以下是来自连续创业家Morgan Ramsay最近发行的著作《Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play》的摘录。本书主要描写的是与18位世界上最成功的电子游戏公 司创始人的对话，即关于他们是如何一步步走到现在的位置。amesIndustry International将在此分享Naughty Dog联合创始人Jason Rubin在早期的努力，以及该工作室是如何变 成商界中最成功的公司之一。Jason Rubin和Andy Gavin在1986年共同创造了Naughty Dog，并成为了艺电最年轻的2位承包者。带着在索尼PlayStation排名前10的三款游戏，Naughty Dog从充满生气的初创企业 逐渐发展成为产业巨头，并成为了世界上最具创造性的电子游戏开发商之一。
1994年，该公司创造了自己的第一款授权游戏《Crash Bandicoot》，游戏中的角色更是成为了索尼PlayStation的吉祥物。现在，至少拥有16款游戏的《Crash Bandicoot》系列已 经在全世界范围内取得了5千多万的销量，其中第三款游戏更是成为日本最畅销的国外电子游戏。在与发行商Universal Interactive分道扬镳后，Naughty Dog继《Crash Bandicoot》又创造出了另一款畅销系列游戏，《Jak and Daxter》，但是在2001年被Sony Computer Entertainment所购买。而Rubin和Gavin于2004年离开了该工作室。在Rubin和Gavin离开该公司后，Naughty Dog于2007年面向PlayStation 3发行了《神秘海域：德雷克船长的宝藏》，并在2009年推出续集《神秘海域2：纵横四海》。这款续集游戏 受到了大量的赞许，并获得超过100个奖项，包括在Interactive Achievement Awards和Game Developers Choice Awards的年度游戏奖。
Ramsay：你是何时想要创建Naughty Dog？你又是如何认识联合创始人Andy Gavin？
Rubin：我和Andy是在13岁时于学校里第一次见面。那时的我们都拥有苹果第二代电脑，并且我们都会使用该设备去做一些简单的编程和盗版，而不只是按照老师的吩咐乖乖学习。 所以我们总是一起坐在教室的最后面，谈论着计算机和编程。那时的我们都很年轻，并且不存在有关计算机的任何书籍，网站或其它教学材料，我们只能通过实验与交流获得学习 。
我深刻记得，如果我不断压缩一个文件，它最终会被压缩到只剩1个字节。Andy对此的回答是，你当然不能那么做，解锁键将不断扩展直到变成你开始所面对的整体文件。就像这样 我们领悟到了无数简单的事实，并分享了彼此的想法和窍门，从而引导着我们独立创造“完整的游戏”。需要记住的是，如今我们可以在一个周末便完成一款完整游戏的编写。但 却是伴随着许多问题开始的，如我所创造的一款近乎完成的高尔夫球游戏，Andy因为将某些内容复制到磁盘上而将其彻底毁掉了。我们最终也意识到因为技术问题，我们不可能完 成游戏创造。并且仍有许多其它游戏属于所谓的“不安全”类别。
15岁的时候，即在某次滑雪旅程后，我为一款名为《Ski Stud》的游戏创造了图像和代码。这款游戏看起来很不错，但是游戏却随着滑雪者沿着斜坡下滑而下滑。那时的我已经到 达了编程能力的极限了，所以我联系了Andy。他重写了游戏的核心内容，并创造出非常棒的效果。我们最终决定将其当成自己的第一款发行游戏，所以我们便申请了商业授权去使 用工具绘制精灵。我们将游戏放在Ziploc袋子中“发行”，并在华盛顿周边进行贩卖。别笑。这在当时可是富有竞争性的包装。创造了精灵工具的公司看到这款游戏后便询问了我 们是否可以将其面向全国发行。我们当然同意了这一请求，并因此获得250美元的报酬。如此我们便成为了真正的游戏开发者。
Rubin：我想，那时候的我们就是因为太年轻了所以并未真正意识到自己到底有多年轻。我还记得在艺电开发者讨论会（游戏邦注：艺电每年所举办的国际性开发者大会）中的场景 。那时候我和Andy都只有17岁—-是艺电最年轻的承包者，甚至低于法定饮酒年龄。而酒店的吧台似乎并不在意。我隐约记得那时候我们见到了许多偶像，包括Bill Budge，Will Harvey和Brent Iverson。他们都是较早的游戏开发者，所以都比我们年长。我还记得自己在那时喝了很多酒！
我认为我们应该带着一种较天真的态度去看待作为企业家的自己。我真的认为自己一定能够取得成功。如果我并未拥有这种毫无根据的确定性，我便有可能一辈子都老老实实地发 展着。其实，任何年龄层的成功都不像是真正的成功，只是推动着我们取得更大发展的逻辑进程的一部分。也许这听起来很傲慢，但我真的不是什么杰出人物。我从未认为自己是 与众不同的，但是我一定会支持那些想要变出色的人。
连续创业家Jeff Stibel在面向Harvard Business Review的论坛上写道，企业家精神是一种病。我犯有这种病，并且一部分症状便是不能看清楚世界。也许我因为年轻遭到了区别 对待，但是我却并未注意到这点。
Ramsay：在《Ski Stud》发行后，你们又做了什么？你们是否因此创建了Naughty Dog并制定了业务计划？
我们同意为Baudville创造另一款游戏，而那时候沉寂已久的发行商也终于推出了《Ski Stud》，并考虑到政治元素而重新命名为《Ski Crazed》。我们的下一款游戏名为《Dream Zone》，这是一款面向Apple II，Amiga和Atari ST的图像冒险游戏。在《Dream Zone》取得1万销量后，16岁的我们决定为更大的成功做好准备。
之后我们接到了来自艺电（在当时算是世界上最大的游戏发行商）的救助电话，即表示正在寻找制作人。几个月后，我们便参与了艺电的《Keef the Thief》的创造，即另一款面 向同样系统的图像冒险游戏。说实话，我还是不知道我们到底是如何做到的。这就像是一个在YouTube上拥有50多万点击率视频的小孩突然接到华纳兄弟公司的电话，并且对方希望 找他去拍电影。
基于开发预算来看的话，《Keef》的确卖的很好，所以艺电与我们签订了第二款游戏的创造合约。所以面向世嘉五代的《Rings of Power》便成为了我们创造的第一款主机游戏。 我们花了3年的时间才完成这款游戏的创造，不仅因为是一款大型游戏，而且那时的我和Andy还在不同区域上大学。最终《Rings》广受好评，甚至卖到脱销。
不幸的是，《John Madden Football》这款新游戏出现了。当世嘉告诉艺电他们只能重新排序一个固定数量的暗盒时，艺电选择了《Madden》。作为一款大型角色扮演游戏， 《Rings》比《Madden》带有更多ROM，还有EEPROM去储存游戏。每个《Rings》的暗盒的印刷成本都非常昂贵，并附有版税，因此利润远比《Madden》来的低。显然，对于艺电来说 这是个合理的选择。但是作为开发者，我们便会觉得遭受到不公平的待遇。而艺电只是决定终止给我们的收益。
目—-3DO。他是一个具有说服力的人，但可能是因为他对于系统的强大论点，即来自带有大量内存和磁盘的主机，并保证不会再出现之前暗盒印刷的情况，我们最终妥协了。关于 机遇的讨论并未花太长时间。Trip提供给我们免费的开发包，我和Andy便开始着手工作。因为没有任何发行商，所以这完全需要依靠我们自己的努力，我们甚至还亲自掏腰包去支 持游戏。最终，这款面向3DO的《Way of the Warrior》标志着我们从业余游戏开发向专业游戏开发的过度。但那时的我们仍未制定业务计划。
Rubin：我不记得我们第一次与Trip Hawkins见面是什么时候。但肯定是在《Rings of Power》诞生之前。那时候，艺电还是一家以开发者为中心的小型公司。我敢保证当他发现自 己与2个17岁的黑客签订协议时会有多惊讶。当然，当1988年我们开始创造《Rings of Power》时便已经认识他了。
在完成了《Keef the Thief》的开发后，有一天我和Andy来到艺电的办公室，而Andy意外地发现一台计算机上连接着通向一个银色盒子的线。他立刻想到这是对于世嘉Genesis平台 的逆向工程。即艺电利用了世嘉的系统并未经对方同意而面向Genesies开发游戏。但在那时候，硬件属于绝对机密。Andy指着这个逆向工程系统并说道：“你们在面对世嘉Genesis 进行逆向工程？”之后，Trip和艺电的律师便将保密协议带到了我们面前。我和Andy最终签订了该协议，之后Andy对Trip说道：“《Rings of Power》将会成为一款很棒的世嘉游 戏。”因为我们已经签订了保密协议，并且Trip希望我们能够对这项秘密的项目做出贡献，所以他便立刻同意了。我们也因此变成主机游戏开发者。
Ramsay：1996年，Naughty Dog发行了《Crash Bandicoot》，并成为了你们的第一款授权游戏。这一项目是如何诞生的？
