Tag Archives: 3D Platformer

SG88 Rugrats: Search for Reptar Header

Rugrats: Search for Reptar (PlayStation)

Developer(s) – n-Space 

Publisher(s) – THQ

Director(s) – Seth Jacobsen & Don Nauert

Producer(s) – Symar Sambar, Leyland Mah & Jym Kelly 

ELSPA – 3

 

Released on the original PlayStation back in 1998 as part of a lucrative multi-million dollar deal between THQ and Nickelodeon, and boasting the second biggest video game marketing campaign of that year (second only to Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time) Rugrats: Search for Reptar is a good example of effective development of a game based on a pre-existing license before the standard would be even further elevated in the late 2000s. Back in the day and as a huge Rugrats fan growing up, I spent a ridiculous amount of time playing this game, and in all honesty, is still one that holds up to this day for a multitude of different reasons. 

 

Graphics – 8/10

The visuals are simple and cartoony to go along with the tableau of the show it’s based on. It’s a lot like a precursor to the concept of cel-shaded visuals perpetuated later by Jet Set Radio and a plethora of games developed afterward. It takes place in a hub world, which is the Pickles residence as well as across a number of locations presented in a variety of classic Rugrats episodes including Grandpa’s Teeth and The Mysterious Mr. Friend. It still holds up to this day because it was never meant to be a game with cutting-edge graphics; only to portray the visual style of the cartoon, which it does exceptionally well. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

By design, the game is an action-adventure, but because it centers on several classic episodes of the series, it presents the player with a variety of different gameplay mechanics, such as golfing, riding a dog, and projectile combat. I almost forgot about how good this game is because it’s easy to forget and perpetuate a different idea of it after having not played it for a number of years. But after revisiting the game, I was able to appreciate the many different things it offered to gamers at the time and still does. 

 

Controls – 10/10

One of the major issues players and critics alike had with the game’s controls was the camera angle; mainly put down to the fact that this was developed during a time when 3D gaming was just coming out of its infancy. But none of that truly bothered me back in the day, and it still doesn’t now. The camera stays behind the player character and never moves beyond that. The controls are certainly nowhere near as much of a problem as they are in other 3D games released at around the same time, including Blasto and Croc: Legend of the Gobbos. Unlike in a lot of other early 3D games, the movement is also extremely fluent in addition, and the game flows naturally despite the number of play styles the player will have to adapt to throughout. 

 

Lifespan – 5/10

To me, the Lifespan was the most disappointing aspect of this title, as it can take less than 3 hours to complete, which fell below the established standard for 3D games even back in 1998. When considering that this game was advertised as much as what Ocarina of Time was, the difference in lifespan is eclipsing, as players can get through this game in a few hours and move on to Ocarina of Time, which takes far longer to complete to 100%.

 

Storyline – 7/10

The basic premise of the story is that Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, and Angelica are on a quest to recover the missing pieces of Tommy’s jigsaw puzzle modeled after his favorite cartoon character Reptar. The main story is simplistic, but it also takes place across several classic Rugrats episodes, which remain beloved by fans of the series everywhere, and to see them presented in the video game format was quite a unique thing at the time. As a fan of it growing up back in the day, it featured some of my favorite episodes of the series, so it worked particularly well for me back in the day. 

 

Originality – 7/10

Although 3D gaming was beginning to dominate the medium at this time and clones were cropping up all over the place on every home console, there was something quite unique about this game back in the day to give players this much variety in gameplay. It’s another example of developers not just using a pre-existing license, but also celebrating it in significant ways. The developers clearly had fun putting this game together and it really shows in more ways than one. 

 

Happii

Overall, Rugrats: Search for Reptar is an excellent example of a game based on a beloved license, and an experience that still holds up to this day. I’m glad that I not long revisited this title, because if I hadn’t, I will have undoubtedly forgotten about how good a game it truly is. 

Score

45/60

7.5/10 (Good)

SG88 Sonic Adventure 2 Header

Sonic Adventure 2 (Dreamcast)

Developer(s) – Sonic Team USA

Publisher(s) – Sega

Director(s) – Takashi Lizuka

Producer(s) – Yuji Naka

PEGI – 7

 

Released to a generally favorable response from critics at the time, Sonic Adventure 2 delivered a much different Gameplay experience from the original Sonic Adventure with a more linear play progression, a side quest beloved by many Sonic fans, and the introduction of new characters such as Shadow the Hedgehog and Rouge the Bat. Although I did spend a great deal of time playing through this game multiple times when I was a kid, going back into it with an entirely new perspective, I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer the original game for a number of reasons. 

 

Graphics – 9/10

The main thing Sonic Adventure 2 improves on its predecessor, however, is the quality of the visuals on the technical level. Some cutscenes are even presented at 60 frames per second unlike the first, which was presented entirely at 30 frames per second throughout. From a conceptual standpoint, it’s just as wonderfully varied as the first game was taking place in vibrant cities, deep jungles, space stations, and even pyramids. As far as graphics go, it was most definitely one of the best-looking games on the Dreamcast. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

The gameplay is structured much differently than the original too. As opposed to having six different overlapping scenarios, there are two scenarios to play between the heroes of the game and the villains, with Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles making up the heroes, and Dr. Robotnik, Shadow the Hedgehog, and Rouge the Bat making up the villains. The gameplay structure is far less open-ended than the original with merely two predetermined paths with the added side quest of Chao raising, which is like raising a farm of Tamagotchis; some players even think that the Chao raising is the best aspect of the game. But to me, in comparison to the first, it falls below par; the gameplay concept of the original game needed to be expanded upon the right way, and the developers didn’t do that, making for a more than decent gameplay experience, but just not the experience it could’ve been. 

 

Controls – 7.5/10

The control scheme is as varied as in the original game, with both Tails and Robotnik in mobile robots this time round, differing from how Tails handled in the first game. But the problem. Being is that Sonic’s control scheme, along with Shadow’s, is the same as what in the first Sonic Adventure, and as such, it still presents the same problems. If anything, they actually seem more prevalent as there are fewer open locations than there were in the first game. So although there are positives in regards to the controls, there are enough negatives to keep it seems as lacking in fluency as the first game. 

 

Lifespan – 4/10

The biggest downgrade compared to the first game, however, is in regards to the Lifespan. The first game lasted an underwhelmingly short amount of time anyway at 8 hours, but the second game can only be made to last about half that time, which for a game in a series as popular as Sonic is unacceptable. The point of a sequel is to build on the ideas perpetuated by the first in an attempt to create a better game, and having the second last less time than the first is not building on the first in a positive way. 

 

Storyline – 8/10

One aspect in which there have been improvements made, however, is in the story and the dialogue. The six characters involved are in the search for the seven chaos emeralds again, but this time, Dr. Robotnik enlists the help of Shadow The Hedgehog and Rouge the Bat to find the emeralds to activate a weapon capable of destroying planets to ensure his dominance over the world. Although there are serious Star Wars vibes, almost to the point of self-parody in fact, the element that makes this game’s story much more interesting than the last is Shadow; on the surface, he seems no better than the likes of Robotnik, but after slowly learning his back story, the player can come to empathize, or maybe even sympathize with him like I ended up doing. 

 

Originality – 5/10

The game stands out from the original but in many of the wrong ways. Although the overall experience isn’t bad by any means, it’s just not the game it could’ve been developed into in my opinion, and it left me wanting so much more than what is offered. It’s an exceptional example of how not to build on a successful game, giving players a somewhat watered-down experience. In the end, I found myself asking a lot of what-if questions about this game, and to me, it’s always a bad sign when I find myself doing so because it’s a clear indication of the game falling short in comparison to what it could’ve been given a little more development time. 

 

Happii

However, for as much as I have criticized this game, Sonic Adventure 2 is still an enjoyable gaming experience with a fair bit to offer for the short time it lasts. Although it’s nowhere near the quality of the game it had the potential to be, it just about does enough to be considered a worthwhile sequel. 

Score

42/60

7/10 (Fair)

Scouse Gamer 88 Maximo Header

Maximo: Ghosts to Glory (PlayStation 2)

Developer(s) – Capcom Digital Studios

Publisher(s) – Capcom 

Designer(s) – David Stiller, Scott Rodgers & William Anderson

Producer(s) – Mark Rodgers

ELSPA – 11+

 

Originally intended for release on the Nintendo 64 and eventually ported to the PlayStation 2 back in 2002, Maximo was released to huge critical acclaim, received well by not only the current generation at the time, but also by many old school gamers, as what the developers intended. Drawing inspiration from the Ghosts ‘N Goblins franchise, the aim was to bring the classic style of challenging gameplay to the sixth generation and provide players with a much more stern challenge than what they would’ve been used to at the time. Personally, though I have a few gripes with the game, especially as I don’t think it’s aged as well as other games on the system, I say as a prerequisite that I spent a lot of time playing this game when it was released and for good reason. Overall, it’s one of those Capcom franchises that has sadly been neglected in recent generations along with Breath of Fire and Viewtiful Joe. 

