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Evan Wells gives us the scoop on the final chapter of the Jak & Daxter trilogy...
As the next instalment of Naughty Dogâ??s Jak 3, the teamâ??s follow-up to their best-selling title, Jak II: Renegade and their platinum PlayStation2 debut title, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, is well underway, Derek dela Fuente chatted with the team to find out some of the exciting features and storyline that will captivate gamers.
Together Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy and Jak II: Renegade have sold more than 2.5 million units worldwide, both playing a part in revolutionizing the action platform genre. Combining a variety of genres including driving, adventure, action-platform, puzzles, strategy and exploration, Jak 3 promises to deliver one of the most entertaining and interactive experiences to date.
As you would expect nothing remains the same and in Jak 3 the story starts with Jakâ??s banishment to the Wasteland, a desert environment five times the size of Haven City, with multiple areas including mines and a volcano. Within this huge and varied terrain, vehicles play a large role as off-road transportation is introduced. The action â?“ adventure, with its story based missions and dynamic looks introduces a myriad of suprises. Players will also find a cast of both new and familiar characters that will slowly be revealed as Jak and Daxter begin another adventure that will leave them fighting for their lives.
The storyline tells of one year having passed since Jak and Daxter saved Haven City from Kor and the attacking Metal Heads, yet Haven City is still immersed in deadly chaos as three groups fight for control of the streets. The people of Haven City have grown to distrust Jakâ??s dark powers, and as rumours boil of Jakâ??s ties with Krew and Kor, the city blames Jak for its current woeful circumstances. When the palace is destroyed by a surprise Metal Head attack, even Ashelin cannot protect Jak as the High Councilâ??s power broker, Count Veger, forces Jak into banishment for life to the desolate Wasteland. Upon Jak being flown to the harsh island and dropped off to fend for himself, he discovers that Daxter and Pecker have discreetly followed him to his proclaimed lifetime of hell. With Daxter and Pecker bravely by his side, the three begin their next adventure as they wander the Wasteland and along the way encounter perilous situations, violent battles and devastating consequences
The Interview with Naughty Dog - Evan Wells, Game Director
TVG: Tell us a little about the set up of the Naughty Dog team working on Jak 3. How many are working on this title that worked on previous Jak titles, as a number of personnel have left the company in the last year?
We have about 45 people working on Jak 3 right now (almost 30 artists, 10 programmers, and the rest designers and sound engineers). Almost all of the staff from JakII has continued work on Jak3, though several of the departments have expanded to allow us to meet our aggressive schedule. Naughty Dog has very little turnover and there havenâ??t been too many departures over the last year.
TVG: Will this truly be the end for Jak & Daxter or will the brand continue much like Crash Bandicoot?
Some people have been misinterpreting Jak3 being the last game in the trilogy as it being the end of the franchise. This is most definitely not the case. We are simply bringing closure to many of the questions and mysteries that have been presented in the first two games. It by no means prevents further exploration of the Jak and Daxter universe. Many adventures still lay ahead for our heroes.
TVG: Tell us in your own words where the story and plot line begin and what is the continuation from the last Jak game; will Jak III tie into events from the first game and conclude the series properly?
Jak3 picks up where JakII left off. Right from the opening cinematic, you will see Jak banished to the Wasteland, with many of his past allies turning their backs on him because of his Dark Eco powers. This forces Jak to find his own way as he struggles between his Light and Dark sides. Over the course of the game, players will find out about Jakâ??s mysterious past, and his connection with the Precursors. There are several surprise twists that fans of the series are sure to get a kick out of.
TVG: Jak 2 introduced the concept of an open world and vehicles to the mix; do you have any other drastic surprises in store for Jak III?
When we set out to make Jak3, we wanted to take the freedom that was given to players in JakII and blow it away. We wanted to take the hub of the game and open it up so players were no longer confined to predetermined maze like city streets, which is how we ended up with the Wasteland as the central environment. Players will be able to explore an environment 5 times as large as Haven City but will be able to traverse it in any direction they choose, travelling in realistically simulated dune buggy vehicles. The sense of freedom and openness is a huge leap past JakII.
