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One day in 1999, Naughty Dog co-founder Andy Gavin absolved into the studio’s Santa Monica appointment and approached his aggregation of QA testers with an abnormal proposition: “Who wants a 48 hour, all-expenses-paid cruise to Japan with affluence of jetlag, and at atomic one acceptable meal?”.

His alleged advance would be bringing aback the aboriginal PS2 devkit to admission the United States, acceptance Naughty Dog to assuredly get its easily on the next-generation PlayStation it had been agilely anticipating for years. The apparatus wasn’t aloof a accord alms from the studio’s -to-be ancestor company, but the key additive in an aggressive new activity alpha agilely in the accomplishments of its self-made Crash mania. 

At last, afterwards months of preparation, the absolute assignment on Naughty Dog’s next-generation IP, a fantasy chance that would eventually be alleged Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, could assuredly begin. 

Jak and Daxter was the artefact of a flat in flux. Advancing off the aback of three Crash Bandicoot games, and knee abysmal in assembly on Crash Aggregation Racing, Gavin and his adolescent Naughty Dog co-founder Jason Rubin were acquisitive to do article different. “Our accord with Universal had gotten to the point area we couldn’t abide to accomplish Crash Bandicoot games,” Rubin tells me. “Although we admired Crash Bandicoot and we admired alive with Sony, it didn’t accomplish any banking sense. Universal endemic the IP, and there was a abhorrence there that was aloof brutal.”

A accommodation was made: while Rubin would advance the primary aggregation at Naughty Dog in accepting CTR to the accomplishment line, Gavin and a few added key programmers would breach abroad to agilely activate assignment on a new adventurous agent – one that would eventually anatomy the foundations of Jak and Daxter. For Gavin, the eyes was to body a programming accent that would “shorten the alternate bend of adventurous development” itself.

“With Crash, if you capital to accomplish a change in the code, it would booty ten account to compile, bristles account to link, and again you would accept to download it to the dev assemblage and reboot, afore activity through the akin to see if it worked,” he says. “I capital a arrangement area you could aloof adapt the cipher on the fly anon in the average of the game, abbreviation that time to seconds. We ran into all sorts of issues forth the way, but we got to the point area you could change your action in the code, and absolutely two abnormal afterwards that action would be active in the game.”

But Naughty Dog didn’t aloof appetite to abate cat-and-mouse times on the development ancillary of Jak and Daxter. The flat set its targets on a appetite that amateur still attempt with to this day: a large, 3D accessible apple that doesn’t affection a distinct loading awning above the capital menu. 

“The Naughty Dog way of operating was basically to account the set of things that we believed were axiological to the product, and again to bear on those things, and not get absent by added niceties,” explains Rubin. “With Jak and Daxter, one of the amount things that we absitively to do was no amount times, which was abundantly difficult. The tricks we had to pull, and how abounding times we had to change and fix things to get that working… we ability accept over-achieved, to be honest!”

“The no loading affair was Jason’s baby,” reveals Gavin. “I anticipate there’s a continued attitude at Naughty Dog of Jason absent article bigger in some way, and consistently allurement and pressuring for it. Jason is a abundant active force because he’s nagging, but in a acceptable way, because it comes from a acceptable abode aural him about authoritative the artefact better. It wasn’t about his own ego or absent to win or anything, it was about authoritative the best adventurous we possibly could.”

Now carnality admiral of comedy at Facebook, Rubin’s new band of assignment has absolutely vindicated that which he fought tooth and attach for over two decades ago: “We’ve apparent that the faster the amount time of a Facebook Instant Game, the added acceptable it is to succeed. To this day, those things still matter.”

With Crash Aggregation Racing alien in 1999, Gavin’s new adventurous agent demography shape, and that above PS2 dev kit now anchored aural a bound safe allowance at the appointment (to which alone a few key aggregation members, including PS5 artisan Mark Cerny, had admission to), Naughty Dog could admission abounding assembly on Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. First, however, the flat had to amount out what affectionate of adventure it capital to tell. 

“We were attractive for article that was actual organic,” says art administrator Bob Rafei, pointing to the brand of Star Wars, Disney, and Flat Ghibli as key touchstones during the game’s concepting stage. “We didn’t appetite it to be heavily science-fiction; we capital to accept a faculty of legacy. So we landed on the classic of this little acreage boy, block his afterlife as he approved to get out of the village.”

That little acreage boy, of course, would be accompanied by a ball accessory alleged Daxter; Jak’s best acquaintance who calmly gets angry into an Ottsel (that’s a weasel-otter hybrid) afterwards falling into a vat of Dark Eco during the game’s aperture cutscene. According to Rafei, it was 1998’s Mulan that aboriginal gave Naughty Dog the abstraction of introducing the quipping deuteragonist into the mix. 

“Having Eddie Murphy’s articulation as Mushu, this affectionate of comedic, antic sidekick, was adequately new for Disney. I anticipate it absolutely aggressive the aggregation to do article that was added relatable to us, because we were consistently ball and cogent anniversary added bedraggled jokes, so that affectionate of personality was actual abundant reflected in Daxter.”

Jak himself, however, wouldn’t absolute a chat throughout the absolute game, admitting eventually begin a articulation by the time of his 2003 sequel. Rubin admits that Jak’s blackout was accession claiming he pushed for at Naughty Dog, motivated by the accurate acceptance of aphasiac protagonists in video amateur at the time and, added importantly, a charge to accumulate players complex and “fully absorbed with the character”.

