How Naughty Dog Fit Crash Bandicoot into 2MB of RAM on the PS1

“Here’s a related anecdote from the late 1990s. I was one of the two programers (along with Andy Gavin) who wrote Crash Bandicoot for the PlayStation 1.

RAM was still a major issue even then. The PS1 had 2MB of RAM, and we had to do crazy things to get the game to fit. We had levels with over 10MB of data in them, and this had to be paged in and out dynamically, without any “hitches”—loading lags where the frame rate would drop below 30 Hz.

It mainly worked because Andy wrote an incredible paging system that would swap in and out 64K data pages as Crash traversed the level. This was a “full stack” tour de force, in that it ran the gamut from high-level memory management to opcode-level DMA coding. Andy even controlled the physical layout of bytes on the CD-ROM disk so that—even at 300KB/sec—the PS1 could load the data for each piece of a given level by the time Crash ended up there.

I wrote the packer tool that took the resources—sounds, art, lisp control code for critters, etc.—and packed them into 64K pages for Andy’s system. (Incidentally, this problem—producing the ideal packing into fixed-sized pages of a set of arbitrarily-sized objects—is NP-complete, and therefore likely impossible to solve optimally in polynomial—i.e., reasonable—time.)

Some levels barely fit, and my packer used a variety of algorithms (first-fit, best-fit, etc.) to try to find the best packing, including a stochastic search akin to the gradient descent process used in Simulated annealing. Basically, I had a whole bunch of different packing strategies, and would try them all and use the best result.

The problem with using a random guided search like that, though, is that you never know if you’re going to get the same result again. Some Crash levels fit into the maximum allowed number of pages (I think it was 21) only by virtue of the stochastic packer “getting lucky”. This meant that once you had the level packed, you might change the code for a turtle and never be able to find a 21-page packing again. There were times when one of the artists would want to change something, and it would blow out the page count, and we’d have to change other stuff semi-randomly until the packer again found a packing that worked. Try explaining this to a crabby artist at 3 in the morning. 🙂

By far the best part in retrospect—and the worst part at the time—was getting the core C/assembly code to fit. We were literally days away from the drop-dead date for the “gold master”—our last chance to make the holiday season before we lost the entire year—and we were randomly permuting C code into semantically identical but syntactically different manifestations to get the compiler to produce code that was 200, 125, 50, then 8 bytes smaller. Permuting as in, ”

for (i=0; i < x; i++)

“—what happens if we rewrite that as a while loop using a variable we already used above for something else? This was after we’d already exhausted the usual tricks of, e.g., stuffing data into the lower two bits of pointers (which only works because all addresses on the R3000 were 4-byte aligned).

Ultimately Crash fit into the PS1’s memory with 4 bytes to spare. Yes, 4 bytes out of 2097152. Good times.”

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood|Review


Assassin’s Creed is one of those games that you go into not expecting to spend much time. Unfortunately, you get dragged into the the side missions and scavenging that you start to forget how much time you’re spending.  The game starts off slow but the later levels starts to really pick up. When you do get to those later levels it’s some really satisfying game-play which force you to use several stealth mechanics. The game’s shining improvement is it’s implementation of a Assassin’s Guild which is a surprisingly deep system. In this system, you can recruit and train assassins to fight for you anywhere and send them on contracts around the globe to gain experience. The more territory in Rome you acquire the more assassins you are allowed to recruit.

Though the main missions of the game had many fillers it was still interesting enough to keep me going. I found that scavenging for lost glyphs and listening to the audio recording on them equally engrossing. Finding out information about the Illuminati-like organization known as Abstergo offers some thought provoking commentary on capitalist governments, consumerism, and privacy. Sadly, a lot of the material seems chillingly familiar to U.S policies. One gripe I had with the game is that there isn’t any option to change difficulty. This is a big gripe for me because I usually play my games on hard difficulty and this game seemed too easy at some points especially when you have assassin’s that can do most of the fighting for you. After beating the game, Brotherhood will still have plenty replay value. You will most likely have plenty of guild missions to keep you occupied for several hours and there is also an extra romance mission to wrap things up for Ezio.

