These days, there’s nary a sport that does not end with a post-credits tease to tee up a sequel or spin-off. There’s at all times a tantalisingly free thread or Easter Egg hidden within the DLC hinting at an additional instalment. It might be a really daring transfer, although, to call your sequel and immediately reference it in a sport that hadn’t even launched but.
Uncommon’s 3D platformer Banjo-Kazooie was arguably the primary credible challenger to sq. as much as seminal Nintendo 64 launch sport Tremendous Mario 64. With giant, vibrant 3D worlds to discover, a solid of loveable characters and a splash of British naughtiness in its humour, it turned a quick favorite with followers. It additionally completed with probably one of the best sequel bait in online game historical past, with the titular bear and hen taking a well-earned break on the seashore after their journey earlier than shifty shaman Mumbo Jumbo exhibits up with a set of animated polaroid photos exhibiting innaccessible areas you ‘missed’ with secrets and techniques which might be used within the subsequent sport.
The group should have been assured in what that they had, however was Banjo-Tooie—the bold follow-up which launched in North America on 20th November 2000—genuinely on the playing cards earlier than the primary sport even launched? “Sure it was,” confirms Gregg Mayles, designer on each platforms, “however solely as a reputation and us wanting to incorporate the ‘Cease n’ Swop’ objects that shaped a hyperlink between the 2 video games. What Tooie would really be had not been considered at that time!”
“There was a constructive response to what we confirmed publicly,” says head programmer Chris Sutherland, one in every of a number of Banjo veterans that may go on to discovered Playtonic Video games and recapture the Banjo spirit within the Yooka-Laylee collection. “There have been a bunch of concepts that by no means made it into the primary sport, so it appeared just like the wise factor to do to maneuver onto a sequel. A few of the group originated from DKC video games so in some methods it mirrored how we might rolled straight onto DKC2 from DKC1… I assume it additionally places Banjo-Kazooie right into a shortlist of “video games that (efficiently) introduced the identify of their sequel within the sport”!”
The moody second act
From the very starting, Banjo-Tooie feels darker—a bit extra harmful, rather less forgiving—than the earlier sport. It is nonetheless very a lot a fairytale romp however from the off Tooie leans into Brothers Grimm-style darkness. Bottles (bespectacled, move-teaching mole and stalwart pal to the protagonists) meets his demise by the hands of Gruntilda within the introduction cutscene, and mere moments after making the pleasant Jinjo King’s acquaintence, he is remodeled right into a shambling zombie by the vengeful witch.
“It was deliberate,” Mayles says of the basic ‘darker second act’ strategy. “We didn’t wish to do the identical factor once more as the primary sport and we needed to shock gamers. I don’t suppose anybody would have anticipated us to kill off one of many most important supporting characters and I can bear in mind us laughing after we plotted Bottles’ downfall. There have been some fairly darkish and mature components to the tone that we tried to steadiness out with our sense of humour, I believe my favorite was when Bottles’ household was asking about him and Banjo needed to fake he didn’t know the mole was no extra.”
Bottles’ angelic spirit lingers the place he fell outdoors Banjo’s home in Spiral Mountain, and a devilish alter ego was meant to return within the canned Bottles’ Revenge mode which might have allowed a second participant to take management of NPCs.
“I assume we had been seeing how a lot enjoyable we might have with the characters and worlds,” says Steve Mayles, head artist and brother of Gregg. “Whenever you’re making a sequel there’s a pure development of issues I believe, you wish to push the envelope a bit extra. Bottles bought what was coming to him anyway, he was fairly annoying in Banjo-Kazooie!”
That barely grimmer tone influenced the musical course. “I believe I simply felt that it was a darker sport,” composer Grant Kirkhope tells us. “The degrees had been undoubtedly much less jolly then the primary sport. Actually I used to be just about left to my very own gadgets by this time, I believe Gregg Mayles had lastly grown to belief me …. ha!” Having established himself in Uncommon’s luminary steady of composers, Kirkhope was more-or-less left to his personal gadgets on the sequel. “I don’t suppose I needed to make any modifications to the music on Tooie, these items had been all my first concepts.”
