Rare Replay Interview. Rare Gamer talks to Adam Park. (Exclusive)Overlooking the harborfront in Toronto, Microsoft's X15 Media Showcase was the latest port of calling for over thirty developers who presented the greatest lineup in Xbox history to an ecstatic crowd Wednesday evening. With our sights on Rare and their recent release, Rare Replay on the show floor, we ventured into the Sound Academy under green spotlights to get acquainted with Producer Adam Park, Art Director Peter Henze and Director of Studio Operations Drew Quakenbush. After a bit of gleeful mingling with the Twycross ambassadors, we managed to sit down with Adam Park for a video interview regarding his thoughts on Rare Replay, its storied development, behind-the-scenes secrets and some healthy ribbing with Captain Bones. The recording as well as the transcript are included below:
Rare Gamer: To start out, how were you involved in Rare Replay??
Adam Park: So, when Rare Replay started we knew that Rare was coming up to its 30th anniversary, and we wanted a way to kind of celebrate that properly - both for the studio and for the fans. So we went through this big kind of process of looking at different things we could do to celebrate the studio. To be honest it was kind of like the obvious no-brainer thing that was always sat there, which was we should just take our games and bring them together and do a love letter back to our fans - like our fans have been so great to us; [there's] people who don't even know who Rare are, so we're not egotistical enough maybe to think that everybody knows who Rare are.
We thought that, you know, everybody has been touched by one of Rare's games, because they've been there for thirty plus years, and every generation knows it, so whether you started in the Spectrum era with something like Jetpac - I know Jetpac was one of the first games I played, [it was] at my cousins house, I was dreadful at it - but it had an impact on me! You know, I knew it! It was like "Jetpac that's that game I used to play at my cousins house and he used to taunt me for." Then you have something like Cobra Triangle, like throughout gaming history everybody has been touched by Rare.
So we thought let's bring it all together, and there was a few of us working on "how could we do this?", "how we could present it?". So my role at the start of the project was just to bring in different ideas together, working with lead designer Paul Collins and Art Director Peter Henze and our Engineering Leader James Thomas and just working at how we were going to do it and start looking at "these are the games we're going to include" and "these are the games we're not going to include" and going through that process.
Then as its gone on, the whole team has been a really great bonding exercise; we've all really come together. I was saying to you earlier, we got a sense that we're very responsible and very aware that we've got this thirty years of history and we've been given this wonderful opportunity to represent it the best we can, so as a team we kind of pulled together and as well as the day to day team stuff.
I've also been involved in a lot of the marketing as well, so things like the E3 trailer, and all of the different events we've gone to and fan things we've been doing as well. So that's the best thing about Rare; you get to do a bit of everything and really get to show your love and passion in different ways.
Rare Gamer: So what did you find the largest challenge in development?
Adam Park: I'd say picking which games went onto the list. We knew that we wanted to do thirty games, as I'm sure you're aware Rare has a lineup of 120+ titles to pick from. So actually going in and thinking, "these are the games that best represent Rare" we gave ourselves very strict, creative guidelines and pillars.
I say strict, we came up with them ourselves, we did stuff that we wanted to [say] "does this represent Rare?", "does it showcase what Rare's about?", "Is it the characters?" "Is it the worlds?" - all the things that we thought were special and captured the very essence of the studio.
And then we had to go, "here's all the games, which ones fit it? Which ones match all these principles we've set out for ourselves?" There was obviously a lot of arguing, because personal opinion comes into it as well. Something like Cobra Triangle, I'd have fought for that, you know, to the death. Something like Cobra Triangle I loved - luckily that was in anyway.
I'd say getting that list down to a manageable amount, but then that final bit of going, "these are the final games we have - how do we get it down to thirty?".
And obviously there's games that I may have loved that didn't quite make it in, but we wanted to have a rounded package that represented everything and allowed everyone that special moment in there.
And you look and obviously you've got three Banjo-Kazooie games in there and you think, "okay, we'll put all three Banjo-Kazooie games in because it's got that nice narrative, you get to see how its progressed, all the different elements to it". Then someone else might argue, "well, we've got three Banjo games in there", and it's like, "of course you've got all three Banjo games".
So I'd say it was a challenge, but a wonderful, wonderful problem to have. It's like the best kind of challenge you could ever want.
Rare Gamer: At Rare Gamer we love the Snapshots Feature, how did that come about?