If you haven’t played it yet, I would recommend you to pick this thing out of a bargain bin. It’s well worth it. It should be dirt cheap at this point. I bought mine for 8 bucks at Gamestop.

Dishonored | Review


Dishonored  takes many elements from the shooting genre that works well and meshes it into one solid shooter. If I had to explain Dishonored in three words, I would just say, Bioshock with Stealth. The stealth mechanics of this game are tight with several abilities that make it very interesting: From teleportation to possessing animals. You use  variety of skills to get  your objective done.

The downfall of playing the stealthy approach is that many explorative players will find themselves bored. This is  because after a while there is no reason to pick up runes to upgrade.  All the stealthy upgrades are quickly brought up. The developers of this game made it so you can save the game at anytime . So it’s basically irresistible to play the morally sound route but in all honestly is probably not the funnest way to play.

The graphics in this game are pretty solid but not really that impressive. You can’t really expect much considering the art style of the game which is cartoonish. The story of the of game is pretty straight forward and is told in the in-game engine which helps in not ruining the immersion. My biggest gripe for this game is that the ending is pretty anti-climatic considering you played the whole game stealthily in order to receive the “good ending”.

Where the game really shines is that there is so many ways to complete a mission that it gives the game a really open world and sandbox feel that is really fun.  The gameplay is definitely the saving grace of this game and solidifies my review score of …


Alan Wake: Review

Alan Wake is a action horror game that does everything solid. The graphics are pretty good for a game that came out in 2010. The vegetation and environments are what really shine in this game. The cut-scenes graphics were actually worse than the in-game graphics for some reason. Which was odd but perhaps it is because I’m playing it on the PC and it was ported. Though the game could become repetitive at times, it kept you on suspense because of the scarcity of ammo and the way light was incorporated into the game with so much importance. The core of the game was staying out of the dark. The subtle things of this game is what i really enjoyed.

I recall one time when I was exploring a cabin looking for ammo and collectibles when I saw a dark figure scurry past the window. My thought were that this would be a common occurrence but nothing like that ever happened again. The game remained fresh in it’s scares. The enemies actually try to sneak up on you. I came to this realization when i turned around once in the game and saw a dark figure weaving through cars that disappeared once i looked at him. That kept me doing 360 turns for a while in paranoia. The way Alan Wake monologues his thoughts into the game make for a more interesting narrative and draws similarities to Remedy Studios earlier works with Max Payne. Overall the game was really enjoyable but my one griping is the ending. I’m not usually the guy who gripes on endings because I like it when writers make endings a little ambiguous so people can have their own interpretations. Alan Wake ending left me a little bit too perplexed to a point that actually takes off a few points to my review .


Beyond: Two Souls | Review- PS3’s Last Good Exclusive?

Beyond: Two souls was a very engaging game. What the the blockbuster story brings to the table makes up for the lack of game-play. This may be a turn off for many players that were expecting to have more control in some game-play aspects. The game gave you many options in decision making but overall the game was pretty linear. The story is not told  in chronological order so that may be confusing for some people. I personally liked the way it was told because it covered times in Jodie Holme’s(Protagonist)  life in a flashback style that brought meaning to her character and her decisions. At times the romance seemed force but you were given the decision for the most part. The game keeps you on your feet with countless twist and turns.

In addition to a fun single player experience This game make a great co-op experience. I played it with my brother and thoroughly enjoyed it. I actually believed this game is made for the duo experience.

The motion capture that was used to create the animations of the game play and character emotions was top notch. This game has some of the best graphics that I have seen to date on Consoles.  The character models done by Quantum Dream were excellent. The likeness of characters and photo realism of this game makes me wonder what’s in store for us for the upcoming generation. Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe Score for this game was very moving and compelling. The voice acting done by Willem Dafoe, Ellen Page, and the cast of Beyond was top-notch.

