Vicarious Visions is so excited to bring the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy to Xbox One today on June 29. Not only that, but we are fortunate enough to have been able to use this opportunity to give fans an entirely new level, which has been added to Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped! The new level, Future Tense, comes straight out of the twisted minds of designers Ben Dorsey and Stephen Ivanauskas and brings a new level of challenge and depth that few other Crash Bandicoot levels provide.
Experience the N. Sanity
June 29 also marks the first time that a Crash Bandicoot title has released on an Xbox console in 10 years, so we knew we wanted to put our all into giving the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy the treatment it deserves. If you have an Xbox One X, playing the N. Sane Trilogy in native 4k with HDR is a breath-taking experience! We also wanted to make sure Xbox One owners didn’t miss out on the Stormy Ascent DLC level, so we included that in too as part of the base game in addition to adding in the new Future Tense level.
When we were designing Future Tense, we wanted to make sure we honored the legacy of the franchise. Crash Bandicoot has always been about challenging, precision platforming, and that carries on through Future Tense. But we also wanted to provide players a different kind of challenge than we did for Stormy Ascent. Stormy Ascent is all about endurance. It’s throwing you the same types of platforming challenges over and over, increasing the difficulty as you climb higher. Future Tense is about providing a variety in its challenges.
A New Frontier
How do you go about designing a new Crash Bandicoot level? This was the first time that a new level has been built to stand alongside the original trilogy’s existing levels. We started by setting some goals. First, we wanted the level to have a lot of replay value for players. Secondly, we wanted to provide a high skill-ceiling for time trials. And finally, we wanted the level to appeal to long-time fans of the franchise.
With those goals set, we then began evaluating which Crash game and theme set would serve those goals the best. We had already added a new level to the original Crash Bandicoot, so our first thoughts were to choose either Crash 2 or 3. After some debate and investigations, we decided on Crash 3 because we felt that all the abilities Crash has at his disposal in Warped would really allow us to add depth and replayability to the level.
With that decision made, we then had to settle on a theme set to build the level from. While we considered a few different options, it was clear that we all really wanted to do a Future level. The Future level assets are very modular and allowed us extremely fast iteration times. We also felt that the Future set was very under-utilized. It has a lot of interesting hazards and enemies, but there are only two Future levels in the game. We had a lot of great ideas on how to use this set to its full potential, and we feel that we did just that.
Finding the Fun
We wanted Future Tense to feel unique and stand out from Future Frenzy and Gone Tomorrow. Those two levels have a focus on traversal across buildings and pathways, so we decided to go vertical. Combining both 3D and 2D gameplay, we centered the level around a central skyscraper that the player needs to climb. We spent a lot of time prototyping small puzzles using the Future set of hazards and enemies outside of the level itself, selecting the best ones and pulling them into the level. We added some new behavior capabilities to the existing hazards and enemies so that they could move in different patterns or interact with each other in new ways.
Once we had a first pass of the level in place, we conducted studio-wide playtests to get a gauge on both difficulty and fun. Our designers found out quickly that we had built a very difficult level. We tested the level with both Crash experts and amateurs alike. Both were struggling, but when you see a Crash amateur play for 30 minutes and not even be able to make it past the first section of the level, you probably want to tone it down a bit! Luckily, even though our difficulty curve was way off, everyone was really excited about the level and had positive things to say about the concept of the level, puzzle design, and new hazard behaviors. We were on the right track.
What followed was a period of frequent iteration and regular playtests. Through that we were able to refine the level to have a nice difficulty curve in its critical path, with high skill ceilings in the death route and time trials, and interesting puzzles in the bonus area and throughout the level. It really does have something for everyone.
The Future is In Your Hands
Adding a new level into Crash 3 of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy presented some unique challenges. Primarily, we had to tackle the issue of whether the level would be available from the start of the game or unlocked through progression. We wanted players to be able to immediately access the new level with no barriers to entry, but we also didn’t want to make it too easy for players that return to the level after unlocking all the abilities Crash has at his disposal in Crash 3. Finding the right balance of rewarding play for players at all points of progression was a challenge, but I think we nailed it. You’ll find that the primary path of the level is able to be completed regardless of whether you have any abilities unlocked. However, there are areas of the level only accessible with certain abilities unlocked, and you’ll surely be able to get a faster time in Time Trials with your abilities! There are many reasons to return to this level after you’ve progressed farther in the main game.
We are happy to be able to say that you’ll be able to access Future Tense via a platform off to the side of the central hub in Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped regardless of whether you have played any of the other levels. All of us at Vicarious Visions can’t wait to see and hear your thoughts and reactions to Future Tense when you get your hands on it starting today, June 29! I may be biased, but it truly is one of my favorite Crash levels. I look forward to competing on the Time Trials leaderboard with all of you, though I’m sure I won’t stand a chance!