Twycross-based UK outfit Rareware is renowned for being ultra secretive…or at least used to be back when the Stamper Brothers were in control of the developer and Nintendo owned the majority stake in the company. However, now under new management and safely under Microsoft’s hefty wing, Rare is happy to speak out on many topics to keep fans up-to-date.
In November’s ‘Tepid Seat’ update on the team’s official website, five different members were questioned by members of the public on all things PiÃ±ata-related. However, as expected, some other teasing tidbits slipped out during the answer session. The panel under fire this month were: Justin (Lead Designer), Gary (DS Designer), Grant (Musician), Ryan (Concept Artist), Ed (Lead Artist) and Will (Lead Programmer) and to start off with, one reader asked about the future of Viva PiÃ±ata, following the recent release of Viva PiÃ±ata: Party Animals (Xboxic’s review of this below average game can be found here), which was instead developed by Australian team Krome Studios, best known for its three decent Ty the Tasmanian Tiger efforts in the past. The reader was keen to know if there would “be any future titles of the series on the 360 developed and published by Rare” to which the response was, in typically Rare fashion, a simple “I don’t know, would you like more Viva PiÃ±ata?” Later in the Question and Answer session, Justin said this of Viva PiÃ±ata rumours, “I heard rumours about someone spreading rumours. They could be true, guess we’ll have to wait and see.” Could you get any more vague than that? Probably, from Rare!
As for the longevity of the first Xbox 360 game, on the topic of whether there will be any more downloadable packs available over the Live service, the firm and final answer is definitely ‘No’ since the team states it is working hard on something else that people will like much more than some Viva PiÃ±ata Download Content. Intriguing stuff indeed…and the teasers continue later on when Justin is asked about the fixing of glitches in the game plus, in a less than subtle manner, about Banjo-Threeie / Banjo-Kazooie 3. About BK3 he states: “If I were to throw in a reference to Banjo and Kazooie what would it be? How about a giant 30ft TV with ‘Banjo and Kazooie coming to Xbox 360 soon…’ flashing all over the screen?” As for fixing glitches, again it seems it just is not going to happen anytime soon due to this “something that you’ll like even more than DLC and stuff…”
The topic of not being able to transfer your save files over to another Xbox 360 cropped up as well, and in this instance it was Will that jumped on the question, responding as thus:
“We’ve been asked this question a few times over the last year, and I’ll provide the same answer here. We completely agree with all those that have asked this question, that (in an ideal world) you should be able to move the VP save games from one storage device (or console) to another. We really wanted to provide this feature, but unfortunately for reasons beyond our control we were not able to when the game was launched. At the time, it was not possible to differentiate within the Xbox 360’s dashboard between save games that could be moved and those that could be copied. So, if we had enabled ‘move’ for the VP save games, everybody would suddenly also be able to ‘copy’ content as well. As VP has a very strong online trading element to the game play we had to protect the majority of honest players from a minority who would undoubtedly duplicate save games and thus destroy the economy of the trading system - you acknowledge that this would be a problem in your question. Although we cannot solve this limitation for you with VP, I believe the Spring 2007 Dashboard update removed this restriction for future titles and of course we’d make use of that going forward.”
On a technical slant, Ed was asked about the make-up of the 360 game and discussed in response how the team used “normal maps, parallax and occlusion maps” in the game. Another inclusions is “edge-based and continuous tessellation”, which is also present in places. He believes that “all these techniques will be used sometime soon to help bring a certain Bear and Bird to life, and I’m sure the VP team will find a use for them again.” Moving on, and again hinting at future projects, when asked if the team could “make me a giraffe, or perhaps even a walrus PiÃ±ata?”, Justin simply replied “We could make anything you could think of (and some things you couldn’t think of). Then again we could make Killer Instinct 3.” Could this mean the project people keep asking for could finally be on the cards?
Other topics covered were how the mainstream seemed to dismiss Viva PiÃ±ata “as a children’s game” and how it may well affect the direction of the series in the future, with Justin talking about how they try to make games that they think are fun, but also know there are lots of people who do not like those type of games, meaning the team will try to bring in more ‘new’ gamers in the future. He does assure people, though, that in the “next game there will definitely be loads of guns and a car chase.” He also mentions that those comparing Viva PiÃ±ata to Nintendo’s PokÃ©mon titles are flattering them, but not really hitting the nail on the head since “if you’ve played both games they are very different. The only similarity is that there are lots of creatures in both.”
On the musical front, Grant was quizzed about the inspiration for his soundtrack work on the game and replied with:
“Thanks very much, I’m glad you like my stuff! My inspiration for Viva PiÃ±ata came from a few things. I wanted to write something that was very pastorale in sound but had good melodic content as well and not just some ambience type stuff. I was thinking about Edward Elgar and Vaughan Williams really, that very English sound. Also I was thinking about the feel of Hobbiton from The Lord of The Rings and Howard Shore’s theme there. Overall I was very lucky, as the music I composed for Viva PiÃ±ata is probably the kind of music I would choose to compose if I was just writing stuff for my own pleasure.”
As for how the game came into existence in the first place and its origins, Justin was on-hand once more with the in-depth answer:
“Although I’d like to tell you about my genius, the truth is that Tim Stamper came up with the original concept. I don’t think any booze was involved. There were 160 PiÃ±atas in our first design documentation. We cut that down to as many as we could fit into the development process. Some of the PiÃ±atas that didn’t make the original game have been spotted in the 4Kids TV show, and there will be a few more making personal appearances in the upcoming DS version.
“I’m not sure this is the time or place to go into much detail, but I can give you the potted history. Viva PiÃ±ata started life as a game for the Pocket PC called Your Garden. A team of three people worked on the prototype and expanded it into a playable game from Pocket PC to GameCube then Xbox. We knew that the game was unusual and thought it needed a strong graphical style to represent it. Ryan came up with the PiÃ±ata theme which fed back into the design of the game. From that point the game moved to the PC, then onto the Xbox 360. The team grew as the project went into full production. Microsoft were very supportive, and seemed to recognise the need to have different game types on their console. As part of their support they approached 4Kids about the animated show. This seemed to be a good match and we welcomed the chance to work with 4Kids. Throughout all the changes we stuck pretty closely to the original design and enjoyed Microsoft’s support through production. I guess that makes us unusual and very lucky!”
Finally, given that Viva PiÃ±ata is coming to the Nintendo DS in the near future, people are keen to know if something will be happening on Wii as well, despite the fact that Rare is fully owned by Microsoft and Wii is a direct competitor to Xbox 360. Obviously the rumour of something like this happening in US publication Electronic Games Monthly has spurred people’s interest more as well, with one reader stating “you can pull a Bungie and split so you have the freedom to explore the other consoles through your games”. However, Justin puts his foot down and states the following:
“No. Let me put it this way, which is the least expensive (and most practical) solution - a multi-million pound deal tied up with legal and corporate issues so that a team who may or may not have started work on a new project can start work on a 12-month conversion of our game to a new platform, or you could buy an Xbox 360?”
Stick with Xboxic for further updates…