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Before They Were Big: A History of Your Favorite Developers (Part 1)
Within the gaming industry, developers often assume a personality and name all their own, sometimes even making them as popular or famous as the games they create. But like any success story, they had a humble beginning, many of them being confined to basements in the early days of their studio’s infancy. Where did they come from? Who started them, and what has led to their unique style of game design?
Join us as we go back to our roots and take a look at a short history of our favorite developers.
As was common of 15-year-olds in 1985, friends Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin decided to create their own games. They soon realized they had some talent in the field, and tasted their first real success several years later with Keef the Thief on PC in 1989. It was with this title that the company started calling themselves “Naughty Dog”. After Keef the Thief, Naughty Dog decided to capitalize on the growing console market, producing Rings of Power for the Sega Genesis. THe game was a fairly difficult RPG back then, and eventually gained a cult following and enjoyed modest success. After that came the disappointing Way of the Warrior, a fighting game widely accused of being nothing more than a poor Mortal Kombat clone. Not too long after, the guys got back up and went on to create Crash Bandicoot, who became a wild success upon release and eventually became Sony’s flagship franchise and response to Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog in the 90’s.
From there, the company has grown larger and larger, both in size and in worth, creating standout franchises for Sony such as Jak and Daxter and the critically acclaimed Uncharted series. They still hold a strong standing in the industry today, working as an internal studio for Sony and producing exclusives for the PS3. Their next release is the highly-anticipated The Last of Us, an apocalyptic survival game to be released in the fall of 2012.
SONY SANTA MONICA
As Sony tasted strong publishing success in the late 90’s, the Japanese company decided to expand its presence in the market by branching out into Europe and North America. Thus, the internal development studio of Sony Santa Monica was born.
The studio started up late in the PS2’s development cycle, and therefore began preparing to develop for next-gen consoles. They constructed their own game engine, eventually using said engine to create their first game, Kinetica. A futuristic racing game, Kinetica featured humans latched on to wheels at both their hands and their feet, acting like human motorcycles as they raced around tracks in a futuristic world. The resulting engine boasted smooth game animation and art style running really well on top of that, eventually leading the engine to be used by both Jak and Daxter and SOCOM Navy Seals.
After Kinetica’s release, Sony Santa Monica brought on Twisted Metal creator and development veteran David Jaffe. Drawing on his interests in mythology and his desire to create an all-powerful, ultra-violent character, Jaffe drafted up the idea for an action/adventure game that would eventually challenge and re-define the genre itself: God of War.
Sony Santa Monica still remains successful today, and their newest announced title is God of War: Ascension, rumored to be a prequel to the beloved franchise. We can expect to hear more of the Sony internal studio’s projects at this year’s upcoming E3.
After writing his own version of the classic game Pong (which he called Gnop!), Alex Seropian went on to found Bungie Software. After Gnop!, Seropian released Operation Desert Storm for Mac, a game based on the war taking place at the time. The title did small sales, but was considered a success for a one-man company. Afterward, Seropian and new employee Jason Jones released action game Minotaur in 1992. While not successful, it began building Bungie’s strong resume of multiplayer innovation by introducing network multiplayer and integrating it into the game.
The company’s next release was Pathways into Darkness, a 3D FPS/RPG that was considered Bungie’s first real success, and made them enough money to fund their next release Marathon. A futuristic FPS, Marathon featured a strong backstory, a trait not common to the FPS of the time that served to pave the way for the strong storytelling and lore of the future Halo series. Network multiplayer was another massive part of Marathon’s gameplay, and Bungie was the first studio to create maps designed specifically for multiplayer matches. Two sequels followed the first Marathon, and the studio then moved on to create a real-time strategy game called Myth. The game continued Bungie’s successful multiplayer record and saw the beginning of Bungie.net, making the studio the first developer to host its own server for online play.
After several internal changes, Bungie began work on the blockbuster hit FPS Halo, and the rest is history. After several successful installments in the futuristic franchise, Bungie has since turned Halo over to newcomer 343 Industries and has revealed that they are currently working on an MMO. And with the strong pedigree they have for online multiplayer innovation, there’s no telling what Bungie can do in the MMO arena.