Rubin：当《Way of the Warrior》的开发接近尾声时，我们花了1万美元在消费电子展（游戏邦注：E3的前生）上租了一块3平方米的空间。我们的展位只有3DO展位中一台电视机 的大小。但最终证明我们是通过游戏去号召市场。发行商将他们的开发者带到所有的“多媒体”中。从根本上说，多媒体游戏包含许多糟糕的镜头，互动视频以及半游戏扯谈。他 们太晚才意识到这些内容是卖不出去的，并且自己需要发行真正的游戏。但对他们来说不幸的是，当前只有一款真正的游戏即将完成，也就是我们的《Way of the Warrior》，这 是一款还算过得去的《格斗之王》的山寨游戏。所以便出现了面向《Way of the Warrior》的投标战，并且因为各种原因，最终Universal Interactive Studios成功拿下这款游戏 。
我们选择Universal的一大原因便是，他们愿意资助我们的下一款游戏，并让我们自己决定游戏类型。我们便开车从波斯顿来到了位于好莱坞的Universal Studios这个新家，并在 途中思考要开发什么游戏。我们想，既然已经“成功”征服了格斗游戏，为何不尝试下创造角色行动类游戏？既然拥有预算和团队，为何不“借用”之前的游戏并尝试着创造一些 别人未曾想过的内容？格斗游戏和赛车游戏已经趋于3D，但角色行动类游戏却还未做到。但是一款3D角色行动类游戏会是怎样的，该如何游戏？我们将该理念命名为“Sonic’s Ass”，因为我们认为在3D领域，你就需要绝对突出角色。“Sonic’s Ass”到底会怎样？谁知道，但是在我们的新游戏中，你一定会在看到角色的第一眼便为他欢呼！
同时，来自日本的宫本茂先生和Naka先生也拥有相同的想法。他们两位都为自己的系统创造了大受欢迎且具有标志性的角色，即面向任天堂的马里奥和面向世嘉的索尼克。他们公 司推出的新系统（即任天堂64和Saturn）都将帮助他们把这些角色带向3D空间。宫本茂通过为《马里奥64》提供一个完全开放的场所，并创造一个类似于今天的游戏玩法形式去实 现这点。而Naka则有所犹豫，即最终创造出一款带有3D角色和图像，但是游戏玩法却仍停留在2D领域的游戏。如此，或者是因为他认为将《索尼克》游戏带向3D领域太过危险， Naka同样也选择发行一个名为Nights的全新角色。
未意识到我们两在电子游戏中会做出一些重要的决定，所以我和Andy最终用另外一种方式解决了同样的问题。大多数关卡都被整合到z空间或者屏幕中。我们让角色能够完全基于3D 模式而移动，但却严重限制了一维的自由：即x轴，或左右移动。这便创造出只容得下一些角色的“道路”。虽然这是真正的3D游戏玩法，但却仍是基于经典的2D平台，时间和简单 的互动进行挑战。这同样也不可能让敌人四处移动，迷路，受到攻击而离开屏幕，或离开摄像机镜头—-这也是宫本茂的3D尝试所具有的缺陷。我们尝试着将某些道路留在所谓的“ x和y空间”中而解决问题。在这些关卡中，你将能侧面看到角色。另外，我们还拥有脱离屏幕z轴的关卡。控制角色在摄像机下奔跑能够呈现出一种全面的视角—-当然这也是有缺 陷的。
最重要的是，我和Andy做出了大胆的决定，因为任天堂和世嘉已经拥有自己的吉祥物，所以我们将面向索尼的PlayStation创造游戏。索尼才刚刚接触电子游戏，因此他们还未具有 代表性的角色。那时的我们身处犹他州，花了2天时间进行讨论并最终做出了该决定。作为2名24岁的青年，我们从未创造过一款真正成功的游戏，在车后装了所有的身外之物，便 驱车向洛杉矶驶进。我们申请成为他们的第一批员工，明确了如何才能创造出一款优秀的行动类游戏，致力于他们的第一款3D游戏，并最终创造了一个吸引人的角色和授权游戏。 接下来需要做的便是给索尼打电话并告诉他们，我们为PlayStation创造了吉祥物。这真的很简单。
Rubin：我们都知道困难所在，并也清楚自己能够克服障碍而创造出索尼的吉祥物。尽管我们并不清楚索尼自己是否在创造吉祥物，而如果真的这样便有可能导致我们的彻底失败。 需要记住的是，那时候的我们是与Universal进行合作而非索尼。索尼并不清楚我们在做什么，我们也不知道他们会做何反应。以企业家的身份获得成功需要一定的盲目信仰，无所 畏惧地进入一些愚蠢的领域。我和Andy便拥有这样的信仰。那时候，我们也开始制定业务计划。我们拥有足够的预算，雇员和截止日期。Naughty Dog也真正发展成为一种业务了。
Rubin：在于Universal的协议中，他们同意花钱让我们在Universal Studios露天片场的一块空间里工作。我们获得了免费的电话线，传真机和秘书人员等等。最初，我们甚至无需 为这些帮助而还给他们一部作品。他们只是想要让“有才能的人”在自己的片场中工作，并希望以此给Universal带来帮助。这听起来可能很奇怪，但这一策略的确适合Universal 。那时候我们所面对的协议与Steven Spielberg（游戏邦注：美国知名导演）几乎相同，不过我们所拥有的全部空间且只有他一个人的办公室那么大。
Rubin：Naughty Dog是Universal基于“内务操作协议”带到片场的第一个团队。Universal Interactive的副总裁Mark Cerny自信地将另一个团队—-Insomniac Games带到了片场 。除此之外便没有其它团队出现在片场中，它们是基于标准的开发协议执行任务。
我们可以说Naughty Dog和Insomniac的关系是相互竞争的，但也是相互合作的。我们会评价彼此的作品，有时候还会分享代码，甚至会拿对方的角色充当自己游戏的配角。我们同 样也会在办公室玩进行交流，直到今天我与Insomniacs团队间还保持着紧密的联系。白天的时候我们可能会忙于格子的业务，但是到了晚上，只有那些与你做着同样的事的人才能真正理解你的苦楚与经历。所以我们也是非常要好的朋友。
这种竞争一直持续到今天。我认为，比起Insomniac的《Spyro the Dragon》，Naughty Dog的《Crash Bandicoot》不管是从销量还是质量来看都更具有优势。但同样我也要承认， Insomniac的《Ratchet & Clank》比我们的《Jak and Daxter》取得更大的成功，即从销量和影响来看。而对于《全面对抗》和《神秘海域》到底哪款游戏更成功还是让粉丝们去 评定。因为拥有各种类型，如今的游戏可能比不上之前的游戏，但是在我心中，Naughty Dog和Insomniac中的成员仍然在与自己的兄弟开发工作室相抗衡着。
Ramsay：到1998年，《Crash Bandicoot》可以说是PlayStation上最具讽刺性的三部曲游戏，但那时候你们与Universal的三项目协议已经结束了。所以Naughty Dog是否需要立刻 迁出片场？
Rubin：Naughty Dog决定不再与Universal Interactive续约。那时候《Crash 3》即将问世，而Universal的影响力也在逐渐缩小。索尼提供相关资金并负责游戏的发行，此外他们 还提供了具有价值性的全球制作建议。最初在Universal工作的Mark Cerny为《Crash》的成功做出了巨大的贡献，并成为了独立承包者继续与我们合作。当然，Naughty Dog的主要 任务还是开发游戏。而Universal只是支付知识产权费。
我和Andy决定不再拿收益与那些未做出任何贡献（很难共事）的实体公司分享了。所以我们最终宣布不再续约，并在《Crash 3》完成后离开片场。那时候，Universal Interactive的管理已经失去了理智。
我们被迫在他们的办公室走廊上开发《Crash 3》。尽管基于合约他们仍需要提供给我们办公空间，但是他们却想尽办法来折磨我们。那时我们已经接近圣诞节的截止日期了，所以 我们没有多余的时间进行搬迁。我们只能待在走廊上直到最终完成游戏。那一年，Naughty Dog整个团队每天都会工作16至20个小时，并且没有周末。更糟糕的是，Universal会在 下班后切断办公室的空调电源。要知道，洛杉矶，特别是圣费尔南多谷的夏天有多么酷热。夜晚的时候，特别是在周末，34楼的温度应该超过100度了。一点都不夸张。我们不得不 购买温度计并不断测量温度，因为过高的温度将对工作进程带来巨大的影响。硬盘驱动器的内部温度超过了130度，从而导致服务器的运行持续下降。因为该建筑不允许我们携带便 携式空调，所以我们只能在风扇面前摆着一大桶冰去降低服务器的温度。直到我们最终将空调装饰成冰箱偷偷带进那栋建筑才解决了该问题。
对于那一年Universal Interactive的恶意和无耻的行为我可以列举出无数的例子，但不管怎样，这些都过去了。他们想要打倒我们，但却未能成功。尽管我们不得不赤着臂膀在办 工作前创造游戏，但最终我们仍成功创造出了《Crash 3》。从另一个角度来看，《Crash 3》绝对能为Universal带来数亿美元的利益。但是作为一家公司，他们却未拥有应有的仁 慈，即不能接受我们想要独自决定自己命运的想法。如果Universal能够讲道理一点，今天的Naughty Dog可能仍在创造着《Crash》的相关产品。
