published Wednesday, Jan 14th
Following allegations of a potential security breach at videogame rental company Boomerang Rentals Gamebrit contacted Boomerang Rentals Managing Director and founder Nick Palczynski for comment on the situation.
Following allegations of a potential security breach at videogame rental company Boomerang Rentals Gamebrit contacted Boomerang Rentals Managing Director and founder Nick Palczynski for comment on the situation.
With over thirty years of combined industry experience the four members of UK indie developer Pixel Trip Studios are now working towards releasing their first game – point and click adventure The Breakout.
As the name implies, the adventure game tasks you (as Lt. Guy Kassel) with breaking out of a prison camp, with the hope of acquiring your freedom and returning home to your fiancé.
The game is currently in active development with no release date set. The Breakout will be available on Steam.
Gamebrit caught up with studio developer Adam Jeffcoat to talk about their debut effort.
Tiny Goalie is the latest app from Brighton-based Fat Fish Games. A small team of indie developers, they have been publishing a range of software from their South-East studio for the best part of eight years. Gamebrit caught up with Anthony Barker, the teams Creative Director to find out just how Tiny Goalie may be the perfect replacement for your lamented Flappy Bird addiction.
Available for free from both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play store, Tiny Goalie is simple to play and addictive to boot. You simply slide your finger from side-to-side, controlling a goalkeeper who is tasked with saving any balls kicked his way. Let one past you and it’s Game Over.
University of Lincoln students hoping to fund their videogame movie project have been successful, with cash pledged over on IndieGoGo far surpassing their original £3,300 goal.
We caught up with producer Hannah Skidmore and writer/director Matt Gambell to find out more about their upcoming videogame rom-com, What Goes Up:
Vicki Life, a former GAME employee, is preparing to open her own videogame store. Based in Welwyn Garden City, Vicki has taken it upon herself to hopefully provide a service that she feels the city deserves. It’s a risk, given the recent troubles of GAME and HMV. However risk is often not without its rewards.
Gamebrit took the opportunity to speak to Vicki Life to find out her plans for her independent gaming store ‘Life After Game‘.
For many the first exposure to Rebecca Mayes would have been her appearance on BBC show – Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe. In it, she provided a soulful acoustic review of the Nintendo Wii game MadWorld.
This is what Rebecca Mayes does, singing about and reviewing video games, hence her moniker ‘the singing review girl’. Since the idea of marrying musical and video game reviews together came about, Mayes been kept busy through her work on gamespeople.com and more notably on the website The Escapist.
Taking time out to talk to Gamebrit she discussed how the idea came to fruition, how her album turned out and how she came to appear on Gameswipe.
Recently a series of play-tests revealed BLOCKS as the most popular game developed during the PlayStation Game Runners project. The game will be put on display and available for all to try on Friday 8th October at Elys Yard, The Old Truman Brewery, Hanbury Street in London.
Despite the event being just around the corner Carl Christopher-Ansari, the Sponsorship & Events Manager at Sony Computer Entertainment UK, kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to Gamebrit about the project.
Chris Ollis is a 3D Artist and Animator by trade; he has spent the last 4 years as Lead Artist on Moviestorm, a virtual movie-making package. However previously he spent some time at Codemasters, one of the longest running and largest British based games developers. GameBrit caught up with Ollis to ask him about his time at Codemasters and gain some insight into the world of games developing.
Gamebrit – What did your role at Codemasters involve?
Chris Ollis – I was hired as a character artist and animator for a FPS that never happened, so was quickly redirected to the Race Driver cut scene team to which I was probably more suited. It then generally involved making 3d props, environments and characters, animating them, tidying up and applying mocap data for both bodies and in RD3 faces, some physics simulation (cloth, liquids and things falling over) and various other things involved in making some very shiny pre-rendered sequences. I also helped out with some in-game track building, car and driver work for a couple of other titles.
GB – Could you give us some examples of games you have worked on?
CO – Race Driver 2 and 3, one of the Indy car titles and then before I was at Codies a cheap yet technically impressive PC title called Private Dancer, its shelved sequel (company went under before launch) and numerous Unreal Tournament mods.
GB – How did the development process for your particular department work? How did the process work from start to finish?
