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Prerelease:Spyro the Dragon (PlayStation)

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This page details one or more prerelease versions of Spyro the Dragon (PlayStation).
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Subpages

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Press Kit
The two version of the press kit which was distributed all the way back in 1998 to advertise the game to gaming journalists.
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June build
An unreleased build of the game dating from June of 1998.
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July build
An unreleased build of the game dating from July of 1998.

Conception

Spyro the Dragon started development following the poor sales of Disruptor, Insomniac Games' previous game. Noticing the rise in popularity of platformers such as Super Mario 64 or Crash Bandicot, Insomniac decided that their next game would try to appeal to a larger audience. Aiming to create a character for their new game which would in a way serve as a mascot for the more child-oriented part of the Playstation library, art director Craig Stitt suggested this character to be a dragon due to their sheer appeal in terms of both appearance and gameplay options.[1] The idea was then pitched to the rest of the development team, only to receive a positive reception. And so began the story of Spyro the Dragon.


Changes in Spyro's character in early stages of development:

  • Spyro's working name / title used to be "Pete", before later being changed to "Pyro" and finally Spyro.
  • Spyro was originally intended to be an adult dragon, but was later turned into a kid in order to be easier to animate and look cuter.
  • Other preliminary sketches also depict Spyro as being bipedal. "The Making of Spyro the dragon" released by Playstation Underground actually shows us an early animation test of Spyro raising on his hind legs and putting his hands on his hips in a sassy manner.[2] While Spyro can go bipedal (like during the ending of the first game) he is otherwise quadrupedal by default.
  • Spyro's original color was green, but it was switched to purple so that he wouldn't blend into grassy environments. Spyro's early color scheme can be seen in one of the early animation tests shown in "The Making of Spyro the dragon".[3]
  • Spyro's voice allegedly went through 5 or 6 revisions[4] according to his voice actor, Carlos Alazraqui. Two proposed but ultimately rejected voices include a younger, more nasily voice, and an older, more tough sounding one.


(Source: The Making of Spyro the dragon)
(Source: The Animation Academy)

Development Timeline

  • Conceptual phase ( Early 1997)
  • Date Uncertain (~Spring 1998)[5]
    • Early promotional material which features an early version of the HUD (at around 0ː13), appears to predate the HUD shown at the E3 of that year.
      • This early graphic for the life icon still exists in the final game, albeit unused. Another change to the HUD is that the icon next to the counter which appears when you collect gems shows a red gem instead of a gold treasure chest.
      • Wizard Peak's level design is different, showing a portal similar to the ones found in the Magic Crafters home where the home vortex should be stands in. There is also an Ice wizard in the corner where the Dragon statue should be (the statue in question being closer to the edge in this version).
  • May 29th to the 30th
    • E3 1998 began, and Spyro had a booth.[6] Said booth featured an early build of the game with a few notable differencesː
      • The HUD is different, as the life icon is in the center of the screen as opposed to the right side.
      • The tents in the Peace Keepers home have a different, more pronounced "shadow" on their surface, which may be the result of a glitch, seeing how it disappears once the tent is flamed.
      • There is a locked chest on the platform in the central area of the Artisans overworld.
      • Gildas is missing his release animation, and his dialogue is presented in text form.
      • At around 27ː39 you can see the Dragon counter going from zero to one after releasing Magnus in the Peace Keeper home, implying that this level was accessed via cheats in order to show different levels beside the ones from the Artisans home during the presentation.
    • Additional footage from Spyro's booth. [7]
      • The aforementioned early version of the HUD can be seen more clearly (at 1ː27).
      • Said extract of the footage shows that the Magic Crafters home was also accessed via cheats, as the HUD informs us that the player hasn't collected a single Gems nor rescued a single dragons.
    • Additional footage from Spyro's booth. [8]
      • A short clip of Spyro in the Artisan home, indirectly focusing on the locked chest which would ultimately be removed in the final game.
  • Date Uncertain (~May 1998)
    • The Tabloid demo is built. It appears to be closely related to the build of the game shown at E3 1998.
    • Some time afterwards a second demo of the game is built. This version is later than the E3 build but earlier than the June 1998 build.
  • June 1998
    • https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8F1834A641B71DBC
      • A currently unreleased prototype of the game, featuring different enemy placement, slightly different level design in a few levels (such as additional platforms), a multitude of dragon differences and an incomplete title screen. The life statues are still golden.
  • August 12th 1998
    • Roughly the date that Spyro the Dragon finished development, according to the final game's WAD file.
  • Late 1998
    • Sep. Spyro the Dragon is released in North America.
    • Oct. Spyro the Dragon is released in Europe.
  • 1999
    • Apr. Spyro the Dragon is released in Japan.

