Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex - Concept Pitch

The Wrath of Cortex was the first Crash Bandicoot platformer to come out after Naughty Dog's contract with Universal expired. It was also the first game in the series for the PlayStation 2, so a lot of pressure was involved. Traveller's Tales developed The Wrath of Cortex, but things weren't as simple as they seem.

To investigate how the game came to be, Crash Bandicoot fan iSwamp contacted Mark Cerny, former president of Universal Interactive Studios and executive producer of the Naughty Dog Crash games, as well as designer for Crash Bash. Here are his words regarding the very first decisions made for Crash's first PlayStation 2 adventure:

Photo of Mark CernyThere was a discussion at the time (the year would be 1999) as to whether to create a free roaming Crash for PS2, or a run-along-a-path game like the PS1 Crash games. Ultimately the decision was made to pursue the run-along-a-path type of game -- the reason being that shifting development from Naughty Dog to another developer was risky, and that changing the game type to free roaming would add another element of risk. Now to be clear, when I say "the decision was made," it wasn't my decision, it was the decision of the execs at Universal. I'd already resigned as president, and although I was being considered as a designer for the PS2 Crash game, I certainly wasn't in a decision making capacity at that time.

Had Mark Cerny led the creation of the game, Crash would have probably gone through his first free-roaming adventure. The idea of a free-roaming Crash, however, wasn't realized until years later with Crash Twinsanity.

For the details of the game, I can't recall any -- beyond that we'd shake up the game format and go free roaming. Sorry!

Wanting to know more, iSwamp didn't stop there. After Mark Cerny advised him to contact the director of Traveller's Tales, Jon Burton, he did so with great results. Here's what Jon had to say about the concept for the game:

Jon BurtonAll I can say is that the game was going to be designed by Mark Cerny and his design partner at the time, it was to be developed by TT, and was to be free roaming. No designs were ever done by Mark, and we had to wait until the deal was done/undone with Sony before we could start, leaving us with little time to make the game. For clues as to what the game "might" have been you would have to look at what Mark designed next (Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank etc.). That is the direction that Crash would probably have taken under Mark’s design guidance. Sorry I can’t be of more help... I ran the team that worked on the game (which became Wrath). There was no work done on Mark’s version of the game. Nothing exists...

Though it's disappointing to find out that Mark hadn't created anything before the deal fell through, Jon is a really cool guy and he tried to make up for it:

I have attached a pre-vis of Wrath of Cortex which we produced before we started coding the game. The whole thing was built and animated on Maya, and was used to show Universal what we thought the next Crash (which became Wrath of Cortex) should look like. It is just an animation, but if you look at the final game, it wasn’t far off what we imagined early on...Either way, it’s a piece of the history of Crash...

Amazing! We really can't thank Jon enough. Never had we thought we'd some day get to see such a treat!

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this video is that even something this ancient already had the level Crash and Burn in it. Traveller's Tales must have really liked the volcanic island idea, because they stuck with it from a simple animation done in Maya to the very final product, and as our good hacker friend LXShadow may tell you, a lot of work was put into it.

Thanks go to iSwamp for his research and contributions and, of course, Mark Cerny and Jon Burton for being such generous fellows!

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