Blasto is here to save Uranus!
He's slightly warped, but you would be too if you had to constantly slug it out with slimy alien things!
Charge up you Blast-O-Matic, strap on your rocket pack and prepare for a galaxy-spanning, action- packed adventure!
-Enormous, free-roaming, fully interactive 3D animated worlds!
-Phil Hartman as the voice of Blasto!
-Run, fly, jump, climb, shoot, swim - even ride a big blue alien chicken!
-Action, adventure, beautiful Blasto babes, absurd humor and alien shooting mayhem! What more could you want?
The PlayStation Museum gives you an exclusive interview with the Blasto development team. We questioned Producer Jonathan Beard, Assistant Producer and Strategy Guide author Dan Mueller, Senior Artist Ben Harrison, Animator Tom Tobey and Senior Programmer Dylan Cuthbert. Read on for juicy details about the development of Blasto.
Captain Blasto, the original title of the game, was designed as a unique 3D action shooter with platform elements. Hardcore shooting action combined with a 3D platform world would create a next generation gaming experience.
Blasto was designed from the outset to be a character with such a dysfunctional attitude that would give the player a hernia. There would be a strong emphasis on humor and this would be accomplished with the voice over talent of Phil Hartman.
Although Blasto's attacks would be mostly weapon oriented, an early concept was if Blasto was close enough to a slimy green alien, he would thrust his blaster hand down the alien's throat and blow it up. In the final version of the game, this animation was replaced with Blasto hitting the alien with his blaster.
Blasto captured the look and feel of a Duck Dodgers cartoon filled with bizarre structures and hideously shaped aliens. The graphics were considered a technological marvel due to the fluid polygonal structure of the characters.
PS Museum: It was mentioned that Blasto was inspired by Duck Dodgers. Was Blasto always supposed to be human or did he evolve into the form that we know?
Harrison: Blasto was always human. Captain Blasto was a character I made up about a year before I started at SCEA back in ’95. Ideally, Captain Blasto would have been a cartoon. It just turned out that the opportunity to make the concept into a game presented itself first so I took it. Sony decided against putting “Captain” in the name to avoid confusion with “Captain Quazar”, the other blonde haired, big chested hero game that came out while we were in development.
PS Museum: Did the team consider a ‘profanity card’ where adult users could purchase a memory card to unlock adult-related jokes?
Beard: This was an idea we played around with. It seemed like it made a lot of sense at the time- parents could buy a special memory card for the game that would contain a key to open up profanity within the game. The more we developed the game and the character the less sense it began to make. I believe that Ben & I shared the same opinion that "Blasto" would use certain expressive terms in a pinch; but would not get too colorful with his vocabulary.
PS Museum: What was the most challenging aspect during the development of Blasto?
Beard: Finishing it. :)
There were a number of significant challenges. I think most notable was the transition from 2D to 3D gaming. We take 3D environments for granted nowadays; but back then it was an entirely new medium and filled with problems. Something as simple as the player being able to run past all of the action was not a problem you experienced in 2D gaming. In 3D it was a bitch.
We were also a new team who had never worked together that was being assembled with the game. Our combined lack of experience and explosive ego’s threatened to destroy the game on a number of occasions. The team however were basically a group of great guys who gave up a tremendous amount of time and creativity to pull it all together. Outside pressure was another thing that nearly took us out. The PR & marketing for “"Blasto"” was huge; but was also premature. SCEA wanted an internally developed “next gen” mascot and the spotlight landed on us. Deals were signed and our final date became more and more inflexible. This culminated in a disastrous late launch.
Brisbois: Blasto was a challenge because although it had a somewhat simple, almost cell-shaded look, it was actually very polygon-intensive to create. This was due to the fact that there weren't many textures so everything had to be made with geometry. And also we were using the geometry to create all of the shadows that were within the levels. And the collision detection took up more memory than anyone thought it would. So, as is often the case, we thought we had far more polygons and texture space to work with than we ended up actually having, so there was the typical mad dash at the end of the project to rebuild everything using far less than we had before.
PS Museum: Dave Poe was the original producer of Blasto and your role was lead artist. Dave unexpectedly passed away during the early stages of Blasto development. You stepped up and took over the role of producer. How did you keep the team successfully focused on completing the project?