 

Graphics – 7/10

The game takes place in a world partly inspired by Ghosts ‘N Goblins, but the inclusion of other more varied landscapes such as marshes, ice worlds, and even hell itself, makes it do well to stand out from its spiritual predecessor, as well as from many other games of the time. The biggest issue I have with it, however, is as the game was intended originally for release on fifth-generation hardware, it is quite evident that that was the case. Some of the textures in the game are inconsistent with what players would’ve been used to even at this relatively early period within the sixth generation, and it makes the game look even more outdated today as a result. The cutscenes throughout do relatively well to try and supplement that, however, and there were other games released on the PlayStation 2, later on, that looked even more outdated than this, including Malice

 

Gameplay – 8/10

The aspect in which this game truly stands out, however, is in the gameplay. A linear 3D action-adventure platformer, it plays out very much like a 3D version of Ghosts ‘N Goblins with players having to rely on quick wits, revision of enemy attack patterns, and conservation of resources in order to stay alive and grow stronger over time. There is a multitude of abilities to acquire throughout the game as well as power-ups providing perks such as invisibility and elemental sword augmentations. For a game that emphasizes challenge so much, however, it’s remarkable how easy the boss fights are overall. The only exception to that being the game’s end boss, which can feel incredibly tense throughout. 

 

Controls – 10/10

Mercifully, there are no issues with the controls in a game which relies on precise platforming and we’ll-timed attacks to get by. It’s actually quite impressive how well-handled they are for a game that perpetuated such a new idea at the time as if the developers understood what it meant to include the best of the sixth generation as well as the sense of challenge that came with the best games of the kind during the third and fourth generations. 

 

Lifespan – 6/10

As a linear game, Maximo can be made to last about 5 hours, which is okay, but not great, even for a game of the time. In a generation where twenty-plus-hour platformers were being developed on the PlayStation 2 like Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank, this game pales in comparison in terms of lifespan. Though you can appreciate the developers were in a time crunch to get it out as soon as possible since It had been in development hell to an extent, I couldn’t help but think what kind of a game it would’ve been given more time spent on it. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of the game is quite basic, with a few distinct elements thrown in for good measure. It involves a knight named Maximo who resolves to free his love interest, Sophia, from the evil King Achille. At the start, Achille kills Maximo, who is in turn revived by the Grim Reaper, who delegates him the task of stopping Achille from raising the dead to build his army. The Grim Reaper is easily the best character in the game, as he provides the most personality out of any other character by a country mile; similar to how the Genie is the best character in Aladdin. There is a nice twist at the end, which will throw players for a loop, as it did to me, but the developers definitely put more stock in the gameplay, as developers should always do in my opinion. 

 

Originality – 7/10

This game was like a breath of fresh air for many gamers at the time, old and new. It provides a stern challenge for third and fourth-generation veterans alike and still provides a stern challenge for the most part to this day. It’s certainly a must-have for fans of games made on the same ilk in recent years like Dark Souls, Cuphead, and others, but it provides a very different kind of challenge in another respect which, as at the time of its release, can be appreciated by gamers of all different generations. 

 

Happii

In summation, Maximo: Ghosts to Glory is a gaming experience that, whilst may not hold up in terms of visual quality, definitely holds up in terms of gameplay. I recommend it to any player who may be looking for a new kind of challenge that whilst stern, is still not entirely inaccessible. 

Score

45/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Scouse Gamer 88 Blasto Header

Blasto (PlayStation)

Developer(s) – Sony Interactive Studios America

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment 

Designer(s) – Jonathan Beard

Producer(s) – Jonathan Beard & David Poe

ELSPA – 11+

 

Programmed by Star Fox lead developer Dylan Cuthbert and released in 1998 during the relative infancy of 3D gaming, Blasto is a third-person shooter whereby players take control of the titular character to save the galaxy from invasion from an alien tyrant; and apart from one or two elements about this game, it is indeed as generic as it sounds. There were a few things about this game that made me want to like it as I played through it, but unfortunately, there are too many faults with it that I couldn’t forego. 

 

Graphics – 7/10

Undoubtedly, the best thing this game has to offer is its conceptual design. On a technical level, this was far from the best-looking PlayStation game of 1998; but the in-game world is wonderfully colorful throughout and gets progressively darker as it goes on. The game soundtrack is also very orchestral and well put together. Composed by Syphon Filter veteran Chuck Doud, it’s the soundtrack is as wonderfully dramatic as the likes of Jet Force Gemini or Kurushi. 

 

Gameplay – 6/10

The game is a linear third-person shooting 3D platformer whereby players must destroy hordes of aliens, solve puzzles to progress, and rescue beautiful women along the way; like a downgraded version of Duke Nukem 3D if you will. The game is left a little bear for one that lasts the length of time that it does, which for the time of its release was quite long, especially for a linear game, but it was made intentionally hard, which for a game with bad controls, is never a good thing. Variety is to be had to an extent with a wide range of different guns to discover throughout the game, but not enough variety in enough respects to warrant it lasting as long as it does.

 

Controls – 5/10

Arriving at the issue of the game’s control scheme, it suffers from the same issue that a lot of 3D platforms had back in the day, which was that it wasn’t truly compatible with the analog stick, as the original PlayStation controller didn’t come with them. Movement is clunky at best, with the turning mechanics being laughably bad. The only saving grace the game has in this respect is the added ability to turn straight around in one fell swoop so that players don’t have to wait as long to turn a full 180 degrees; but even then, it’s still a massive problem. Another huge flaw the game has is the inability to access the map at will. The map is accessed through various pressure pads across each level and adds nothing to the game; it’s an unnecessary complication and should’ve been rethought before release. 

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be made to last five and a half hours for those who can get past the above issues; but for those who can’t like me, it may only last one hour at most. It’s all very well and good having a game that lasts a long time, but unless there’s enough to do within that time to keep it entertaining, the game won’t warrant players spending a great deal of time on it anyway. It really needed more to do, even for a game with a linear progression like this. 

 

Storyline – 6/10

The story follows Captain Blasto, voiced by the late Phil Hartman, who is assigned a mission to stop the alien tyrant Bosc from Invading the planet Uranus, thus putting down a galactic invasion before it begins. The name Uranus is naturally played for laughs at certain points in the game, which was hilarious back in the late 90s, but has since long outworn its welcome; unless played more subtly. But the best thing about the story is the energy that Phil Hartman brought to his role as Blasto, with funny quotes to listen to throughout gameplay. Phil Hartman was a consummate professional who was exceptional at what he did and he worked to his best within the confines of a very generic plot.

 

Originality – 6/10

Although the game may be one of the earlier examples of a 3D platformer at the time of its release, there had already been many other games in the genre that did more unique things than in this title. Compared to many of them, it still seemed generic even back in 1998. The only things stopping it from being even more generic were Phil Hartman’s performance and the conceptual design, but there was nowhere near enough to make this game stand with the best of the era in any respect. 

 

Niiutral

In summation, Blasto was disappointing back in the day and has not stood the test of time. It has a couple of redeeming values, but nothing for it to be considered a classic. 

Score

37/60

6/10 (Average)

The Twelve Tales of Chris Seavor Part I: Early Life

Full Article Here

Disclaimer: This interview contains some strong language. Anyone who is offended by such content is advised against reading this interview.

 

The fifth generation of gaming is one of the most beloved periods in the medium, with consoles such as the Nintendo 64, the original PlayStation, and the Sega Dreamcast going on to become among the most popular and well-received platforms in the history of video games. However, come the end of the fifth generation, as the transition to the sixth was being made, among the last games published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 64 was Conker’s Bad Fur Day; a game which garnished critical acclaim upon release and has since gone on to become a favorite among fans of the console.

I was lucky enough to have an interview this week with the lead programmer of the game; Chris Seavor. Chris joined Rare back in 1994, where he was tasked with developing for the Killer Instinct series initially; he then went on to not only work on many Rare games on the programming side of things but also voice many characters created by Rare, such as Spinal from Killer Instinct, Gruntilda of Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie, and of course several characters in Conker’s Bad Fur Day, including Conker himself.

After having left Rare in 2011, he most recently established Gory Details Ltd with former Rare collaborator Shawn Pile, and together have developed both Parashoot Stan and a dark adventure game named The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup, and as of this writing, there is also a new game in development from Gory Details, said to be a twin-stick dungeon-bash title. I had a lot of questions for Chris concerning his early life, his time at Rare, the development of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, as well as the ultimately canceled sequel, and of course, his work at Gory Details Ltd and what gamers can expect from their new project. Here’s our in-depth interview: The Twelve Tales of Chris Seavor:

 

Where did your passion for video games originate from?

Playing them as a kid… That and board games…. A friend had been bought Dungeons and Dragons for Christmas (the pink edition which I still have) and he couldn’t understand it so he gave it to me… It was a revelation. This is where my love of ‘game mechanics’ came from which then evolved into video games when I had access to a BBC Micro and eventually the eponymous Spectrum 48K.

 

What games would you play as a child and how would they go on to influence you as a developer?

