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Prerelease:Spyro: Year of the Dragon

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This page details prerelease information and/or media for Spyro: Year of the Dragon.


Hmmm...
To do:
Sources and citations, ideally.

Development of Spyro: Year of the Dragon began shortly after the release of Spyro 2 in November 1999, and ended mid-September 2000[1]. During this time, plenty of screenshots of the game were periodically released as well as several videos and playable demos of the game. As a result, we're able to pinpoint many changes that the game went through during development (and there are a lot).

Subpages

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Design Documents
The drawing board.
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Concept Art
Concept art by Oliver Wade.
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Development Insights
Interviews and anecdotes.
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Pre-E3 Screenshots
The earliest known prerelease build, characterised by the screenshots' frequent use in magazines. Dated some time before May 11th, 2000.
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E3 2000
The earliest publicly playable version, seen at E3 on May 11th, 2000, as well as in a number of magazine and online previews.
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Gamespot Release
A later version of the game shown by Gamespot on June 23rd, 2000. Dated roughly late May 2000.
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Post-E3 Screenshots
Another press screenshot build, dated somewhere from May to June 2000.
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"Numbered" Builds
At least two versions of the game featuring a debug system of some sort. Dated roughly June - July 2000.
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Review Builds
Late development builds used for creating guides and reviews. Dated late August to September 2000.

Development Timeline

Hmmm...
To do:
Very outdated, should be updated.
  • November 2nd 1999
    • Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage is released in the USA. Shortly afterwards, development of the third game in the Spyro the Dragon trilogy began.[1]
  • December 3rd, 1999
    • The date seen on the executable in a number of builds of the game, thought to be the creation date for the earliest produced files for the game. Suggests programming began around this point in time.
  • February 2000
    • The March 2000 issue of Next Generation Magazine (Issue 63) contains interviews with a few developers about the future of gaming and the difficulty of getting into the video game market. In a profile about one of these developers - Ted Price, the founder and CEO of Insomniac Games - it is mentioned that Insomniac are working on a PlayStation title and a PlayStation 2 title, the former of which being the as-of-yet unannounced Spyro: Year of the Dragon.
  • May 11th 2000 - Pre-E3 Build, E3 Build
    • Spyro: Year of the Dragon is announced at E3 2000.
    • A handful of official screenshots are released by a number of news outlets. While only five seem to have been released initially, the batch contained many more screenshots which made their way onto magazines and websites throughout the game's development.[2][3][4] These screenshots are referred to as the Pre-E3 Screenshots, and they represent the earliest known build of the game.
    • The E3 Demo was playable at the event. Although not a great deal of information has directly surfaced about this build, it's understood to be the same build sent out to a number of video game previewers, with IGN being perhaps the most notable example. These previews would not be released online until June 23rd of the same year, or in magazines until slightly later into the year.[5] [6] [7] [8] [9]
    • B-Roll footage of the game used occasionally throughout development is also a match for the E3 Demo build. Fuurthermore, EGM, PSM, DailyRadar, GameInformer, Gamers' Republic, GameFan and GamePro all seem to have previewed this version of the game.
  • May 2000 - Electric Playground Interview
    • An interview with the Electric Playground that took place in May 2000 shows that the game had progressed somewhat from the version shown at E3.[1] Voice lines for Sunny Villa are still being recorded, and would later be heard in the earliest demo build.
  • May 25th 2000 - Demo 1
    • The earliest demo was built around this time. It's quite a bit late than the E3 Demo, but only slightly earlier than the one seen in GameSpot's preview:
  • June 2000 - GameSpot Build
    • On June 23rd 2000, the GameSpot Build[2] [3] was revealed to the internet in a collection of screenshots and videos. Despite releasing on the same day as previews displaying the E3 Build, this version is clearly a later build of the game. The version is assumed to have been built in late May or early June. Only one of the five videos of this build has been recovered, with the remaining videos considered lost.
  • Date Uncertain (~July 2000) - Trailer Build, Numbered Builds and Demo 2
    • An official trailer for the game was produced around this time, featuring a later version than the GameSpot build (due to the presence of the Lost Fleet sub counter).[4]
    • The Early Numbered Build is the build presented by a group of previews shown in European magazines. These are assumed to have used the same build. It's currently unknown whether this build was earlier than or later than the trailer build, but it seems to have been from around the same time. Screenshots of this build appeared in multiple magazines, including the PLAY Magazine and the Italian Official Playstation Magazine. This build is somewhat unique in that it features some sort of debugging functionality, with three numbers appearing in the upper-right of the screen. These numbers appear to have been used to test the game's adaptive difficulty functionality.
    • The second demo of the game, which was later released as a standalone demo, was build around 27th July 2000, and appears to be a bit later than the previous two builds.
  • August 2000 - Demos 3 - 6
    • At least two more demo versions were created, for PAL-region demo discs. These appear to have been built some time in early August.
    • Crash Bash would be released later in the year (November 6th, 2000), and each version featured a built-in Spyro 3 demo, activated using a cheat code. The demo differs between the PAL and NTSC-U releases of Crash Bash - the NTSC demo in particular is from a very slightly earlier build than the PAL version, having only two known differences in total, ignoring usual regional differences. These demos are still based upon unfinished versions of Spyro 3, albeit very late versions - these seem to have been built in the latter half of August 2000.
  • Date Uncertain (~August 22nd 2000) - ECTS Build
    • More screenshots of the game are released in the European Computer Trade Show 2000 press kit on September 3rd 2000, featuring a mostly complete version of the game, besides a few differences here and there. If the modification dates on the disc are to be believed, these screenshots were taken on the 22nd of August at the latest. A few of these screenshots still remain on Insomniac's website. They only show the levels which were featured in demos of the game. [5] [6]
  • August-September 2000 - SCEE Review Build
    • What appears to have been a European review build of the game was shown in several European magazines.
  • September 2000 - SCEA Review Build
    • Review builds seen in other magazines also seem to feature a few minor differences such as more minor cutscene changes and a repositioning of some of the NPCs in Sunrise Spring.
    • An unsourced screenshot showing unfinished (but still slightly later than the Mega Fun build's) cutscenes appears to come from this build of the game, too.
  • September 14th 2000
    • Roughly the date of the game's initial completion, according to file modification and EXE build dates. This is further supported by an article with Ted Price claiming the game was finished around the middle of September 2000.[1]
  • September 29th 2000
    • Build date of PAL revision 0.
  • October 24th 2000
    • The initial release of Spyro: Year of the Dragon in the US.
    • Also the build date of PAL revision 1.
  • October 31st 2000
    • Build date of NTSC revision 1, often known as the "Greatest Hits" release (though this version did feature on some black-label releases).
  • November 10th 2000
    • The initial release of Spyro: Year of the Dragon in Europe.