Design duties on Tooie had been shared between Mayles and Steve Malpass, freshly-promoted in his first design position. “I began in QA as most wannabe designers did at Uncommon again then, so Gregg was coaching me up on the job,” he tells us. “[Gregg’s] earlier assistant designer had left the group to go up DK64 and he wanted a substitute.”
One other huge sport that got here alongside whereas we had been making it was Metallic Gear Strong, which we cherished. Video games simply gave the impression to be rising up a bit.
The sequel’s bleaker tone and expanded ambitions had been influenced by developments and titles of the day. “Tooie was meant to be extra of an journey and fewer of a platform sport than Banjo-Kazooie,” Malpass explains. “There was a want to make the environments really feel interconnected and a part of some bigger world, therefore why you possibly can solely attain sure areas in a single stage by accessing them from one other. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time got here out on the finish of 1998, whereas Tooie was nonetheless in early growth, which solely backed up that concept.”
“So with that additional stage design complexity additionally got here a barely extra grown-up story, though it was nonetheless meant to be humorous and enchantment to all ages. The course was all right down to Gregg however I actually bear in mind agreeing it was the way in which to go. One other huge sport that got here alongside whereas we had been making it was Metallic Gear Strong, which we cherished. Video games simply gave the impression to be rising up a bit.”
Getting right down to design
With two designers on the helm and concepts left over from the earlier sport, there wasn’t a number of pre-production. Tooie was extra of a ‘get caught in’ undertaking, particularly for Malpass who was studying on the job.
“To start with we had been arising with concepts for duties, puzzles, stage options, and many others. That stuff at all times got here first, with the worlds designed to accommodate them, by no means the opposite method round. Gregg had plenty of stuff for the primary few worlds left over from Banjo-Kazooie so he did the extent design for these. Then he confirmed me the way it was performed and I bought concerned in that, so the design of the worlds within the second half of Tooie was extra of a joint effort. Stage design appeared like a little bit of a darkish artwork at first so it felt like an actual achievement when my stuff made it into the sport. Although I discovered it troublesome to start with, with plenty of guidelines to remember. It was all performed on paper as maps and sketches again then, adopted by plenty of iteration with the surroundings artists. You couldn’t simply shortly construct a ‘gray field’ stage like you possibly can in Unity or Unreal now.”
Although trendy titles and consoles are way more complicated, improved instruments make the duty of making a online game far more user-friendly lately. Again within the late ’90s, designers at Uncommon had been utilizing the N64’s controller itself—one in every of console gaming’s most ‘Marmite’ of pad designs—to interface with the editor.
having to create one thing like a digital camera spline with an N64 pad after which tweak it to make the motion really feel real looking was fairly a chore
“We shared the setup work utilizing the clunky in-game editor (with an N64 pad!) to put collectable objects like music notes, invisible volumes (triggers for characters, cameras, and many others.) and such,” explains Malpass. “Designer instruments had been often a ache to make use of as a result of there have been no established instruments for us as there at the moment are. All of the instruments for Banjo had been written by a programmer on the group, with scant regard for usability as their time was higher spent on the sport itself. So having to create one thing like a digital camera spline with an N64 pad after which tweak it to make the motion really feel real looking (e.g., the Saucer of Peril trip) was fairly a chore, as such issues are a lot simpler with a keyboard and mouse. Just about all the pieces that concerned utilizing that editor was a faff, actually.”
Because the veteran of the pair, Mayles had the ultimate say on design components. “Nearly all the pieces went by means of Gregg, so finally he determined what ended up within the sport, which was nice for consistency. However he was at all times particularly reasonable at choosing what he thought was finest for the sport, no matter who got here up with it. There was solely the 2 of us as designers on the complete sport, so the work was very diversified and I discovered an enormous quantity in a comparatively brief time, as you possibly can think about. It was daunting, as a result of there was quite a bit to be taught, however it was additionally enjoyable and comparatively stress-free, as I recall.”
The flip of the millennium was a very fertile time for the Twycross-based studio, and Uncommon had a bevy of high quality platformers on its books. Donkey Kong 64 launched in November 1999, Tooie launched a yr later in North America (though it would not arrive on European shores till the next yr) and Conker’s Unhealthy Fur Day launched only a handful of months after that. That is a complete lot of vibrant 3D platforming from the identical firm on the identical console in a comparatively brief house of time.
