Over the vacation season we’ll be republishing a sequence of Nintendo Life articles, interviews and different options from the earlier twelve months that we think about to be our Better of 2020. Hopefully, this gives you an opportunity to make amends for items you missed, or just take pleasure in wanting again on a yr which did have some highlights — trustworthy!
This function was initially revealed in November 2020.
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 all the time a tantalisingly unfastened thread or Easter Egg hidden within the DLC hinting at an extra instalment. It might be a really daring transfer, although, to call your sequel and straight 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 forged of loveable characters and a touch 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 chook 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 footage exhibiting innaccessible areas you ‘missed’ with secrets and techniques which might be used within the subsequent sport.
The crew should have been assured in what that they had, however was Banjo-Tooie—the formidable 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’ gadgets that shaped a hyperlink between the 2 video games. What Tooie would really be had not been considered at that time!”
“There was a optimistic response to what we confirmed publicly,” says head programmer Chris Sutherland, considered one of a number of Banjo veterans that may go on to discovered Playtonic Video games and recapture the Banjo spirit within the Yooka-Laylee sequence. “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. Among the crew 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 title 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 reworked right into a shambling zombie by the vengeful witch.
“It was deliberate,” Mayles says of the traditional ‘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 essential supporting characters and I can keep in mind us laughing once we plotted Bottles’ downfall. There have been some fairly darkish and mature components to the tone that we tried to stability 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 supposed 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. “Once 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 route. “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. Truthfully 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 secure of composers, Kirkhope was more-or-less left to his personal gadgets on the sequel. “I don’t suppose I needed to make any adjustments 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 function. “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 crew to go up DK64 and he wanted a substitute.”
One other massive sport that got here alongside whereas we had been making it was Metallic Gear Stable, which we beloved. Video games simply gave the impression to be rising up a bit.
The sequel’s bleaker tone and expanded ambitions had been influenced by traits and titles of the day. “Tooie was supposed to be extra of an journey and fewer of a platform sport than Banjo-Kazooie,” Malpass explains. “There was a need to make the environments really feel interconnected and a part of some bigger world, therefore why you’ll be able to 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 improvement, which solely backed up that concept.”
“So with that additional stage design complexity additionally got here a barely extra grown-up story, regardless that it was nonetheless supposed to be humorous and attraction to all ages. The route was all right down to Gregg however I actually keep in mind agreeing it was the best way to go. One other massive sport that got here alongside whereas we had been making it was Metallic Gear Stable, which we beloved. 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 variety of pre-production. Tooie was extra of a ‘get caught in’ mission, particularly for Malpass who was studying on the job.
“To start with we had been arising with concepts for duties, puzzles, stage options, and so forth. That stuff all the time got here first, with the worlds designed to accommodate them, by no means the opposite approach round. Gregg had a lot 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 completed and I bought concerned in that, so the design of the worlds within the second half of Tooie was extra of a joint effort. Degree 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 a lot of guidelines to keep in mind. It was all completed on paper as maps and sketches again then, adopted by a lot of iteration with the surroundings artists. You couldn’t simply rapidly construct a ‘gray field’ stage like you’ll be able to in Unity or Unreal now.”
Although fashionable titles and consoles are way more advanced, improved instruments make the duty of making a online game rather more user-friendly lately. Again within the late ’90s, designers at Uncommon had been utilizing the N64’s controller itself—considered one of console gaming’s most ‘Marmite’ of pad designs—to interface with the editor.
having to create one thing like a digicam 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 gadgets like music notes, invisible volumes (triggers for characters, cameras, and so forth.) and such,” explains Malpass. “Designer instruments had been normally 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 crew, with scant regard for usability as their time was higher spent on the sport itself. So having to create one thing like a digicam spline with an N64 pad after which tweak it to make the motion really feel real looking (e.g., the Saucer of Peril experience) 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. “Virtually all the pieces went via Gregg, so in the end he determined what ended up within the sport, which was nice for consistency. However he was all the time particularly reasonable at selecting what he thought was greatest 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 assorted and I discovered an enormous quantity in a comparatively quick time, as you’ll be able to think about. It was daunting, as a result of there was lots to study, 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 Dangerous 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 quick 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 brought on 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 indirectly.
Uncommon’s apply of separating groups throughout its notorious ‘barns’ naturally created some competitors. “I am probably not certain we considered that on the time,” remembers lead surroundings artist Steven Hurst. “In these days every crew labored in relative isolation and competed in opposition to one another to develop the ‘greatest’ video games – a wholesome rivalry in the event you like. I do keep 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 crew had been doing. Up till that time BK was extra akin to a 3D sport enjoying in a 2D airplane with a hard and fast digicam. Altering to a totally 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 indirectly.”
Secrecy across the initiatives inevitably generated rumour and gossip across the studio. “Grant [Kirkhope] was all the time an excellent supply of gossip,” remembers Malpass, “because the musicians tended to be concerned with a number of initiatives. 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 largely 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 crew 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 acquired simply as properly, no matter what different video games had been being launched. Additionally, I believe Banjo-Tooie had a special sufficient identification when seen in opposition to different Uncommon platformers.”
Uncommon was famously secretive, and that included different video games being made within the firm. Many individuals on the crew 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 provide them totally different flavours. ‘Twelve Tales: Conker 64’ and its bushy-tailed protagonist had been famously restyled to function the foul-mouthed squirrel we all know and love who ended up having a Dangerous Fur Day.
“I keep in mind being conscious of the brand new route and that their humour was very in-your-face and ‘mature’, in comparison with Banjo’s, which is extra delicate and laden with innuendo,” says Malpass. “The gameplay of Conker was very totally 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 rather 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 properly conscious there have been issues in widespread.”
General, Uncommon’s segregated strategy produced some spectacular outcomes. “You often get to see one other crew’s sport,” recollects senior artist Ed Bryan. “It was all the time enjoyable to see what the others had been as much as. I believe we labored on the concept the video games had been totally different sufficient, with their very own mascots and their very own sort of fashion, that gamers would wish to play all of them. Throughout the crew it was all the time good to see different stuff because it helped to focus what you had been doing; you’ll be able to 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 try to make our sport pretty much as good as we might. There could have been considerations increased up in regards to the similarities however they had been a number of the kinds of issues Uncommon was famend for, so I don’t keep in mind any nice panic about it.”