《Crash 3》完成的那天，Naughty Dog离开了Universal的片场并开始致力于一款小型赛车游戏。这款游戏并不带有角色。第一个版本只有一些没有特色的赛车手。我们与索尼的关 系非常密切。如果他们与Universal达成了协议并获得相关权利，我们便能够基于《Crash》的角色创造游戏。那时候，Naughty Dog甚至不能与Universal的管理层进行沟通，因为 他们还在气头上。而索尼则想办法帮我们做到这点，因此在离开Universal后我们的第一款游戏便是《Crash》的最终产品：《Crash Team Racing》。
那时的Naughty Dog决定重新开始。尽管大多数成员都致力于《Crash Team Racing》，但Andy，Stephen White和Mark Cerny则开始创造一款全新引擎，也就是之后的PlayStation 2。我和Any使用来自Naughty Dog的400万美元资金开发了《Jak and Daxter》。而这也是我们决定出售Naughty Dog前的最后创造。
Ramsay：你为什么放弃《Crash》而去做《Jak and Daxter》？
Rubin：在《Crash Team Racing》之后，Naughty Dog原本想继续发开《Crash》系列的，但与Universal的关系无法维持下去了。一开始，我们签了三年的项目合同，然而，当Sony 看中《Crash》提出发行意向时，Universal就与对方达成协议了。我们从来没有预料到会出现这样的结果。我们对游戏的控制权实际上是被再次削减了，这是不合理的。我们的成 本和补偿还是一样的，我们付出的努力也是一样的，但我们得到的收益却少得多。另一方面，这意味着Universal几乎不用承担什么营销成本和内部管理成本了，他们甚至最终把财 政成本也推给Sony了。
可以说，他们对项目的贡献接近于零，却分走游戏早期利润的一大部分，比我们得到的收益还多。唯一让我觉得有作为的是Mark Cerny，他是Universal的前员工，当时是我们的项 目制作人。他确实为游戏的成功出了很多力。给他发薪水和工作可以说是Universal对《Crash》系列前几款游戏的唯一贡献吧。但Mark最终离开Universal了，我们开始直接跟他合 作。事实上，他的工资是Sony给的。虽然Mark继续为我们的游戏出力，但不能再归功于Universal。从那以后，他们简直什么也没做，除了收走原来是归我们的，至少一大部分，版 税。
显然，这种局面不可能永远维持下去。我们必须走自己的路，重新开始。《Jak and Daxter》就是斗争的结果。不得不放弃《Crash》且让它变成这么平庸的游戏系列，我们感到难 过，但Naughty Dog不再开发那系列的游戏后，我就觉得无所谓了。它仍然是非常讨人喜欢的系列，有很庞大的粉丝基础。在2010年，我看了《Crash》的Q Scores——由第三方为 大型知识产权项目制作的排名，《Crash》表现不错，作为一个脱离聚光灯已经很久的项目，特别是对那些18到49岁的成年人而言。那些玩过《Crash》的人仍然记得它。当 Activision与Vivendi Universal（游戏邦注：Vivendi和Universal Interactive合并后的名称）合并时，《Crash》的版权又落到Activision手中。我非常希望他们有一天能掸去 落在《Crash》上的尘埃，重塑往日辉煌。
Rubin：《Jak and Daxter》不是为了复制《Crash》的成功而做的尝试，而是为了延续Naughty Dog的“梦想”。那款游戏，或者至少是那款游戏的轮廓在我们开始《Crash》时就 已经存在了，只是被搁置了十年多。它把错综复杂的剧情、激动人心的冒险和严密的玩法无缝地融为一体——基本上是一部可玩的电影。
一开始，我们打算把《Crash》做成带有剧情点和动作事件的游戏，但我们的代码和PlayStation都达不到要求。所以，我们只能近100%地依靠平台玩法。随着《Crash》进展，基本 剧情中加入越来越多情节，推动游戏前进。《Jak and Daxter》用那种方法进入下一关卡，有甚至更多展示性的物理破坏效果和变化的剧情。
Rubin：Andy和我都认为它可以独自过活。《Crash Bandicoot》的版权仍为我们带来大量收入。所有人都想向前走，尝试新东西。Mark Cerny，来自Universal的唯一一个对 《Crash》的成功有过帮助的人，现在是一名自由职业者，而且还继续为我们贡献他的才华。Sony Computer Entertainment仍然为我们提供世界上70多个国家的本土化建议——这 是《Crash》在日本和其他国家这么流行的重要原因。正是因为这些友好的合作，Andy和我才能这么投入地开发制作《Jak and Daxter》。
我们知道我们最终解决了我们与Sony的条款问题，我们现在的关系好得不能再好了。为什么在游戏还没做出来就忙着订签合同？从《Warrior》的自主开发和发行这个案例中，我们 还认识到，好游戏总是能找到进入市场的路。开发者冒的险大，收获就越大。我们已经做好冒险的准备。PlayStation 2只是硬件，虽然所有人都在担心和抱怨，新硬件只是新硬 件。归根到底，硬件也不会阻碍优秀的团队。事实上，新硬件反而会成就优秀的团队。我们不仅准备好了，而且我们已经具备成功的一切条件。
Rubin：我们搬去Santa Monica了。那里似乎是个适合团队发展的地方。在我们离开Universal时，我们曾以为好莱坞对Naughty Dog有点重要。因为我们认为在娱乐产业比较发达的 地方建立工作室比较好。那也是我的搬去洛杉矶而不是跟旧金山的发行商签约的原因。1994年时，游戏似乎越来越“多媒体”，且好莱坞有更优秀的人才。但结果并不是那样的。 洛杉矶虽然确实是个居住和工作的理想位置——有优秀的配音演员、动画设计师、写手和可供团队轻易利用的其他人才，但其他城市也有各自的优势。
对开发者来说，地点不是那么重要，但也要有所权衡。如果你是在像旧金山、奥兰治、西雅图、温哥华、蒙特利尔或奥斯汀那种游戏产业密集的城市，那么你就很容易找到相关的 人才。但雇用的竞争压力也非常大。相反地，如果你是某个小城市的唯一工作室或者少数几个工作室之一，如位于北卡罗来纳的的加里的Epic Games，那么虽然很难吸引到人才， 但工作室更容易维持下去。我认为到哪里都一样，只要能维持下去。
Ramsay：当Naughty Dog在Santa Monica安家落户时，你知道Sony已经在那里建了它自己的工作室吗？
Rubin：我们至始至终都知道Sony在那有一间工作室。Alan Becker是经营那间工作室的人，他也有份参与《Crash》和《Jak and Daxter》项目。但即使被收购后，Sony也是放手让 Naughty Dog做它自己的事。在Andy和我离开前，Naughty Dog是美国Sony Computer Entertainment（归其母公司全权所有，但有它自己的董事会和管理部门）的全资子公司。我们 与其他Sony工作室的关系，包括在Santa Monica的那一间，都是非常亲密的。我们与Insomniac的关系也很好。
Rubin：关于Naughty Dog的收购，有一个有趣的故事，但与Sony工作室没有关系。Andy和我在东京的Lexington Queen夜店时，我们遇到了美国Sony的游戏部门的主管Kelly Flock 、《Game Informer》杂志的Andy McNamara和Andy Reiner。我们讨论继《Crash》之后，Naughty Dog应该何去何从，甚至Kelly也不知道我们当时已经在做什么事。Naughty Dog启 动《Jak and Daxter》项目时，知道这事的只有Shu Yoshida和Connie Booth这两位长期制作人不是我们工作室的。Kelly说Naughty Dog的业务正处于抛物线的顶端，PlayStation 上排名第2、4和7的最畅销游戏都是我们的，且《Crash Team Racing》也很快就要赶上来了。我们现在的局面就是“物极必反”，达到颠峰后只能走下坡路。
这个逻辑像一块砖把我们拍醒了。《Game Informer》的两位Andy不同意，双双跑到桌子另一边想打Kelly，为了捍卫Naughty Dog的荣耀。但Andy和我注视着对方，都意识到他说的 可能是对的。那是我们第一次产生卖掉公司的念头。
Ramsay：《Jak and Daxter》与《Crash》有何不同？《神秘海域》是它的进化版吗？
Rubin：到开发《Jak and Daxter 2》时，Naughty Dog的想法开始成形。在两款《Jak and Daxter》中，我们仍然得通过大削减把玩法从故事中分离出来。但我们这么做的成效并 不明显。《Jak and Daxter》更严肃、更成人向、剧情更复杂，但与我们的想象仍然相距甚远。《神秘海域》最终实现了我们的梦想。Naughty Dog最终梦想成真，这让我很兴奋也 很自豪。可惜的是，那时我已经不在那个工作室了。当《神秘海域2》发布时，我最终看到梦想的碎片汇聚在一起。《神秘海域2》是我们开始《Crash》时就已经打算做的。只是它 花了十年多才付诸实践。
