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How Mark Cerny fell into the role of Knack's creative director

PlayStation 4 lead architect Mark Cerny didn't set out to be the creative director of PS4 launch title Knack, but rather slipped into that role gradually.

Speaking with Polygon during a PlayStation 4 press event in New York today, Cerny called his work on Knack as both the overall and creative director an opportunity to do something a little different. However, while Cerny initially expected to work in a producer role, he wound up as the game's creative director. It started with recording in Tokyo and script writing — dialogue that Cerny thought would never be used.

"The producer said, 'We're trying to estimate how many minutes it's going to be and how many characters are needed,'" Cerny told us. "'You know the scenarios the best. Can you just write the amount of stuff that you see these characters saying to each other?'"

Although it was admittedly a lot to do, Cerny agreed. About a month later, the producer told Cerny the team had decided to use his script after all.

"[He said] 'The U.S. is probably the biggest market for this, we don't want to do something in Japanese and translate it," Cerny said. "'So, how do you feel about them taking that terrible dialogue you wrote and turning it into a real script?'

"That was a lot of work, because then you really have to think about what everybody's going to say," Cerny added.

The studio then told Cerny they'd be doing motion capture in Tokyo — a move he found puzzling.

"I live in L.A," Cerny said. "The actors are in L.A. Sony has a facility in L.A. that was built for Naughty Dog for Uncharted and used for The Last of Us. It makes no sense to do all of this in Tokyo with the immense language barrier with all the staff here. It's very natural to do it in the states."

The result was Cerny holding more than a hundred auditions to find actors and working side-by-side with the game's director on motion capture, which took a solid eight weeks to complete. Cerny continued to work closely with the game's director and various designers to bring Knack to fruition.

"Initially I thought yeah, I'd just be a producer type because the Japan studio has so many talented individuals there, but it seemed to me that they were having difficulty getting games out the door," Cerny said.

"They didn't get a single million-selling game out in the entire PlayStation 3 generation. But again, it's a studio where all these great titles came out: Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, LocoRoco, Gravity Rush, Ape Escape ... They have all these talented people, but I could just see that they were having difficulties coming up with a concept that could sell broadly and internationally and getting it in the works."

Brian Crecente contributed to this report.

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