Many game developers are now moving to make video games a richer story telling medium. I believe this is evident when you look at how much more interactive stories in video games have become over the years.

Just to name a few that are fresh in my mind which are good Examples: Tell Tales- The Walking Dead, Star War: The Old Republic,With Controversy- Mass Effect, Deux Ex Human Revolution, and David Cage’s works.

I often think of a recent game By The FullBright Company called Gone Home; that is a interactive exploration game where the story is told by reading journals and listening to tapes. It gives me hope when games like Gone Home can receive critical acclaim but at the same time it doesn’t bother me when games like this receive mixed reviews. Just in the fact that games like these are being played and talked about is a sign that our ideas of what a video game is are really being questioned.

Beyond: Two Souls. Beyond: Two Souls is a interactive experience that delves into the Supernatural and also questions ideas about life and death. If you are looking for a game that is quite not like anything you are used to than I would suggest you to check out Beyond.

The Last Of Us: Review

Hiding behind a desk you frantically attempt to craft a weapon that can increase your chances for what is to come. You listen intently for what danger lies in the dark. Confronting your enemies won’t always work. Sometimes you just have to accept the fact that survival is the only real goal. The Last of Us is a game about survival, friendship, and the acceptance that in this phenomenal  universe there is nothing either good or bad. The story of  The Last of Us is a huge departure from Naughty Dog’s previous titles.

Where the Uncharted serious is known for its amazing set pieces, action sequences, witty dialogue, and Raiders of The Lost Ark type characters-TLOU goes for the complete opposite. The story is paced deliberately and slowly. The world is extremely grim at times with small segments of humor but it is constantly overshadowed by the characters of the game. Who are basically only in it for one thing; Themselves. TLOU spans about a year traveling across the U.S. Joel and Ellie the main characters of the game are fantastic contrast to each other. Joel only talks when he really needs to. Ellie can’t seem to stop talking. She is a curious and brash kid who was born into the horrible world.  Ellie meets Joel and and they soon find themselves on an expedition across vast dangerous lands.

The game-play in TLOU is truly a masterpiece. Never has a game felt so right while being so incredibly lopsided. The infected in the game can kill you in seconds. Every decision you make is vital to your survival. Where most games give you a certain sense of invulnerability. TLOU forces you to quickly react to a situation or meet a gruesome and gory death. Bullets are  scarce and you have to manage your resources. The suspense I felt from every encounter was nothing I’ve felt in a long time. The sound in this game incredible. Every gunshot ripped through the darkness of the world with an authentic punch.

Ambiance in the environment and sound effects for things such as footsteps was top notch.  Listening for clickers(type of infected in the game) or bandits was stressful and a legitimate real tactic, I’ve never seen done so effectively before. When game-play mechanics revolve around the sound design you know you have something special. The voice actors did an incredible job and you actually care about these characters. Not to mention the downright mind blowing soundtrack. The story of The Last of us draws you in, the game-play continually impresses over and over, and the characters stay with you long after your done. All we can do now is hope the series continues in some form on PS4.

Crysis 1: Retro Review

Crysis being heralded as one of the most game changing games for the PC, I couldn’t help but delve into the PS3 version and see what all the talk was about. The story for the game is pretty good. The story starts off with the United States sending in a special forces team to recover scientist that were taken hostage. After figuring out that North Korea are trying to harness the power of the alien technology, United states invades North Korea.

Story:  The story starts off slow but picks up and becomes more interesting during later missions as you uncover more about the North Koreans plans.

Graphics: The visuals of Crysis on the PS3, although not as good as PC-still stack up with current console games that just released. My most noticeable gripe is draw distance issues with textures popping.

Game-play: This is where the game shined. The game-play was fun and that’s all that matters. I really enjoyed the customization you could do with you weapons on the fly. Your suit’s powers played a unique part during combat which made  most battles more enjoyable.

I would recommend you to play this game on the PS3/360, if you don’t have the PC for it. It’s a fun game.