Ironically the first game I ever bought was Knightlore. I got it from a mate for half price. 5 quid I think. My favorite game from childhood though is RebelStar Raiders which was a turn-based squad game where you had to infiltrate a base on the Moon. Still holds up. Obviously, Ultimate games were in there, but also John Ritman’s variants on the genre like Head Over Heals, which brilliantly introduced a second character to add a cooperative element to the puzzle solving. Quite groundbreaking. The list is huge though; Elite, Paradroid, Out of the Shadows, The Hobbit, Lords of Midnight, Bards Tale, Chuckie Egg, Monty Mole, etc. Oddly though, I never really liked Manic Miner or Jet Set Willy as I found them too difficult. What a scrub eh?

 

What consoles did you own early on?

None. I was at college when the NES and SNES and Mega Drive came out, so had little money and was too busy drinking and dossing around on the beach (I was at college in Cornwall for 4 years, then Bournemouth for 1). Games kinda left my life for a long time…… Next device I bought after my C64 was a SNES whilst working at Rare just to play Zelda and DKC, so yeah!

 

What is your earliest memory of game design?

I would design whole RPG systems for tabletop gaming. My 2 favorite systems were MERPS and Warhammer Fantasy RPG. MERPS for its crazy crit tables (and the lore) and WHRPG for the gothic world-building. Loved em to bits. I stole from both. I also wrote a Fighting Fantasy novel, but only got as far as about 100 entries before losing track. Those things are hecka-complex to write.

 

Were there any development companies you aspired to work with before you went to work with Rare?

Psygnosis. I didn’t know who Rare were, to be honest… Psygnosis were in Liverpool as well, so I could stay with the parents and save some cash. Lazy fucker I was. I had an interview with a few; EA, Psygnosis, and Rare included. Not sure what happened with Pysg, but EA offered a job eventually but I’d already started at Rare and liked it. Mainly because I’d made some friends and to be honest, that’s always the most stressful part of starting out somewhere new: being alone. The job turned out okay too 😉

 

Where there any other careers you attempted to pursue before going into games design and game voice-over work?

Not attempted, but I’d always planned to go into the film industry. My actual skill set was 3D graphics (a career path very much in its infancy in ‘93, unlike now) so film / TV seemed a natural fit. Games I never considered and in the end just sort of fell into it with a chance conversation with a long time friend Ady Smith (Rare, Eidos). Ironically Ady is teaching game stuff down at my old college in Cornwall now.

 

What was your upbringing like? Did your parents have any positive or negative reaction to your enjoyment of games, or was there even an element of that during your childhood?

I’d have to say it was pretty negative when I was 13 -15. I always like to remind my Mum of a comment she made once after I spent a whole day playing The Hobbit on the big TV.. ‘You’ll never make any money playing games all day…. It’s not a proper job’. She’s right about one thing though… It’s not a ‘proper job’, thank the maker!

 

Did any facet of your childhood go on to influence you as a developer, similar to how traveling through the forests of Kyoto inspired Shigeru Miyamoto to create The Legend of Zelda?

Not directly. I’ve always loved the cinema experience and would watch every movie I could… I guess that helped in later life. I read a lot of Horror and SciFi, not so much fantasies apart from Prof T the bulk of it back then was, to be blunt: Shit. I read a lot of Fantasy today though, the grim, dark stuff. It’s so much better nowadays.

 

What was it like for you to experience the medium of gaming taking off back in the 70s and 80s?

It just was… You don’t really know you’re IN something when it’s happening around you… Like DKC or the N64 period at Rare. It was just a job, and you were hoping your game would sell more than the other Barns did. Only now looking back do you realize the fondness people have for that time, and the games we’d made as a company… It’s kinda weird as I don’t think of it in those terms.

 

Was the aspiration to become an actor or voice-over artist from an early age as well, or was that something that manifested later on?

Nope. I’m not a voice actor, I’m a 3d Artist / Game Designer. The voice work was a time saver and for practical issues. It seems to be its own thing now in games, with big names getting involved… Fair enough I suppose, but I think it’s a waste of money. Keanu Reeves is a great guy by all accounts but he can’t act for shit. Spend the money on some unknowns who need the break instead…
To be honest, I think the influx of big Hollywood names into the games industry is largely down to the egos of the Production Managers, Execs, and Bosses… It’s the only chance these people will ever get to hang out with the Stars!! Also, BAFTA can try and inject their dull game awards ceremony with a bit of glitz and glamour… Game development has little glitz, even less glamour. And then of course there are Mr. Keighley’s Game Awards… I mean, really? I rest my case, your honor. Here’s the proof it’s a bullshit waste of money .. Name me one person who bought Cyberpunk 2077 because Keanu Reeves was in it? You found one?? They’re a fucking liar.

 

Who were your inspirations where your voice acting was concerned?

Again, no one really. I just did some silly voices based on accents and the range of my voice. Conker’s voice came pretty easily, in fact, I think I just did it instinctively the first time Robin and I were in the studio.

 

Were there any teachers you had at school who would have a lasting impression on you where your career was concerned?

Absolutely not, Fuck those idiots.

 

My teachers tried to tell me that the best years of my life would be my school years, but I disagree with them; my best years have been everything that came afterward. But did you enjoy school when you were a kid?

Absolutely not. Fuck those idiots even more… School was shit. Sadists and morons. I fucking hated it with a vengeance. Imagine trying to encourage 14-year-old lads to enjoy reading then dumping Jane Austin’s Mansfield Park in their lap. WTF!? Stephen King, Tolkien, Sven Hassel first… THEN Jane Austin, in later life, when you have enough life experience to relish in its satire.

 

What was the best piece of advice you were given as a child?

That kind of thing only happens in YA fiction… I never much paid any attention to adults as a kid. I think I became aware of how flawed they all were at a very young age. The one bit of advice I do remember was from my Nan: ‘Christ lad, don’t get old…’

 

Rare had been renowned for their sense of humor with hidden jokes and Easter eggs in their games and Conker was no different. But where did your sense of humor stem from early on?

I wasn’t particularly funny as a kid. In fact, I was and still am almost terminally shy. I still find it stressful to group up with people in games and be expected to have a conversation, even in chat. (except when I’m shouting abuse 😉 I think my humor stems from looking at life’s absurdity and just laughing at it all. People can be so fucking dumb, so finding comedy gold in the actions and words of others is a never-ending resource. I’m a pessimist and a cynic. That’s where my humor comes from I think….. Plus I’m a bit weird and apparently lacking intact (although I am usually told this after the fact…)

 

Part II: Rare

The Twelve Tales of Chris Seavor Part III: Conker’s Bad Fur Day

Full article here

Disclaimer: This interview contains some strong language. Anyone who is offended by such content is advised against reading this interview.

 

What was the developmental process like early on during when the game was supposed to be either Twelve Tales or Conker 64?

I was only doing art at that point, and the direction the game was taking design-wise was not something I could influence. We were essentially trying to make a Mario 64 type platformer. It was…. Fractious.

 

How did you initially feel after being moved up to the project’s leader by the Stampers?

They knew it was what I wanted so they gave me a chance. Seemed to work out, although I think I was expected to fail.

 

What was it like working with Robin Beanland?

Yeah, okay. We don’t really get along 😉 Nah, he’s always been a talented bastard, unlike me who’s been winging it for years…. I think we get on workwise because we understand what we both want versus the limitations of the medium. It’s important to temper your expectations and ambitions with what’s actually possible. Plus we both like lager and vindaloos. Although age has finally caught up with me on both counts there.

 

What was the feeling across the team following the game’s showcasing at E3 1998?

Was that the BFD first showing? I remember the TT one being a fucking disaster. The BFD one was as good as it got. Great stand by Nintendo, free beer, most of the team was there too so it was a decent crowd. And no interview pools, which I really hate… There’s nothing like a bunch of bored games journos asking tedious questions for 12 hours straight to break your soul.

 

What was the revised pitch to Nintendo like when the intention changed to make the more mature game it turned out to be?

I don’t know. I pitched it to Tim and Chris, not Nintendo. I didn’t work for Nintendo; I worked for Rare, but I’m sure some discussions were had. To be honest, if T+C were happy with what we were doing then Nintendo would have been too. Rare was the golden goose at that point don’t forget, and it gave us a good deal of leverage.

 

What was the feeling across the development team when the project was finally finished after the long development cycle the game had?

We went home for some sleep. Then I went to Edinburgh for the New Year and got completely smashed. I also bought a sword which I then had to carry around all night. There’s a great restaurant on the Royal Mile called The Witchery, it’s basically like something out of Harry Potter. The maitre’de rather than scowl at me and my sword she kindly took it and hung it in the coatroom citing an old rule of no swords in the dining area. (I think she might have been joshing me )

 

How rewarding was it to see the game garnish as much critical acclaim as it did?

Validation. And relief. I wish we’d have launched in Japan too… I think they’d have liked a pissing, drunk, cute squirrel.

 

How did the voice for Conker come about?