从商业的角度说，《Jak and Daxter》帮助我们挣脱了Universal的枷锁。收益的蛋糕终于只要在制作方和发行方——Naughty Dog和Sony之间分配了。但Sony也想摆脱它自己的桎 梏。他们不想只为了看到像《Crash》中那样的跨平台角色，而制造另一个实际上的吉祥物。Naughty Dog要求签订与Universal的一样的协议，但Sony想要的更多。
Rubin：Sony希望Naughty Dog不会对《Jak and Daxter》做出像Universal对《Crash》做的事：把它发布到对手的设备上。为此，Sony只能购入全部的产权。然而，Naughty Dog不 想再花6年时间折腾一个不属于自己的项目。唯一的解决办法就是，Sony收购Naughty Dog。所以，Sony给Andy和我一个我们无法拒绝的选择，从而解决了这个问题。
对Sony来说，这是明智的决定。特别是考虑到《神秘海域》系列，Andy和我的离开显然是应该的。这对Naughty Dog团队也是有益的。从那之后，我们得以在只有Sony这样的公司才 能提供的帮助下，专注于制作最好的游戏。我们的专注和他们的支持一直持续到现在。但对于Andy和我本人，这是明智的选择吗？回顾过去，我认为是吧。但如果我们继续领导独 立的Naughty Dog，谁知道现在会是什么情况呢！
底线：根据电脑的1997年的日志，我在办公室的电脑前工作了364天，平均每天16个小时。我唯一没有去工作的那天是因为我得了重感冒。那一年，我吃的午饭大部分是从自动贩卖 机里买的。我记得Andy一天都没缺勤。做完第一款《Crash》游戏后，我们已经准备好续篇了。8名员工历时21个月完成《 Crash》，13名员工历时13个月完成《Crash2》，16名员 工历时11个月完成《Crash3》，21名员工历时8个月完成除了新引擎外的《Crash Team Racing》，这种速度应该破纪录了吧。我们赶上四次圣诞发布，很成功，挣了很多钱，但我 们没有休息。
不幸的是，PlayStation 2带来更大的挑战。在团队规模迅速膨胀时，我们却没有时间、经验或远见意识到团队结构的变化。也不是只有Naughty Dog面临这种困境。随着员工年纪 增长，家庭和孩子的问题越来越明显。工作时间成了问题。有些员工愿意早上6点工作到傍晚6点，而有些人则从下午4点工作到凌晨4点。这不是夸张。这么工作当然不行。一个游 戏角色不再是一个人的独立任务。还需要建模师、材质美工和动画师的合作。如果有人是早起的鸟儿，而有的人是夜猫子，他们同时出现在办公室里的时间就不会超过一两个小时 。所以，我提出了一个“核心小时”的工作制度，也就是要求所有人在早上10点半至中午12点半和下午2点至5点半必须在办公室里工作。这样大家就有一段比较固定和长的时间可 以在一起工作了。我仍然记得，员工们对这个新制度感到兴奋，这是他们以前从来没有见过的。不过，我流失了两名员工——他们分别在新制度实行当天和数周后破坏了核心小时 的工作制度。
Naughty Dog是第一批采用核心小时的工作室之一，如果不是第一个的话。三年以后，这几乎成为行业的惯例。团队规模还在膨胀！在PlayStation 1上预算从2百万美元上涨到4百 万美元，在PlayStation 2的预算从1千万美元上涨到2千万美元。尽管我们努力创造一种平等的管理层级制度，团队领导仍然居于最上层。我们有60多名员工，我仍然必须了解他们 每一个人的工作。假设我一天检查所有员工的工作10小时，那就是每人10分钟。
工作压力大，所以我们开始实行每个项目完成后放假一个月的制度。这么做的代价，从预算的角度说，是每个项目超过1百万美元。为了最小化这个成本，团队必须在休假回来当天 准备好新项目。Andy和我在员工休假的那一个月仍然要工作，和Evan Wells、Stephen White等几位核心员工一起准备项目。
当我决定离开Naughty Dog时，我还要解决两个似乎很棘手的问题。第一个是，我不能看着自己以这样的速度继续下去；第二个是，确立新领导，提拔Evan和Stephen，这两位人才 已经有足够的经验和能力带领团队。
团队越大，预算也越大，但游戏机行业还处于鼎盛时期。有些发行商急于扩大团队规模和组建新团队。我害怕Evan和Stephen会因为那个机遇而离开，我不希望Naughty Dog走向分 裂。我们设想的事还是发生了。幸好我在Stephen离开Naughty Dog前要分裂团队的时候制止了他。
我们本可以把Naughty Dog分裂成两支团队，也就是Evan和Stephen分别带领一支新团队，但我认为那时候的Naughty Dog还处于颠峰时期，不应该冒那个险。两个普通或者甚至优秀 的产品，也比不上一个了不起的产品。从历史上看，在一个成功导向型的产业中确实是这样的。如果你看看电子游戏的销售曲线，你会更加相信我所说的。
2002年，Andy和我决定离开Naughty Dog。我们把决定告诉Sony，并且承诺我们将在接下来的两年里把Evan和Stephen培养成合格的接班人。我们也确实那么做了。到开发《Jak and Daxter3》时，我的办公室已经让给Evan了。我越来越少参与管理，更多地是监督指导他的工作。等到《Jak and Daxter3》完工时，Evan已经“出师”了。Andy也是这么培养 Stephen的。但是，Stephen最终决定不带领团队了，可能与我上述提到的原因有关。所以Christophe Balestra就替补上去了。交班过程非常顺利，所以团队才能一直保持良好的状 态到当年完工《神秘海域2》。
另外发生变化的还有，小团队的开发模式在社交、手机和休闲游戏领域复兴了。这些游戏的开发截止日期比游戏机游戏更加宽松。圣诞节对这类游戏发布没有多大影响。游戏设备 越来越便携，并且附加件越来越多，所以游戏开发不再专注于单一的硬件。在游戏机领域，突显自己和组建新团队的机会基本上是不存在的。AAA团队的规模越来越大。当然，团队 副主管可能自己成立小工作室去开发更小的游戏，但AAA经理并不害怕副手流失到其他类似的AAA项目中，因为AAA经理只想做AAA游戏，不担心损失人才。
Andy和我继续向早期的PlayStation 3开发过渡，我认为我们原本也许不必离开。如果我们分裂成两支团队，并且能够继续做出高品质的产品，我们可能会更成功。不过这也不是很 肯定的事，至少那时我决定离开Naughty Dog是因为觉得别无选择了。有些人就是为了一个必须完成的目标而活着。我喜欢在Naughty Dog工作。我喜欢那支团队，我也享受那种工 作和成就感，但我也想丰富人生阅历。如果我继续留在Naughty Dog，有些事情我就永远不能做了。
人生有两条路，我只是选择了在当时看来比较有趣的一条。你永远看不到另一条路是怎么样的，你会总是怀疑自己选择另一条路会付出什么代价。我不后悔自己在2004年10月离开 ，即使给我机会，我也不会回头改变当初的决定。我为Evan、Christophe和所有Naughty Dog成员在我们离开后所取得的成就感到骄傲。
The Rise of Naughty Dog – Part 1
By James Brightman
The following is an exclusive excerpt from serial entrepreneur Morgan Ramsay’s recent book release, Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play. The book features personal conversations with 18 of the world’s most successful founders of video-game companies about their earliest days to where they are now. GamesIndustry International is proud to bring you this exclusive chapter about Jason Rubin’s early days as co-founder of Naughty Dog and how the studio became one of the most successful in the bsiness.
Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin cofounded Naughty Dog in 1986, becoming two of the youngest contractors to develop for Electronic Arts. During its rise from a scrappy startup to an industry powerhouse with three of the top-ten games for Sony PlayStation, Naughty Dog established a reputation as one of the most innovative developers of video games on the planet.
