The ottsel is a species in the Jak and Daxter series. A hybrid of the otter and weasel, they are small, slender anthropomorphic animals, typically with orange fur and yellow markings. Known ottsels include Daxter, Veger, Tess, Ottsel Leader, Ottsel Dummy, and Ottsel Surfer—the former three are former humans, while the latter three are the universe's worshipped Precursors.
By virtue of being transformed into an ottsel, Daxter and Veger are also Precursors. However, while all known Precursors are ottsels, it is unknown whether all ottsels are in effect Precursors. Nor is it certain all Precursors are necessarily ottsels. Ottsels represent one of five known non-human sapient species in the Jak and Daxter series, accompanied by babaks, Kor's species, Kaeden's species, and moncaws.
The Precursor Legacy
The first ottsel to appear in the series is Daxter, a human who was transformed after falling into a pool of dark eco. The events of The Precursor Legacy follow Jak and Daxter's journey to find dark eco sage Gol Acheron, who was the only one with enough knowledge of the substance to perhaps change him back.
Later in the game, it is discovered that dark eco corrupted Gol, and that Jak and Daxter must in fact destroy him. Shortly before doing so, light eco was generated as a means of stopping Gol and Maia's Precursor robot. Daxter believed that the light eco could change him back, but ultimately chose to use it to save the world, accepting to remain an ottsel for the time being.
Daxter and Jak II
In subsequent adventures, Daxter would frequently reference his ottsel form and his longing for pants, but would gradually come to embrace it. He would also take advantage of his diminutive size to accomplish specialized tasks. In Daxter, he even acknowledged that being an ottsel "might be useful after all", after getting a job as a metal bug exterminator with Kridder Ridder (both because of and despite his size).
In Jak II, Daxter used his form to scale tall objects and retrieve items for Jak, namely the ruby key from Mar's statue in the mission "Drain sewers to find statue", saying that without Jak, he "wouldn't be two feet tall, fuzzy, and running around in a sewer without a pair of pants."
Daxter also developed a romantic relationship with Tess, a human who was vaguely attracted to him, again because of and despite his ottsel form. At the end of the game, Daxter rebranded the Hip Hog Heaven Saloon as the Naughty Ottsel, named for the form he had come to accept. He mounted the large Kor trophy head at the front of the establishment, retorting with "As if size matters?" to Tess' amazement at the size of the trophy.
Daxter would continue to take advantage of his size in Jak 3, namely in the missions "Find satellite in volcano", "Destroy barrier with missile", "Find cypher in eco grid", and "Explore war factory". Different from Jak II, however, Daxter was in fact playable during these missions. Despite the abundance of light eco in Jak 3, Daxter's return to human form was not attempted. It is possible Daxter was mistaken in assuming light eco would have helped him in the first place.
Near the end of the game, Jak and Daxter reach the Precursor core, where the fabled Precursors were said to reside. Upon arrival, Jak was offered the gift of evolution into a Precursor, but was interrupted by Veger, who claimed that the right was his. Veger stepped into the transformative light, moments before the gate to the control panel opened to reveal the Precursors inside, which were a trio of ottsels.
In shock and disbelief, Veger first demanded at gunpoint that the ottsels "Get down from there and stop defiling that glorious machine!" The Ottsel Leader responded by pinning him to an energy shield, telling him "Do not let our size fool you. We are the most powerful beings in the universe."
The Leader then explained that if society had known the Precursors were a bunch of ottsels, they would not have worshipped them, and so they "fluffed up the myth". He revealed that when Daxter was first transformed into an ottsel, he was in fact blessed when he thought he was cursed, explaining that all eco contains the source of their essence.
Daxter responded with jubilation at the revelation, while Veger was stricken with the realization that he was to evolve into an ottsel, at which point he did, much to his chagrin. The reveal also implicates the Dark Makers as former ottsels, corrupted by dark eco as stated earlier in the game.
In the epilogue of Jak 3, the Ottsel Leader offered to grant Daxter's deepest desire, to which he responded with a request for a "nice pair of pants". After the wish was granted, Tess stated that she wished she had a pair "just like that", to which the Leader told her to be careful what she wished for, before transforming her into an ottsel. Both Tess and Daxter seemed to be satisfied with the arrangement.
The Lost Frontier
In The Lost Frontier, Daxter was again doused with liquid dark eco, this time while exploring the Aeropa sewers. He subsequently turned into an eight-foot monster known as Dark Daxter, and would toggle between this form and his normal ottsel form for the missions "Escape from the sewers", "Escape the laser lab", and "Smash the barracks". Dark Daxter triggers included being re-doused with dark eco, as well as being threatened.
It is known that Precursor ottsels corrupted by dark eco turned into Dark Makers, though it is unknown whether Dark Daxter was in fact a Dark Maker himself, as he did not resemble any known Dark Makers. Dark eco's effect on the ottsel included considerable growth in size, aggression, and strength, but regressed intellect and hygiene. It also imparted powers to him, including a frenzy mode and the ability to shoot dark eco blasts out of his hands.
Daxter retained his memory through the duration of his transformations into Dark Daxter. While he seemed to enjoy his increased strength while in his dark form, he expressed glee upon returning to his soft orange form, both thanking and cursing the Precursors. It is unknown whether dark eco would have comparable effects on other ottsels, or if they were exclusive to Daxter.