It was the first voice I did. No process, just came out fully formed on day one…. One of those things I guess, The lisp was to add a curtness that belied the character but apart from that it was spontaneous.

 

Where there any other references to popular culture that were planned to be included in the game, but never made it, apart from the Pokemon reference?

There were a few levels that got cut, but that was for the sake of time rather than censorship. Pokemon is the only really notable one. There are a few easter eggs though… more than a few. Oh, wait there were two scenes cut from L&R for, reasons. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

 

What was the feeling about experiencing the game’s ending for the first time, as it provides such a stark contrast to the comedy perpetuated throughout most of the rest of the game?

I had that ending in mind right from the very start. If we were going to subvert the genre then let’s go for it. I don’t think I agree with the premise of the game being a comedy in a light sense. The game is DARK all the way through, and the laughs tend to stem from the misery and bad luck of others and the unintentional actions of the protagonist. I make it clear right in the very first shot of his eyes on the throne that this won’t end well for Conker.

 

What would you change about the game if you had the opportunity?

I’ve thought about this a lot. Maybe pare things back a bit to get a lower rating (which actually wouldn’t be as much as you think) or maybe not… It is what it is. I do regret not doing the fake outtakes after the credits, I had that planned quite early on when we’d started experimenting with 4th wall breaking stuff in the game. Just not enough time, sadly.

 

How satisfying an experience has it been seeing Conker’s Bad Fur Day being updated for new audiences in the form of both Live and Reloaded and Rare Replay?

Yeah, it gave me a chance to make a PVP combat game which is a difficult thing to get right.. I also added a narrative thread through it as an experiment to a further idea (Getting’ Medievil). I think it worked quite well… They shut the servers ages ago though….. Rare Replay I had nothing to do with… It’s a thing I guess. Sold well, so says a lot about there being plenty of old-school Rare fans still out there spending money.

 

As it’s one of the most outlandish stories I’ve heard in all of gaming I have to ask; whose idea was it to come up with the Conker’s Bad Fur Day condoms campaign?

Not me. It’s a bit tacky, literally 😉

 

What new Gameplay elements were planned for inclusion in Conker’s Other Bad Fur Day?

More of the same really…. Who can say? That’s the kind of detail you get to when at the coal face and we didn’t get that far.

 

Early concept art has since been released on the Internet of the Conker sequel, but what other new types of locations and characters were planned to be included?

About half the game was completely new areas and the other half was updated and evolved areas from the original. The structure was pretty much the same, hub world, then smaller story worlds…. Familiar, extended with a fine blend of old and new.

 

Have you further developed the idea of a sequel since leaving Rare?

Nah of course not. No point.

 

If Rare ever called you back to develop the sequel to Conker, would you do it?

Depends on what I’m asked to do. If it’s just to read someone else’s lines then nope. If they want me to write and direct it, then maybe, but it would be a lot of work and cost a lot of money for something so niche. Who can say.. MS have got deep pockets. Risk wise it makes a lot more sense to make BK3 and they haven’t done that either, so go figure.

 

Part IV: Gory Details

 

The Twelve Tales of Chris Seavor Part IV: Gory Details

Full article here

Disclaimer: This interview contains some strong language. Anyone who is offended by such content is advised against reading this interview.

 

How did the idea come about for you and Shawn Pile to establish Gory Detail?

Boredom, plus I knew if I didn’t do something with all the time I suddenly had then I’d go insane. Shawn was the same I think, but you’d have to ask him. We’d actually talked about it long before mainly as a creative outlet, never really thinking it would happen. Then circumstance changed and here we are.

 

What were the influences behind Parashoot Stan and Rusty Pup?

Stan is a cliché, which was the point of the character. The kid pretending to be the hero but actually IS the hero. Rusty Pup is forged from a similar fire influence wise but is a lot more subtle. It’s actually set in the same world as Stan if you look closely but is a lot more tragic. No one has decoded Rusty Pup yet, which I’m fine with but it isn’t some vague metaphor or opaque fable. It’s a series of events, in order, which really happens. The clues are all there.

 

What were the most exciting aspects of developing the games?

‘Exciting’ is not a word I’d use to describe game development. A bunch of execs off to some launch party or awards ceremony to get drunk might disagree but that’s not development.

 

What were the most challenging aspects of developing the games?

Getting past pre-production and into full production. Until your that factory, churning out assets and regular versions there’s always a nagging feeling at the back of your mind this might be canceled any second. Pre-production is nice creatively and full production is a grind, but the security of the product is a huge weight off your mind. (hey, that rhymed!!)

 

How satisfying had it been seeing both these games garnish what commercial and critical acclaim they have?

Commercially? Yeah right, we’re millionaires now Rodders. Critical, well I think they’re great little games (Rusty not so little) Labour of love, both of ’em. I wish more of the mainstream media had bothered to review Rusty. We sent out a ton of codes. They claim they support indies etc, but they don’t really… Not really. I actually had one outlet say they weren’t interested unless I gave them an interview about our next game which I’d pitched as a Conker Spiritual Successor. It was kind of a publicity stunt (though true in essence). Needless to say, we said no. If I was in the games biz to make lots of money I’d have crawled my way up the corporate ladder, squeezed the right prostates, and jumped ship every time I fucked up. I’d rather be poor. I’m fine though but no more Porsche’s. Not this week anyway.

 

Were there any ideas planned for inclusion in either game that were later scrapped or reworked?

Yeah, loads. Rusty had a whole crafting system and twice as many mechanics including mind control baddies, loads more platform types, and a whole extra world… it was just too much, and the crafting would have made testing all the possibilities pretty much impossible. Stan was going to have 2D side-scrolling mini-bosses where he landed on a large Zeppelin and would run through with guns blazing. We just didn’t have the time and I also felt it was a bit jarring with the rest of the mechanics.

 

Is there any DLC planned for Rusty Pup in the future?

I did some stuff, even made some assets. It was an extra chapter, a deeper area with shorter, very difficult one-shot puzzles. A haunted house theme. But it would have taken 6 months to make, largely down to me and was and also totally free. Time is precious, so I decided it was best spent on developing the new IP.

 

What can you tell us about Gory Detail’s third project?

It’s coming on okay. I spent the bulk of last year preparing assets and I’m pretty happy with the tone and look of the game. It’s a typical twin-stick dungeon bash game but with a twist… Fast-paced, silly characters voiced by me and lots and lots of bad language, blood, and guts. COVID didn’t help though. At some point you need to sit with people and point and talk… I’ve not seen Shawn for a year now. Still, we’re not slaves to publishers and huge wage bills so it’s not a problem. You really only want the stress of making the game, which is more than enough.

 

Would you still like to see Urchin be brought to life under Gory Detail?

Yes… But we can’t call it that. Anyway, games aren’t the only medium in which to explore interesting narratives. 😉

 

Have any of the former Rare alumni at Playtonic Games had any advice to share with you and Shawn or has there been any general conversation between you all?

Yeah, we’ve chatted a few times… Gavin has been really helpful and made some gracious offers of help with production but the studio environment isn’t something I find appealing… It’s just me. I’m an old fart. In the future though, who can say? They’ll certainly have first dibs on the next game we do if they want it.

 

What are your opinions of the indie development scene today?

Business-wise, it’s very healthy for a lucky few, but for most I suspect it’s a struggle in a saturated market. Getting eyes on your work is increasingly difficult, and for the very small indies such as Gory, it’s almost impossible. From a gamer’s point of view, it couldn’t be any better. There’s a lot of good stuff out there and with the big boys taking fewer and fewer risks with their products, ironically people are turning away from their games as they tend to be over-produced and under-developed.

 

What genre of game have you and Shawn never undertaken before that you would like to do one day?

I have folders full of stuff. I think the next game though will be our last probably, as its core game is just the beginning. It’s designed around mini self-contained storylines, like the chapters in Conker. So if it’s a success I’ll be happy to just keep making and selling new Chapters as DLC so long as people still keep buying them. That’s the plan anyway.

 

Which pre-existing video game character would you like to see make a cameo in either Parashoot Stan or Rusty Pup?

They’re not that type of game, particularly Rusty. The next one though… I have plans for lots of cameos, although not very complimentary ones. 😉

 

Do you and Shawn find that having creative freedom is one of the best things about developing games for yourselves?

It is. It’s the price you pay for having to fund everything yourself. We’re not averse to having a publisher, just not during development. Finish the game first, then see if anyone fancies tackling all that marketing, support stuff I fucking hate doing.

 

Have Rare since reached out to you following the establishment of Gory Detail or the release of the two games?

Only for Conker stuff. I’m happy to do it although I suspect it was a last resort. I was sent some recordings of a guy they’d hired to mimic Conker and it wasn’t very good. Point is, they tried to do it with someone else and must have realized the fans would not accept a fake Conker. Heh! I also offered to do other voices, for the Young Conker app, but they already had someone for them. Just Conker for me…

 

What have you been most proud of throughout your career?

Rusty Pup… So far. I filled that game with my very soul.

 

Is there any advice you would be able to offer any aspiring developers who may be reading this?

Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something.. …. It might be true, but the best way to find out isn’t by shrugging, but by trying to make it work and then finding out they were wrong.

 

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Chris for agreeing to answer my questions, and for sharing so much about his storied career and what we can expect to see from him and Gory Details Ltd in the future. If you’re interested in what Gory Details has to offer, you can view their steam page via the link below:

https://store.steampowered.com/search/?developer=Gory%20Detail%20Limited

You can also keep up with Chris’s posts on Twitter via his Twitter handle:

@conkerhimself

A full review of The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup will be coming to the site very soon but in the meantime, I’d also like to wish Chris, Shawn Pile, and Gory Details the best of luck with their current games as well as their new upcoming project… MARVELLOUS!!

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

The Full Twelve Tales of Chris Seavor

Disclaimer: This interview contains some strong language. Anyone who is offended by such content is advised against reading this interview.

 

The fifth generation of gaming is one of the most beloved periods in the medium, with consoles such as the Nintendo 64, the original PlayStation, and the Sega Dreamcast going on to become among the most popular and well-received platforms in the history of video games. However, come the end of the fifth generation, as the transition to the sixth was being made, among the last games published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 64 was Conker’s Bad Fur Day; a game which garnished critical acclaim upon release and has since gone on to become a favorite among fans of the console.

I was lucky enough to have an interview this week with the lead programmer of the game; Chris Seavor. Chris joined Rare back in 1994, where he was tasked with developing for the Killer Instinct series initially; he then went on to not only work on many Rare games on the programming side of things, but also voice many characters created by Rare, such as Spinal from Killer Instinct, Gruntilda of Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie, and of course several characters in Conker’s Bad Fur Day, including Conker himself.

After having left Rare in 2011, he most recently established Gory Details Ltd with former Rare collaborator Shawn Pile, and together have developed both Parashoot Stan and a dark adventure game named The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup, and as of this writing, there is also a new game in development from Gory Details, said to be a twin-stick dungeon-bash title. I had a lot of questions for Chris concerning his early life, his time at Rare, the development of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, as well as the ultimately canceled sequel, and of course, his work at Gory Details Ltd and what gamers can expect from their new project. Here’s our in-depth interview: The Twelve Tales of Chris Seavor:

 

Where did your passion for video games originate from?

Playing them as a kid… That and board games…. A friend had been bought Dungeons and Dragons for Christmas (the pink edition which I still have) and he couldn’t understand it so he gave it to me… It was a revelation. This is where my love of ‘game mechanics’ came from which then evolved into video games when I had access to a BBC Micro and eventually the eponymous Spectrum 48K.

 

What games would you play as a child and how would they go on to influence you as a developer?

Ironically the first game I ever bought was Knightlore. I got it from a mate for half price. 5 quid I think. My favorite game from childhood though is RebelStar Raiders which was a turn-based squad game where you had to infiltrate a base on the Moon. Still holds up. Obviously, Ultimate games were in there, but also John Ritman’s variants on the genre like Head Over Heals, which brilliantly introduced a second character to add a cooperative element to the puzzle solving. Quite groundbreaking. The list is huge though; Elite, Paradroid, Out of the Shadows, The Hobbit, Lords of Midnight, Bards Tale, Chuckie Egg, Monty Mole, etc. Oddly though, I never really liked Manic Miner or Jet Set Willy as I found them too difficult. What a scrub eh?

 

What consoles did you own early on?

None. I was at college when the NES and SNES and Mega Drive came out, so had little money and was too busy drinking and dossing around on the beach (I was at college in Cornwall for 4 years, then Bournemouth for 1). Games kinda left my life for a long time…… Next device I bought after my C64 was a SNES whilst working at Rare just to play Zelda and DKC, so yeah!

 

What is your earliest memory of game design?

I would design whole RPG systems for tabletop gaming. My 2 favorite systems were MERPS and Warhammer Fantasy RPG. MERPS for its crazy crit tables (and the lore) and WHRPG for the gothic world-building. Loved em to bits. I stole from both. I also wrote a Fighting Fantasy novel, but only got as far as about 100 entries before losing track. Those things are hecka-complex to write.

 

Were there any development companies you aspired to work with before you went to work with Rare?

Psygnosis. I didn’t know who Rare were, to be honest… Psygnosis were in Liverpool as well, so I could stay with the parents and save some cash. Lazy fucker I was. I had an interview with a few; EA, Psygnosis, and Rare included. Not sure what happened with Pysg, but EA offered a job eventually but I’d already started at Rare and liked it. Mainly because I’d made some friends and to be honest, that’s always the most stressful part of starting out somewhere new: being alone. The job turned out okay too 😉

 

Where there any other careers you attempted to pursue before going into games design and game voice-over work?

Not attempted, but I’d always planned to go into the film industry. My actual skill set was 3D graphics (a career path very much in its infancy in ‘93, unlike now) so film / TV seemed a natural fit. Games I never considered and in the end just sort of fell into it with a chance conversation with a long time friend Ady Smith (Rare, Eidos). Ironically Ady is teaching game stuff down at my old college in Cornwall now.

 

What was your upbringing like? Did your parents have any positive or negative reaction to your enjoyment of games, or was there even an element of that during your childhood?

I’d have to say it was pretty negative when I was 13 -15. I always like to remind my Mum of a comment she made once after I spent a whole day playing The Hobbit on the big TV.. ‘You’ll never make any money playing games all day…. It’s not a proper job’. She’s right about one thing though… It’s not a ‘proper job’, thank the maker!

 

Did any facet of your childhood go on to influence you as a developer, similar to how traveling through the forests of Kyoto inspired Shigeru Miyamoto to create The Legend of Zelda?

Not directly. I’ve always loved the cinema experience and would watch every movie I could… I guess that helped in later life. I read a lot of Horror and SciFi, not so much fantasies apart from Prof T the bulk of it back then was, to be blunt: Shit. I read a lot of Fantasy today though, the grim, dark stuff. It’s so much better nowadays.

 

What was it like for you to experience the medium of gaming taking off back in the 70s and 80s?

It just was… You don’t really know you’re IN something when it’s happening around you… Like DKC or the N64 period at Rare. It was just a job, and you were hoping your game would sell more than the other Barns did. Only now looking back do you realize the fondness people have for that time, and the games we’d made as a company… It’s kinda weird as I don’t think of it in those terms.

 

Was the aspiration to become an actor or voice-over artist from an early age as well, or was that something that manifested later on?

Nope. I’m not a voice actor, I’m a 3d Artist / Game Designer. The voice work was a time saver and for practical issues. It seems to be its own thing now in games, with big names getting involved… Fair enough I suppose, but I think it’s a waste of money. Keanu Reeves is a great guy by all accounts but he can’t act for shit. Spend the money on some unknowns who need the break instead…
To be honest, I think the influx of big Hollywood names into the games industry is largely down to the egos of the Production Managers, Execs, and Bosses… It’s the only chance these people will ever get to hang out with the Stars!! Also, BAFTA can try and inject their dull game awards ceremony with a bit of glitz and glamour… Game development has little glitz, even less glamour. And then of course there are Mr. Keighley’s Game Awards… I mean, really? I rest my case, your honor. Here’s the proof it’s a bullshit waste of money .. Name me one person who bought Cyberpunk 2077 because Keanu Reeves was in it? You found one?? They’re a fucking liar.

 

Who were your inspirations where your voice acting was concerned?

Again, no one really. I just did some silly voices based on accents and the range of my voice. Conker’s voice came pretty easily, in fact, I think I just did it instinctively the first time Robin and I were in the studio.

 

Were there any teachers you had at school who would have a lasting impression on you where your career was concerned?

Absolutely not, Fuck those idiots.

 

My teachers tried to tell me that the best years of my life would be my school years, but I disagree with them; my best years have been everything that came afterward. But did you enjoy school when you were a kid?

Absolutely not. Fuck those idiots even more… School was shit. Sadists and morons. I fucking hated it with a vengeance. Imagine trying to encourage 14-year-old lads to enjoy reading then dumping Jane Austin’s Mansfield Park in their lap. WTF!? Stephen King, Tolkien, Sven Hassel first… THEN Jane Austin, in later life, when you have enough life experience to relish in its satire.

 

What was the best piece of advice you were given as a child?

That kind of thing only happens in YA fiction… I never much paid any attention to adults as a kid. I think I became aware of how flawed they all were at a very young age. The one bit of advice I do remember was from my Nan: ‘Christ lad, don’t get old…’

 

Rare had been renowned for their sense of humor with hidden jokes and Easter eggs in their games and Conker was no different. But where did your sense of humor stem from early on?

I wasn’t particularly funny as a kid. In fact, I was and still am almost terminally shy. I still find it stressful to group up with people in games and be expected to have a conversation, even in chat. (except when I’m shouting abuse 😉 I think my humor stems from looking at life’s absurdity and just laughing at it all. People can be so fucking dumb, so finding comedy gold in the actions and words of others is a never-ending resource. I’m a pessimist and a cynic. That’s where my humor comes from I think….. Plus I’m a bit weird and apparently lacking intact (although I am usually told this after the fact…)

 

How did the opportunity to work for Rare first come about?