In 1994, the company created its first major franchise, Crash Bandicoot, of which the titular character became the de facto mascot of the Sony PlayStation. Now spanning at least 16 titles, the Crash Bandicoot series has since sold more than 50 million units worldwide, and the third title in the series was the top-selling foreign-made video game in Japan. After parting ways with its publisher, Universal Interactive, Naughty Dog followed Crash Bandicoot with another bestselling series, Jak and Daxter, but not before being acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment in 2001. Rubin nd Gavin left the studio in 2004.
After Rubin and Gavin had left the company, Naughty Dog released Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune for the PlayStation 3 in 2007, and then the sequel, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, in 2009. The sequel received critical acclaim and won more than 100 awards, including the coveted Game of the Year awards at both the Interactive Achievement Awards and the Game Developers Choice Awards.
Ramsay: When did you get started with Naughty Dog? How did you know your cofounder, Andy Gavin?
Rubin: Andy and I met in school at around age 13. We both owned Apple II computers, and the work we were doing with them at the time-from simple programming to pirating-was much more interesting than what the teachers were teaching. So, we would sit in the back of class and talk about computers and programming. We were very young, and there weren’t books, websites, or other teaching materials for computers yet, so we learned by experimentation and communication.
I vividly remember thinking that if I kept compressing a file, it would shrink until it was one byte. Andy replied that you certainly couldn’t do that, as the unlocking key would expand until it was the entire file you started with. It was thousands of simple realizations like that, and sharing ideas and tips, that led the two of us to figuring out how to make “full games” on our own. It is worth remembering that a full game in those days could be written in a long weekend. There were many false starts, such as a mostly finished golf game that I had created, which Andy destroyed by copying something onto the disk it resided on-this was before hard drives. We also had a mostly realized Punch Out clone that we eventually couldn’t finish due to technical issues. And there were many other games that fell in the category now called “not safe for work.”
At around 15, after returning from a ski trip, I did the art and code for a game called Ski Stud. The game looked good, but the game slowed down as the skier got further down the slope. I had reached the limit of my coding ability, so I took it to Andy. He rewrote the core of the game, and it screamed! We decided this would be our first published game, so we applied for a commercial license to use the tool we had been using for sprite drawing. We were going to “publish” the game by putting it in Ziploc bags and selling them around Washington, D.C., the area where we lived. Don’t laugh. That was competitive packaging at the time! The compan that created the sprite tool saw the game and asked if they could publish it for us nationally. We agreed and received a check for $250. We had become game developers!
Ramsay: When you entered the business world, do you remember ever feeling that you were treated differently as a result of your age?
Rubin: I think we were probably too young to notice how young we were. I do remember going to an EA developers’ symposium, a big convention of internal developers that EA held every year. Andy and I were both 17 at the time – the youngest contractors to work for EA and well below legal drinking age. The hotel bar didn’t seem to mind. I vaguely remember meeting all of my heroes: Bill Budge, Will Harvey, and Brent Iverson. They were early game developers who
were all significantly older than me. And I definitely remember having a lot of drinks!
I think you have to have a certain amount of blind, na?ve faith in yourself to be an entrepreneur. I truly believed that it was inevitable that I would be successful. If I hadn’t had such an unfounded certainty in myself, I would have taken a safer route through life. As a result, success, at any age, never seemed like success so much as part of the logical progression toward something bigger. That sounds arrogant, but I wasn’t elitist. I never thought I was special, and I would have supported anyone else who told me that they, too, were destined for greatness.
The serial entrepreneur Jeff Stibel wrote in a column for Harvard Business Review that entrepreneurship is a disease. I have the disease, and part of the disease is not seeing the world for what it is. Perhaps I was treated differently because I was young, but I never noticed.
Ramsay: After Ski Stud was published, what did you do next? Did you incorporate as Naughty Dog and put together a business plan?
Rubin: Business plan? We were 16. Our business plan was to do whatever we thought was cool. Income? Whatever we could make. Expenses? Ask our parents; they paid for the power and rent.
We agreed to do another game for Baudville, now the long-defunct publisher that put out Ski Stud, which had been renamed Ski Crazed for political correctness. The next game was called Dream Zone, and it was a graphic adventure for the Apple II, Amiga, and Atari ST. After selling 10,000 copies of Dream Zone, we decided, as two 16-year-olds, that we were ready for the big time.
So, we cold called the help line at Electronic Arts, which was at that time the largest game publisher in the world, and managed to get a producer on the other end of the phone. A few months later, we were working for EA on Keef the Thief, another graphic adventure for the same systems. Frankly, I still don’t know how we pulled that off. It would be the equivalent today of a kid who has a half-million views on YouTube cold calling Warner Brothers and getting a movie deal.
Keef sold well, compared to its development budget, so EA signed us for a second title. That game, Rings of Power for the Sega Genesis, was our first console title. Rings of Power took three years to make because it was a massive title, and because Andy and I were working from colleges in two different states. Rings was critically acclaimed and sold out of its first pressing.
Unfortunately, so did a new game called John Madden Football. When Sega told EA that they could only reorder a fixed number of cartridges, EA chose to go with 100% Maddens. As a large role-playing game, Rings had more ROM than Madden and an EEPROM for saving your game, and had been developed externally. Each Rings cartridge was far more expensive to print, had a royalty attached, and was thus less profitable than a Madden cartridge. Obviously, it was a smart business move for EA. But as the developers getting the short end of the stick, it sucked! EA just decided to shut off the money flow.
Frustrated, Andy and I took some time away from game development, but it didn’t last long. Eight months later, Trip Hawkins called us and told us about his new project – the 3DO. He is a persuasive man, but possibly his strongest argument for the system was that on a disc-based console with plenty of memory and discs that were readily roduceable, we wouldn’t get screwed by cartridge-printing decisions again! It didn’t take long to discuss the opportunity. Trip gave us free development kits, and Andy and I began work. We had no publisher attached, it was a full-time endeavor, and we financed the game out of our own pockets. Way of the Warrior for the 3DO marked our exit from game making as a hobby and our entrance into game development as a profession. But we still didn ’t have a business plan.
Ramsay: Was that the first time you had talked to Trip?
Rubin: I don’t remember when Andy and I first met Trip Hawkins. It must have been before we began Rings of Power. EA was a small, developer-centric company at that time. I’m sure he was curious to meet the 17-year-old hackers he had under contract! We certainly already knew him by the time we began Rings of Power in 1988.
Andy and I were walking through EA’s offices that year after finishing Keef the Thief, and Andy spied a silver box with a cord attached to a computer. He immediately identified it as a reverse-engineered Sega Genesis platform. EA had hacked Sega’s system and was developing games for the Genesis without Sega’ s permission. They planned, and eventually did, use that ability to negotiate a better platform rate from Sega. But at that point, the hardware was top secret. Andy pointed at the reverse-engineered system and said, “You reverse engineered a Sega Genesis?” The next thing we knew, Trip and EA’s lawyers were in front of us with nondisclosure agreements. Andy and I signed the documents, and then Andy said to Trip, “Rings of Power would make a cool Sega game. ” We were already under a nondisclosure agreement, and Trip wanted us invested in the top-secret program’s success, so he immediately agreed. That’s how we became console developers.
Ramsay: In 1996, Naughty Dog released Crash Bandicoot, which became your first major franchise. How did this project come about?
Rubin: When we were almost done with Way of the Warrior, we rented a three-by-three-foot space at the Consumer Electronics Show – an early E3 – for $10,000. It was the last money we had to our names. Our “booth” really consisted of a one-TV-wide nook in the greater 3DO booth. It turned out that we had called the market just right with our game. The publishers had put their developers on titles they were grandly calling “multimedia.” Basically, multimedia titles consisted of lots of badly shot, interactive video, and weird semi-gaming crap. They all realized too late that this stuff wouldn’t sell and that they needed to be publishing real games. Unfortunately for them, there was only one real game that was nearing completion: our game Way of the Warrior, which was a half-decent knockoff of Mortal Kombat. So, a bidding war ensued for Way of the Warrior, and for a variety of reasons, Universal Interactive Studios won.
One of the reasons that we chose Universal was their enthusiasm for funding our next title and letting us choose what that title would be. We set out by car from Boston to our new home at Universal Studios in Hollywood, determined to decide what to develop along the way. We had “successfully” knocked off a fighting game, we reasoned, so why not try for a character action game? This time, with a real budget and a real team, why not go beyond “borrowing” ideas from past games and try to do something that had never been done before? Fighting games and racing games had gone 3D, but character action games had not been done in 3D. But how would a 3D character action game look and play? We titled the concept “Sonic’s Ass” because we realized that in 3D, you would be looking at the back of the character most of the time. What did Sonic’s ass look like? Who knew, but in our new game, the character’s ass would have to look amazing because you’d be staring at it for hours!