Ottsels are small, slender anthropomorphic mammals, with large tails and four limbs with which they can use both bipedal and quadrupedal locomotion. They are well-known to have particularly soft fur, which is invariably orange in color, with yellow underbellies and striping patterns.
Ottsels have very large eyes, stubby noses, characteristically large mouths, and rabbit-like ears. Daxter stands at a roughly representative 2'10" in height and 48 lbs in weight. While Tess appears to be quite a bit taller than Daxter, she's noticeably slimmer, whereas on the other end of the spectrum, the Ottsel Leader is shorter than Daxter but the bulkiest ottsel seen in the series. The others appear to fall somewhere within this range.
Ottsels represent one of only three known non-human sapient species in the Jak and Daxter series, accompanied by moncaws and babaks. They are also the most technologically advanced race in the universe, being responsible for vast Precursor technology and architecture (see Precursors). Despite this, Daxter was frequently dismissed as a "rodent" or Jak's "pet", and the Precursors foresaw humanity's inability to revere them as gods if they were privy to their rodent-like form.
Ottsels were commonly compared to or mistaken for muskrats, rats, squirrels, hamsters, and bilge rats, and mis-typed as rodents despite technically being mustelids. Due to his diminutive size and soft fur, Daxter was fancied (and wagered) as both a snack and a fur coat, respectively.
Behind the scenes
During early development of Crash Bandicoot, a franchise developed by Naughty Dog prior to Jak and Daxter, "Ozzie the Otzel" was one of the proposed names for the protagonist, Crash Bandicoot, from Universal Studios. Ottsels in fact share the same color scheme with bandicoots in the Crash Bandicoot series.
The ottsel was originally conceived as a more slender squirrel/dog-like creature by concept artist Charles Zembillas, for the design of the "sidekick", then as a weasel/ferret-like creature. Concept artist Bob Rafei would further refine the design to produce both a biological cross between, and a portmanteau of, an otter and a weasel, a shared design with Daxter and subsequent ottsel characters.
The idea to make Precursors ottsels came from creative director Dan Arey, and received strong support among animators. A developer stated, "I'd kind of like to be in the living rooms ... of America watching when a lot of people who've played the series before see the Precursors for the first time, because I imagine we're gonna get just as many people who like the idea, as just as many people who think it's the dumbest thing they've ever seen."
In other media
Ottsels also cameo in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time as a treasure in "Clan of the Cave Raccoon", entitled "Lutrela Nivadensis", described as a "rare hybrid species of the Carnivora family", known for "its orange fur and loud mouth".
Daxter, thereby ottsels, underwent a significant design overhaul in the undeveloped Jak 4 by Naughty Dog. They mandated that, "As a wisecracking, anthropomorphic ottsel (half otter, half weasel), a realistic Daxter needed to have all the adorableness of a puppy but the edge of a foxy jokester. Exaggerated hands and a bushy, playful tail were absolutely necessary."
- Daxter script § "Bring 25 gems back to the Concierge (gameplay)"
- Jak II script § "God I Miss Pants!"
- Jak II script § "The Celebration"
- Jak 3 script § "The Strange Gets Stranger"
- Jak 3 script § "The Oracle Gives Hope"
- Jak 3 script § "The Universe Calls"
- The Lost Frontier script § "Way Down in the Hole"
- The Lost Frontier script § "Epilogue"
- The Lost Frontier script § "Light Eco, Dark Daxter"
- The Lost Frontier script § "The Raid"
- The Lost Frontier script § "The Interceptor"
- Jak II script § "Meeting Krew and Sig"
- Jak X: Combat Racing, character statistics
- Jak II script § "Meeting Torn"
- The Precursor Legacy script § "Yellow Sage"
- Jak II script § "Whine, Women, and Song"
- Jak II script § "What Did You Two Do?"
- Jak 3 script § "Veger's Twisted Dream"
- Jak II script § "Torn Has a Mission"
- The Lost Frontier script § "Go after Phoenix (gameplay)"
- The Lost Frontier script § "Pirates"
- Jak II script § "Torn's Delivery"
- Jak 3 script § "Kleiver's Race Challenge"
- The Lost Frontier script § "Sucker's Bet"
- Gavin 2011, 6.
- Zembillas 2002, set 10, slide 171
- Daxter, back cover, NTSC-U/C and PAL
- The Art of Naughty Dog, p. 150.
- The Lost Frontier, guide
- Davison & Rybicki 2002, p. 116.
- Jak 3 script § "The Strange Gets Stranger (commentary)"
- Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Ottsel
- Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Lutrela Nivadensis
- Naughty Dog (2001). Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. PlayStation 2. Sony Interactive Entertainment.
- Naughty Dog (2003). Jak II. PlayStation 2. Sony Interactive Entertainment.
- Naughty Dog (2004). Jak 3. PlayStation 2. Sony Interactive Entertainment.
- Ready at Dawn (2006). Daxter. PlayStation Portable. Sony Interactive Entertainment.
- High Impact Games (2009). Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier. PlayStation Portable. Sony Interactive Entertainment.
- Naughty Dog (2009). Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. PlayStation 3. Sony Interactive Entertainment.
- Sanzaru Games (2013). Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. PlayStation 3. Sony Interactive Entertainment.
- Naughty Dog (Evan Wells, Christophe Balestra, et al.) (October 2014). The Art of Naughty Dog. Dark Horse Comics. ISBN 978-1-62115-931-5.
- John Davison, Joe Rybicki (January 2002). "Mascots for the PlayStation 2?" in Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine. Issue 52: 112–125.