Rare: Viva PC

Jamie "It's Mr Pants" Sefton grabs the man who stuffs the colourful goodies inside Rare's Viva Piņata

Justin Cook, designer at Rare, cut his studio teeth on shooter Perfect Dark and has subsequently worked on It's Mr Pants, Conker's Bad Fur Day and Banjo-Tooie. He's currently involved with the developer's first PC release, Viva Piņata...

How do you feel about Viva Piņata being Rare's first PC release?

Justin Cook: I think it's quite exciting. When we were developing Viva Piņata originally, we thought about putting it on the PC, as it's the type of game that suits it, being a sandbox-type game. Viva Piņata actually started out as a project on the Pocket PC, and the mobile phone, using the communication aspect - the social side that's so important to the game.

What was the most difficult design aspect of Viva Piņata?

Cook: I think it was trying to make a game for everyone - we wanted to make it as broad a title as we could, getting new people and the hardcore to play it, and we've had mixed success.

When you're designing a game, you don't have to make it easy for one set of people and exclude others - you can put more stuff into the game, and more levels and hidden treasures that the experts will pick up on. There are also a few nods to our previous games in there - because we do like blowing our own trumpet!

Plus a bit of toilet humour...

Cook: Oh yes, almost essential I'd say. If we can get away with it...

Are you including any new content for the PC version?

Cook: It's been done on a very short time scale, so the main thing that Climax are involved in is changing the controls for PC players using a mouse and keyboard.

Why piņatas?

Cook: It really came from our concept artists, who wanted to mark our animals out as unique and different from other games with animals in them - something that had never really been seen before.

That then fed back into the gameplay, so we could do certain things because they were piņatas - it was a really organic process.

What's your favourite piņata?

Cook: Mine is the Newtgat - it's a vanity thing because I did the voice for it! We try and do as many voices as we can in-house, and all the piņata voices are done by the developing team or the music department.

Do you think you can hold on to the traditional British humour that's such a part of Rare games now you're owned by Microsoft?

Cook:We try our hardest to do that. One interesting thing is that I think we're the first Microsoft Game Studio to insist on keeping the localisation in UK English - normally it's US English, but we didn't want to change the spellings! Microsoft were happy to do that.

That's great, because there was a lot of criticism in the UK about Joanna in Perfect Dark Zero gaining an American accent for example...

Cook: Yeah, er, I'd agree with that. The thing is, when you're working on a game, you're working on it for a long amount of time, so a lot of the humour and the language that we use is just keeping us sane.

As far as I see it, we're carrying on that British tradition of pantomime, where you don't have to get all the jokes to enjoy it.

Actually the thing that caused me most trouble near the end - I wrote all the animal descriptions for the journal, including, I suppose you would call it "explicit" description of the beaver character Sweetooth. Right near the end of crunch time I had to change it quite a bit of it, even though we didn't actually use the word "beaver" anywhere at all.

I said I thought I was being quite innocent, but Microsoft said, "No you were quite specific"!

Finally, has the Viva Piņata team now moved onto the new Banjo-Kazooie game. Will it come to PC?

Cook: Some have swapped over - it hasn't been a wholesale move, but quite a few of the team.

As for being a PC game, it would obviously have to fit the platform, which is why Viva Piņata moved over: it's so perfect for PC.

We'll probably make a decision when Banjo-Kazooie is finished about moving it to PC - the team is pretty much full-on with designing it at the moment, and the last thing on their minds is whether it'll make it to other platforms.

The question you should ask is whether the first two Banjo games would've mapped well to PC controls - we found they were a natural fit for consoles really.