CO – The cut scenes went through full movie style production phases, starting with the hiring of a film director who helped shape the story, storyboarding of the scenes, then motion capture sessions before starting to build the characters and sets in 3DS MAX, animate them in Motionbuilder and then render them out back in MAX.
GB – Where does that fit in with the overall development of a game?
CO – With the Race Driver series the story was a major part (in the studios mind if not the players!) it was as important to provide a good narrative for the 1 player game as the actual playability of the cars on track. The story also took you through career progression in the game, unlocking various cars and highlighting the behind the scenes world of motor racing and sponsorship. So it was pretty much hand in hand for those titles.
GB – Is there a sense of involvement in working for such a large-scale developer in Codemasters?
CO – The FMV team was quite small (5 to 8 of us depending on development cycle) so it was a good feeling of teamwork and knowing what everyone was doing. But unlike other companies I’ve worked at there was much less of a sense of importance or place in the whole company, the bigger the game, the greater the number of staff and the more you feel like a worker ant who could easily be replaced and who’s voice is rarely heard. Plus when I was there the need and logic for outsourcing got bigger and bigger and I didn’t really want to be coordinating spreadsheets all day (which I half ended up doing in the next job for a while anyway!).
GB – Did you have any particular career high points whilst at Codemasters?
CO – That’s a tough one, not really, no. The main highlight was the people I worked with, we were all committed to doing a good job and I think we achieved that with each title, or at least the reviews seemed to show it. But it really was a lot of work, serious staring at screens and forcing back boundaries, which at times resulted in the hardware or technology simply not being good enough for what we were trying! So I have more memories of us asking too much of a physics simulation or mocap solution than I do of relief when a scene finished rendering or even the games launch. There certainly wasn’t any showering of champagne like on the podium at the end of the game!
GB – On a similar note were there any low points? Did any projects fall through mid-development for example?
CO – It was quite stressful; sometimes I really didn’t look forward to going in to work because it was guaranteed to be more pressure of maintaining the workload. But if you don’t work hard you don’t get the results. As for games falling over, the game I was hired for didn’t happen but that wasn’t a big deal, the company I had been at before collapsed so I was just grateful to have a job. The Race Driver series was a good solid title; at no point did I think it was in any trouble. Other projects fell over in the company, as is the way everywhere, Dragon Empires was in development while I was there, I guess that’s the most notable one, which was a huge shame as the artwork and development that had been done was superb.
GB – Was the games industry what you expected it to be? Would you ever consider going back?
CO – It’s not as stable a job as I’d like, you really do have to expect things to fall over and find yourself unemployed, especially when starting out at small studios. I really enjoyed seeing the inside workings but it does take some of the magic away and you don’t feel the urge to kick back and play games for hours when you get in as you would after a day in an office doing paperwork. I’d go back if the title interested me and the studio felt right, but will try and avoid the production line mentality of a big studio if possible.
GB – Are their any developers you looked up to in terms of what you did at Codemasters? Also, any current developers that catch your eye?
CO – Blur Studios are the cream of game FMV without a doubt; they’ve been knocking out amazing pre-rendered sequences for years. As for game developers in general it’s hard to say as most studios shift their staff, fall over or just change their game type so you can’t really say. Putting aside politics and the reality of the studio system, I’d love to work on Tekken characters at Namco, Ratchet and Clank at Insomniac, the next Batman at Rocksteady, maybe update Bust a Groove (PS1 break dance game), a new Gitaroo Man and anything at Double Fine.
GB – Would you have any advice for any budding games developers?
CO – Developers or people just wanting in to the industry? Developers, wouldn’t want to suggest anything, there’s as much need for someone to make the most unique game of their dreams as a big studio to churn out the same title year after year. Artists and Programmers though, [tweetable]focus on what interests you[/tweetable], be it environment design or IK solutions and stick with it, but make sure you also learn enough other things around that field so when the company you are at falls over or makes cut backs, you have enough skills to get hired again quickly! A hugely talented character artist is good, but if they can’t turn their hand to quickly making some houses or rigging a dozen cars then their job is by no means secure!
Here at Gamebrit HQ, we were recently lucky enough to chat with Tristram Defries from Rising Star games. Tristram has been in the industry for 15 years and is currently responsible for PR at RSG. Gamebrit spoke to him about what’s worked well for the team, the future, and the No More Heroes debate.