Shared petrol money and a day out from Uni. I just turned up and they offered me a job. That’s it really.

 

What was your first day at Rare like and what were you tasked with working on initially?

It was fine… I was pretty nervous but that went very quickly…. I shared a room with Kev Bayliss, and we got on fine. Still do (which is amazing for me 😉 ) My first job was to sketch out and start building the environment for Sabrewulf in Killer Instinct.

 

In terms of working on the Killer Instinct series, what are you most proud of?

Killer Gold I reckon… Just because it was my first experience with actual polygons in a game, rather than pre-rendered. A whole other kettle of fish. I had to convert my original Nurbs Models from KI2 to work in the new engine. First game out from Rare with actual live 3D models… Quite proud of that. And they look okay I reckon, particularly Spinal’s Slave Galley…. (Early nods to Sea of Thieves there ;)) joke.

 

Did you ever come up with any ideas for any additional characters for Killer Instinct or Diddy Kong Racing?

I did a couple of characters for Killer Instinct 2 (arcade) which were not used. Fully modeled one of them, a Vampire Prince with long white hair. Even did a set of animations. I wish I still had the frames but nope… All gone.

 

How rewarding was it seeing your work come to fruition with the release of a game at Rare?

Best thing ever… Really, everyone should try it.

 

Are there any interesting stories about how the voice of Spinal first came about?

Same as Grunty really.. Scream and Cackle. I’m a one-note pony when it comes to baddies.

 

The concept for Gruntilda’s voice, I’d imagine, would’ve been one of the most straightforward ones to have had to come up with, but was that the case? Was there another different approach taken where she was concerned?

I just screamed and cackled… That’s what witches do right? 😉

 

How exhilarating was it knowing you had just voiced a major Nintendo villain at the time?

It was 10 minutes of work, and the tight arses didn’t even give me a free copy of the game… To this day I have never owned a copy of Banjo. Not sure but think it’s probably the same sample they use in the new Smash?? Maybe?

 

Who was your favorite character to have voiced before Conker?

The ones that didn’t have me coughing my guts up and no voice for 2 days. Conker. it has to be him really… Death, Conkula, Frankie, any with interesting dialogue and motivations.

 

Which additional character in Diddy Kong Racing (with the exception of Conker) do you feel would’ve been worthy of a spin-off series?

I don’t care enough about Diddy Kong Racing to be honest. Wasn’t there a Tiger? The Tiger then.

 

What were the Stamper brothers like to work for?

They were great, very hands-on when needed, very hands-off when we were getting on with it. I mean, things could from time to time get fractious but it was usually just clashing egos (mine mainly) Tim’s passion for games when I first joined Rare was in his very being. All he cared about was the game/games. Chris, I saw less of because he tended to be the business side of things, and was a software guy anyway. They had a certain dynamic as brothers, sort of like a video game boss ironically. The whole was greater than the sum of its parts… (hmm, sounds like shade, but I don’t mean it in that way)

 

Were there any Rare games that you would’ve liked to work on, but never got the opportunity to?

From a purely mercenary cash standpoint? Oh DK 64 and DK Racer. They made fucking TONS of cash for the teams. But creatively? Nah, I’m happy the way things were. But what about Goldeneye, You say!? Cashwise? Nah… old deal. Creatively?? I think I would have done things to stop it from being the game it is now. Not good things… I was still in a DOOM 2 mindset at the time.

 

Were you scheduled to work in some capacity on Rare’s canceled game Project Dream before it later became Banjo-Kazooie?

Nope. Definitely nope…

 

If you could’ve voiced any other Nintendo character (or Rare character) at the time, who would it have been and what approach would you have taken to do it?

Never really thought of it. The only character I would love to have voiced which Rare (almost) got to do was Harry Potter. It would have meant I’d have been the first person to perform that character in media. A good one for the CV. Plus I think I’d have made a decent enough game out of the books (only 3 were out at the time) as I was already a big fan, had I been asked… Nevermind.

 

Who were the funniest people in the Rare office to work with?

That’s a tough one. Everyone pretty much made me laugh, sometimes unintentionally… Grant Kirkhope has ‘funny bones’ just because of his outlook on life and his rock ‘n’ roll stories. Robin’s funny as well, particularly when he’s drunk……. Martin Hollis has a very dry sense of humor and Noz always made me laugh at his various woes over the years…Doaky though, he’s just sick that man.

 

What was your reaction when you first heard about Microsoft buying out Rare?

Yay!! EA and Activision were the 2 other main contenders. Whatever criticisms people have for MS, I have no doubts whatsoever Rare as a studio would not exist now if they’d succeeded. Nintendo though? They made a great off by all accounts, and already owned nearly half the company… I don’t even want to think about that.

 

What made you come to the decision to leave Rare back in 2011?

I didn’t. I was happy to stay but things were, shall we say, engineered to make sure I didn’t….. Long story, not a pleasant experience, and some of the people involved, one in particular can go fuck themselves. They know who they are; not that things didn’t turn out well in the end… I got a nice fat cheque to send me on my way and here we are.

 

What is your opinion on the current state of Rare?

At the time I left it was not very good, what with a combination of Don Mattrick and his cronies not to mention that Kinect abomination. I was 90% sure we would be shut down within a few years… Since then though, along came Sea of Thieves .. Amazing what can happen when you just let a team get on with things and stop fucking them about. I think they’re in a very strong position now, although they really do need to mine that IP goldmine a bit more … Baffles me that they don’t.

 

What was the developmental process like early on during when the game was supposed to be either Twelve Tales or Conker 64?

I was only doing art at that point, and the direction the game was taking design-wise was not something I could influence. We were essentially trying to make a Mario 64 type platformer. It was…. Fractious.

 

How did you initially feel after being moved up to the project’s leader by the Stampers?

They knew it was what I wanted so they gave me a chance. Seemed to work out, although I think I was expected to fail.

 

What was it like working with Robin Beanland?

Yeah, okay. We don’t really get along 😉 Nah, he’s always been a talented bastard, unlike me who’s been winging it for years…. I think we get on workwise because we understand what we both want versus the limitations of the medium. It’s important to temper your expectations and ambitions with what’s actually possible. Plus we both like lager and vindaloos. Although age has finally caught up with me on both counts there.

 

What was the feeling across the team following the game’s showcasing at E3 1998?

Was that the BFD first showing? I remember the TT one being a fucking disaster. The BFD one was as good as it got. Great stand by Nintendo, free beer, most of the team was there too so it was a decent crowd. And no interview pools, which I really hate… There’s nothing like a bunch of bored games journos asking tedious questions for 12 hours straight to break your soul.

 

What was the revised pitch to Nintendo like when the intention changed to make the more mature game it turned out to be?

I don’t know. I pitched it to Tim and Chris, not Nintendo. I didn’t work for Nintendo; I worked for Rare, but I’m sure some discussions were had. To be honest, if T+C were happy with what we were doing then Nintendo would have been too. Rare was the golden goose at that point don’t forget, and it gave us a good deal of leverage.

 

What was the feeling across the development team when the project was finally finished after the long development cycle the game had?

We went home for some sleep. Then I went to Edinburgh for the New Year and got completely smashed. I also bought a sword which I then had to carry around all night. There’s a great restaurant on the Royal Mile called The Witchery, it’s basically like something out of Harry Potter. The maitre’de rather than scowl at me and my sword she kindly took it and hung it in the coatroom citing an old rule of no swords in the dining area. (I think she might have been joshing me )

 

How rewarding was it to see the game garnish as much critical acclaim as it did?

Validation. And relief. I wish we’d have launched in Japan too… I think they’d have liked a pissing, drunk, cute squirrel.

 

How did the voice for Conker come about?

It was the first voice I did. No process, just came out fully formed on day one…. One of those things I guess, The lisp was to add a curtness that belied the character but apart from that it was spontaneous.

 

Where there any other references to popular culture that were planned to be included in the game, but never made it, apart from the Pokemon reference?

There were a few levels that got cut, but that was for the sake of time rather than censorship. Pokemon is the only really notable one. There are a few easter eggs though… more than a few. Oh, wait there were two scenes cut from L&R for, reasons. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

 

What was the feeling about experiencing the game’s ending for the first time, as it provides such a stark contrast to the comedy perpetuated throughout most of the rest of the game?

I had that ending in mind right from the very start. If we were going to subvert the genre then let’s go for it. I don’t think I agree with the premise of the game being a comedy in a light sense. The game is DARK all the way through, and the laughs tend to stem from the misery and bad luck of others and the unintentional actions of the protagonist. I make it clear right in the very first shot of his eyes on the throne that this won’t end well for Conker.

 

What would you change about the game if you had the opportunity?

I’ve thought about this a lot. Maybe pare things back a bit to get a lower rating (which actually wouldn’t be as much as you think) or maybe not… It is what it is. I do regret not doing the fake outtakes after the credits, I had that planned quite early on when we’d started experimenting with 4th wall breaking stuff in the game. Just not enough time, sadly.

