Crash Team Rumble: Behind its bold, new direction
As the game prepares for a closed beta ahead of its June 20 release, we speak to the creative minds at developer Toys for Bob.
For anyone who grew up in the ‘90s, you may remember Crash Bandicoot as a game that was colorful, fast-paced, and a little ridiculous—in no small part thanks to its eponymous marsupial and the similarly silly cartoon characters that populated his world.
What you might not remember is that Crash took platformers, games where the main objective was to run and jump from one platform to another, to new levels. (See what we did there?) Amid all that zaniness was a game that challenged players with precision jumps, deadly traps, and nefarious enemies.
In time Crash evolved from game to series, expanding to several titles (across several genres, most notably racing) before landing in the hands of San Francisco Bay Area developers Toys For Bob. In 2020, after a 12-year hiatus from the platform approach that brought it fame, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time emerged. Critics loved it.
Toys for Bob gets another crack at rekindling the Crash love on June 20 with the release of Crash Team Rumble. The new title promises a fresh direction for the franchise, thanks to a 4v4 strategic multiplayer approach, and aims to serve as a re-entry point for people who might be keen to rekindle their love for that unique brand of Bandicoot mayhem.
Things are busy in the Bay Area. Developers at Toys for Bob have been working furiously to prepare for this weekend’s closed beta test, where the new game will land in the hands of select Crash fans for the first time.
To learn more about how Crash Team Rumble came to be, and learn how Toys for Bob nurtures its creative spark, we spoke to Daniel Neil and Lou Studdert, creative director and associate creative director, respectively, for the studio.
‘All Rumble, all the time, every minute of the day’
That’s how Studdert describes Neil’s work schedule. Between promoting the game, preparing for the closed beta, and keeping the creative team focused on launch, Neil is never far—literally and figuratively—from Crash.
Neil has been at Toys for Bob for a decade. He was audio director for the Skylanders series before becoming creative director in 2017. Crash Team Rumble is not his first tango with the marsupial. But this time is different.
“It’s new, and weird, and it’s uncharted territory,” says Studdert, who worked with Toys for Bob as an Activision producer before joining the studio full time in 2019. “One of the things I love about the Crash franchise is how it swings from a core platforming experience to something new. But in multiplayer games like Crash Team Racing and Crash Bash, the platforming DNA was lost. It was more about the characters in a new type of game. Crash Team Rumble brings the multiplayer fun while retaining that DNA.”
The studio is excited to unleash the game on the public. “There will be lots more people playing Crash Team Rumble than there ever have been,” says Neil, “and it’s going to give us a bunch of really important information about the game balance to allow us to fine-tune it as we move forward to launch.”
That moment of release-day apprehension doesn’t go away, Neil adds. “It goes from years of being a top secret, ‘Don’t tell anyone, not even your mom.’ And then at the flip of a switch, it becomes, ‘Tell everyone. Let everyone know.’”
Evil scientists breaking free from an inter-dimensional prison, restoring order to the multiverse through the power of quantum masks, playing in a mirror world of N. Sanity Island—Crash and his world are as colorfully off-the-wall as ever.
So how does Toys for Bob manage to continually come up with such charmingly oddball schemes?
“There’s no shortage of ideas and creativity at Toys for Bob,” Studdert says. “We’re constantly trying new things and coming up with new ideas. Crash Team Rumble is charting its own path forward, but it draws upon the entire history of platforming in video games. That helps to quickly generate new concepts and transporting them onto a multiplayer platforming space feels new and exciting.”
The true challenge is editing those ideas into a workable list, Neil says. “It’s a case of, what don’t you do?” he says. “What do we have time to do, and what are the very best things we can put our efforts against?”
Still: “It’s our job to create the framework where people can feel safe to bring their ideas to life and let their imaginations run free,” Neil says. “They can bring forth the craziest ideas, and if they’re fun ideas, they’ll make the cut. When you make a game that has that kind of aesthetic, it draws that out of the people who are making it.”
And there are plenty of people like that at Toys for Bob. “We hire people who share that same sense of inner childhood,” he says. “I really believe that you have to have fun to make fun.”
Build, play, feedback, change, repeat
But it’s a lot of work to make fun in a game.
The trick to Crash Team Rumble? Continual playtesting. Neil says the studio conducts many hundreds of playtests where developers take extensive notes, figure out what’s important, make the changes, and play it again.
“We repeat the cycle over and over and that’s what brings us to the game we have today,” he says. “In some ways that’s not different to how we did it before: Build, play, feedback, change, build, play, feedback, change…go round and round. Going live with a closed beta carries on this process, just on a bigger and more public stage.”
“There’s something here for everyone,” Studdert says, “and it’s really exciting.”
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🪀 Toys for Bob is hiring! See the studio’s careers page for a list of open positions.
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