GameBrit – How does Rising Star Games choose which games to publish?
Tristram Defries – In short we have to answer a couple of questions as best we can:
1. Does it fit our Home of Japanese Games brand? I.e. is it an entertaining, quality Japanese game?
2. Is it financially viable?
GB – Are there any games you’d love to bring to the UK but can’t due to market pressures?
TD – Yes – but I won’t answer that with specifics.
GB – What titles have been the biggest hits for you?
TD – Harvest Moon DS and No More Heroes. The Harvest Moon series is very popular indeed.
GB – With the stream of ‘shovelware’ released on DS & Wii do you find it more difficult to get your titles noticed?
TD: I think this is a problem faced by any publisher, large or small. Of course it seems a smaller problem if you have (1) a well-known, popular brand or sequel and/or (2) lots of money for marketing – but the latter doesn’t always help deliver a good return on investment.
GB – The Harvest Moon series is getting close to it’s 10 year anniversary in the UK, do you have any events planned to mark this like in Japan and the US?
TD – I won’t say.
GB – Will you be moving into the download market anytime soon?
TD – This is under consideration but I won’t tell you any more than that. Boring, aren’t I? But I’ll do it again.
GB – Are there plans to bring titles to 360 & PS3?
TD – Yes – we will be working with Gamebridge to bring Way of the Samurai 3 to PAL territories in early 2010. We also have plans for RSG titles on 360 and PS3 but it is too early to talk about them.
GB – Has the market for Japanese titles changed during your time at Rising Star Games?
TD – I’ve only worked at Rising Star Games for a few months but it seems to me that “Japanese games” has always been a very broad category that unwarrantedly turns some people off – of course, ‘core’ gamers have been much more willing than ‘casual’ gamers to try Japanese games. However, I think we are persuading an increasing number of people that many Japanese games are great and, of course, that we are The Home of Japanese Games.
GB – When No More Heroes was released in the UK you used the censored Japanese version instead of the US version which had full blood effects. With hindsight, seeing as European gamers are more comfortable with mature content, do you think this decision negatively affected sales?
TD – Well, while I have no wish to reignite this debate, I don’t believe we published a ‘censored’ version: we are the home of Japanese games and so we published the version that was published in Japan. Let’s agree to differ on that!
To answer your question, I’ve seen comments from people who say they didn’t buy the game because it wasn’t the USA version, but I think it is impossible to say which version would have sold more. Suppose we published the USA version instead – I think it would have been rated 18 by PEGI and this may have resulted in fewer sales. This wasn’t the reason why we didn’t publish the USA version, I just think it supports my view that it’s impossible to say whether sales would have been better or worse either way.
GB – Has Little King’s Story hit your sales expectations?
TD – Of course we at Rising Star Games are biased, but we all genuinely think it’s a great game and, if you look at the reviews, which I’m sure you’ll agree are very favourable on the whole – mostly 8s and 9s out of 10 – this is a game that reviewers seem to enjoy too. If you look at the comments on those same reviews and discussions elsewhere on the web you see members of the public largely praising the game as well. We are going to keep trying to persuade people to buy it.
I must add that the developers are lovely people who deserve many more sales!
GB – In future, will you be giving freebies to fans who preorder your titles?
TD- This is under consideration but I won’t tell you any more than that.
GB – Would you consider bringing collectibles or soundtracks to the UK? (We’d to see a Little King’s Story OST!)
TD – This is under consideration but I won’t tell you any more than that. I’m being boring again, aren’t I? In fact, Luminous Arc 2 will include an official soundtrack CD.
You know, we always have our ear to the ground and want to know what people want in terms of such items. Indeed there is a thread on our forum about this very issue.
GB – Murumasa is a beautiful game and one that could plug a gap for hardcore gamers on Wii, will you be backing this title with a strong ad campaign?
TD – I think we have a strong marketing campaign for Muramasa, and we hope to have at least as good as a reception to the game as Ignition had in the USA. It is a fantastic game and has mostly reviewed very well over there.
GB – What big titles can we expect to see from you in 2010?
No More Heroes 2 and Fragile Dreams will prove to be very popular, but we have a great line-up outside of those two, so watch this space!