 

How satisfying an experience has it been seeing Conker’s Bad Fur Day being updated for new audiences in the form of both Live and Reloaded and Rare Replay?

Yeah, it gave me a chance to make a PVP combat game which is a difficult thing to get right.. I also added a narrative thread through it as an experiment to a further idea (Getting’ Medievil). I think it worked quite well… They shut the servers ages ago though….. Rare Replay I had nothing to do with… It’s a thing I guess. Sold well, so says a lot about there being plenty of old-school Rare fans still out there spending money.

 

As it’s one of the most outlandish stories I’ve heard in all of gaming I have to ask; whose idea was it to come up with the Conker’s Bad Fur Day condoms campaign?

Not me. It’s a bit tacky, literally 😉

 

What new Gameplay elements were planned for inclusion in Conker’s Other Bad Fur Day?

More of the same really…. Who can say? That’s the kind of detail you get to when at the coal face and we didn’t get that far.

 

Early concept art has since been released on the Internet of the Conker sequel, but what other new types of locations and characters were planned to be included?

About half the game was completely new areas and the other half was updated and evolved areas from the original. The structure was pretty much the same, hub world, then smaller story worlds…. Familiar, extended with a fine blend of old and new.

 

Have you further developed the idea of a sequel since leaving Rare?

Nah of course not. No point.

 

If Rare ever called you back to develop the sequel to Conker, would you do it?

Depends on what I’m asked to do. If it’s just to read someone else’s lines then nope. If they want me to write and direct it, then maybe, but it would be a lot of work and cost a lot of money for something so niche. Who can say.. MS have got deep pockets. Risk wise it makes a lot more sense to make BK3 and they haven’t done that either, so go figure.

 

How did the idea come about for you and Shawn Pile to establish Gory Detail?

Boredom, plus I knew if I didn’t do something with all the time I suddenly had then I’d go insane. Shawn was the same I think, but you’d have to ask him. We’d actually talked about it long before mainly as a creative outlet, never really thinking it would happen. Then circumstance changed and here we are.

 

What were the influences behind Parashoot Stan and Rusty Pup?

Stan is a cliché, which was the point of the character. The kid pretending to be the hero but actually IS the hero. Rusty Pup is forged from a similar fire influence wise but is a lot more subtle. It’s actually set in the same world as Stan if you look closely but is a lot more tragic. No one has decoded Rusty Pup yet, which I’m fine with but it isn’t some vague metaphor or opaque fable. It’s a series of events, in order, which really happens. The clues are all there.

 

What were the most exciting aspects of developing the games?

‘Exciting’ is not a word I’d use to describe game development. A bunch of execs off to some launch party or awards ceremony to get drunk might disagree but that’s not development.

 

What were the most challenging aspects of developing the games?

Getting past pre-production and into full production. Until your that factory, churning out assets and regular versions there’s always a nagging feeling at the back of your mind this might be canceled any second. Pre-production is nice creatively and full production is a grind, but the security of the product is a huge weight off your mind. (hey, that rhymed!!)

 

How satisfying had it been seeing both these games garnish what commercial and critical acclaim they have?

Commercially? Yeah right, we’re millionaires now Rodders. Critical, well I think they’re great little games (Rusty not so little) Labour of love, both of ’em. I wish more of the mainstream media had bothered to review Rusty. We sent out a ton of codes. They claim they support indies etc, but they don’t really… Not really. I actually had one outlet say they weren’t interested unless I gave them an interview about our next game which I’d pitched as a Conker Spiritual Successor. It was kind of a publicity stunt (though true in essence). Needless to say, we said no. If I was in the games biz to make lots of money I’d have crawled my way up the corporate ladder, squeezed the right prostates, and jumped ship every time I fucked up. I’d rather be poor. I’m fine though but no more Porsche’s. Not this week anyway.

 

Were there any ideas planned for inclusion in either game that were later scrapped or reworked?

Yeah, loads. Rusty had a whole crafting system and twice as many mechanics including mind control baddies, loads more platform types, and a whole extra world… it was just too much, and the crafting would have made testing all the possibilities pretty much impossible. Stan was going to have 2D side-scrolling mini-bosses where he landed on a large Zeppelin and would run through with guns blazing. We just didn’t have the time and I also felt it was a bit jarring with the rest of the mechanics.

 

Is there any DLC planned for Rusty Pup in the future?

I did some stuff, even made some assets. It was an extra chapter, a deeper area with shorter, very difficult one-shot puzzles. A haunted house theme. But it would have taken 6 months to make, largely down to me and was and also totally free. Time is precious, so I decided it was best spent on developing the new IP.

 

What can you tell us about Gory Detail’s third project?

It’s coming on okay. I spent the bulk of last year preparing assets and I’m pretty happy with the tone and look of the game. It’s a typical twin-stick dungeon bash game but with a twist… Fast-paced, silly characters voiced by me and lots and lots of bad language, blood, and guts. COVID didn’t help though. At some point you need to sit with people and point and talk… I’ve not seen Shawn for a year now. Still, we’re not slaves to publishers and huge wage bills so it’s not a problem. You really only want the stress of making the game, which is more than enough.

 

Would you still like to see Urchin be brought to life under Gory Detail?

Yes… But we can’t call it that. Anyway, games aren’t the only medium in which to explore interesting narratives. 😉

 

Have any of the former Rare alumni at Playtonic Games had any advice to share with you and Shawn or has there been any general conversation between you all?

Yeah, we’ve chatted a few times… Gavin has been really helpful and made some gracious offers of help with production but the studio environment isn’t something I find appealing… It’s just me. I’m an old fart. In the future though, who can say? They’ll certainly have first dibs on the next game we do if they want it.

 

What are your opinions of the indie development scene today?

Business-wise, it’s very healthy for a lucky few, but for most I suspect it’s a struggle in a saturated market. Getting eyes on your work is increasingly difficult, and for the very small indies such as Gory, it’s almost impossible. From a gamer’s point of view, it couldn’t be any better. There’s a lot of good stuff out there and with the big boys taking fewer and fewer risks with their products, ironically people are turning away from their games as they tend to be over-produced and under-developed.

 

What genre of game have you and Shawn never undertaken before that you would like to do one day?

I have folders full of stuff. I think the next game though will be our last probably, as its core game is just the beginning. It’s designed around mini self-contained storylines, like the chapters in Conker. So if it’s a success I’ll be happy to just keep making and selling new Chapters as DLC so long as people still keep buying them. That’s the plan anyway.

 

Which pre-existing video game character would you like to see make a cameo in either Parashoot Stan or Rusty Pup?

They’re not that type of game, particularly Rusty. The next one though… I have plans for lots of cameos, although not very complimentary ones. 😉

 

Do you and Shawn find that having creative freedom is one of the best things about developing games for yourselves?

It is. It’s the price you pay for having to fund everything yourself. We’re not averse to having a publisher, just not during development. Finish the game first, then see if anyone fancies tackling all that marketing, support stuff I fucking hate doing.

 

Have Rare since reached out to you following the establishment of Gory Detail or the release of the two games?

Only for Conker stuff. I’m happy to do it although I suspect it was a last resort. I was sent some recordings of a guy they’d hired to mimic Conker and it wasn’t very good. Point is, they tried to do it with someone else and must have realized the fans would not accept a fake Conker. Heh! I also offered to do other voices, for the Young Conker app, but they already had someone for them. Just Conker for me…

 

What have you been most proud of throughout your career?

Rusty Pup… So far. I filled that game with my very soul.

 

Is there any advice you would be able to offer any aspiring developers who may be reading this?

Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something.. …. It might be true, but the best way to find out isn’t by shrugging, but by trying to make it work and then finding out they were wrong.

 

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Chris for agreeing to answer my questions, and for sharing so much about his storied career and what we can expect to see from him and Gory Details Ltd in the future. If you’re interested in what Gory Details has to offer, you can view their steam page via the link below:

https://store.steampowered.com/search/?developer=Gory%20Detail%20Limited

You can also keep up with Chris’s posts on Twitter via his Twitter handle:

@conkerhimself

A full review of The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup will be coming to the site very soon but in the meantime, I’d also like to wish Chris, Shawn Pile, and Gory Details the best of luck with their current games as well as their new upcoming project… MARVELLOUS!!

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

SG88 Spyro 2 Header

Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer (PlayStation)

Developer(s) – Insomniac Games

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Artist – Charles Zembillas

Producer(s) – Grady Hunt

PEGI – 7

 

Developed as the sequel to the immensely successful Spyro The Dragon, Spyro 2: Gateway To Glimmer, or Ripto’s Rage as it was known across the pond, was like its predecessor, released to universal acclaim by critics and gamer alike selling over 200,000 copies in the UK alone at the time. To me, though I have since re-assessed my opinion of which game is the best in the original Spyro trilogy, Spyro 2 remains a decisive improvement over the first game for many reasons, and still remains a classic of the original PlayStation. 