TVG: Can you tell us about some of the new weapons and Jakâ??s new powers in the game and how they will vary the gameplay; in particular could you expand upon the concept of Light Eco powers?
The 4 weapons from JakII will be back, but you will also be able to find 8 new, complementary weapons. The morph gun maintains itâ??s simplicity of having only four types of ammunition, but each weapon requires a different amount of ammo to fire. This will allow the player to strategically choose if they want to fire a super devastating shot that requires little aiming but at a high cost of ammunition, or to take the more conservative approach of firing a less powerful weapon that requires more precision.
Jak has also gained Light Powers in addition to his Dark Jak Powers. The Light Powers, in contrast to the aggressive, attacking Dark Powers, are defensive in nature. They help to protect Jak, as well as facilitate the traversal of his environment such as giving him the ability to glide.
TVG: What is the gameâ??s layout/structure, is there progression, and what are some of the settings? To add, is diversity a big prerequisite for the team and how many diverse game actions/experience does Jak3 accommodate?
The game begins centred around the enormous Wasteland. Jak will find himself exploring an entirely new city called Spargus, that is inhabited by other people that have been banished from Haven City. Taking on missions that he picks up from new connections, he will explore environments around, under, and above the expansive desert, including a Precursor Monk temple, a Metal Head infested cave, and an active volcano.
Eventually the adventure will lead Jak and Daxter back to a Haven City under siege. The city has undergone major transformation because of the war that is being waged on its streets. Major landmarks will be barely recognizable with the damage that they have fallen under and entire sections of the city have been rebuilt as various factions have taken over.
Diversity has always been a prerequisite for Naughty Dogâ??s action-adventure games. We want to keep players guessing at what will come next in the story as well as what we have in store for them with gameplay. Each mission is something new as Jak will pilot dozens of vehicles, encounter fantastic new creatures and enemies, earn powerful new weapons and Daxter will even get in on the action this time!
TVG: Is technology and creating new effects high on the Naughty Dog list? What exciting visual feasts should the readers look out for?
In typical Naughty Dog fashion, we were unable to rest on our laurels and leave our engine from JakII unmodified. In order to create the enormous Wasteland environment, we had to write an entire new rendering engine, complete with bump-mapping. It also required us to revamp our loading and data streaming technologies, which will now allow us to stream music as well. And just to add a little extra technological polish, we added cloth dynamics, and rag-doll physics.
TVG: Have you been happy with the Jak titles youâ??ve created and the success of the series so far?
Everyone at Naughty Dog is extremely proud of the success the Jak and Daxter franchise has achieved. Weâ??ve sold more than 3.5 million copies of the first Jak and Daxter, and JakII has already sold over 1.5 million units sold worldwide.
TVG: It seems that action/platformers are straying away from the concept of â??collectingâ??; do you agree with this and how do you see the genre evolving into the future?
I think that the action game player is becoming much more sophisticated than they were just 5 years ago. They expect their games to become more sophisticated as well. â??Collectingâ?? is an easy answer to creating gameplay, but as players grow past that, they really want a game to offer a more compelling experience. At Naughty Dog we are trying to push the genre forward by designing our games with a new way of thinking. Rather than approaching a sequel to a game by asking â??What new features can we list as bullet points on the back of the box?â??, we approach the design like we were making an action movie. What are the situations and experiences that we want our character to have to deal with? How will they react to a particular problem or NPC? From these kinds of questions we determine the content of our game.
TVG: What next for Naughty Dog, presumably a new iconic character for the Playstation3?
Currently the entire hard working and talented team here at Naughty Dog is busy at work completing Jak3. What comes next will be decided once everyone takes a long, well-deserved break.
TVG would like to thank Evan Wells for taking the time to answer our questions; Jak III is scheduled for an autumn release in Europe, weâ??ll have a closer look soon.
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