x360a Meets: Rare and Talks Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
Written Friday, September 12, 2008 By Dan WebbView author's profile
So Monday I got the chance to go to the Microsoft HQ in Reading in the UK to play some Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and meet the Rare team behind it. It's a great little interview with plenty of interesting topics including Xbox 360 exclusives, the shift in direction, online play, customisation and blueprint stealing. For all intensive purposes, Yahoo Paul is, Paul from Yahoo.com who was in the round table interview with me, to bloke... It was quite cosy as well. Enjoy!
Dan Webb: It’s been 10 years since the original, 8 years since Tooie. What made you think that now is your time now?
Neill Harrison: I don’t know, we just wanted to bring him back. We felt he still had a few more adventures ahead of him and we started developing it a few years ago now. We didn’t want to just do the same things that we had done before. That was something we certainly didn’t want to do. We wanted to do something new and fresh.
DW: How do you find developing the console exclusive titles? Is there more pressure on the development?
Elissa Miller: It’s more fun I suppose. Working on something new and innovative all the time and so as a developer, that is more than you can hope for going in to the industry. We obviously do do franchises and stuff and we’ve always had reasons to do those franchises so its not just year in year out, rehashing stuff all the time. For me, my personal sort of classification there is amazing.
NH: There probably is more pressure... A little bit, as opposed to being on more than one platform. I think we’re isolated to some extent though and so we can just make the best game we can for one platform and don’t worry about that element quite so much.
Yahoo Paul: Was the game always intended to get this huge customisation feature or was it kind of introduced after the development had started?
NH: No, we started just wanting to do a new Banjo game and we thought we’ll do a HD version of Banjo-Kazooie essentially. We actually started developing that as developers, and as gamers it just didn’t feel like the sort of game we would want to buy actually. It felt a little bit stale. It felt a little bit like we’d done it before and there was so many new possibilities with the new console that we could do and we were like “why are we doing the same sort of thing again?” So we kind of ruled that out as like “we don’t want to do that, we want to keep all the good things that people like” because it was successful but we wanted to take it in a new direction.
DW: So that’s pretty much why the new title is more vehicle based?
NH: On previous games you were in a very complicated level or challenge and there is only one way to do it and that was the way we designed it. You have to jump here, you have swim there, you have to grab this ledge and do this. Yeah, that’s fine, but every time you’ll play that level it’s exactly the same experience. You would have the same experience as you would. We kind of really wanted to move away from that really.
The idea with the vehicles just came through from us wanting to give the player control over their abilities and that’s kind of how we see it. It’s still a Banjo-Kazooie game and it is really a platformer at its heart, but instead of us telling you how you’re going to do a challenge, we just give you the building blocks.
EM: You get to create your own abilities basically. We’ve done that so much that part of the game is, instead of going from A to B and just do this solution, what it really is about now, is just create your own abilities and having your own gamer experience.
NH: That’s just so much more fun, you can take a simple challenge like moving this object from A to B. How you do that now is up to you. You might push it, you might pull it, I might throw it, she might try to fly it. It’s just a different game.
DW: Do you think this shift will upset fans with it being such a big 3D platformer and then transitioning to what we have now?
EM: I think you’re always going to have to come up against some sort of resistance of change, whatever you do. Like I said before, if we had done a rehash and a normal platformer, then they would have had a go at us for not being innovative. So whatever you do, you’re always going to be in the wrong, but we just made a game we enjoy playing and that we hope people are going to pick up.
The response from previous Banjo gamers, previous fans has been really, really positive so that’s been great for us to see that because they are really important to us, as well as getting new gamers too.
NH: The main problem is just getting people to pick it up and play it. When people play it, if people are an old fan of Banjo and you play this, you’ll realise that it is a Banjo game. It really is. The problem with it is, if you just see a screenshot... Say if I see a screenshot of a racing game, I know how that game plays... It’s a racing game. Whereas if someone sees a screenshot of ours, they don’t really understand it. They maybe assume it’s a car game or a racing game, But it’s not until they really play that they realise.
That’s always the risk with doing something different and that’s kind of good for us because it proves that it is almost unique because people don’t understand it. It’s just time now to get people to play it so they can get the idea behind it.
YP: Once you kind of stopped it being linear, how did that affect the award structure? Did you not go to the drawing board and go “Crikey! How do we let people know if they’re doing well or not?”
NH: Yeah, it’s difficult, certainly and it’s quite hard to balance a game. Like you say, it’s quite hard to plan the structure of the game around a game where the player can choose how they are going to do things. It’s very difficult to test as well. The old Banjo games were much easier to test because there was just one method to complete the demo.
EM: There is a basic structure within there so it’s not like, right, free for all. So there is progression, there is structure. You’ve still got the Jiggies that you’re awarded with and things like that, that open new game worlds. So there is structure.