Adam Park: So the Snapshots Feature came about... we were aware that some of the older games in there, like the stuff from the 80's, a lot of people maybe wouldn't be as knowledgeable of those games and we understood that people want to be able to dip in and experience some of these games without necessarily putting in the time and effort that that initial demand that older games have.
Because they are quite difficult in a sense that newer gamers - and I say 'newer', I don't mean that in a pejorative way - but gamers like me as well, you go back to older games and you realize that because they're kind of structured differently and much harder from the offset, we wanted to make sure people could have a nice way of experiencing them, without then having not go into the game because they felt it off putting.
So one of the first things we wanted to do with the Snapshots was give an accessible chunk of gameplay that you could play it and go, "this is great!" and then go and discover the full game.
But obviously at the same time, once we started doing that and digging into the ROMs and actually looking how the games worked we realized there was a lot we could do with them.
One of our lead designers, a senior designer Chris Davis kind of like led the Snapshots. So he just spent months just going in and tweaking stuff and finding these wonderful, concise little moments in there.
I think the best thing with Snapshots - the reason I love the Snapshots so much - is that they allow you to experience games you might already know in different ways. They really pull out those challenging moments, like obviously with the Turbo Tunnel being the great example that everyone talks about.
It's like, 'let's take a moment that is kind of notorious and let's just make it more notorious!'
But as well as that, they allow you that little kind of way of getting in bite sized "I'm interested in seeing what this game's about - I don't necessarily know what it's about", so it's a good way to get in there.
I think the Snapshots [have a] twin purpose, you know - they're great for people that love the games and want that extra challenge and to complete it, and also for the gamers who missed the oppurtunity of experiencing them for the first time.
Rare Gamer: What is your favorite lyric or moment in the Rare Replay theme song?
Adam Park: The Rare Replay theme song... the interesting thing about the Rare Replay theme song is obviously as a studio we recorded that and we had that for a few months before it got released publically when we used it as a public announce around our preorder. The best thing is that that song was stuck in my head, and everyone in the studio's head for like, months - and it was such a cathartic thing to see it seep out and just infect everybody else who ever heard it as well. In terms of a favorite bit... I like the... it would have to be... I'm trying to think, because obviously I like the... this is going to look like I don't know the song. Trust me, I know it! I was sat by the guys when they wrote it.
The bit that gets stuck in my head continuously, is the Ghoulies into Conker; I don't know why that nugget is just there, permanently. "Cooper's grabbed by Ghoulies, and Conker grabs the cash." It's like it just haunts me in the best way possible. It's just constantly swinging around in my head. I just think that theme tune couldn't sum up Rare better - it's just everything. You know, you've got Robin Beanland in there, you've got Paul Collins and Chris Allcock who did the lyrics, the wonderful visuals; all those characters and there's so much to see in there.
I mean, obviously working on it, we know what's in there, but there were so many little Easter Eggs and little hidden characters. You still get people today going, "who's that there?" and it's like, "well, that's for you to find out."
But yeah, that theme song... I was in the taxi on the way here today, and I was singing it, without even knowing it. It's just like an earworm of the most epic proportions.
Rare Gamer: Maybe on that similar note, what aspect of Rare Replay are you most proud of?
Adam Park: I loved that we managed to present it in a way that took what was kind of quite disperate titles - I've said it before, but just looking at the [Xbox] 360 you've got something like Perfect Dark Zero on one end of the spectrum, and you've got Viva Pinata at the other - so that challenge of "how do you bring this together?"
Because we knew that we didn't want it to be just a list. Like the one thing we didn't want was a list of thirty games, effectively executables; you click a button and you go into the game. It's like that wouldn't be Rare, you know?
It wouldn't feel like we've treated the games with the reverence they deserve, the love that we tried to put into everything - I think the thing I'm most proud of is that we brought it together into this cohesive whole. So, using the theater metaphor... we looked at different ideas when we were developing it on how we could bring these things together, but the theater seemed like something where we could just take it. It made sense for all these characters to be in that same place, it allowed you to have these disparate styles but also kind of make it very cohesive.
So I think the fact that we wrapped it in this beautifully, beautifully presented style and then also included things like the video documentaries we have in there and going back to people who were obviously there in Rare's founding and there in the past, and people who still work at Rare and just uniting that Rare family again to talk about everything that makes Rare 'Rare'.
And obviously this isn't even taking into account the games themselves, which kind of talk for themselves, but I think just bringing it all together and making it feel like this wonderful, loved collection - it'd say it's something I'm exceptionally proud of.
