Mark Cerny has worked extensively in the industry since the age of 17 with Atari, Sega, Crystal Dynamics, Universal, and most recently for Sony with Naughty Dog and Insomniac studios. Cerny opened his own consulting firm in 2002, the aptly named Cerny Games, Inc. In recent years, he has worked with Sony and is the lead system architect for the PlayStation 4, as well as working with Sony's Japan Studio as the creative mind behind the PS4 launch title, Knack.
Mark Cerny graduated from high school at the age of 15. He enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley to study physics, while still devoting much of his time to his two favorite hobbies, programming and gaming. In 1983, a gaming journalist arranged for an interview at Atari, which led to Cerny's first job in video games only a few months after his 17th birthday.
At age 18, Cerny designed and programmed his first game, Marble Madness. Inspired from a design perspective by the physical properties of miniature golf, Marble Madness was one of the best-selling arcade games of 1984.
Cerny left Atari shortly after the release of Marble Madness, and joined Sega in Japan at the age of 21. Cerny was directly responsible for the development of Sega's 3-D glasses for the Sega Master System (over 300,000 pairs of 3-D glasses were sold), as well as titles made to support the Master System's peripherals, such as Shooting Gallery and Missile Defense 3-D.
It was at Sega that Cerny met Yuji Naka, the original programmer of the Sonic the Hedgehog series. Yuji moved to the United States to work with Cerny at Sega of America, where the two would make major contributions to Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Cerny designed and programmed several other titles for the Sega Genesis, including Dick Tracy and Kid Chameleon.
Cerny left Sega to join Crystal Dynamics in the early 1990s to develop for the 3DO, working on such titles as Crash 'n Burn and Total Eclipse.
Cerny, before turning 30 years old, would leave shortly thereafter to become an executive at Universal Interactive Studios, where he was promised significant funding and freedom for product development. Universal took 20 months to develop and publish its seminal title, Crash Bandicoot, in partnership with Naughty Dog. Universal also published the first Insomniac games, Disruptor and Spyro the Dragon. Cerny contributed level design to Disruptor. Cerny served as Executive Producer on all of the aforementioned PlayStation titles, while also contributing level design work to many of them (for example, Cerny designed 26 of the 28 levels in Crash Bandicoot 2).
While at Universal, Cerny developed "Method", now commonly referred to as the Cerny Method. According to Cerny, development should focus on creating a "publishable first playable", where developers continue until they create a level "that showed exactly the game you were trying to make, and once you had the level, then you make 30 of them". If the level is poor, you can abandon development, or begin again. It was on the fourth cycle of this "method" that the primary level design formula for Crash Bandicoot was created. Cerny emphasizes that the purpose of Method is to manage risk so that all risk is in the pre-production phase, in order to create a cleaner, less risk-averse production cycle.
Following Universal's purchase by Vivendi (and later by Seagram's), Cerny left the publisher after losing his ability to greenlight new titles, but would consult on several Crash Bandicoot and Spyro sequels and offshoots through his new company, Cerny Games. Game designer Michael John was Cerny Games' first hire.
Cerny would provide production, design and technology consulting for the next several years, including game engine design and the assembly of the ICE Team at Naughty Dog, a Sony central technology group that assisted PlayStation 3 developers in addressing technical issues experienced during game development for the PS3.
Cerny served as the Lead System Architect for the Sony PlayStation 4. Cerny created and directed Knack during the design and development of the PS4.