, polish, and rich features - went on to sell millions of copies worldwide. Given the success of their new direction, the studio began work on a brand new title. In 2011, Naughty Dog unveiled The Last of Us, a "post-apocalyptic third-person action-adventure" title following the struggles of Ellie and her protector Joel. The ravaged United States setting, complete with infected humans akin to Cordyceps unilateralis set the stage for the game. The Last of Us received universal acclaim upon release and is regarded by many as one of the best games ever released.
Between 2013 and 2014, Naughty Dog endured a lot of changes. November 2013 saw Corrine Yu, principal engine architect at 343 Industries, join the studio, while December of that same year saw Naughty Dog win the Studio of the Year award at the Spike's VGX award show for their work on The Last of Us. In March 2014, Uncharted lead writer Amy Henning departed the studio, with Justin Richmond (Uncharted 3 director) and Nate Wells (The Last of Us lead artist) leaving the studio soon after. Balestra announced his retirement in 2017 with Evan Wells remaining as the sole president of the company. In March 2018, creative director Neil Druckmann was promoted to Vice President of Naughty Dog. The new Vice President proved to be a strong move for Naughty Dog as he went on to be nominated and won several awards in numerous categories in the industry.
That wraps up the exciting history of the world-renowned Naughty Dog development studio. A duo of aspiring developers set in motion a string of excellent games, leading up to one of the most anticipated games of this generation: The Last of Us Part II. In just a few days, fans of the series will finally be able to dive into the post-apocalyptic world once more to discover the fate of their favorite characters.
The Last of Us Part II is set to release on June 19th, 2020 for PS4.
Kingdom Hearts devotee, From Software fanboy and aspiring Audiophile (the good kind that believes in FLAC files). Vincent enjoys writing about games almost as much as playing them.
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