Jumpin’ Jak Crash: The History of Naughty Dog

(Written as of 2016)

It all began back in 1984, with two high school students and childhood friends; Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin. Having both experimented with various computer-programming languages, such as Lisp and C++, the two decided to create video games together and founded their first development company, Jam Software. Within a weekend, they created their second game, entitled Ski Crazed; originally to be called Ski Stud, following a series of complications over the development of the original game. Ski Crazed was later bought by the company Baudville for a mere $250. However, this leads to Rubin and Gavin creating the game Dream Zone, which was later ported to the Apple II GS, Atari ST, Amiga, and PC, as opposed to the two previously developing games exclusively for the Apple II.

In 1989, the duo released their next game, Keef the Thief, which was published by EA and ported to a moderate variety of consoles, including the Atari ST and Amiga. Deciding that they wanted to make a fresh start, Rubin and Gavin dissolved their relationship with Baudville and decided to rename themselves from Jam Software to Naughty Dog. The duo was in a time crunch of just 24 hours to come up with a new name, and they had nothing to go on other than a drawing of a dog with sunglasses that Rubin had drawn; which also became the company’s earliest logo. But by the time of the release of their next game, Rings of Power, Rubin, and Gavin were both in college, and the company was at that point bankrupt.

Rubin and Gavin, along with a few of their friends from college, went on to create a 3DO interactive multiplayer game called Way of the Warrior, which they presented to Mark Cerny; a then-employee of Universal Interactive Studios. Pleased with the quality of the game, he decided to sign Naughty Dog for the development of an additional three games. Gavin and Rubin then decided to create a 3D platforming game. Although it would be easy to assume that they did it in light of the success that the genre was set to bring about, they actually did it for the pretty childish reason that the player would always end up having to look at the character’s rear end. Jokingly, they codenamed it “Sonic’s Ass Game”.

In 1994, the development of this game began, a lot of new people were hired at the company and Naughty Dog also created a development tool they called “Goal Oriented Object LISP” to establish gameplay mechanics and character designs. But the two main designers of the characters were cartoonist Charles Zembillas and Joe Pearson, who both created the game’s titular character; Crash Bandicoot. Following the first 14 months of development, the game was presented to Sony Computer Entertainment, who agreed to publish the game for their upcoming console, the PlayStation. After the game was then subsequently revealed at E3, and then released worldwide in 1996, it became one of the best selling games on the system, selling 6.8 million copies.

Though Naughty Dog would go on to achieve a greater level of success with the character throughout the fifth generation of gaming, they were looking to continue to work with Sony, and no longer wish to be constrained by Universal Interactive Studios, who owned the rights to the brand, and so Naughty Dog could not develop games in the series in its own right. Ultimately, Naughty Dog was bought out by Sony, and they then decided to begin work on their next franchise; Jak & Daxter, which would also be met by both gamers and critics, with both commercial and critical acclaim. But it was during the development of Jak 3 that the transition of owners slowly took place. Gavin and Rubin both eventually left the company, and they were replaced by both Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra, who continue to run the company today.

But despite the managerial change, Naughty Dog continued to well throughout the seventh generation, when in 2007, they launched their next big franchise; Uncharted, which has since spawned three sequels and a spin-off game, with Uncharted 2 and 3 in particular, being among some of the best-selling games of the years of their releases; the franchise collectively selling over 17 million units worldwide. And in 2011, they unveiled their latest IP, The Last of Us, which following its release, has gone on to sell 7 million copies worldwide in less than a year. But recently, they have decided to break their usual trend of releasing an IP with every gaming generation, and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was released in 2016. The game later garnished a great deal of success and further established Naughty Dog as a firm powerhouse in the world of video game development

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