Our thanks go to Tristram for taking the time to answer our questions. Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility is out now in all good games stores
Having been a gaming journalist for over a decade, Joao Diniz Sanches has seen pretty much everything the game industry has to offer. He once barely escaped being run over by Kazunori Yamauchi, and his likeness can be found, and shot, in Perfect Dark. His career has included being the editor of one of the most respected magazines in the industry, EDGE, and now his knowledge and passion has culminated in the release of his second guide to the video gaming world, which you can win, The Video Gaming Manual is a guide to both modern consoles and the machines of yesteryear. We got a chance to volley some questions in his direction which he dutifully returned.
GameBrit – How did you first get started in the gaming industry?
Joao Diniz Sanches – I was lucky, really. I did a post-graduate magazine journalism course with the intention of getting to work on Edge. When it came to the work placement period, I managed to persuade then editor Jason Brookes to give me a two-week stint on his mag (only took around ten or 15 phone calls, as I recall). A week after the placement they called me back in for an interview and another week later I was on the team. A case of being in the right place at the right time.
GB – What is your first memory of gaming?
JDS – The bio in the book states a 1978 encounter with my cousins’ Philips Videopac G7000 console. This is true and the impact on me was massive but there is also a certain artistic license to this as I distinctly remember playing on a Pong-style clone at home a year or two earlier, but that sounds a little dull so I stuck with the G7000 incident.
GB – What’s your fondest memory from your time at Edge?
JDS – There were too many memorable gaming-related moments to list but with regards to the team dynamic, there was a spontaneous, monumental rubber band fight (which rapidly involved the neighboring Official PlayStation Magazine team) in the early days that will stay with me forever. That and the image of our security guard sat asleep in the games room still holding a GunCon light gun pointed at the screen (Point Blank 2, if memory serves) during one of our all-night deadline stints. You kind of had to be there for both of those.
GB – Are there any games reviewed under your tenure that with hindsight you wish had been scored differently?
JDS – I can’t imagine there is a reviewer who, if they are honest with themselves, would be able to answer ‘no’ to this. Reviews are subjective, and while you try to be as fair and balanced as you can, now and again you have to admit that you didn’t get it quite ‘right’. To give you a specific example, and this ties in with your next question, soon after reviewing GoldenEye 007 I realised there was an almost irrefutable argument for a 10, rather than the 9 it got. That’s the difference between having a week or one/two months to review a game. Sure, the latter is an unrealistic scenario for gaming publications and some games also reveal their worth in a matter of hours, but as a reviewer you’ll often want more time to reflect on a game than the what you’re given.
GB – Were Goldeneye and Metroid Prime strong candidates for a 10?
JDS – Definitely in the case of GoldenEye, as mentioned above (this has also previously been revealed in the mag, in a Top 100 for issue E100). Metroid Prime was exceptional when it appeared, but I can think of a number of arguments against it being 10 material.
GB – Looking back, before EDGE, which games would you have given a 10?
JDS – It’s very difficult to review games retrospectively and do it accurately so I’m going to wimp out of answering this one. Sorry. Certainly, I can think of games that to me were very, very special, and those have been included in the book, but there are too many factors threatening to cloud my judgement with regards to assigning specific scores.
GB – Who has been the most interesting gaming personality you’ve met?
JDS -I could listen to obvious candidates like Miyamoto, Warren Spector, Gabe Newell, Tetsuya Mizuguchi all day long but two of my all-time favourite industry personalities are Jonathan Smith (Traveller’s Tales) and Charles Cecil (Revolution).
GB – Which are your favourite game series/franchises?
JDS – Limiting this to three: Zelda, Metroid, Mario.
GB – What games are you looking forward to playing?
JDS – No massive surprises here, really. Batman Arkham Asylum (haven’t got round to it yet), Modern Warfare 2 (although mainly for single-player), Uncharted 2, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Zelda: Spirit Tracks, The Last Guardian, Metroid Prime: Other M and Forza Motorsport 3 (my quest to experience this game in a three-screen set-up continues). There are others, like Brutal Legend, New Super Mario Bros, Crackdown 2, RUSE and Assassin’s Creed II which I’m hoping will deliver.
GB – Which is your favourite format?