Beard:The loss of Dave as a producer and colleague was devastating to the team & SCEA as a whole. Dave was one of those incredibly likeable and untainted people you rarely come across. His death gelled the team and enthused us with the task of completing the game- for Dave. I can say in all sincerity that if it wasn’t for his memory I would have left SCEA throughout the course of development and so would a few others.
There was no clever textbook management technique used to focus the team on the game. I had not managed a team of this size, nor worked on a game of this complexity before and so was quickly out of my depth. It is a credit to the team and the daily passion coming from them that the game was completed. Outside of the team our marketing manager and executive staff also played a tremendous role urging and supporting us. Ami Blaire, Allan Becker & Kelly Flock backed us and fought for us through a tough two years.
PS Museum: Was Phil Hartman the team’s first choice for voice over? Was it difficult to enlist the voice talent of Phil Hartman?
Beard: "Blasto" was Ben Harrison's brilliant creation. Long before the game was ever considered, he was hard at work creating the personality and look of his character. When Ben & I began to conceptualize comedic scenes from the game Ben would use Troy McClure's (or someone very similar) voice for "Blasto". Pretty soon every time Tom Toby pantomimed a "Blasto" situation to us he would use Phil Hartman’s voice. I have yet to work on a game where everyone united so quickly on voice talent. We broached the subject with Ami Blaire our marketing manager and she was sold. From then on the impressive machine that is SCEA contacted, and secured Phil Hartman for the voice of "Blasto". We were overjoyed.
PS Museum: Were all the jokes and one-liners created by the development team?
Beard: Ben, Tom & I came up with most of the funny stuff. We did use an extremely talented Saturday Night live writer however. [Editors Note: It was Emmy award winner Matt Wickline] He took our stuff and made it work, as well as adding some great gags of his own. I believe he came up with “Grab a mop. There's gonna be guts on the ceiling!” My personal favorite. Comedy is a pretty subjective thing and reading a joke on paper really kills it. However Phil Harman took what we had collectively created and made it his own. Elements' that never seemed funny became hilarious one liners. The guy could just talk and you would want to crack up.
PS Museum: How was Phil Hartman to work with and how long did it take for him to record his voice?
Beard: Unfortunately I was too busy to attend the voice recording session- :( However Tom and Ben did get Phil to leave me a voice message that was hilarious, as well as doing some outtakes that poked fun at who was the “coolest” member of the team. We were lucky enough to work with a comedic legend who’s voice has yet to be equaled.
The death of Phil Hartman coincided with our E3 release. I arrived at a SCEA party to see "Blasto" paraphernalia being taken down off the walls. I was told of his death and was gutted. For selfish reasons I was of course concerned with how this would now affect the game. He was the star of "Blasto"; and the game was pretty violent so SCEA quietly released the game. Upon reflection and as a father the saddest part of the whole thing is that Phil Hartman was doing "Blasto" for his son.
Harrison: I and Tom Tobey were fortunate enough to get to fly down to L.A. for the recording session. We (Tom Tobey, Amy Blaire and myself) initially met Phil at a hotel on Sunset to go over things and show him some Blasto illustrations so that he could get a feel for the character. He knew exactly what were wanted and nailed it right off the bat. He was a really nice guy. On the way out of the hotel room that night, he asked us what we were planning on doing that evening and suggested a couple of spots we could hit. Right before he walked out the door though in his best Troy McClure voice he says, “ Enjoy your stay in Babylon!”. God we got a kick out of that. The recording session for all the Blasto dialogue was done in an 8 hour day. I got to direct him a little bit and throw some extra things at him to try. He was hilarious. There were many times during the recording that were were all in tears with laughter. He brought his son Sean with him to the recording studio. He was ten at the time. He seemed like a really good kid. He played some PlayStation games in another room while we recorded his dad.
Tobey: We were THRILLED when he actually signed on to do his voice. We had injokes that we all thought were hilarious. SCEA didn't find them as funny, so they hired a Saturday Night Live writer to fill in some of the one liners.
Ben and I got to go down for the taping and we snuck our script down with us. Phil Hartman made every one of our jokes hilarious. I would say 95 % of the script that's ingame came from the team. One of the good ones that the SNL guy did that made it was as Blasto looks at one of the girls he is rescuing, he says "Now I've seen two miracles of modern suspension, the Golden Gate Bridge and that bra!"