I know I've said it to you before, but there was a great responsibility - it felt like - on the team to get that right and I'm glad that it feels like we did.
And we've made it into something in which the thirty games are there, and the thirty games speak for themselves because they're so wonderful, but hopefully we've added to that by bringing it all together the way we have.
Rare Gamer: In your opinion, what's the hardest achievement to unlock in Rare Replay
Adam Park: Well personally, I'm dreadful at Snake, Rattle 'N' Roll, so anything with Snake, Rattle 'N' Roll. I just find that game challenging, but I've kind of plugged away at it entirely.
In terms of what's the most difficult achievement to unlock - I don't know, that's a difficult question. It depends what game you're good at, as I say, somebody else like you could say, "Snake, Rattle 'N' Roll, that's a doddle to do, you know I've blitzed through that game!" whereas I could just be in that for hours.
If you haven't already brought over achievements from Pinata, I think some of the later Pinata achievements are always difficult to get.
I do love all of the new achievements we've put in there and some of the names, and some of the little nods and Easter Eggs we've put in there [that] we're really hoping people appreciate and get what we were trying to do there and see some of them. We had great fun with the achievements.
Rare Gamer: Which Rare titles didn't make the cut? What was meant to be 'Game 31' in that respect?
Adam Park: So obviously when we were whittling it down to the final thirty, there was games that fluctuated and I think one of the ones that was almost in and then wasn't in was Pentagram.
You know we looked at that, it's a great game and it completed that cohesion we wanted with all these different chapters, but we know we wanted thirty, so it was a case of 'what do we want, what don't we want?' and so again, it's a case of let's put forward all of the different arguments and let's look at what we love, what we don't love and everybody has an opinion. But yeah, I'd say there was plenty of games that didn't make it, but I really think the games that are in there represent Rare. I don't feel we could have put thirty games in there that better represent that kind of love, creativity for worlds and characters that Rare's all about.
So I think we've got it right, and that might sound big-headed to say that but I genuinely think we've got the thirty games right.
Rare Gamer: Do you have a personal favorite title in the collection?
Adam Park: Can I cheat? Yeah. Ok, I'm cheating.
So, Cobra Triangle - that was one of the first games that as a kid I ever got obsessed with. So the fact that I've been able to revisit that, like, twenty years on is wonderful.
Battletoads Arcade has been a revelation for me, just the ability to jump into that game - and seeing people when we're at events and at home just being able to jump in and play that game is fantastic as well. It just looks gorgeous as well, it has such a vibrant feel to it.
And then, Viva Pinata would be my other one. In terms of games that is just a game that has so much depth, so much replayability. You know, we've said that the collection has over 700 hours in it, but you could easily put in over 700 hours just into Viva Pinata - and that game to me really does represent a lot of what Rare is about. And obviously it was the first game I worked on at Rare so it has a really special place for me as well.
So, I'm going for three there - I love every other game in there as well - there's not a game I don't like in there, which is a testament to the collection as a whole.
Rare Gamer: There you go. Is there anything else you'd like to share? Behind-the-scenes anecdotes, or threats to Captain Bones for instance?
Adam Park: Ha! Captain Bones! Captain Bones isn't here, he would love it! Look at it!
Rare Gamer: How do you know he's not - that's the question...
Adam Park: Captain Bones could be here, who knows? He's everywhere.
Hmm... Behind-the-scenes anecdotes... I mean other than the fact we had great fun and got to meet all of the people who aren't at Rare now but are still part of that Rare family and just bringing everyone back together.
I think there isn't that many anecdotes because hopefully every anecdote that we had is included in Rare Replay and can be seen there for anybody who loves Rare or has loved any of our games - whether it's through the videos or the way we presented it - you know, it's always kind of 'opening the doors'. When I was a kid, I kind of grew up living near Rare, and Rare was just like this weird...
I couldn't get my head around the people that made these things were so close, how could those people live so close to me? And it was just this Willy Wonka-esque place that was just there. Like, I never knew where it was, and you could never find it - I would struggle to find it now if I didn't work there but it just gave you that mystique.
And hopefully we've opened the doors enough that people can now see Rare and understand the culture of Rare and what we've done over the years - but we still kind of retain that magic as to how we actually create these things.
So in terms of anecdotes, I'd say hopefully everything is there for you to see, but obviously there's that little bit of magic that we just have to keep hidden away... to stay Rare.