JDS – A boring response, for which I apologise, but I don’t have a favourite system. I have fond memories of gaming experiences and I guess you associate those with the hardware they played on. If I had to pick the systems with the highest number of those memories then the list would probably read something like the Spectrum, SNES, N64, PS, Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox 360. I’ve had the opportunity to own the leading systems since the MD/SNES days and while as a youngster I would fervently defend my Speccy when in the presence of C64 owners, I’ve thankfully since grown up and no longer have a loyalty to hardware – my focus is on the games. Which, I know, does sound terribly cliche.
GB – Do you think games qualify as art? (Do they need to?)
JDS – I think games are arguably the most exciting form of entertainment around at the moment. I’d say that, for now at least, that’s all they need to be.
GB- Do you think gaming will be seen differently by the wider media in the next ten years?
JDS – Undoubtedly. Already things are considerably better than ten years ago. New generations grow up with gaming as part of their lives, so that regardless of whether they keep with the pastime as they grow up or not, they have the kind of knowledge of the medium that too many mainstream journalists have lacked to date. Also, as the popularity of gaming continues to increase, there will be continued pressure on publications to cover the medium professionally, in many quarters that’s already the case.
GB – You talk about the various gaming formats in your new book, but do you think gaming should ever move towards a single-format model, like DVD & Blu-Ray (with standardised tech licensed and produced by various technology companies)?
JDS – I think it’s entirely possible we’ll get there but we’re a long way off still. And it’s not entirely without its issues, either, because without competition between hardware manufacturers gamers can end up losing (think of the way PSN and Live are pushing each other to evolve at a faster rate than if Sony or Microsoft had the market all to themselves). That said, I think the reality is that years from now you won’t have the hardware at home anyway, you’ll play games by streaming them online, Gaikai style, but in a considerably more advanced form. In that scenario the platform behind the games becomes invisible.
GB – What advice can you give to anyone wanting to work in game journalism?
JDS – Write and write and write. If you’re just starting out in terms of writing, check out the leading sites and magazines, and their best writers with regards to the elements you’ll find in their reviews. There are fundamentals to reviews that should come through as constants, regardless of a writer’s style. Of course, the idea is to analyse their work and then incorporate that into your own style, there’s little point in regurgitating someone else’s voice.
The internet makes it so easy to publish your own work these days that once you have developed your own voice you can point any potential employer to your blog. These days editors are used to being approached by would-be game journalists and are quick to spot those with potential. If you’re passionate about your medium and game journalism, maintaining a blog should be a pleasure, and there’s no better calling card.
The next step is to get commissioned. Many online writers offer initial work free of charge in order to get experience and exposure. I think this can be worth it but don’t go overboard. Target two or three sites first, get published and then use that to work your way up towards the bigger publications. A less popular but still invaluable step would be to secure an internship on a magazine to get some experience. Often, if you’re up to scratch, you can go on to obtain more work with the same publication on a freelance basis and then things can snowball from there.
The competition is considerable and you have to be honest about your ability as a writer and reviewer. If you’re good, then keep hassling the sites and magazines, there are plenty of publications out there looking for good people.
We’d like to thank Joao for taking the time to answer our questions and wish him all the best in the future.
Some of our older readers may have some great memories of their days with the Commodore 64. One of the longest lasting aspects of the era has been the music, which is as distinct and rich today as it was twenty years ago. Back in the day, composers like Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway, Chris Huelsbeck and Jeroen Tel cut their teeth on the C64’s SID chip and produced some of the finest game music ever made. We recently got the chance to chat with Rob Kramer, the artistic director of dutch production company Productiehuis ON, who have brought some of the best loved tunes from games like Monty on the Run and Myth into a fully-fledged orchestral environment.
GameBrit: Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourselves?
Rob Kramer: Productiehuis ON is a small government funded cultural organisation in the eastern part of Holland. Our goal is to create ONusual stuff for normal people. We do run about 6-8 different productions per year in a wide variety of styles and disciplines. We do sell over 150 shows per year. Some of our productions will only perform in the Netherlands but for example the C64 orchestra, NO blues and Kytemans Hiphop Orchestra do tour all over Europe.
GB: How long has the Ricciotti Ensemble been around?
