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Descent into Madness: Why One Guy Remade Crash Bandicoot with the Crysis Engine

It sounds crazy because it is. We talk to the developer and the original creators of Crash Bandicoot.

Yann Gilbert is a 22-year-old aspiring game developer who made headlines a few weeks back for publishing proof of something absurd: Crash Bandicoot running in the Crysis engine. Why anyone would attempt to recreate the platformer that placed Naughty Dog on the map back in the 1990s into an incredibly advanced slice of gaming wizardry is a really damn good question. I had to figure this out.

Going through the effort to modernize a video game that represented the bleeding edge of technology more than 15 years ago into, a creation built with disregard to development norms and even guidelines handed down from Sony, endlessly fascinated me. It struck my imagination enough to ask the original creators of Crash Bandicoot, Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin, to chime in on Gilbert's absurd creation.

The apples (er, wumpa wumpa fruits) from Crash Bandicoot have never looked so delicious.

But let's back up for a second. Gilbert doesn't even prefer to be called by his real name, he told me, vastly preferring his Internet handle, Lenox.

"It was easier to remember for people," explained Gilbert--er, Lenox.

(Excuse his slightly broken English, too--he's French and his English is shaky.)

Lenox debuted Crash Bandicoot Return via Mod DB to enthusiastic response, largely driven by the ridiculousness of seeing the cartoonish mascot tossed into a world where, aliens aside, realism is king. Multiple times, he described the allure of Naughty Dog's series as driven by their design philosophy.

== TEASER ==

"The original series never rests on [its] achievements," he said. "There was always changing with each new episode and [there was a] design consistency in the level [design] that I never found elsewhere, aside from other games by Naughty Dog--Jak & Daxter. And as I was lulled into this atypical universe, I think it gave me an indelible mark on my way to create and imagine new universes, like my other projects."

The reason Lenox attempted a dedicated platformer like Crash Bandicoot in a first-person proven technology like Crysis had less to do with the humor of it all than a reflection of his experience. He's been working with the Crysis engine for three years now, so if he was gonna start somewhere...

"It is clear that the engine is not suitable for this type of game, but fortunately, the development is

going well despite the technical constraints," he said, admitting the obvious. "And I like technical challenges, so it's a real pleasure to develop with this engine, especially since it offers many possibilities."

Watching the video of Lenox's recreation of N. Sanity Beach, complete with the original music and sound effects, it's painfully hard to avoid laughing. And sure, while I've used the word already, it's still absolutely appropriate: this is ridiculous. The nonsense is especially poignant while watching someone trying--and failing--to pilot hyper-rendered Crash onto the iconic orange boxes over and over again.

Try. Fail. Try. Fail. Then, laugh. Because why not? It's Crash Bandicoot in the Crysis engine.

Current Crash Bandicoot rights holder Activision has not contacted Lenox about his project, probably because a) he's not attempting to make a profit off it and b) all the code is still on his own computer. These kinds of projects tend to be tolerated by publishers until one or the other begins to change. The franchise has lived on through mobile; the last major release, Crash: Mind Over Mutant, was released in 2008.

What N. Sanity Beach looked like back in 1996.

Crash Bandicoot co-creators Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin haven't been associated with the franchise in years, both having left Naughty Dog to pursue other interests. Both of them, thankfully, agreed to talk to me about Crash Bandicoot Return and seeing their baby rendered with modern tech. Rubin actually had a brief conversation with Lenox, not too long after Lenox debuted it.

"I think that [Lenox] may have a serious game career ahead of him," said Rubin over email. "Sure, I have read that some people didn't like the animation, and others may not have had high regards for the game mechanics. But we have to remember that this is one man's labor, and it is his first game. EVERYONE begins somewhere. Naughty Dog's first games weren't that polished either. What we had was the drive to succeed and pride to show the world what we had created regardless of the reception. This gentleman has it as well. I think what he has done is great, I applaud his efforts, and I wish him the best going forward."

Gavin and Rubin chronicled the stressful development (like their reaction to Super Mario 64) of Crash Bandicoot recently. You really should read it. Rubin told me Lenox's attempt to recreate Crash Bandicoot reminded him of his own journey to do the something similar. One of Rubin and Gavin's first collaborations was to create an Apple II version of Punch-Out!!, with Rubin on art and Gavin working the code. The two of them researched the pet project by heading to a local arcade, observing and snapping photos.