Early Gameplay Ideas

In late 1998, Insomniac Games created a website based on Spyro's in-universe news channelː the "Dragon News Network". Featured on this website was a page describing the game's technical marvels and what the player could expect from it, yet a few things are mentioned here but never actually seen in-gameː

  • The "moveset" section references a Fireball power-up, which would only make its debut in the game's sequel. It may imply that it was originally planned to be in the first game.
  • Gnasty's World / Gnorc Gnexus is referred to as "Machinists", its earlier name. Unused text in the Tabloid demo still references this homeworld as Machinists.
  • Listed among the ways to discover hidden areas are "flaming a rock" and "running around a tree". While no areas in the final game can be unlocked by doing those things, this concept may have inspired the concept of the hidden Skill Points presents in the game's two sequels.


Mark Cerny, then President of Universal Interactive, mentioned some unused ideas for the game in an interview from the 48th issue of Next Generation magazine. According to him, most of the ideas for the game ended up on the cutting room floor, namely missions (which would later appear in Spyro 2 and 3), the use of items, and long-distance shooting (which reappeared in a way in Spyro 2 in the form of the spitting mechanic, as well as actual shooting in the third game's Agent 9 sections).


One of the developers, Craig Stitt, also confirmed that it was at first planned for Spyro to be able to swim. This feature ended up being removed due to a lack of time. According to Stitt, no swimming-based levels were planned but small secret underwater areas were supposed to be found in some levels.


(Source: Dragon News Network)
(Source: Interview with Mark Cerny)
(Source: Craig Stitt regarding swimming in Spyro 1)

Concept art

Gnorcs

Judging from concept art, the basic Gnorcs enemies were at first planned to have a more humanoid / clearer body shape and wore more medieval-inspired clothing, as opposed to the final design which is rounder, simpler, and usually either "naked" or wearing nondescript metallic clothing. The reason for this change was likely motivated by the Playstation's graphical limitations, and the Gnorcs' design from later Spyro games - namely Spyro: A Hero's Tail - more closely match the early concept art.

Fodder

There exists concept art for some fodders which never made their way into the final gameː such as a sort of fuzzy animal, a strange horse-like creature, and two sorts of birds. The latter two have a more toon-like aesthetic, which contrasts with more realistic / less stylized fodders found in the final game.

Enemies

Spyro1-ConceptArtFlyingMonk.gif
A taller variant of the Green Wizard

Conceptual sketch for a cut enemy called a "Flying Monk", which bears a striking resemblance to the Green Wizards from the final games. It is unknown whether this enemy was a sub-specie of the Green Wizards or if they simply inspired / evolved into them (which could be supported by the existence of the second artwork, which appears to be a fusion between a Flying Monk and a Green Wizard).

Spyro1-ConceptArtEarlyKnight.gif

A rough early sketch of a Tin Soldier informs us that in order to defeat them you would have to "push him sideways until he drops", which was changed probably due to the Armored Gnorcs in Ice Cavern requiring a similar method in order to defeat them. The design of the armor itself was also later refined, the feather on the helmet being replaced by three spikes and the sword by a shield.

Unknown creature

Spyro1-ConceptArtCreature.gif

There exists a piece of artwork featuring a bizarre troll-like creature. Said creature has a large nose, shaggy black hair tied in a braid, greasy skin, and a disproportionately small body with a light stomach pattern. It may have been an enemy design which was ultimately scrapped. Another theory is that it may have been a sort of fodder (hence the small body and apparent lack of ways of attack) that was scrapped because of its unsettling appearance.


(Source: The Animation Academy)
(Source: Misc. Concept Art)

3D Renders

Sparx

"Early" render More on-model render
Spyro1-RenderSparxArms.jpg Spyro1-RenderSparxNoArms.jpg

It appears that Sparx's appearance was planned to be more complex, as seen in this render used repeatedly in the NTSC manual, as well as a few official promotional art for the game. This version of Sparx features many elements not shown on the in-game model, mainly due to hardware limitations, namely two feelers, a set of eyebrows, and a pair of arms.

It is worth noting that at the time, other renders closer to Sparx's appearance in-game (such as the one pictured on the right) also existed at the time and were used in a few promotional art pieces (or the back of the PAL box art in the case of the one pictured here). As such, it isn't clear is Sparx's official design was even set in stone.

Egg Thief

Early Final
Spyro1-RenderEggThiefColorfulEgg1.png Spyro1-RenderEggThiefColorfulEgg2.png Spyro1-RenderEggThiefPinkEgg.png

It appears that the dragon eggs held by the Egg Thiefs were at first planned to be white with colorful spots on it as opposed to pink with purple spots.

