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Interview: 'Spyro the Dragon' creator

Spyro the Dragon is back in a new game for the PlayStation  

(IDG) -- You can't be a gamer if you've never heard of Spyro. The dragon that took 3rd person adventure to the next level on the PlayStation is back in Spyro: Year of the Dragon. The Freshman got the goods from Ted Price, founder of Insomniac Games and creator of the most marketable wee dragon on the planet.

GamePro: Think way back to development for the first Spyro game. What led you to the idea of a cute dragon who must save his elders? Did you have any idea it would be as big as it is now?

Ted Price: After we had finished Disruptor (a classic first person shooter for PS-ed.), we had already decided that we wanted to do a 3rd person action/adventure and Al Hastings, our VP of Technology, had already begun working on a screamingly fast engine for the PlayStation. At that point we needed a character and a story. We spent a couple of weeks spewing nonsensical ideas until Craig Stitt, our co-Art Director said, "Let's do a game about a dragon." That caught everyone's attention and we went right into character design for Spyro himself. The story really evolved throughout the project but when I compare it to the much more coherent story in Spyro: Year of the Dragon, it really shows how far we've come in our ability to tell an interesting tale.

GP: What do you think is the Spyro series' best selling point? What makes it such a great game?

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TP: We've tried really hard to make all of the Spyro games strong in every area - from camera and control systems to character AI. But what we hear most often from consumers is that people just love the variety and depth of gameplay that we've put into each title. And on Spyro: Year of the Dragon, we really pulled out all the stops. We spent a lot of time coming up with unique minigames for every level, and when you combine the huge variety of minigames we've built with the fact that there are six playable characters in the game, this latest Spyro chapter really stands out among all action/platformers on the PlayStation in offering something for everyone. We've got skateboarding, boxing, Doom-style shooter sections, water tubes, sub chases, etc., etc. etc. This game is at least twice as big as its predecessors, and in my opinion, it's twice as fun.

GP: Can you tell me a bit about the new playable characters, and what they add to the Spyro franchise?

TP: There are four playable critters in the game. Each has been imprisoned by an evil Sorceress, and when Spyro frees them the player can take control of each critter in specific areas of the game. All four critters have different abilities and personalities, and it's a lot of fun to experience each. There's Bentley the Strongman who is a large furry creature who loves to bash things with his club. Then there's Sheila the Kangaroo who has awesome jumping and stomping abilities. Sergeant Byrd is a penguin with shoulder-mounted rockets and the ability to fly and drop bombs. Finally Agent 9 is a crazy space monkey who loves to toss bombs and blast things with his scope-mounted laser.

Once again, the critters are a great way for us to add gameplay variety to Spyro: Year of the Dragon. They also figure heavily into the story since Spyro can't fight the bosses without their help.

GP: There's been a lot said about the A.C.T. (Auto Challenge Tuning) system. Can you explain briefly how that works?

TP: A.C.T. is a system that Brian Hastings, our VP of Programming, invented to even out the gameplay difficulty curve for players of different abilities. Without going into details, A.C.T. is designed to sense how well a player is doing and interactively "tune" the game's difficulty so that the hardcore players are constantly challenged and so that the novice players don't get frustrated. It really is an amazing system and most players will never know that it's there, working in the background.

GP: The question everyone wants answered: Where is Spyro: Team Racing?

TP: Uhhh, yeah...Well you DO know that there is a new race mode in the Speedways, right? In Spyro: Year of the Dragon, when you go to a Speedway, you can either enter the traditional Adventure mode where you need to complete a course in under a certain amount of time, OR you can try out the new Race mode where you race against the creatures in that world. We've got turbos and rockets spread out along the course to spice things up even more. Heh, heh, and you thought you'd catch me on that one...

GP: Are there any plans for a 4th Spyro game in the future? Maybe for PS2?

TP: Despite the fact that Insomniac Games created Spyro, this is our last Spyro game. If you see one coming out on the PS2, we won't be doing it. It's been an awesome ride with Spyro and I'm happy to say that he's going out with a huge bang in the last of the Spyro trilogy from Insomniac.

GP: What about non-Spyro projects? Anything new down the pipe?

TP: We're working on a PS2 project right now, but unfortunately the only thing I can tell you is that it has nothing to do with Spyro. We're ready to head in a new direction!

GP: Who would win in a fight between Spyro and Nemesis from Resident Evil 3?

TP: Is this a trick question? Let's see...Nemesis is very big, very ugly, carries a really big weapon, kills full-grown humans easily, and has no sense of humor. Spyro on the other hand is small, kind of cute, has no weapons, and can kill small defenseless animals like frogs and sheep. Are you kidding? Spyro would win, of course. Dragons always win against mutants - rule sixty-five in the action/adventure handbook.

GP: Any advice for aspiring game developers with their own cute dragon ideas to create?

TP: Hey, we already did the dragon thing! Pick something else like a banana or maybe a tree sloth. So remember: violence and nudity are...uh...good. And use lots of levels in outer space. See? Now no one can complain that we never gave away our secrets!

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