RK: The Ricciotti Ensemble has been around since the early seventies as a ‘street’ orchestra with around 40 students. Their goal has always been to take classical music to places where it normally isn’t played and heared. Open air, prisons, rock venues, malls etc. They tour all over Europe.
GB: What prompted you to start the C64 Orchestral project?
RK: Productiehuis ON was approached by Jeroen Tel and Julian Aalders (micro music & vj of the C64 orchestra) if we were interested in the possibilities of orchestral version of the original C64 game tracks. Although a very complicated project we decided to give it a try, also because I am old enough to have started my computer career on a c64 and played a lot of games on it. Nostalgia is a powerful feeling and I knew the artistic potential of the original music.
GB: Are any of the musicians fans of games?
RK: The musicians are way too young to have played the C64, but they are great fans of the music.
GB: Which C64 composers have been involved with the Orchestra?
RK: Rob Hubbard and Jeroen Tel, Rob Hubbard did all the arrangements for the cd himself.
GB: What were your favourite tunes to work with?
RK: Myth and Rubicon. Rubicon is a different arrangement. It is not done by Rob Hubbard but by the violin player of the C64 orchestra Ben Mathot. I think it is different and great.
GB: Are there any other C64 composers you would like to work with?
RK: We would love to work with Martin Galway, Kurt Heiden, Larry Holland, etc. But getting the rights of the music and arranging the music for an orchestra, consumes a lot of time and money. Not to mention rehearsing and recording the music.
GB: Will you be sticking to C64 music in the future or will you branch out to cover music from other formats from the same era, like Spectrum, Amiga or NES?
RK: Although there is enough good C64 music available to get 10 more cd’s out there, it is tempting to branch out to e.g. amiga. The situation right now is that we need to go break even on this project, before we can invest in new projects of this sort. So please keep buying our cd, it is expensive, but worth every penny.
GB: Are your fans mainly in Europe or have you had interest from people in other parts of the world?
RK: C64 lovers are to be found from Korea to Brazil and from Finland to Canada. We have shipped RUN 10 to almost every continent! Also the comments on our myspace indicate that the C64 fan base is worldwide. A short docu has recently been broadcasted on Current TV, a big cable station in the USA. The footage can be found on our myspace page.
GB: Will you be bringing your performances to other countries like the UK?
RK: We would love to bring it to the UK. Touring with the orchestra, vj’s, sound engineers, etc doesn’t come cheap.
GB: Have you thought about joining forces with VideoGames Live for one of their performances?
RK: We would love to, they run a very cool show! But there is no connection yet.
GB: Where can our readers get a hold of a copy of your first CD, RUN 10?
RK: More info and video footage on our productions is available @ www.ONinternet.nl or you can check out www.myspace.com/c64orchestra. You can also find a lot of video footage, interviews and other stuff like very cool c64 t-shirts.
We would like to thank Rob Kramer and Maike Fleuren at Pruductiehuis On for taking the time to speak to us and we wish them all the best in the New Year. Some of the titles featured in the C64 orchestra can be found on the Wii’s Virtual Console, so if you are too young to have played them when they first came out, check out Cybernoid and International Karate+ to see what you’ve missed out on.
This week we got the ‘rare’ opportunity to chat to some of the team working on Banjo~Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Check out the interview below and look out for our impressions on Rare’s big holiday title coming soon.
GameBrit: Thanks for talking to us today, can you tell our readers a little bit about your roles on Banjo-Kazooie?
Neil Harrison: Hi I’m Neil Harrison I’m the lead technical artist on Banjo~Kazooie Nuts & Bolts.
Elissa Miller: And I’m Elissa Miller and I’m a senior animator.
GB: How does the Nuts & Bolts story pick up from the other games?
NH: Well we make a little joke about the length of time between the games so as you start off the game, Banjo and Kazooie are really overweight. They’ve spent the last few years sitting around, eating pizza and playing other games. As the game begins they hear a noise outside Banjo’s house and find Gruntillda’s body-less head buried under some rubble. A character called L.O.G, who refers to himself as the Lord of Games, appears before they can start fighting and challenges them to be better video-game characters. He slims down Banjo and Kazooie and gives them their first vehicle, which we call the shopping trolley. And so begins their new adventure.
GB: How big is Nuts & Bolts? Will it take as long to complete as the first games?