"It looked great," said Rubin. "But my father is an intellectual property attorney and the advice he gave me is ultimately the same advice that I gave to our friend recreating Crash: 'If you have the skill to make someone else's game then you should make your own. Because you can never be sure about obtaining the rights to the original.'"

Lenox poses with his little orange buddy.

To that end, Lenox says he's not much interested in obtaining the rights. He has no idea how much he'll end up recreating and the whole purpose of Crash Bandicoot Return is to pay tribute to the series.

When Rubin and Gavin were developing the Crash Bandicoot games, technology had its limits. These days, most of those limits have disappeared, with the lines in the sand coming from one's imagination.

"The realistic background [of Return] looked good," said Gavin, "but doesn't totally fit. If I were doing it again myself on a next gen console I'd probably try and come up with a sort of 'cartoony realistic' style that was closer to what we did originally. We always went for very photorealistic textures. But there are a lot of things that could be done to make the world look even more like a sort of marvelous cartoon realized. If you didn't the totally goofy character style would totally pop out oddly."

At just 22-years-old, Lenox is just getting started with his development career. He doesn't have an official job making games yet, but he's looking around. Crytek, Ubisoft and Rockstar are top of mind.

"Who knows, he may make the next Crash Bandicoot!" proposed Rubin.

Dream big or go home, right?

Follow the rest of Crash Bandicoot Return's progress at Mod DB.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by patrickklepek

Yann Gilbert is a 22-year-old aspiring game developer who made headlines a few weeks back for publishing proof of something absurd: Crash Bandicoot running in the Crysis engine. Why anyone would attempt to recreate the platformer that placed Naughty Dog on the map back in the 1990s into an incredibly advanced slice of gaming wizardry is a really damn good question. I had to figure this out.

Going through the effort to modernize a video game that represented the bleeding edge of technology more than 15 years ago into, a creation built with disregard to development norms and even guidelines handed down from Sony, endlessly fascinated me. It struck my imagination enough to ask the original creators of Crash Bandicoot, Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin, to chime in on Gilbert's absurd creation.

The apples (er, wumpa wumpa fruits) from Crash Bandicoot have never looked so delicious.

But let's back up for a second. Gilbert doesn't even prefer to be called by his real name, he told me, vastly preferring his Internet handle, Lenox.

"It was easier to remember for people," explained Gilbert--er, Lenox.

(Excuse his slightly broken English, too--he's French and his English is shaky.)

Lenox debuted Crash Bandicoot Return via Mod DB to enthusiastic response, largely driven by the ridiculousness of seeing the cartoonish mascot tossed into a world where, aliens aside, realism is king. Multiple times, he described the allure of Naughty Dog's series as driven by their design philosophy.

== TEASER ==

"The original series never rests on [its] achievements," he said. "There was always changing with each new episode and [there was a] design consistency in the level [design] that I never found elsewhere, aside from other games by Naughty Dog--Jak & Daxter. And as I was lulled into this atypical universe, I think it gave me an indelible mark on my way to create and imagine new universes, like my other projects."

The reason Lenox attempted a dedicated platformer like Crash Bandicoot in a first-person proven technology like Crysis had less to do with the humor of it all than a reflection of his experience. He's been working with the Crysis engine for three years now, so if he was gonna start somewhere...

"It is clear that the engine is not suitable for this type of game, but fortunately, the development is

going well despite the technical constraints," he said, admitting the obvious. "And I like technical challenges, so it's a real pleasure to develop with this engine, especially since it offers many possibilities."

Watching the video of Lenox's recreation of N. Sanity Beach, complete with the original music and sound effects, it's painfully hard to avoid laughing. And sure, while I've used the word already, it's still absolutely appropriate: this is ridiculous. The nonsense is especially poignant while watching someone trying--and failing--to pilot hyper-rendered Crash onto the iconic orange boxes over and over again.

Try. Fail. Try. Fail. Then, laugh. Because why not? It's Crash Bandicoot in the Crysis engine.

Current Crash Bandicoot rights holder Activision has not contacted Lenox about his project, probably because a) he's not attempting to make a profit off it and b) all the code is still on his own computer. These kinds of projects tend to be tolerated by publishers until one or the other begins to change. The franchise has lived on through mobile; the last major release, Crash: Mind Over Mutant, was released in 2008.