NH: The way you’re given components as well is structured. So when you start the game you’ve only got a small subset and you can only build basic vehicles and they are sort of drip fed to the player throughout the game so it’s not overwhelming.
DW: So you can take photos of other people’s vehicles online and take the blueprints to make the vehicle yourself. So can you then take these through in to the single player game?
NH: Yeah, once the blueprint is saved, you can use it wherever.
DW: So how will that work then with a new player going online, playing someone really advanced, taking someone’s blueprint and then going back and using it to blitz through the single player?
NH: He wouldn’t be able to build that because he’d have a blueprint without all the components. You have to unlock the parts first.
EM: As a player, you can also lock that off so, if you don’t want people taking pictures of your vehicle so you can keep it unique.
NH: Having said that though, it’d be quite easy to tell how people are doing stuff obviously because they are built with the components. You can hide things, I mean, we’ve had people that have built stuff with all the clever stuff in the middle and covered it in a shell as if nothing is there.
PY: Have you had any thoughts or are there plans to support expansions levels or parts or such?
EM: It definitely lends itself to it but as far as we’re concerned we’re just finishing up the game and getting that shipped and then seeing what happens after that I think.
NH: It would be an option but we haven’t announced anything and we haven’t really thought about it to be perfectly honest. It’s something that we could do if there’s a demand for it.
DW: With the online multiplayer, how many modes are we looking at?
EM: There’s 28 individual games you can play.
NH: And all of those can be played either as team or individually. Ranked or not ranked. Again, a lot of the replayability from all of it comes from the fact that you can play with your own vehicles. So when you get online in ranked matches, a lot of skill is going to be involved in who can create the best vehicles and there might not be A best vehicle. It might depend on what other vehicles people are using and so on. That’s what’s really cool. We’ve had matches at work that are just really crazy, everyone has got such a different approach to the challenge that it’s just absolutely mad. You could be in a race and you could be in a plane, you could be in a tank trying to shoot him out the sky and I could be in some sort of weird boat thing. It’s kind of like “Wacky Races”.
DW: Is there any sort of online co-op planned?
NH: Not story wise but there are the team based games that you can play, but that may something we may look at doing in the future.
DW: On Nuts & Bolts as DLC or in the follow up title?
EM: Maybe, we don’t know.
NH: Who knows really? It’d probably be quite difficult on this title I would have thought.
EM: Yeah, future title probably if we do another one.
PY: Back to the sort of overall theme thing we mentioned at the beginning, you primarily seem to aim this at young lads, like aged 10-14...
EM: I don’t know but in my opinion boys don’t grow up so that’s aimed at all sort of boys *laughs*
NH: Yeah, all men *laughs*
EM: Yeah, exactly... It’s not true actually... I’m out numbered *laughs*
NH: Yeah, get out *laughs*
PY: No, it’s true.
NH: We’re aiming it anyone who’s got a creative streak and a bit of an imagination and maybe looking for something different and don’t want to be shooting people.
EM: I’ve seen people will be on the forums playing Gears of War and then *huffs* “I can’t be arsed with this” and then stuck Viva Pinata in and so, you know, it’s going to be the same with Banjo-Kazooie. An alternative to the shoot-em up genre.
NH: Like you say it’s a multi layered thing. A small kid can play it on one level and they can probably get through and win the Jiggies and get through the game and complete it, but they’re never going to do it as well as a hardcore player who goes to town on their creation.
PY: Are these the sort of things you have on the whiteboard in development... “These are the challenges and if you’re young you might need some assistance with and...
EM: Yeah, I think you kind of give the ideas for the vehicles and stuff like that and then afterwards with the whole progression thing and balancing, sort of later on in the game, that’s when you start implementing those sort of things. Introducing half built chassis and blueprints and things like that. I think that’s when we put those elements in.
NH: I think we make it primarily accessible to a younger audience and then give the hardcore players the sort of scope by the fact that they’re given this editor so they can then build what they like and when you open up the leaderboards system on Live, it kind of gives them “their” part of the game, which is... Here’s a simple challenge, now it’s up to you how you do it, off you go, here’s all your components, there’s the leaderboards... “Go and compete against each other” sort of thing.
DW: So are there any other ways to share the user generated content or is it just this blueprint method we were discussing?
EM: You can share your blueprints over Xbox Live and you can send them to your friends and stuff.
NH: And view the ones online AND steal peoples for yourself.
EM: Did we mention about Banjo-Kazooie on Xbox Live Arcade as well?
NH: There’s the Xbox Live Arcade version of the original coming.
DW: Do you have an ETA on that yet?
EM: It is out soon because if you preorder it you can get that free and you can unlock components and stuff to use in Nuts & Bolts.
DW: A bit like Fable 2 and Fable Pub Games?
So that about wraps it up. Thanks to Neill and Elissa for such an entertaining interview. Till next time.