“Trying again it appears an completely weird factor to do… it actually wouldn’t occur lately!” says Gavin Worth. “I can think about there was a good bit of concern amongst some groups about transport titles shut to one another – I used to be in QA so probably not uncovered to what every groups opinion on the matter could also be… I believe it most likely prompted extra rivalry issues than advantages within the long-run sadly.”
At the moment 3D platformers had been so widespread I do not suppose we had been involved about having a number of examples of the style so long as they distinguished themselves from one another in a roundabout way.
Uncommon’s observe of separating groups throughout its notorious ‘barns’ naturally created some competitors. “I am probably not positive we considered that on the time,” remembers lead surroundings artist Steven Hurst. “In these days every group labored in relative isolation and competed towards one another to develop the ‘finest’ video games – a wholesome rivalry in case you like. I do bear in mind really that we modified BK to be extra of a ‘correct’ 3D sport (just like Mario 64) after seeing the work that the Conker group had been doing. Up till that time BK was extra akin to a 3D sport enjoying in a 2D airplane with a set digital camera. Altering to a completely 3D sport gave us extra gameplay alternatives. At the moment 3D platformers had been so widespread I do not suppose we had been involved about having a number of examples of the style so long as they distinguished themselves from one another in a roundabout way.”
Secrecy across the tasks inevitably generated rumour and gossip across the studio. “Grant [Kirkhope] was at all times an incredible supply of gossip,” remembers Malpass, “because the musicians tended to be concerned with a number of tasks. However Gregg, being somebody [joint studio head] Tim Stamper most likely trusted most, bought to play and suggestions on the opposite video games periodically, so he knew principally what the opposite groups had been as much as.”
“Uncommon was famously secretive,” Steve Mayles recollects, “and that included different video games being made within the firm. Many individuals on the group wouldn’t have seen a lot (if something) of DK64 and Conker. With Banjo Kazooie, we’d created a sport that gave the impression to be universally widespread, so there was no cause to suppose the sequel wouldn’t be obtained simply as effectively, no matter what different video games had been being launched. Additionally, I believe Banjo-Tooie had a distinct sufficient id when considered towards different Uncommon platformers.”
Uncommon was famously secretive, and that included different video games being made within the firm. Many individuals on the group wouldn’t have seen a lot (if something) of DK64 and Conker
The groups had been clearly acutely aware of this confluence of high quality 3D platforming and made tweaks to present them completely different flavours. ‘Twelve Tales: Conker 64’ and its bushy-tailed protagonist had been famously restyled into the foul-mouthed squirrel we all know and love who ended up having a Unhealthy Fur Day.
“I bear in mind being conscious of the brand new course and that their humour was very in-your-face and ‘mature’, in comparison with Banjo’s, which is extra refined and laden with innuendo,” says Malpass. “The gameplay of Conker was very completely different too, relying closely on film references and set-pieces, so it appeared sufficient of its personal factor. DK64 was being lead by George Andreas, who was Gregg’s no. 2 on Banjo-Kazooie, so Gregg was far more concerned in overseeing the design of that. A few of our artists had been serving to out on it from our constructing too, so we bought to see bits and items and had been effectively conscious there have been issues in widespread.”
General, Uncommon’s segregated strategy produced some spectacular outcomes. “You sometimes get to see one other group’s sport,” recollects senior artist Ed Bryan. “It was at all times enjoyable to see what the others had been as much as. I believe we labored on the concept that the video games had been completely different sufficient, with their very own mascots and their very own sort of model, that gamers would wish to play all of them. Throughout the group it was at all times good to see different stuff because it helped to focus what you had been doing; you possibly can see how others have approached artwork issues, design issues, that form of factor. It retains you in your toes!”
Steve Malpass agrees. “It simply created a little bit of pleasant rivalry and motivated us to attempt to make our sport pretty much as good as we might. There could have been considerations increased up concerning the similarities however they had been among the kinds of issues Uncommon was famend for, so I don’t bear in mind any nice panic about it.”