What N. Sanity Beach looked like back in 1996.

Crash Bandicoot co-creators Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin haven't been associated with the franchise in years, both having left Naughty Dog to pursue other interests. Both of them, thankfully, agreed to talk to me about Crash Bandicoot Return and seeing their baby rendered with modern tech. Rubin actually had a brief conversation with Lenox, not too long after Lenox debuted it.

"I think that [Lenox] may have a serious game career ahead of him," said Rubin over email. "Sure, I have read that some people didn't like the animation, and others may not have had high regards for the game mechanics. But we have to remember that this is one man's labor, and it is his first game. EVERYONE begins somewhere. Naughty Dog's first games weren't that polished either. What we had was the drive to succeed and pride to show the world what we had created regardless of the reception. This gentleman has it as well. I think what he has done is great, I applaud his efforts, and I wish him the best going forward."

Gavin and Rubin chronicled the stressful development (like their reaction to Super Mario 64) of Crash Bandicoot recently. You really should read it. Rubin told me Lenox's attempt to recreate Crash Bandicoot reminded him of his own journey to do the something similar. One of Rubin and Gavin's first collaborations was to create an Apple II version of Punch-Out!!, with Rubin on art and Gavin working the code. The two of them researched the pet project by heading to a local arcade, observing and snapping photos.

"It looked great," said Rubin. "But my father is an intellectual property attorney and the advice he gave me is ultimately the same advice that I gave to our friend recreating Crash: 'If you have the skill to make someone else's game then you should make your own. Because you can never be sure about obtaining the rights to the original.'"

Lenox poses with his little orange buddy.

To that end, Lenox says he's not much interested in obtaining the rights. He has no idea how much he'll end up recreating and the whole purpose of Crash Bandicoot Return is to pay tribute to the series.

When Rubin and Gavin were developing the Crash Bandicoot games, technology had its limits. These days, most of those limits have disappeared, with the lines in the sand coming from one's imagination.

"The realistic background [of Return] looked good," said Gavin, "but doesn't totally fit. If I were doing it again myself on a next gen console I'd probably try and come up with a sort of 'cartoony realistic' style that was closer to what we did originally. We always went for very photorealistic textures. But there are a lot of things that could be done to make the world look even more like a sort of marvelous cartoon realized. If you didn't the totally goofy character style would totally pop out oddly."

At just 22-years-old, Lenox is just getting started with his development career. He doesn't have an official job making games yet, but he's looking around. Crytek, Ubisoft and Rockstar are top of mind.

"Who knows, he may make the next Crash Bandicoot!" proposed Rubin.

Dream big or go home, right?

Follow the rest of Crash Bandicoot Return's progress at Mod DB.

Staff
Edited by FlamingHobo

After playing little Crash Bandicoot when I was younger, this take on Crash is... creepy (to say the least.)

Posted by Animasta

cool beans

Posted by ptys

Wasn't Crash Bandicoot just a poor mans, Sonic or Mario?

Posted by Video_Game_King

And then the Streets of Rage guy tapped him on the shoulder...

Posted by MooseyMcMan

I think it's awesome. 

Moderator
Posted by Fallen189

They're called wumpa wumpa fruits, not apples

Posted by AjayRaz

ah wow, this is so neat... and weird. o-o 

Edited by Skullomania

Gotta get that Wumpa fruit!

Edit: But no, really I need a nostalgia fix I might just buy this of the PSN... It's the music!!

Posted by Scooper

That is so god damn cool.

Posted by transience

..you really spent hours researching this story, huh? that's kind of really awesome.

Posted by BeachThunder

Heh, I saw this before when I was snooping around for Crysis mods :o I have to say that this looks simultaneously awful and awesome.

Posted by Pickingwings

As long as it's better than Activision's Crash Bandicoot, sure why not?

Posted by GunslingerPanda

It's nice to see interesting articles like this now.

Posted by EnduranceFun

Awesome journalistic piece, Patrick. What with all the revivals going on in gaming right now, a return to 2D platformers on the Playstation would be really cool. 

Posted by Vorbis

Loved Crash Bandicoot back on the PS1 but damn, that's just crazy. Even though the movement isn't quite right it's still pretty great how close it is to the original. Good luck getting a job out of it.