At the same time, somewhere in Japan, Miyamoto-san and Naka-san were thinking the same thoughts. Both were responsible for creating the most popular and emblematic characters for their systems: Mario for Nintendo and Sonic for Sega. The new systems their companies were bringing out – Nintendo 64 and Saturn – would enable them to bring these characters into 3D for the first time. Miyamoto-san went for it with a fully open playground for Mario 64, creating a
form of gameplay that is copied to this day. Naka-san balked and created a game with 3D characters and art, but with gameplay fixed firmly in a 2D space. Because of this, or perhaps because he thought the risk of 3D was too much to risk on a Sonic game, Naka-san also chose to launch a new character called Nights.
Unaware of any of the incredibly important decisions that two of the greatest minds in video games were making, Andy and I solved the same question in another way. Most levels would be into z space, or into the screen. We let the character move in full 3D, but significantly restricted one dimension of freedom: the x axis, or left and right movement. This created “paths” that were only a few characters wide. It was truly 3D gameplay, but also allowed us to keep the challenges firmly in the classic 2D sweet spot of platforming, timing, and simple interactions. It also made it impossible to run around enemies, get lost, or get attacked from off screen or behind the camera – these were weaknesses of Miyamoto’s 3D efforts. We also solved the “ass” problem by keeping some paths mostly in what is called “x and y space.” In these levels, you got to see the character from the side. For good measure, we even had levels that came “out of” the screen’s z axis. Gamers will remember these as the boulder levels. Controlling a character that ran at the camera allowed a full frontal view – with shorts on, of course.
Most importantly, Andy and I made the audacious decision that because Nintendo and Sega already had mascots, we would make our game for the Sony PlayStation. Sony was new to video games, and therefore, they had no legacy characters. We were in Utah after two days of solid discussion when we made the decision. Two 24-year-olds, who had never made a successful game, with all of their worldly possessions in the back of their car, were going to drive to Los Angeles, hire their first employees, figure out what made a great action game, work on their first 3D title ever, and create a compelling character and franchise. Then all that would remain to do would be to put in a call to Sony and tell them we had created the PlayStation mascot. It was simple, really.
Ramsay: Were you aware at the time that all of this would be quite difficult? Or were you two still just winging it?
Rubin: We were both aware of the difficulty, and yet completely sure that we would manage to overcome the barriers and create the Sony mascot. This, despite the fact that we had no way of knowing whether Sony itself was working on a mascot internally, which would have guaranteed failure. Remember, at the time we were working with Universal, not Sony. Sony had no way of knowing about what we were doing, and we had no way of knowing how they would react. Of course, who were we to attempt a game of this complexity and against such great competition? Again, to succeed as an entrepreneur takes a certain amount of blind faith, bordering on raw audacity and possibly entering the realm of stupidity. Andy and I had that kind of faith. By this time, we were certainly doing business planning. We had a budget, we had employees, and we had deadlines. Naughty Dog had become a business.
Although we were both computer hackers, Andy and I were comfortable with business and management. I was treasurer of my senior class and an economics major. I had run multiple small businesses of my own on the side over the years, including a t-shirt printing business while I was at college that sold 50,000 t- shirts in a year. I knew how to use Quicken and budget time on spreadsheets. We never had problems running a business.
Ramsay: When you arrived in Los Angeles, where did you set up shop?
Rubin: As part of our deal with Universal, they paid to put us in a space on the back lot of Universal Studios. We received free phone lines, fax machines, secretarial staff, etc. Originally, we didn’t even owe them a product for all of this free help. They just wanted “talented people” working on their lot, and hoped that would lead to good things for Universal. It sounds strange, but this strategy had worked for Universal. We had roughly the same deal that Steven Spielberg had at the time, although our entire space was the size of his office!
This methodology is totally different from what the game publishers would have offered. EA had given us a budget and expected to get a game in return. If we needed power or desks or a roof over our heads, then we had to figure out how to get that for ourselves. You are either internal or external to publishers. Internal teams get everything done for them, but don’t own or control anything. External teams have to fend for themselves.
We had something in between at Universal. We liked the Hollywood “housekeeping deal” arrangement, and in the end, we signed a three-project deal with Universal that eventually produced hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for them. So, it worked out for everyone.
Ramsay: Were there other internal teams on the Universal lot?
Rubin: Naughty Dog was the first team that Universal brought on the lot under a “housekeeping deal.” Mark Cerny, vice president of Universal Interactive, felt confident enough about only one other team to bring them on the lot – Insomniac Games. All other teams were off-lot and operated under the standard terms of a development deal.
It is fair to call Naughty Dog and Insomniac’s relationship competitive, but only in the best of terms. We critiqued each other’s work, we shared code occasionally, and we even had each other’s characters do cameos in our games. We also spent time with each other outside the office, and I’m still quite close with the Insomniacs today. During the day, we were all business, but at the end of the day, there was nobody else that understood what you were going through more than someone who did what you did. So, we were also friends.
The competition continues today. In my opinion, Naughty Dog had the edge in sales and quality in the Crash days versus Insomniac’s Spyro. But I think it is only fair, in retrospect, to say that Ratchet & Clank was a more successful franchise – sometimes in sales, but also in impact – than Jak and Daxter. I’ll leave it to the fans to judge Resistance versus ncharted. The games are less comparable than past titles because they don’t share a genre, but I know that in their hearts, the guys at Naughty Dog and Insomniac still measure themselves against their brother development house.
Ramsay: By 1998, Crash Bandicoot was an iconic trilogy that defined the PlayStation, but the three-project deal had ended. I assume that Naughty Dog had to vacate the premises soon after?
Rubin: Naughty Dog made the decision to not renew its deal with Universal Interactive. By the time that Crash 3 rolled around, Universal’s role had shrunk to nothing. Sony was financing and publishing the games, and additionally providing valuable worldwide production advice. Mark Cerny, who started at Universal and was a large contributor to Crash’s success, had become an independent contractor and continued to work with us. And, of course, Naughty Dog was doing the heavy lifting of developing the titles. Universal was simply being paid for the intellectual property rights.
Andy and I decided that we were not willing to split the developers’ share of revenue with an entity which was contributing nothing to the mix, which was extremely difficult to work with, and which was actively trying to take credit for Crash’s success. So, we announced that we were not renewing our contract and we were leaving the lot after Crash 3. At that point, Universal Interactive’s management lost their minds.
We were forced to develop Crash 3 in the hallways of their offices. Although they still had a contract to give us office space, they decided to make our lives as miserable as possible. We were under extreme deadlines for a Christmas release, so we couldn’t move the team in the middle of the project. We had to stay in those hallways until the game was done. Naughty Dog was working 16- to 20-hour days that year with no weekends. To make matters worse, Universal refused to pay for the air conditioning in their offices, and thus their hallways, after hours. Los Angeles summers, especially in the San Fernando Valley, are extremely hot. At night, and especially during the weekend, the heat on the thirty-fourth floor passed 100 degrees. This is not an exaggeration. We had to buy thermometers and measure the temperature constantly because the heat was affecting more than our comfort. Our servers were going down because the internal temperatures of the hard drives were going over 130 degrees. And the building wouldn’t let us bring in portable airconditioning units, so we were forced to cool the servers by blowing air over a bucket of ice with a fan. That solved the problem until we managed to disguise an air-conditioning unit as a mini-refrigerator and sneak it in.
I could tell endless tales of Universal Interactive’s spite and contractual misbehavior that year, but that’s all history. They tried to break us. They couldn’t. Although we all worked shirtless at desks in hallways that year, we got Crash 3 done. To put all of this in perspective, Crash 3 was guaranteed to make Universal hundreds of millions of dollars in profit. Yet, as a company, they didn’t have the decency to accept our decision as independents to chart our own destiny. And they were vindictive enough to risk their financial windfall had their nonsense caused us to fail. If Universal had been more humane and reasonable, it is possible that Naughty Dog would still be making Crash products today.
The day Crash 3 was finished, Naughty Dog moved off the Universal lot and started work on a kart game. We didn’t have characters attached then. The first versions had nondescript block-headed kart riders. Our relationship with Sony was always incredibly close. We offered to make the game based on Crash characters, if they dealt with Universal and obtained the rights. At that point, Naughty Dog couldn’t even speak to Universal’s management they were so… apoplectic. Sony managed to do so, and thus our first title after leaving Universal was a final Crash product: Crash Team Racing.
At the same time, Naughty Dog decided to start fresh. While most of Naughty Dog worked on Crash Team Racing, Andy, Stephen White, and Mark Cerny started working on a next-generation engine for what eventually became the PlayStation 2. Andy and I risked $4 million of Naughty Dog’s cash into starting development of Jak and Daxter. This was well before thoughts of selling Naughty Dog entered our minds.
