Crash Bandicoot hacked the Playstation

Ars Technica‘s War Stories interviews Andy Gavin to talk about how Crash Bandicoot came to be. Crash, as you may remember, was the unofficial mascot for the Sony Playstation.

The Playstation debuted at a time when 3D graphics were just coming into being. N64 hadn’t debuted yet, there were a few 3DO games, and that was about it. PC hardware couldn’t do 3D well at that time, either. Cards like 3DFX Voodoo wouldn’t come about for another few years.

The concept of character gaming was huge at this time: Nintendo had Mario, Sega had Sonic, but Sony was new to the field and didn’t have anything. This left the door open for Crash Bandicoot to become the unofficial mascot.

But first, they had to work through the challenges of making the game work: The Playstation (years before it would be called PSOne) had limited amounts of RAM. Gavin found that he could eat away at the RAM used by Sony’s C library in bits and pieces without losing any functions he was using. It’s a hack, but it worked.

But that wasn’t enough. Trying to process animations and sending them through the libraries to the GPU was getting them 1/10th of the performance they needed. They had a meeting at Sony that laid out how they could talk directly to the CPU’s math coprocesser instead of using the software Sony provided… and left the strong hint that they didn’t hear it from Sony.

It’s a story of hacks, pioneering game technology, and the sheer reward of making something new at the limits of what the hardware could do. Definitely go watch it.

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