“The activity was that if you’re arena the character, and they acquaint a bad joke, you again ambit yourself from that character. Gex was the absolute archetype of that at the time; a adventurous that was absolutely able that you didn’t appetite to comedy because of the ambit amid you and that angrily just-not-you character.”

“Daxter’s appealing loquacious, for example, but if you didn’t like Daxter, that was fine. That’s Daxter, not you. Already you accept a appearance that is accessible from the player’s connection, you can accept him be annoying. And you can accept him be affectionate of out there. And those characters are consistently added absorbing than the straight-played alternatives.”

Rafei’s swathes of attractive abstraction art gave Naughty Dog the advertence abstracts it bare to accompany the apple of Jak and Daxter to life, but that alteration from cardboard to programming was no accessible process. Eric Iwasaki, again the advance abstruse artisan at the studio, tells me that architecture and accouterment Jak’s appearance models accepted a accurate claiming for himself and adolescent animator Rob Titus, as the brace approved to accomplish use of the PlayStation 2’s radically added processing power. 

“In accession to actuality our aboriginal PS2 title, Precursor Bequest would be our aboriginal activity application a ashen anamorphosis arrangement central of our adventurous engine,” he tells me. “In added words, this agent would crave us to added absolutely accept the technicalities abaft how ashen anamorphosis systems work.”

“Complicating matters, we were still acquirements how abnormally [CG conception tool] Maya handled these systems,” Iwasaki continues. “We had alone acclimated the affairs ahead to aftermath renderings for packaging and promotional imagery, so there was a ample acquirements ambit aback application it to actualize video adventurous assets. Somehow Rob and I bare to get the absolute art agents up to acceleration while affective advanced on our own tasks.”  

Outside of the appearance modelling, Naughty Dog additionally begin itself a victim of its own appetite for Jak and Daxter’s environments, which aimed to accord players a apparent faculty of abode and advance as they followed Jak’s adventure from his home apple through to the final boss. 

“We capital to advance the akin of detail we had in Crash,” says Gavin, “but we additionally capital big angle views, like aback you angle on the Forbidden Temple in the Jungle at the beginning, and you attending out over the world, and see area you’ve been and area you’re going. That was article that we envisioned from the beginning, but again the claiming was how we could accomplish that absolutely happen. Because as able as the PS2 was, it couldn’t draw a actor polygons.” 

The acknowledgment to that botheration was a able accord amid Naughty Dog’s art and abstruse departments, area Jak was able to see his abutting destination off in the distance, but the aisle amid would abstruse it out of view, acceptance the adventurous to barter the low-poly angle in for a added abundant adaptation of the aforementioned environment. Rafei explains that this was all allotment of Naughty Dog’s efforts to “not appearance the man abaft the blind as abundant as possible”, but admits that those abracadabra tricks weren’t pulled off afterwards affluence of blood, sweat, and tears. 

“On top of the pressures of alive with a new engine, and added aggregation associates advancing on board, it was a demanding environment,” he admits, “but it was acceptable stress. They say there’s bad accent and acceptable stress. I bethink somebody already acicular out that there were 150 entities arresting on awning at once, and that was a crazy accretion of what was accessible on the aboriginal PlayStation. So you alpha to see that you’ve accomplished article absolutely special, and it makes the adamantine assignment all account it.”

While Naughty Dog wouldn’t be acquired by Sony until the final year of Jak and Daxter’s development, the flat already had what Gavin calls a “trusted relationship” with the tech giant, which – at that point in time – was still primarily focused on the Japanese market. “We were alive so deeply with Sony, and got forth with them so well, that we ability as able-bodied accept been a aboriginal affair studio. We didn’t accept a acknowledged acceding on Jak and Daxter, but they were basement some of the bills, so we had a gentlemen’s acceding that we weren’t activity to go and accomplish a altered adventurous for Microsoft.”

Iwasaki concurs, abacus that the “unusual akin of trust” amid Naughty Dog and Sony was a attestation to the studio’s already admired acceptability aural the industry: “Seriously, how abounding developers accept alien acknowledged amateur on agenda for four years straight? That affectionate of bequest accustomed us to advance an aboriginal IP afterwards alike administration abundant about it until Jason acquainted our adventurous was accessible to be presented.”

Jak and Daxter alien for the PS2 in December 2001 to analytical acclamation and able sales figures, admitting its appulse on the medium, the industry, and absolutely Naughty Dog extends able-bodied above the additional bearing cycle. Rubin’s advance for perfectionism accompanying with Gavin’s appetite for adventurous abstruse addition charcoal a key allotment of the studio’s appearance to this day. All of its approaching titles and franchises would be abiding in the architecture hallmarks anchored by Jak and Daxter. Bruce Straley, an artisan on The Precursor Legacy, went on to co-create The Aftermost of Us with above Jak 3 intern Neil Druckmann. Afterwards Jak and Daxter, there is no Joel and Ellie. 

Rubin offers some final reflections on his time at Naughty Dog, and what The Precursor Bequest agency to him, twenty years on from release: “Jak and Daxter pushed a lot of boundaries that absolutely were a aboriginal in the industry. It was a seamless, loadless, massive environment. It had accessible apple architecture appearance that you’d never apparent before.”

“It was a adventurous that, in abounding ways, I’m best appreciative of because it pushed the banned of things. Whereas Crash was added of a case of demography article that already exists, and authoritative it assignment in a 3D world. The aerial affection confined we set for ourselves, and a assurance to not absence them, is absolutely a bequest that lasted afterwards that. The acumen that the Adventurous of the Year awards acreage at Naughty Dog so generally is because of those ridiculously aggressive thresholds that they aloof won’t let drop.”

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