The following Q&A is Part 2 of our exclusive excerpt from Morgan Ramsay’s recent book release Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play. The book features personal conversations with 18 of the world’s most successful founders of video game companies about their earliest days to where they are now. In Part 1 (which you should read now if you haven’t yet) Naughty Dog co-founder Jason Rubin talks about his early days in game development and building Crash
In Part 2 below, Rubin discuss moving on from Crash to Jak and Daxter, the eventual sale of Naughty Dog, and much more.
Ramsay: Why did you leave Crash for Jak and Daxter?
Rubin: Naughty Dog would have liked continuing with Crash beyond Crash Team Racing, but the relationship with Universal was untenable. Originally, we had signed a three-project deal; however, when Sony became enamored with the game and eventually negotiated to publish Crash, Universal cut a deal for a sizable yet much smaller cut of the game than they would have received as the publisher. Our contract with Universal never contemplated this occurrence. We were
effectively crammed down into a cut of their cut. This made no sense. Our costs and recoup were the same. Our effort was the same, but we were getting a much smaller amount per copy sold. On the other hand, the arrangement meant that Universal had no more marketing costs, very little internal management costs, and eventually they even managed to push the financing costs back to Sony.
It is perfectly fair to say that they did next to nothing on the project and yet reaped a larger amount on the early games’ profit than we did. The only reason I cannot say that Universal contributed nothing is that Mark Cerny, a Universal employee, was our producer. He was a massive force in the success of our games. His salary and work could be called Universal’s contribution to the first few Crash titles. But Mark eventually left Universal, and we started contracting him directly. Sony effectively paid for his work. While Mark continued to be incredibly important to our titles, his ontribution could no longer be attributable to Universal. From that point forward, they did literally nothing but collect royalties that should have been, at least in large part, ours.
“Jak and Daxter was not an attempt to repeat the success of Crash so much as move forward on the Naughty Dog ‘dream’ …basically, a fully playable movie. ”
Obviously, this situation couldn’t last forever. We had to strike out on our own and start fresh. Jak and Daxter was the result. It is sad that Naughty Dog had to leave Crash and that Crash went on to be in so many average titles – I’m being kind – after Naughty Dog stopped developing the games. He is still a very endearing character with a huge fan base. In 2010, I looked at Crash’s Q Scores – rankings done by a third party for every major intellectual property. Crash does incredibly well for a character that has had such a long hiatus from the spotlight. This is especially true with adults 18 to 49. Those that remember playing Crash remember him fondly. When Activision merged with Vivendi Universal – itself a merger of Vivendi and Universal Interactive – the Crash rights passed to Activision’s hands. I have high hopes that they will someday dust off Crash and bring him back to his original glory.
Ramsay: Were you looking to repeat the success of Crash?
Rubin: Jak and Daxter was not an attempt to repeat the success of Crash so much as move forward on the Naughty Dog “dream.” That game, or at least the outline of that game, existed when we started Crash, but would not be realized for over a decade and a half. It involved weaving plot and adventure together seamlessly and continuously with tight gameplay – basically, a fully playable movie.
Originally, Crash was supposed to be laced with plot points and action sequences. But both our code and the PlayStation utterly failed on that promise. Instead, we fell back on almost 100% platform gameplay. As the Crash games progressed, more and more plot came in-basic plot, but plot nonetheless, driving the game forward. Jak was an attempt to take that to the next level with even more showpieces-large physical destruction and change-and story.
Ramsay: After leaving what was effectively an abusive relationship, did you think that Naughty Dog could survive as an independent, external studio?
Rubin: Andy and I had no fear that Naughty Dog could go it alone. We were generating significant income from Crash Bandicoot royalties, and the band was still together. Everyone was excited to move forward and try something new. Mark Cerny, who had been the only major contributor to the success of Crash from Universal, was now freelance and continued to add his abundant talent to our endeavors. Sony Computer Entertainment was still giving us advice from over 70 countries around the world. It was just such local knowledge that had made Crash so popular in Japan and elsewhere. It was the fact that we were all so comfortable working together that led Andy and I to make the investment in Jak and Daxter.
We knew that we’d eventually work out terms with our friends at Sony. Our relationship could not have been better. Why bother negotiating a contract upfront when there was a game to be made? We had also learned, from self-financing Way of the Warrior, that there is no such thing as a great game that can’t find a place on store shelves. If you build it, there will be a way to get it to market. And the longer the developer takes the risk, the greater proportion of the reward they reap. We were ready for that risk. The PlayStation 2 was just hardware. As much as everyone worries and complains, new hardware is just new hardware. At the end of the day, hardware never holds up a good team. In fact, new hardware makes good teams shine. Not only were we ready, but we also had everything we needed to succeed.
“Uncharted 2 was the game Naughty Dog set out to make when we started Crash. It took well more than a decade to get there”
Ramsay: Where did you eventually set up shop? Did you want to stay near Los Angeles, or did you look at other locations?
Rubin: We moved to Santa Monica. It seemed like the most comfortable place for the team. Hollywood was of small importance to Naughty Dog by the time we left Universal. Initially, we had thought it was important to be established where the entertainment action was. That was one of the reasons we moved to Los Angeles instead of signing with a San Francisco-based publisher. At that time, in 1994, it seemed that games were going more “multimedia” and that Hollywood would provide better talent. But it didn’t pan out that way. While it was certainly nice to be in the Los Angeles area- where great voice actors, cartoon designers, writers, and other Hollywood talent reside-other teams have been able to harness that talent from other cities with little trouble. Los Angeles is certainly a great place to live and work, but other major cities have their advantages as well.
Location is not that important for developers, but there are tradeoffs to make. If you are in a big, game-centric city like San Francisco, Los Angeles-Orange County, Seattle, Vancouver, Montreal, or Austin, then there is a lot of talent. But there’s also a lot of competition for your staff. On the other hand, if you are the only player, or one of the only players, in town-like say, Epic Games in Cary, North Carolina-then it is harder to attract talent but easier to keep it. I think anywhere works, so long as it works!
Ramsay: When Naughty Dog relocated to Santa Monica, were you aware that Sony was establishing a studio of its own there?
Rubin: We had been aware of the other Sony studio all along. Alan Becker, who ran the studio, was involved in the Crash, and Jak and Daxter, projects. But even after the acquisition, Sony left Naughty Dog to do its thing. Before Andy and I left, Naughty Dog was a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Computer Entertainment America, a company that was completely owned by its parent but had its own board and management. Our relationship with the other Sony studios, including Santa Monica, was very close. And we remained close with Insomniac, who was not under the Sony corporate umbrella.
Ramsay: Did that proximity inspire Naughty Dog’s sale to Sony?
Rubin: There is a good story about how the sale of Naughty Dog came about, but it had nothing to do with the Sony studio. Andy and I were in Tokyo at the Lexington Queen, a Roppongi nightclub that had been a debaucherous hangout for the touring heavy metal bands of the 1980s before it became our favorite 4:00 AM spot in the late 1990s. We were with Kelly Flock, who was then head of Sony’s game division in the United States, and Andy McNamara and Andy Reiner of Game Informer magazine. Suffice it to say, we were not in any shape to drive home, were we to have had cars. We were arguing about what Naughty Dog should do after Crash, and even Kelly wasn’t privy to what we were already doing at that point. Naughty Dog had started Jak and Daxter, but Shu Yoshida and Connie Booth, our longterm producers, were probably the only non-Naughty Dogs who had seen it at that point. Kelly threw out the idea that Naughty Dog was at the
top of the business. We had the number 2, 4, and 7 best-selling games on the PlayStation, and Crash Team Racing was fast catching up, so there was nowhere for us to go as developers but down.
That piece of sick logic hit Andy Gavin and me like a brick. The Andys from Game Informer fought back, literally. They both jumped across the table to wrestle Kelly and defend Naughty Dog’s honor. But Andy and I looked at each other, and we both realized that he just might be right. That is when we first contemplated selling the company.
Ramsay: How was Jak and Daxter different from your success with Crash? Was Uncharted an evolution of your earlier vision?
Rubin: By Jak 2, the Naughty Dog vision started to show through. Through the Jak games, we still had to separate gameplay from story with pretty harsh cuts. We tried to do both at the same time here and there, but there was only mild success in this endeavor. Jak was more serious, more adult, and more interesting in its weaving of plot and game, but it was far from our dream title. Uncharted finally realized the dream. I’m elated and proud that Naughty Dog finally saw the dream to fruition, and sad that I wasn’t there for the final steps. When Uncharted 2 came out, I finally saw the pieces come together and click. Uncharted 2 was the game Naughty Dog set out to make when we started Crash. It took well more than a decade to get there.