Gnasty

Early Final
Spyro1-RenderGnastySilver.png Spyro1-RenderGnastyGold.jpg

Strangely enough, the render of Gasty Gnorc used in both the original North-American manual and both version of the box art uses a different color scheme than the one used in-game. Indeed this one appears to wear silver armor-plates and a brown-red armor, as opposed to both of them being colored gold. It's possible this render reflects what Gnasty's armor was planned to look like before it was replaced with the other render, which is more reflective of Gnasty's appearance in-game.

It is worth noting that the redesign of Gnasty's armor seen in Spyro: A Hero's Tail appears to be based on the original render in terms of color scheme.

Terrace Village

Spyro1-RenderTerraceVillage.JPG

The skybox is flipped here, as seen by the sun being on the right as opposed to the left. It's unknown whether this was the original placement of the skybox or if this was only changed for the render.

Dream Weavers

Spyro1-RenderDreamWeavers.JPG

The skybox appears to be either placed differently or different altogether compared to the final game. The flag on top of the castle is also missing (most probably due to it being an object not part of the level geometry).

Gnorc Gnexus

Spyro1-RenderGnorcGnexus.JPG

The skybox is flipped here, as seen by the moon being behind the dragon heads as opposed to in front of them. It's unknown whether this was the original placement of the skybox or if this was only changed for the render. The skyboxes shown inside the portals however are definitely all kinds of wrong: Twilight Harbor uses an half-orange half-purple skybox as opposed to an entirely orange one (which is actually used in Gnasty's Loot portal here!), Gnasty Gnorc's skybox is bright yellow as opposed to blue and purple, and the skybox of Gnasty's Loot is that of Twilight Harbor's.


(Source: Spyro 1 official website)

Early Home Vortex Design

The design of the vortex found at the end of every level which brings you back to the homeworld went through a few revisions until the final one was chosen.

This trailer from the European PlayStation demo disc 1 shows the earliest version of the home vortex (at around 1ː24) which consisted of the same platform used on the dragon platforms, with the addition of a few particle effects and a single blue gem floating inside. This design was most likely just a placeholder.

A latest version of the home vortex found in the Tabloid demo and the June 1998 build of the game features the final design of the "platform" but a gem can still be found floating in some of them. The gem itself isn't a graphical effect and can actually be collected to add to the current level's gem counter.

There is also evidence that home portals / gates not unlike the one from future Spyro games may have once been planned as opposed to the vortexes found in the final game (see #Miscellaneous Screenshots).

Early Dragon Statue Designs

The design of the iconic crystallized dragon statues appears to have gone through several redesigns until the final one was chosen.

"Gold Spyro"

Spyro1-PrereleaseGoldDragon.png

This screenshot of Town Square found in Game Buyer Issue 3 from September 1998 depicts the earliest known design for the crystallized dragons, in the form of a gold statue of Spyro, which may have either been the original intent or was simply used as a placeholder until a better design was found. As a side note, the other dragon statue (the one where Thor is imprisoned) which is normally present on the higher platform appears to be missing, which is probably just due to the dragon not having a low-poly model yet, since videos of the statue show that it only appeared when Spyro was very close to it.

A trailer from a Playstation Underground demo disc in which we can clearly (if not briefly at 0ː05) notice the aforementioned lack of a low-poly model for the early dragon statues. The placement of the statue itself (where Argus would be in the final game) was also changed, being inside the dragon head instead of in front of it. Thus either the level was accessible from the start, or the dragon is only revealed after completing a level (there is evidence in the demo versions to support the latter). The green gem version of the HUD is also shown, but with the final game's HUD font, and at around 0:13 a dragon pad can be seen in Cliff Town in a location where a dragon is not found in the final game. While this may have been the original location of Halvor - a dragon found at the bottom of the cliffs - it's also possible that this dragon would have been "Gale", an unused dragon name listed amongst the Cliff Town dragons in the final game.

"White Statue"

Spyro1-PrereleaseWhiteDragonCliffTown.png

This screenshot of Cliff Town found in the 34th issue of Playstation Magazine UK shows the aforementioned removed dragon with a more elaborate crystal design, now showing them standing up with their wings unfolded, they also now seem to be made out of white crystal as opposed to the previous gold.


Spyro1-PrereleaseWhiteDragon.png

Found in a 1998 issue of Ultimate Solutions is another picture of the white crystallized dragon, this time taken in the small room at the bottom of Stone Hill's well. This dragon also seems to be closer to the center of the room as opposed to the leftmost wall.