NH: It’s kind of hard to say really, you can basically just race through to finish it or you can spend a lot of time trying to get good times and collecting everything. I think it would probably take a hardcore gamer about 15 hours to get through it.
EM: There’s plenty of other things for players to do, there’s almost an infinite amount of gameplay really. Being able to construct your own vehicle means you have great replayability so you can keep going back to challenges with different vehicles.
GB: And I noticed you can see videos of other people trying out challenges to pick up tips on how to get good times and things.
NH: The key thing with that is I could watch a video of a player completing the best lap time of any other racing game but I may not be able to learn enough from it to reach that level, or I might not be good enough. Whereas in the game the skill is in how you build the vehicle so if I can see how someone else has put together theirs, I can spend a bit of time coming up with something similar. It puts players on a much more level playing field really.
GB: Have you aimed for that community focus from the out-set?
NH: Yeah definitely and we can’t wait to release it and see what people actually do with it.
EM: We have a lot of multiplayer modes as well, there’s about 28 different games and you can play these in ranked or solo modes. It’s a really important part of the game it isn’t just an add-on like in some games.
NH: And the fact you can build your own vehicles to compete in the games makes it much more enjoyable but also makes you want to keep going back and playing it.
GB: How big is the development team?
NH: Well it’s grown quite organically throughout the development process but we do have a core team coming up with all the ideas. I think it peaked at around 70 maybe 80 people and obviously now we’re coming to the final stages it starts to calm down again.
GB: Do you have an art team working around you?
NH: We have a core group assigned to the project and then we have other departments around Rare, we have what we call the art asset group which are almost like an outsourced art department within the company then we have a shared technology group as well that provide the engine for the game.
GB: Have you got any of the original team from the first Banjo~Kazooie working on this title?
EM: Yeah we have Greg Mayles who was the lead designer on the original two games and is now the design director but also our team leader and lead designer for the team as well. We still have quite a core group, there’s Steve Mayles, another lead artist.
NH: There’s about four or five still around.
GB: Has it been important having the old members around?
NH: I think it’s important to have them there to keep the consistency from the old games. All of us have played the old ones but it’s not quite the same as working on them.
GB: How long has the game been in development for?
NH: Well, its been about four years but we did actually start with a few other ideas, basically we did start off with a traditional platformer, essentially the same thing in high-definition. We did that for a while but it wasn’t really what we wanted to do both as designers and as gamers ourselves. It just felt a little stale in today’s market so we came up with a couple of other ideas and they eventually formed into we’ve got at the moment.
GB: What made you choose a vehicle based game?
NH: Well we wanted to do something a little different, we started doing the HD platformer and we thought yeah we could do this but we could do something so much more interesting and using the 360 we had so much more power available to us.
EM: I think as well platformers peaked in the 90s and we felt we should do something a little more innovative as a team and push a few more boundaries and putting the gameplay in the players hand and making it their own experience was the logical way forward. Basically giving the player the chance to make their own abilities within the game.
GB: Do you still have much in the way of traditional platforming or is it mainly vehicle based?
EM: There are bits of platforming sections still in there, like in [the hub-world] Showdown Town you have ladders, collecting and so on so there is still an element in there of it. It’s more of an evolution of previous games so we haven’t forgotten it but we have kind of moved on a bit.
NH: The way we see it is at it’s heart it is still a platformer but instead of us telling you what your moves are at certain points in the game you get the chance to essentially create your own abilities via the vehicles.
GB: Have you got any references to old games tucked away?
NH: Quite a few yeah, there’s lots of little jokes at other games, like right at the beginning of the game where L.O.G mentions he’s made every game known to man. I think there’s even a little mention for [Grabbed by the ] Ghoulies in there from Kazooie who mentions how it didn’t sell very well and you know we have to laugh at ourselves as well as everybody else.
GB: I think that’s what people expect from Rare
NH: Yeah exactly.
EM: And Banjo has always been known for it’s sense of humour and we really wanted to carry that on.
GB: I did notice an N64 tucked away in Banjo’s house
NH: Yeah there’s a few like that knocking around
EM: There’s lots there for people to pick up on and I think that’s one of the things that makes playing these games so interesting, you’ll notice little nods here and there that we’ve put in for people to find as they play through.