Development Insights

Since the game released, developers of the game have recalled other titbits about the game's development and initial conception.

  • In the 2017 Insomniac Live livestream of Spyro: Year of the Dragon, the developers recalled a variety of interesting facts about the game.
    • Levels were initially designed on graph paper. The designers tried to fit the levels onto two pages of paper, as beyond this point the console would start to run out of memory.
    • The first level Brian Allgeier worked on (which was apparently "a group effort") was "the Danda level" - a level with Pandas and things that rhymed with "Dan" (after Dan Johnson). This appears to have been the first level which was programmed into the game, as the first few objects in the game (according to the internal ID list) are all objects that were used in Bamboo Terrace.
    • Brian recalls that his second level was Cloud Spires. Indeed, Cloud Spires was one of the earliest levels seen during development and according to the internal list of Moneybags gem values it was probably also the first level to contain Moneybags. However, if the internal object ID list is at least mostly a chronological representation of the order that the objects were created, this level was likely not heavily worked on until after several other levels had already began development (certainly, Allgeier was not the only level designer) - namely Spooky Swamp, Lost Fleet, Frozen Altars, Bentley's Outpost, some of Molten Crater, Sheila's Alp, Sgt. Byrd's Base and Agent 9's Lab. Obviously, the object table does not necessarily present a perfect chronological account of the order the objects were created (especially as many are leftover from Ripto's Rage), so it is not out of the question that the level design or geometry could have been produced a while before objects were added.
    • They recalled that the lip syncing was done using an external tool where the user would specify when the character's mouth should be open and when it should be shut, "like a Muppet mouth". John Fiorito recalls that he got "stuck doing the Italian lip syncing".
  • In 2018, former Cerny Games designer and producer Michael John recalled his experience with playtesters who were testing the Spyro games in a Twitter thread. It's not clear which Spyro game he's referring to, but it reveals that the reason Spyro 3 had a minigame where the player chases down Moneybags and gets back their cash is due to how hated the character was by the testers - not because of his design, but purely because he took gems from the player. It's also revealed that they gave playtesters questionnaires when developing the game, to determine what worked and what didn't.

Review Build Screenshots

Sheila's Alp Portal

The Sheila's Alp portal - as it appears in the "No Hard Feelings" cutscene - differs a bit between each of the known review builds:

  • The SCEE review build - seen here in issue 12/00 of the German gaming magazine "Mega Fun" - depicts the portal as missing in its entirety, as if the level had not yet been opened.
  • The Prima build matches the SCEE review build in this regard, and may indeed be the same build entirely.
  • The SCEA review build - the released September 4th build - instead uses a black portal background with the spinning portal visual effect, just like what is used for the game's sublevels.

In the final game, the actual level portal would be used instead.

Dino Mines Egg

Spyro3-SCEEreview-DinoMinesEgg.png

A screenshot of the SCEE review build seen in an issue of PS Max shows that eggs similar to the ones the lava lizards hatch from in Skelos Badlands in Spyro 2 would have originally featured in Dino Mines. The egg can still be found unused in the final game, but is textured differently.

Zan Jayna

Spyro3-Prima-ZanJayna.png

Interestingly, despite the Prima guide referring to all of the eggs by their final names, the screenshot used for the final egg - Yin Yang - instead shows the egg to be named "Zan Jayna", presumably after the DC Wonder Twins, Zan and Jayna. The September 4th build also uses this naming for the dragons.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 PS Illustrated interview, July 2001
  2. IGN reveal, 11 May 2000
  3. Spyro: Year of the Dragon official website 2000
  4. Gamesurf review, 2000
  5. IGN preview, 23 June 2000
  6. IGN preview, 23 June 2000
  7. Daily Radar preview, 5 July 2000
  8. PSX Extreme preview, July 2000
  9. Daily Radar screenshots, hosted on PSX Extreme, July 2000