Spyro the Dragon

Dev Team Notes

  • Mark Cerny pitched that there was a vacuum in the PS market for family games
    • Cerny wanted them to create a full 3d platform where the enemies focused on the player
  • Craig Stitt suggested that they make a game about dragons
    • “The greatest creature. Combines a t-rex, with wings & breathes fire, the best of everything”
  • Al Hastings built a new engine focused on panoramic views to scale huge environments with little resources
    • Not using fog effects
    • Code loaded levels of layers depending on player distance (more distance, less polygons) (uses assembly draw routines)
    • 7 different little renderers that work on different levels of detail
    • Lifts used to add time for the levels to load
    • Some sky boxes are 5000 polygons (no other console could do that at the time)
    • 80% was created with hand-written code
      • Engine was made to create longview (built off of Disruptor engine) of rolling green fields & more complex vistas
  • Brian Hastings pointed out that “if it’s fun to run in circles, then it’s good”
    • AKA: The toy factor
  • Alain Mandrain (lead designer) decided on the enemies that were in the game
    • Everyone contributed eventually afterwards & gave tons of weird enemies
  • Charles Zambilas to create Spyro (also created Crash Bandicoot)
    • Just gave notes that they wanted a dragon-based game
    • Educated the team on how to create design appeal in a character (how to make a character more child-like & cuter for family audiences)
    • Bratty 8 or 9 year old + appealing design of smaller looking dragon
    • Used a sketch made in 2002 of Spyro for their “Reignited Trilogy” box art
  • Developed by 6 team members, 1 dev animated all of the characters in the game
  • Hired Matt Whiting (Nasa scientist) to help design Spyro’s glide mechanic
    • Also helped create the camera controls, initially responded too quick and made players feel sea-sick
  • Spyro is most like Chuck Suong, according to the dev team
    • Very positive & comes back for more

Notes from Ted Price

  • Ted Price said Gliding was what made the game different
  • Ted Price thought Spyro would fail since it was released too late after the platforming boom (1st Spyro game didn’t initially sell amazingly)
    • Didn’t initially click with consumers that a PS player could have family friendly games on the system until they started playing
  • The reason the dev team moved on from Sypro was that the dragon couldn’t hold anything
    • Could have been a joke, but they did transition over to Ratchet & Clank right after Spyro (where Ratchet holds a ton of different weapons)
  • Al Hastings wanted to make a loading screen that was different than the usual black screen (hence the gliding transition between world levels)
  • Needed fodder in each level (sheeps, frogs, etc) as health for Spyro/Sparx
  • Illustrate the differences between enemies via armour (chrome)
  • Helped build some of the levels (Stone Hill). Built in Maya (MEL)
  • Ted & Al came together through their mothers discussing the video game company that Ted created & and that Al was a world-class programmer
  • The dragons all belong to different family types (Beast Masters, Swamp…somethings, etc)
  • Focus group problems with people saying that games like Spyro are kids games
    • Then, people who initially enjoyed the game alone, were pressured into agreeing so to not seem “un-manly”

Development

  • Released Sept 1998
  • Originally Universal was the publisher and sublicensed Spyro to Sony
  • TV interview opening (they wanted a unique start to the game)
  • Spyro name comes from pyro (fire) & spiro (to breathe)
  • The dev team didn’t want Spyro to be green so he didn’t blend into the environment
  • In every, single place that you can super dash, there is a secret place that you can get to (challenge to hardcore players)
  • Japanese title actually gave the developers the idea for the boss for the 2nd game
    • The kanji looks to have spelt “Ripto”
  • Poem held in the code
    • They always end with “And I always get the shemp”…
      • Fake Shemp – actor who has their back turned to the camera
    • Boss in Spyro 1
      • Gotta hit his back to beat him
    • Originated as a developer-in joke; when something didn’t go according to plan, the devs would say “You got the Shemp”
  • 6 worlds created, one for each member of the team
    • Aristans, peacekeepers, magic crafters & machinists were the themes as opposed to fire, ice, water, etc
  • Originally designed as a grown up dragon but thought it wouldn’t resonate with kids
  • Combined the best attitudes of the current platforming big shots: Mario & Sonic
  • Sparkle from a gem can be seen at any distance
  • Bright vivid colours were chosen to stand out from the bland colour palettes of the time
  • Gems are the collectable since it was accepted that Dragons love treasure
  • Original storyline was about Spyro thinking he was a slightly larger dragonfly & figuring out he was a dragon after the village was attacked & trying to defend & rescue everyone

Music

  • Stuart Copeland (of the Police) created the soundtrack
  • 1st video game soundtrack done
    • Step 1: beat the level (not so easy for Stuart)
    • Step 2: within the atmosphere, have a lot of changes happen (give inter complexities more complexities to survive repeat listenings)
  • Used input quantize to play poorly but it outputs quite well
    • Combine with looping, this makes composing fairly straightforward
    • Keeps layering on sounds to create those complexities
    • Also can transpose sections up an octave to provide a transitionary bridge within seconds
  • Composing for PS has full CD bandwidth
    • No limits to what can be used to create soundtracks (even uses full orchestras sometimes)
  • All about creating & releasing tension through different instrumentation
  • Wizard peak was used as the closing theme for the Amanda Show
  • Jacque level was featured on his Anthology album

Voice Acting

  • Initial feedback on Spyro personality “called him a cocky bastard”
    • “entitled little jerk” lol
    • later games changed his writing to be more light & friendly
  • Carlos Alazraqui (voice actor for Crash Bandicoot & Taco Bell dog)
    • Voice they settled on for Spyroc was “a mixture in-between the two styles (high pitched kid & ‘cool older dude’) go-getter kind of guy & kinda tough but really kinda nice”
  • Clancy Brown (Starship Troopers, Highlander)
    • Voices for some of the dragons & major NPC’s

Marketing

  • Avg age of PS players was decreasing since the price of the of consoles became cheaper and more popular
  • Reverse Kirby effect
    • Relates to Kirby being a cute character that was marketed as ‘cool’ whereas Spyro was ‘cool’ but marketed as cute
  • Original name was Pete but Disney would have had a huge problem considering they just released the movie “Pete’s Dragon”
  • Product marketing manager, Amy Blair, suggested putting an “S” in front of their original idea for the dragon’s name “Pyro”
  • Marked as number #39 in terms of top video game characters in the Guinness book of world records
  • Launched with a  suggested retail price of $14.99
    • Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $22

References

  • Levels paid tribute to famous movies
    • Beastmakers hub – Apocolypse now
    • Cliff Town – Star Wars
    • Multiple levels referenced Indiana Jones

International

  • Japanese version of Spyro
    • More sounds for Spyro
    • Sign posts with hints
    • A different camera angle
    • Slow down issues
    • Voiceover (Akiko Yajima) provided more dialogue while gliding or charging