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How Naughty Dog broke Sony's hardware rules to create  Crash Bandicoot

How Naughty Dog broke Sony's hardware rules to create Crash Bandicoot

June 22, 2017 | By Alissa McAloon

"The first thing that totally freaked them out was this idea that the game was constantly reading from the CD at 300 kilobytes a second...They were very worried that if they shipped this game, all the PlayStations in the world would break because their CD drives would melt."

Programmer Dave Baggett shares the story of a programming trick that had Sony sweating bullets. 

With a made-from-scratch remaster of Crash Bandicoot on the way, Polygon reached out to every single member of the development team behind the first Crash Bandicoot game to craft an extensive oral history and nail down how that iconic PlayStation title came to be. 

The full piece is packed with both entertaining and interesting stories from the Crash Bandicoot’s development process and is well worth a read if you’ve got the time. One such story, shared by Naughty Dog co-founder Andy Gavin and programmer Dave Baggett explores how a programming trick had Sony afraid that the game would end up completely breaking PlayStations.

“So I had this idea about how you could use virtual memory [to] basically allow much bigger levels,” explains Gavin. “Like, Crash levels ended up being 32 [to] 40 megs usually, but the machine's memory was only two. Almost everyone else's games had to fit their levels into whatever you're working memory was, like maybe a meg.”

"I was pretty sure that you could basically get the stuff on and off the pages [on] the CD into memory in time for them to be in the background," he said. "What that meant is that Crash loaded three 64K chunks — typically when you're playing the game it loaded three 64K chunks a second off the disc from various locations all over the disc. ... So you could hear the [disc reader] go 'ee-eee-ee-ee-ee,' if you'd listen to the machine as it's going and picking up these chunks of data constantly."

Once Sony ran Crash Bandicoot through its analytic tools, it started getting worried about what the game would do to PlayStation hardware.

“I think it was Kelly Flock, who was one of the heads of [Sony], was like, ‘You're doing what with the CD?’ He's like, ‘This is only rated for, like, 400,000 reads,’” recalled Gavin. If Sony’s estimates had held true, Gavin said a PlayStation CD drive would’ve only been able to handle three weeks of Crash Bandicoot play.

The full oral history over on Polygon is filled with weird little development moments like this, including a look at how the team accidentally created the iconic Crash Bandicoot crates and how Naughty Dog went about making Crash the unofficial mascot for the first PlayStation console.

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