As a side note, one can also notice that the design of the locked chest appears to have once being closer to that of a traditional chest (à la The Legend of Zelda) as opposed to the design used in the final game, which is more angular and is made out of metal.


(Source: Game Buyer Issue 3)
(Source: Playstation Magazine UK issue 34)
(Source: Ultimate Solutions March Issue)

Next Generation 42 Screenshots

The 42nd edition of the magazine Next Generation which came out in June 1998 (initially released in a limited format at E3 1998 in May) shows some screenshots from one of the earliest known builds of the game (the magazine claims it to be an alpha version). Regardless of the exact date, we can see that the screenshots present quite a number of differences.

Wizard Peak

Spyro1-PrereleaseWizardPeakEntrance.png

Near the end part of Wizard Peak, where the home vortex would normally be, there appears to have been a portal / gate not unlike the ones found in the Magic Crafters home (see #Miscellaneous Screenshots).

Note also that in the final game, Spyro has to jump up a few steps on the way up this section of the level - no steps are present here. The top of the peaks also seem to lack snow.

Spyro1-PrereleaseWizardPeakEntranceCloseUp.png

This next screenshot depicts Spyro flaming an Ice Gnorc at the end of Wizard Peak. The aforementioned portal / gate is shown and the Lucas is missing (it's possible that he may have once been on one of the platforms you can only access via Supercharge).

Dry Canyon

Spyro1-PrereleaseDryCanyonMissingGem.png

This screenshot of Spyro flaming a vulture in Dry Canyon shows that there used to be only two gems instead of three.

Cliff Town

Spyro1-PrereleaseCliffTownFatLady.png

This screenshot of Spyro approaching the second Fat Lady in Cliff Town shows some interesting differencesː this enemy and her cauldron seem to be closer to the "river", and there doesn't appear to be any cacti behind her.

Peace Keepers home

Spyro1-PrereleasePeaceKeepersRoom.png

A screenshot of the beginning area of the Peace Keepers home. The texture on the wall is different, as it appears to it and the pillar texture were swapped early in development. The lighting also seems to be brighter.

Spyro1-PrereleasePeaceKeepersTents.png

This screenshot of the scared Gnorc Guards in the Peace Keepers home shows the earlier version of the tents with their large "shadow".

Ice Cavern

Spyro1-PrereleaseIceCavernMissingGems.png

The three red gems normally leading to the Gem Container are missing.

Toasty

Spyro1-PrereleaseIToastyEarliestHUD.png

This screenshot of the fight against Toasty shows that the HUD icon next to your gem count used to be a green gem and not a treasure chest like in the final game.

Artisans home

Spyro1-PrereleaseBoatman.png

The Boatman, a Viking-like character who would have transported you to the Peace Keepers, but was ultimately replaced by the balloonist. The magazine mentions that in order to board the ship you would have to collect a certain amount of treasure, while in the final game you need yo rescue a certain amount of Dragons in order to progress to the Peace Keepers. Unused text in the Tabloid demo still references the Boatman.

(Source: Next Generation issue 42)


Next Generation 48 Screenshots

The 48th edition of the magazine Next Generation also revealed a few other screenshots from an early version of the game.

Stone Hill

Spyro1-PrereleaseStoneHillMissingGem.png

A screenshot of the clearing in Stone Hill, at the bottom on the tower on top of which Gildas can be found. The two red gems normally found on top of the grassy hill on the left are missing.

Town Square

Spyro1-PrereleaseTownSquareGems.png

The row of red gems on the platform on the right seems closer to the ledge than in the final game. The green gem normally found on the path isn't shown in this screenshot (whether it already was collected or wasn't yet placed there is unknown).

Cliff Town

Spyro1-PrereleaseCliffTownFarawayGate.png

A screenshot of the beginning area of Cliff Town. In the distance is what appears to be a white rectangle where the home vortex normally would be.

(Source: Next Generation issue 48)

PSX Extreme Screenshots

The issue 11-12 of the magazine PSX Extreme shows a few screenshots from an even earlier build of the game than the one featured in Next Generation magazine.

Cliff Town

Spyro1-PrereleaseCliffTownEarliestHUD.png

A screenshot of the beginning area of Cliff Town, showcasing what has to be earliest iteration of the HUDː the Gem counter icon is a green gem (instead of a golden treasure chest) and the Dragon and Life counter both lack any kind of icon. The way each section is organized is also different, each counter being placed in a corner of the screen rather than being all on the top portion of it. The font used also appears to be different, the "0" being rounder and a different shading.

