SAGE ’08 In Depth: Best Bits of Eric Iwasaki

SAGE ’08 In Depth: Best Bits of Eric Iwasaki

by August 19, 2008

Naughty Dog Dev is just as disappointed with State of Sonic as You Are

Sometimes going into something cold turkey can bring very warm receptions.

That’s exactly what numerous members of the Sonic fan game community brought upon Naughty Dog developer Eric Iwasaki when he began chatting with members on Sunday.  He even admitted he didn’t know Sonic fan games existed before being invited to the event.  In fact, his only connection to the blue blur are a few sprites he made for the long-forgotten Art Alive game.

Initially a 2D dev, Iwasaki joined Naughty Dog when Crash Bandicoot 2 was in development.  But his history in gaming goes much further back than that.

“Actually, I got started in games a long time ago…made some public domain games while I was still in middle school back in the 1980’s,” he told those in attendance.

Iwasaki was at SAGE to talk to the community about the current and future state of gaming in terms of development and direction.

” I certainly have seen a huge emphasis being put on production values. As an artist who got into games during a time when artists were not really involved in making them, this was originally my main focus. I wanted to be a part of making the games look better,” he said.

Having joined Naughty Dog in the middle of the Crash Bandicoot era, he, like many others at the time, saw the character as Sony’s mascot–their flagship answer to Sonic, or Mario.  He told the crowd he was excited to be a part of that effort, having created the first NURB model of Crash.  But when asked about the state of the bandicoot–which now rests in the hands of Vivendi–he was more somber.

“I get really disappointed when I see the direction Crash went,” he said.  “I definitely refer to the Naughty Dog Crash games as a totally different series.”

He didn’t have much kinder words to say about Sonic, either.

“Sonic? They still make those games? Seriously, what happened to Sonic?” he quipped.  “I had the four Genesis games and absolutely loved every single one of them. The transition to 3D kinda killed it. I keep hoping that the Sonic games would finally get a good 3D one, but there is something about the speed mechanic that isn’t translating well.”

And just to make the complete round, Iwasaki said he’s not a big fan of Nintendo as a whole.  However, Iwasaki had pretty grand things to say about the Jak and Daxter series, presently the crown jewel of Naughty Dog and a series which he has worked on.  He did drop hints that he is working on something new, but couldn’t say what–just that it wasn’t art related for now.

However, Iwasaki did have some advice for SAGEers wanting to get into game design.

“I have been a part of this industry for a long time and I have seen it change dramatically. I look back on the Crash days as the good-old-days, but we did work awfully hard (staying up ’til 4am every night, lots of all-nighters, working 7 days a week). Funny thing is that the hours have improved, but the work itself isn’t as rewarding (largely because it takes so many more people to put a game together,)” Iwasaki said. “The industry has changed a lot from when I got into it, so I can’t speak from experience on how to get involved. But I do see a lot of companies offering internships nowadays. The best thing for an artist is to have a great reel…good animation speaks for itself.”

The full chat log with Eric Iwasaki is available on the SAGE site.  Our team of reporters will continue to give you all the details stemming from these SAGE chats, as well as every other development from this year’s Sonic Amateur Games Expo.