 

Graphics – 8/10

In terms of the technical side of the graphics, there hadn’t been a great deal of improvement made over the first; the textures and sprite for Spyro remain pretty much the same. However, in terms of the conceptual design, there were massive improvements made. The game is set in a number of diverse different areas governed by different species across each of the hub worlds. It also breaks away from the first game in the respect that it’s no longer confined to the medieval fantasy setting, but there is also scenery reminiscent of science fiction, the Scottish highlands, and Polynesian culture. 

 

Gameplay – 9.5/10

The most notable improvement between the first and second games, however, is undoubtedly in the gameplay. Boasting more side quests and more to explore across each level throughout, gave the game a lot more of a sense of purpose and enjoyment. Though there may be fewer bosses than in the previous game, the challenge that comes with them, especially the second boss Gulp, had been improved considerably. The game also introduces us to Moneybags; a rich devious bear who Spyro must pay at certain points to progress through levels, giving the idea of collecting treasure that much more meaning. The concept also leads to a very satisfying outcome at the end of the game. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s control scheme is identical to that of the first game, playing out like the type of hones 3D platformer the likes of Croc, Tomb Raider, and Blasto should’ve been made to play out like. The one massive improvement the developers made to the controls, however, was the ability to hover during a flight in order to gain a touch more momentum at the end of a glide to reach far away ledges. It’s similar to how Insomniac games would add the sideways jump mechanics to the Ratchet & Clank; it’s a simple mechanic that provides a significant improvement over the previous game.

 

Lifespan – 8/10

The average time it takes to beat the game 100% is 8 hours, which was higher than the average back when the 3D platformer genre was still in its relative infancy. It lasts there around the same amount of time as the first game, something which would eventually be improved slightly with the third game, but overall, it provides a satisfyingly long gaming experience. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

In the sequel, Spyro, looking to go on holiday to Dragon Shores, is instead transported to the world of Avalar by three of its inhabitants; The professor, a fawn named Elora, and a cheetah named Hunter. They brought him into Avalar to fight Ripto; an evil tyrant who has invaded Avalar and brought evil and destruction throughout the land. Spyro resolves to defeat Ripto and bring peace back to Avalar. With more characters involved this time around, it definitely adds more to the story in terms of depth, but Spyro was also given a lot more of an impulsive attitude as well, which helped to add to the humor and make him more of a likable hero; especially when he shows his compassionate side to characters like Elora. Of course, Moneybags also adds to the story in multiple ways as well; mostly for the better. 

 

Originality – 8/10

The most original element of this game is its diversity in scenery design; it’s the aspect that truly helped to break the mold early on and give the world of Spyro The Dragon a lot more depth than what was established in the first game. Even more so than the gameplay improvement because again, more or less the same gameplay principles apply as what they did in the original Spyro; travel and collect items to advance the game. Although gameplay elements would be expanded on even further with the third game, the diversity in level design would remain intact in Spyro 3, but the second is where that would stem from. 

 

Happii

Overall, Spyro 2, whilst not my favorite of the original trilogy, is still every bit as fun to play today as it was to play back in 1999. It provides one of the most memorable gameplay experiences of the fifth generation, and I’m personally happy that it got the remaster it deserved because it needed to be brought to a more modern audience. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Scouse Gamer 88 Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver Header

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (PC, PlayStation & Dreamcast)

Developer(s) – Crystal Dynamics & Rixxes Software

Publisher(s) – Eidos Interactive

Director – Amy Hennig

Producer(s) – Amy Hennig, Andrew Bennett & Rosaura Sandoval

PEGI – 16

 

Developed and released by Crystal Dynamics following a lengthy legal battle with original creators of the Legacy of Kain series, Silicon Knights, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, like Blood Omen, was also met wide widespread critical acclaim in what was considered an ideal time, as it coincided with the release of several horror films, such as The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project. It went on to be considered the best game in the series by most critics, and whilst I don’t agree with that assessment, (by far I think the best game in the series is Soul Reaver 2), the original Soul Reaver is still to me, a classic of the fifth generation and still an absolute joy to play through.

 

Graphics – 7/10

Soul Reaver easily has one the darkest approaches taken to conceptual design out of most games I’ve played throughout my lifetime. It takes the players back into the fictional dark fantasy land of Nosgoth, but in a post-apocalyptic state. There are new locations added to Nosgoth’s landscape, as well as the ruins of some of the previous locations found in Blood Omen, such as The Pillars of Nosgoth and Nupraptor’s Retreat. It also has the player alternating between the underworld and the physical world in order to gain access to new areas, or areas otherwise impassable in the opposite. Gamers may argue that in terms of the technical aspect of the game, it hasn’t aged particularly well, and with that, I would agree to a certain extent, but the conceptual design more than makes up for that in my opinion. For the best version of the game, I would recommend the Dreamcast port, which runs at 60 frames per second and has the most polish to it. The Dreamcast version actually makes it look far more like a sixth-generation game than a fifth.  Both planes of existence within the game are as dark as the other, with a wonderfully horrifying soundtrack to accompany the game. 

 

Gameplay – 7.5/10

Somewhat similar to Blood Omen, Soul Reaver plays out more like a 3D platformer than a top-down RPG, but combat is still at the heart of the game’s design, with players having to subdue abominable enemies throughout and being able to learn new abilities and increase their health and magic capacities to use these abilities more efficiently and frequently. Although the main combat system is not as diverse as Blood Omen, it does make up for that by challenging players to strategize in accordance with their surroundings, as the enemies are only killed in a handful of specific ways, at least in the physical world. The boss fights, though fewer, are also far more creative than in Blood Omen; again requiring specific actions to take in order to best each one. Like in Blood Omen, there is also a fast travel system and a plethora of hidden items and abilities to discover along the way.

 

Controls – 10/10

Even when 3D gaming was pretty much in its infancy during the fifth generation, there were some games like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon that handled their control schemes extremely fluently; Soul Reaver is one such example; there are no issues with the controls whilst playing with a joypad, and it also handles stealth combat in a very fluent manner as well, which at the time, was a relatively new concept. 

One thing I would advise, however, is this; avoid the Steam version like the plague. Controller support is not officially part of it with players having to rely on keyboard commands, and keyboard mapping doesn’t currently work for some unknown reason. The same also goes for every other Legacy of Kain game ported to Steam. No one at Valve, Square Enix, or Crystal Dynamics has ever seen fit to rectify this, and it’s a great shame. Again, the best way to play this game is on the Dreamcast; in every respect.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be made to last for a total of around 25 hours, which was relatively impressive at the time. The one thing I would say is that, although there are a good few collectibles to obtain throughout the game, the game’s world is still a bit too bare for how big it is, and more could have been added to it, in turn, add to the substance of the game. Nevertheless, there is enough in it to make it last for a fairly impressive amount of time. 

 

Storyline – 10/10

The story continues over 100 years following the events of Blood Omen. Having condemned Nosgoth to an eternity of decay by refusing the sacrifice of his own life, Kain has since established his own vampiric empire out of his own contempt for humanity. However, things change after his first-born lieutenant, Raziel, surpasses Kain in terms of vampiric evolution by growing a pair of wings. In anger, Kain tears off Raziel’s wings and condemns him to death by throwing him into The Lake of the Dead. Burnt by the acidic touch of the lake’s waters, Raziel is then resurrected by a god-like entity, known only as The Elder God, as a wraith, endowed with the hunger for souls and other supernatural abilities, unlike any vampire. Raziel then resolves to destroy Kain and his vampiric brothers and consume their souls returning them to the wheel of fate. 

Like Blood Omen, the story of this game, as well as the dialogue were masterfully executed. The voice acting of Simon Templeman, Michael Bell, and Tony Jay help to truly bring this title to life in a story centered around the nature of death and immortality and the price of power. To me, The Legacy of Kain easily has the best story ever told in all of gaming, and it’s that more impressive considering how much of a strong note of finality there is to the original Blood Omen. To have picked up where Blood Omen left off and evolved the series into what it would become in terms of story, was truly an impressive feat of video game narrative and helped to establish Amy Hennig as one of the greatest storytellers in the medium, as she would later go on to establish the stories of Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed.

 

Originality – 9/10

In terms of gameplay, as well as the story, it’s also impressive to think of how the developers took the concept of Blood Omen, made something drastically different from the former, and make work and work well, is also extremely impressive; especially given how young the concept of 3D gaming was at the time and how risky it would have inevitably been to make that transition. Some people have even cited this as an early example of a 3D Metroidvania, predating Metroid Prime by a full three years, which although I don’t think you can consider it a 3D Metroidvania, as it plays out more like a 3D platformer than anything, it’s still interesting to think about, and it all still works to separate this title from most not only released at the time, but most games released since.

 

Happii

Overall, the original Soul Reaver remains a classic to this day, and if anyone can pick up a copy of it on either the original PlayStation or the Dreamcast, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a game with terrific combat, a plethora of gameplay variety, additional sidequests, and a level of storytelling, which in my opinion, has never been topped within the medium of gaming since. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)