A key pillar of the initial development of Crash 4: It's About Time was "the difficulty had to be fair and not cheap."
Last week, Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time came to Nintendo Switch. It marks the first brand new adventure for the bandicoot on a Nintendo system in a decade. Before it came out, we had the chance to send over some questions to developer Toys For Bob's Creative Producer Lou Studdert. He talked to us about the challenges of porting the game to Switch and even addressed some of the response to the original launch's difficulty. If you're craving more Crash content, you can check out our review. Thanks to Activision and Toys for Bob for the interview opportunity!
Nintendo World Report (NWR): What was the process of taking Crash 4 on PS4/Xbox One and making it perform well and look nice on Switch? Were there any processes or methods that made the porting process easier? How did it compare/contrast to how you worked on porting recent games to Nintendo platforms?
Lou Studdert (LS): Great question! Bringing a game to a new console really depends on the amazing work that our artists and engineers do to customize our game for the specific hardware. Regarding the Switch, there are several things that needed to be done due to its unique nature. To ensure that the game looked and performed at its best, the team had to make adjustments to the following areas: texture size, static model polys, skeletal mesh bones, shadow map density, light map resolution, particle systems and textures. How this compares to the work that the team did bringing Crash N. Sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited to the Switch? Well, this actually represents a culmination of the work on those two games – for one, we learned the importance of preserving the precision gameplay necessary to a Crash Bandicoot experience by working on the port of Crash N. Sane Trilogy, and we learned all the tricks for the Unreal engine and how to ensure the best presentation of our art through our work in bringing Spyro Reignited to the Switch.
NWR: One of the main criticisms about Crash 4 is that it is unforgivingly hard, even compared to the old ones. How do you feel about that criticism and is there any desire to add accessibility features to the game to combat this?
LS: We knew from the beginning that we wanted to make a game that challenged players, but we set some ground rules for the team that were key pillars of our development process – and one of them was that “the difficulty had to be fair and not cheap.” What this meant for us was that there were no crazy things that unfairly took you by surprise and felt like the game was cheating. If you die – it’s your fault, and there is a way to improve your skills to progress. So, we went through the game with a fine-toothed comb to make sure that the adventure felt that way. Another key mantra for the team was “we want players to see the whole story.” This informed our idea of a difficulty curve and the amount of focus that we put on teaching players the necessary skills to reach the end of the story. One of the big changes we made to the original design of the Crash Bandicoot franchise is the introduction of a “Modern” playstyle which removes the notion of losing lives. This is a choice that the player gets to choose at the start of the game, and one that I recommend all new players try out. So that’s why I think saying “unforgivingly hard” is not exactly characterizing the response we are seeing correctly. Now... reaching a full 106% completion is another story all together… We knew that there have been players who have been playing Crash Bandicoot games for 25 years (Happy 25th Anniversary Crash!!!) so we wanted to make something that really put those players to the test. That audience has been waiting for more than a decade for a new Crash adventure so we wanted to make sure that we made something that they wouldn’t quickly blast through in an afternoon. So really, I do think we made a game that features the proper difficulty level for different groups of players.
NWR: What elements in Crash 4 would be most appealing to the Nintendo player who doesn't have the nostalgia for the original Crash trilogy?
LS: It’s a platformer! Nintendo consoles are the home of the platformer genre. If any player is naturally ready to hop into a Crash Bandicoot game, it’s a Nintendo player. If they’ve never played a Crash Bandicoot game then this is the perfect starting point – we’re providing a tense, exciting precision-based platforming adventure with over-the-top presentation and humor. There’s a TON of content in this game; from 10 different dimensions to play in; Crash and Coco, plus three additional characters to play as, each with their own gameplay; to all of the gem tasks that can be completed in each level; and loads of skins that players can earn. That’s without even mentioning the Time Trial, Flashback Tapes and N. Verted modes which continue to add to the fun. Tons of fun, tons of content, tons of jumping!
NWR: Over the past few years, Nintendo has allowed outside developers to do crossovers with Nintendo IPs, such as with Mario and Rabbids. If Crash was able to cross over with a Nintendo world, which franchise would you want it to be and why?
LS: Ooooooh, this is a tough question. There are some obvious answers – Crash would fit well with Mario on an adventure and could probably hold his own racing Mario Kart for instance... hmmm, so I am going to have to go with a more left field answer. I would actually put Tawna Bandicoot into a Metroid game. Her wall jump move paired with her hook shot would help her get around the labyrinthian levels with ease and her round house kick would definitely bring the pain to the space pirates. That’s an action- packed pairing that I would like to see.