GB: Are you doing anything to celebrate the ten year anniversary of the original?
NH: Well we’ve got the XBLA version of the original coming out and that was done to mark the anniversary.
EM: And we’re launching the Xbox 360 game as well!
GB: How is the infamous ‘Stop& Swap’ feature going to work?
NH: That’s a little in-joke for the fans, basically Banjo~Kazooie Nuts & Bolts can actually detect if you’ve played the Live Arcade version of the original and at certain points the game will let you unlock certain bits.
GB: The ice key perhaps?
GB: Even years after the original was released people are still finding little hidden things snuck away, has this dedication from the hardcore fans surprised you?
EM: Yeah it’s been so many years since the last one and there are still so many fans out there, which is great, we’re just hoping they choose to adopt this one as well.
GB: When it was first announced there was a bit of negative feedback from some quarters of the community, did that surprise you?
EM: I don’t think it necessarily surprised us, whatever you do when you introduce some change you’re always going to come up against some resistance. But it’s always a difficult decision so if we’d have stuck with traditional platforming people would have said ‘you’re not being innovative’ so whatever you do your not going to be on to a winner. So we just wanted to trust our own instincts when creating this type of game and we always build games that we enjoy and we’re gamers, so hopefully that means it’ll appeal to those sorts of gamers that regularly enjoy those types of games.
GB: I was a huge fan of the first game myself, and I have to say I was a little worried when the whole vehicle side was revealed but having played it I can see that same Banjo charm in there.
NH: That’s it; we know once people get a chance to play it they’ll enjoy it. That’s why we enjoy these hands-on events so that people who might be a little apprehensive like yourself can play and appreciate what we’re trying to do. It’s still a Banjo game and it’s still got all those common elements that you enjoy but just in a new package.
EM: I think when we first announced it people thought ‘vehicles? What are they doing?’ and they think it’s just a racing game. There are a few race challenges in there but it’s not what it’s about at all. It’s all about creating your own experience as a gamer.
GB: Then there’s the multiplayer modes as well?
NH: Yeah, once you get your hands on the game with mates and you start to open it up like creating your own vehicles and things you’ll really see how fun it can be. We could be competing in the same race but you could be in a plane, someone else could be in a tank trying to blow us up and I could be in a speedboat, I think that side of the game is pretty cool.
GB: It was a lot of fun actually, the multiplayer kind of reminded me of Diddy Kong Racing, but with Banjo characters. Did you look at that as an influence?
NH: That’s an interesting question actually! I don’t think we’re in a position to answer that; you’d have to speak to Greg [Mayles] about that one!
GB: Did you have any other influences?
NH: Not really. Greg kind of works in a different way; he won’t say let’s do what they’re doing, he looks at other games and says ‘how can we make this different’. I think looking at other games can be restricting from a design point of view; you almost need to look outside the games industry.
EM: I think as a company we’ve always been innovative, and always wanted to try something new and I think that’s what people will find with this game.
GB: What sort of gamers are you aiming Nuts & Bolts at?
NH: Well, we’re trying to aim it at anyone with a creative streak who is looking for something a little different to everything else out there. It does appeal to a broad audience but on different levels. A young child could pick it up and play around with pre-built vehicles or using a part-built chassis from L.O.G; but then you have the hardcore gamers that can really go to town building stuff from scratch.
EM: We just hope once we put it out there that people will be attracted to it and really just have fun with it.
NH: It’s important for people to give it a chance because I could look at any screenshots of a first-person shooter and know how it plays but our game is a bit different. You really need to pick it up and play it to understand how much fun it is.
GB: Will there be a demo out soon?
NH: There will be yeah, we don’t when that will be yet though. It’s still in the final stages; we still have a few weeks of final bug testing and things.
GB: Is everyone doing 24 hour stints right now then?
NH: Except us!
GB: Will Banjo and Kazooie be making any guest appearances in other games? Maybe Killer Instinct 3?
EM: I’d be a rich person if I got a pound for every time I was asked about that, but who knows!
GB: Do you think they would have kicked ass and taken names in Smash Bros?
NH: I think so; they would have done pretty well in that.
We’d like to say a big thank you to Neil and Elissa for taking the time to chat to us! Make sure you keep it on GameBrit for more on Banjo-Kazooie.