Wizard Peak

Spyro1-PrereleaseWizardPeakEarlyHUD.png

A screenshot of Spyro flaming an Ice Gnorc in Wizard Peak. The font used in the HUD appears to be slightly different that the one used in the final game, the "7" appearing rounder.

(Source: PSX Extreme Issue 11-12)

GamePro 119 Screenshots

The 119th issue of GamePro shows a few screenshots from an early build of the game (alongside ones from the Golden Spyro batch).

Town Square

Spyro1-PrereleaseTownQuareToreador.png

A screenshot of a Spyro in Town Square, standing by a Toreador Gnorc getting chased by a Bull. The Gnorc's clothes are different, his pants being red instead of black and his jacket having more golden embroidery.

Other levels

Screenshots of the PeaceKeepers home, Ice Cavern, and Wizard Peak were also shown in this issue of the magazine, the early green gem HUD being visible in all of them (as well as the early tents in the case of the PeaceKeepers home).

Electronic Gaming Monthly 111 Screenshots

The 111th issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly shows a few screenshots from a later build of the game (what appears to be the June build).

High Caves

Spyro1-PrereleaseHighCavesFlag.png

A screenshot of the open area of High Caves, on the right side the Magic Crafters flag can be seen hanging off the wall.

Crystal Flight

Spyro1-PrereleaseCrystalFlightTimer.png

A screenshot of the beginning of Crystal Flight. The time shown on the timer helps us determine that this screenshot is indeed from around the July build of the game, seeing how in that build the player starts with a 20 seconds countdown instead of a 25 seconds one.

Gnasty's Loot

Spyro1-PrereleaseGnastysLoot1.png

A screenshot of Spyro chasing a Thief in Gnasty's Loot, showing the level's earlier, more blueish textures.

Electronic Gaming Monthly 112 Screenshots

The next issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, the 112th one, also shows a few screenshots from a later build of the game (what appears to be the June build).

Early Balloonists requests

This issue of the magazine also discusses early requirements needed to progress from one world to the next, with PeaceKeepers being unlocked after freeing 5 dragons (instead of 10), Magic Crafters after obtaining 1000 (as opposed to 1200), Magic Crafters after obtaining 2000 gems (as opposed to having to rescue 5 dragon eggs), and Gnasty's World after obtaining 10000 gems (as opposed to 6000).

Gnasty's Loot

Spyro1-PrereleaseGnastysLoot2.png

Two screenshots of Spyro in Gnasty's Loot, showing the level's earlier, more blueish textures, as well as the more green-yellow lava.

Artisans home

Spyro1-PrereleaseWhiteMarco.png

A screenshot of Spyro walking toward Marco the Balloonist. Here Marco's clothes are white instead of yellow.

PSExtreme Screenshots

Issue number 7, Volume 3 of PSExtreme, from June 1998. It Seems to depict a similar version of the game to the Next Generation build.

Artisans home

Spyro1-ArtisansWorldGate.jpg

A screenshot depicting a gate that was later removed from the Artisans castle. Curiously enough, Spyro Reignited Trilogy would end up adding a door to the Artisans home in this exact location.

Spyro1-ArtisansWorldGoldStatue.jpg

Several screenshots used in the magazine confirm that the dragon statues used the early gold-coloured model in this version of the game. The statue for Argus is once again placed inside the dragon mouth instead of outside.


(Source: PSExtreme Volume 3 Issue 7 June 1998 (Credits: Reddit user Kapivali))

Miscellaneous Screenshots

Cliff Town

Spyro1-PrereleaseCliffTownGate.png

A screenshot of Spyro flying through Cliff Town which could be found in the "Science & Technology News" section of the Dragon News Network website. Halvor's dragon pad appears to be missing (which may be due to a lack of low-poly model), and in the top-left corner, where the home vortex would normally be, there is what appears to be the kind of gate / portal found in the Peace Keepers home. If this guess is correct, then reason as to why a portal would be found inside a level is unknown. The fact that a skybox seems to be inside this gate may imply that the devs may at one point have wanted the player to go through a portal to both enter and exit a level, an idea which would reappear in the game's two sequels.

Dark Hollow

Spyro1-PinkishDarkHollow.jpg

A screenshot of Dark Hollow which could be found in the "Game" section of the Spyro 1 official website. Here the skybox has a pink/purple color as opposed to the final's deep blue tone. It's possible this was changed in order to give the level a darker atmosphere.

Gnasty Gnorc

Spyro1-WeirdGnastyGnorc1.png
Spyro1-WeirdGnastyGnorc2.png

Two screenshots of Spyro fighting Gnasty Gnorc found in an unknown gaming magazine. Here Gnasty's textures are completely different from the final ones, and were probably the result of a glitch.