The night before the taping, Phil Hartman met us at our hotel room. He actually was a graphic artist and did a lot of album covers in the 70's. The Poco album with the line drawing of the horse with the red eye is his. Anyway, his son was really into the PlayStation, which was why he ended up doing the job. He brought his son to the recording the next day and it was really fun. Eight hours with Phil Hartman is one of my greatest days in the game industry. He did answering machine recordings for us to play on our work phones, and we had him call Jay at work, since he couldn't be there.
PS Museum: Was anything left out of the game due to time constraints that you would have liked to have included?
Beard: The time restraints impacted the game in other ways. Because we were under so much pressure to release, it clouded my judgment. Levels that should have been cut from the game were forced in. Elements that should have been expanded upon such as the Jet-pack were minimalized. Another few months and “Blasto” would have been a more focused and polished game.
Mueller: The whole Swamp level, which was basically done, never made it in to the final release. There was also a secret level with loads of transparencies that didn't make it in. Then there was a very "cute" addition to the intro video that was caught just before the E3 debut fortunately. There were a few Babe animations that were cut from the game due to their more mature nature (Tom did a great job on those animations). There is also a secret warp procedure in the game which I left out of the strategy guide. But the bigger "left outs" where the marketing campaign and Japan release. With the former, Phil Hartman, the voice of Blasto, all the marketing was pulled to make sure it didn't seem like we were capitalizing on his death. This led to the often heard "Blasto? What is that?" For the later, it was decided that the turn around time for working with Sony Japan was detrimental to the production of the next project and the deal had to be terminated. That was also quite unfortunate because all the language and VO translation was already done. I rather enjoyed hearing Blasto and my character (Bosc) talk in Japanese.
PS Museum: Blasto contained some of the most advanced graphics and polygons seen on the PlayStation. The use of simulated z-buffering through software was evident and state-of-the-art for its time. What are you most proud of with Blasto?
Beard: I was lucky enough to be working with some amazing talent. The simulated z-buffering, the streaming (remember few people had even attempted this), some great gameplay moments, and really tight art direction. I am proud of the team for all of this. On a personal note I am especially proud of the art direction. Early PlayStation there was tremendous pressure to chase reality. We decided to go against this and make something very stylized. We used an art director (Ben) and traditionally trained animators (Tom & Dean) to create something notably deferent to the other games in development. I am glad we made that choice. In some ways I feel we pioneered this facet of video games.
Cuthbert: Blasto didn’t have Z-buffering but it used a technique to simulate it in some cases, the technique was “arbitrary plane clipping”, which at the time not many people used (although I also used that technique in the unreleased Starfox 2). The skinned joint system was developed by me, and I also developed all the exporter tools for Alias WaveFront, including the tools to output the stage data which was very interactive for the time. We also used a proprietary scripting system I developed called “Ploppee” that was multi-tasking and object-oriented so we could run little programs on anything that appeared in the stage – for example, we could run a little script on each plane of glass in a particular area that reacts to being shot at (shattering itself and disappearing). We used the scripting language for the interactive music and environmental sound effects too.
PS Museum: There was a rumor that there is a phone number in a bathroom stall in the game belonging to a team member. Is this true?
Beard: This is what happens when you make your team work eighty hour weeks. They rebel and put your phone number on the toilet wall. ;)
PS Museum: Did any design work begin on a sequel to Blasto?
Beard: Tom, Ben, Dylan & I would drink the occasional beer and ponder the future. On one of these occasions (not the one where Ben got thrown in the pool, or the one where Ben & Tom had a fist fight in the back of a school bus, nor the Sunday when we all stripped down to our underwear and hung out in the SCEA fountain); on another completely different occasion. We threw some ideas around for a sequel and how you could follow up a class act like Phil Hartman. The beers led to some lateral thinking and we came up with “Son of Blasto” and decided Chris Rock would be a perfect fit for his illegitimate love child.
Beard: One final thought. I have been making video games twenty years and have worked with many teams and individuals. The “Blasto” team had its share of egos, hard times & tragedy; but if I reflect on the most fun that I have had in this business, it was during those traumatic two years with that group of crazy talented guys.
PS Museum: The PlayStation Museum would like to sincerely thank the Blasto development team and everyone involved for sharing their Blasto experiences.