Couldn’t find this anywhere else online, so I just pulled it from the Jazz Jackrabbit Strategy Guide… as in, I retyped it all. Evil.
A bunny with a gun—talk about apples and oranges. The first Jazz Jackrabbit was a resounding success, often referred to as the “Sonic the Hedgehog” of the OC. Jazz tore onto the PC gaming scene in 1994 and things haven’t been the same since. This rabbit proved the PC was a viable platform for good, old-fashioned, console-style gaming. Children would mail us their drawings of Jazz, Devan, Eva, and the game’s plethora of foes.
Epic MegaGames had a mascot, and he carried a big gun.
I was in high school when Tim Sweeney, Epic owner and programmed for Unreal, emailed me a game-in-progress called Vertigo. It featured a little space man strolling through a jungle like setting. The engine felt so smooth, so crisp, so bivrant to me, and I couldn’t figure out why until I checked the frames-per-second and realized this little demo ran upward of about 70 fps—unheard of on the PC at the time. The game’s editing tool allowed me to peer into its graphics, animation, and artificial intelligence. I started modifying graphics with Deluxe Paint Animation™. Within the week I had a demo of Jazz running around a turtle grassland, blasting goofy amphibians. This became “Diamondus,” Jazz Jackrabbit‘s first level. I sent it over to engine programmed Arjan Brussee, and he decided to help create Jazz instead of Vertigo.
I don’t know where the idea for a rabbit came from. I sat down with my pencil and thought, “Rambo Rabbit”—and out popped one mean little hare. Initially, he wore blue goggles and a large backpack, and carried a machine gun twice his size. In the original sketches for the worlds I whipped up in English class back in 1992, the game loooked like a cross between Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Brothers. I wanted to create a game with both the puzzle-solving aspects of Mario and the speed and excitement of Sonic—the ultimate platform-gaming hybrid.
The decision to make a sequel to Jazz Jackrabbit was an easy one. People couldn’t seem to get enough of this tought bunny, and neither could the development team. A lot of ideas that didn’t make it into Jazz 1 could be explored in a sequel—multiplayer, multiple characters, and time travel, for example. Nick Stadler, exhausted from animating Jazz 1, began making offbeat sketches to entertain himself and came up with Jazz’s opposite, “Spaz Slackrabbit.” Everyone loved this demented little character. He became Jazz’s little brother and has a major supporting role in the sequel.
A Jazz 2 element I’m especially proud of, however, is Party Mode. Here’s a PC title that allows mltiple players without a modem or network connection. A title that doesn’t involve nudity or graphic violence that allows players to compete. A game that brings families together through memorable, lovable characters—the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.
They said it couldn’t be done. They said no one would want a family platform game for the PC. They said the demographics didn’t allow for such a title. I like to think we proved them wrong. Jazz and Spaz are blazing new territory on the PC, with a little programming help and a whole lot of magic.
It’s a funny thing, creating characters and worlds, building a product that families can enjoy together in a Sunday night. It makes us developers feel warm and fuzzy—kind of like a certain bunny we all know and love, and who happens to carry a heck of a big gun.
So go. Roast someone you love tonight. They’ll thank you for it.
(Any typos or spelling mistakes are probably my fault – I actually looked at the monitor less than half the time while typing that.)
Eat your lima beans, Johnny.