Posted by robbob88

This made me so happy when I first read about it a couple of weeks ago. I would love to see this series return. 

Posted by Kyreo

This looks amazing.  A little janky, but amazing.

Posted by buzz_killington
@ptys: Definitely not Sonic. Definitely not Sonic.
Posted by Ramone

Patrick Klepek is a great thing for Giant Bomb.

Posted by swamplord666

If he could polish this to a game with similar feel to the original games then I'm all over this! I really hope this succeeds!

Posted by Mafuchi
@ptys: I'm pretty sure Sonic was a poor man's Mario, making Crash a hobo's Mario.
Posted by Portis

Patrick, you're killin' it dude. I love this kind of stuff.


I actually saw this awhile back, it looks neat but it also looks like it plays slightly off. But whatever, still cool.
Posted by Tonic7

This seems like one answer to the question, "Yo, how do I get into game design?" Although it is totally janky, it seems like a lot of hard work and not a bad realization of the original.

Also, nice reporting. A good little piece.

Posted by Bobdaman18

Lenox is spelled Lenix at some point...or are those different things? Or was it a joke about Lenox being easier to remember then Gilbert?


Anyway, it looks really weird but i love the passion the guy has to go out and do this on his own. I look forward to seeing his future work.
Posted by Grilledcheez

Ha, I enjoyed reading this article...pretty good job by himself

Edited by _Phara0h_

Lenox props but it feels better when you make something that is your own

Posted by Toms115
@ptys said:
" Wasn't Crash Bandicoot just a poor mans, Sonic or Mario? "
nope
Posted by StealthRaptor

Crash has put on a few pounds over the years.

Posted by craigbo180

Haven't read the article yet but that is fucking rad. Crash has never looked so good.

Posted by zoozilla

I remember seeing this video a while ago and being impressed with all the work that must've gone into it.  It's awesome that the Crash guys recognized it too.

Posted by 11samype

This makes me want a good next gen Crash game, the last few games have been lacking to say the least.

Posted by Evilsbane

Patrick already pulling serious weight, this stuff is worth reading Whoda thunk it?

Posted by EVO

Great article. And that story on the making of Crash Bandicoot is really interesting.

Posted by Spencer

Fascinating read. Klepek is a worthy addition to the Giant Bomb team. Well done.

Posted by artofwar420

@GunslingerPanda said:

"It's nice to see interesting articles like this now. "


 

Absolutely.
Posted by 02sfraser

I think that's awesome. Would be quite happy to see this made.

Posted by FlipperDesert

My inner child just gave this guy a thumbs-up, I would totally try a completed version of this.

Posted by hagridore

Did he fix the save system? But seriously, dude pulled off something cool.

Edited by patrickklepek

Glad you guys are digging this!


Also, I've updated the story to reflect that Crash Bandicoot does not include APPLES but mother effin' WUMPA WUMPA fruits.
Staff
Posted by KillyDarko

Despite the jankiness, it looks awesome, I wish this guy the best of luck out there, he deserves it.
Also, this is great stuff. Thanks, Patrick, keep 'em coming! ^^

Posted by audiosnag

Maaan does this every bring back some memories.
So awesome.

Posted by Vyper

THIS IS THE BEST MOD EVER CREATED IN THE HISTORY OF ANYTHING. Caps well deserved, I love me some crash

Posted by sanzee

THIS IS SO AWESOME. Great job dude!!!

Posted by Mr_Skeleton

Oh Naughty Dog why have you stopped making Crash Bandicoot game? Oh right never mind....

Posted by Y2Ken

I was playing Crash 3 not more than 2 weeks ago. And had a game of Crash Team Racing with a friend a week ago today. Still a fantastic game series.

Posted by Billychu

If he remade a level of Star Fox 64 like this I would just die of excitement.

Posted by Super_Yosh_64

It's cool.  I used to love CB back in the day when it wasn't as shitty.  I really hope they make a new one, but it plays like the old ones.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

It's great to see the kind of crazy investigative journalism that's been going on since Patrick joined GB. And while I find the entire concept of Crash Bandicoot being recreated in the Crysis engine to be really, really, really dumb (as, let's face it, Crash Bandicoot is such a C grade franchise at this point, nevermind that him and Spyro were practically Sony's mascots in the PS1 era), I do like that it exists.

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