From a business standpoint, Jak would release us from our shackles at Universal. Finally, the pie was to be split between only the parties who were making and publishing the game: Naughty Dog, and Sony. But Soy also wanted to be freed from its shackles. They didn’t want to create another de facto mascot just to see the character go multiplatform like Crash. Naughty Dog asked for the same deal that had been struck with Universal, but Sony wanted more.
Ramsay: What did Sony want?
Rubin: Sony wanted insurance that Naughty Dog wouldn’t do with Jak what Universal was doing with Crash: publishing it on competitive hardware. In the end, it only made sense for Sony to own the intellectual property outright. However, Naughty Dog wasn’t willing to spend another six years working on a property that it didn’t own. The only solution was an acquisition of Naughty Dog by Sony. So, Sony solved the problem by making Andy and me an offer that we couldn’
It was a smart financial move on Sony’s part. That was true by the time Andy and I left, but when you add the Uncharted series, it becomes obvious. It was also a good move for the Naughty Dog team. From that day forward, we had a comfortable place to focus on making the best games we could with all the support that only a company like Sony could provide. That focus and support continues to this day. But was it a smart move for Andy and me personally? In retrospect, I think so. But who knows what would have happened were Andy and I still leading an independent Naughty Dog!
Ramsay: When did you and Andy leave Naughty Dog?
Rubin: Andy and I left Naughty Dog in October 2004 at the end of our contracts. There were many reasons. The two major factors were our lack of vacation and the needs of those directly below us in the company hierarchy. I guess it’s fair to say that we desired the first and were enabled to pursue it because of the second.
Triple-A video-game development has progressed from one man and a computer in a weekend to teams of hundreds working in multiple specialties for years. But that progression was not smooth and organized. Andy and I had started making games in 1985 at the end of the “one man and a computer” period. By that time, teams were specializing, with an artist or two, a programmer or two, and sometimes a specialist for sound. There was very little hierarchy on the teams. The developers worked together, but there usually wasn’t much in the way of leadership.
By the time Crash rolled around a decade later, teams had become eight to twelve people on average, and one or two of the members needed to be decision makers. The structure at the time of Crash was flat. In other words, as director, I spoke to everyone on the team directly and I knew what everyone was doing. That meant that Andy and I were usually the first ones in and the last ones out of the offices. Budgets were rising quickly, although they were still what seems today to be a pathetic $2 million. That meant limitations on hiring.
Bottom line: in 1997, I was in the office for 364 days and averaged 16 hours a day on the computer, according to the computer’s logs. The single day that I was out was during the worst part of a bad cold. Lunch that year came out of a vending machine more days than it didn’t. I don’t think Andy missed a single day that year. After finishing a game, we were already late for the sequel. It took 21 months to make Crash with 8 Naughty Dogs, 13 months to make Crash 2
with 13 Dogs, and 11 months to make Crash 3 with 16 Dogs. And the bulk of Crash Team Racing-aside from the new engine-was done in 8 months and 6 days with 21 Dogs, which must be some kind of record. We hit four Christmas releases in a row-30 million units. Big money, but we had no breaks, and it showed on us physically.
Unfortunately, the PlayStation 2 brought even bigger challenges. The team size ballooned, and we didn’t have the time, experience, or foresight to radically change the team structure. This was not unique to Naughty Dog. And as the age of the average Naughty Dog, and developers industry-wide, was increasing, families and children came into the picture. This created time issues. Some Naughty Dogs were happy working from 6 AM to 6 PM, while others were working from
4 PM to 4 AM. This is not an exaggeration. This couldn’t work. A single game character was no longer the task of a single person. There were modelers, riggers, texture artists, and animators all working together. If one was an early bird, and the other was a night owl, they might not be in the office for more than an hour or two together. So, I created the then-novel idea of “core hours.” Everyone had to be in the office from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM and 2:00 PM to 5:30 PM. Those weren’t complete hours. Those were just the hours that an individual Naughty Dog absolutely had to be in the office, so they could work together. I vividly remember the meeting that Naughty Dog had about this new rule. Employees were yelling in ways that had never been seen before. I lost two employees- one that day and one a few weeks later-over the core-hour rule.
Naughty Dog was one of the first, if not the first, developer with core hours. Three years later, almost everyone in the industry had them. And the team sizes just kept expanding! Budgets doubled from $2 million to $4 million on the PlayStation 1 and from $10 million to $20 million on the PlayStation 2. Although we tried to create hierarchy and middle-level management, the team lead was still on top of everything. We had over 60 employees, and I still needed
to know what almost every one of them was doing. Assuming a ten-hour day, that was only ten minutes per person, if I wanted to check in with everyone.
The work was stressful, so we started giving the entire team a month of vacation after every project. The cost of this, from a budget standpoint, was over a million dollars per project. To minimize this cost, the team had to be ready on the day they got back. Andy and I had to work during the month off, preparing everything with Evan Wells, Stephen White, and a few other key people.
“I’m incredibly proud of Evan, Christophe, and the entire Naughty Dog team for what they achieved after we left”
Jason RubinIn addition, bigger games with bigger profits led to bigger marketing campaigns. This created press tours around the world to speak with local media about the titles. The longest one was 20 days in 14 countries. I truly loved the press tours, but it wouldn’t be fair to call them vacations. So, we lost the only month we might have taken time off.
When I decided to leave Naughty Dog, I was looking at two seemingly intractable issues. The first was that I couldn’t see myself continuing at the pace I was going. The second was that, in creating hierarchy and romoting Evan and Stephen, we had created two incredibly talented individuals who had then gained the experience and talent to run teams on their own.
Teams were bigger and budgets were higher, but the console business was still in its heyday. There were publishers itching to expand and create new teams. I feared that Evan and Stephen would leave to jump on that opportunity, and I didn’t want Naughty Dog to go through that division. This was not our imagination. I had managed to pull Stephen back from the brink just before he left Naughty Dog for another opportunity.
We might have split into two teams, with Evan and Stephen running the new team, but I felt at that time that Naughty Dog was at the top of its game and shouldn’t take risks like that. Two mediocre, or even two very good products, wouldn’t be as lucrative as one great one. Historically, this has been true in hit-driven industries. If you look at the sales curves of titles, you will see that this is certainly the case in video games.
Christophe Balestra (left) and Evan Wells
So, in 2002, Andy and I decided to leave Naughty Dog. We told Sony of our decision, and promised that we would spend the next two years making sure that Evan and Stephen were ready to lead the team when we left. We did exactly that. By the end of Jak 3, I was not in the biggest office; Evan was. I did less and less direct management, and more looking over his shoulder. By the time Jak 3 finished, Evan was ready. Andy did the same with Stephen. Stephen eventually decided that he didn’t like running a team, probably for many of the reasons that I’ve mentioned. Christophe Balestra was right there, ready to go. That created the seamless transition that allowed the team to continue to perform at such a high level of success and which led to Uncharted 2, a game of the year.
A few years later, hierarchy had come to the business, and that meant teams self-healed and were more efficient to run at scale. Hierarchy also brought more sanity to development schedules. This is not to say that development has become easy, or that developers don’t put in extremely long hours, but the industry is now more sustainable and less brutal to team leads. There was a certain aspect of the Wild West that disappeared from triple-A development. It was fun at times, but I think we were all happy to see the industry mature and grow out of it.
Other things have changed as well. Smaller teams have returned with social, mobile, and casual games. Deadlines outside of the console space are looser. Christmas is not much of a factor for them. Games are patchable and continue to have add-ons, so development is not so focused on a single-disc release. In the console business, the opportunity to strike out on your own and create a new team is now basically nonexistent. Triple-A teams are being cut in huge numbers. Certainly, a second-in-command can leave to start a smaller developer making smaller games, but the fear of losing your number two to a similar triple-A project isn’t hanging over anybody’s head. Since triple-A managers only want to make triple-A titles, you don’t worry about losing your talent like you did.
Had Andy and I continued through the early PlayStation 3 development transition with our sanity, I think we probably wouldn’t have left thereafter. Had we split into two teams and managed to keep up the quality, maybe we’d be even more successful. It is hard to say for sure, but at the time I made the decision to leave Naughty Dog, I felt like I had no other choice. Some people live for a single purpose-to do the one thing that they love doing. I loved working at Naughty Dog. I loved the team, the process, and the success, but I also love diversity of life experience. I have done things that I never would have been able to do had I stayed at Naughty Dog.
The road had two paths, and I chose what seemed like the more interesting one at the time. You can never see too far past the branch, and you always wonder what you might have given up had you followed the other. I would not give up what I’ve done since October 2004 to be able to go back and change my decision. I’m incredibly proud of Evan, Christophe, and the entire Naughty Dog team for what they achieved after we left.