Shaun Reed on Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts will be arriving exclusively on the Xbox 360 very soon now, the game marking the reemergence of a series Rare and Microsoft hope can enhance their console's mass market credentials. With the significance of this debut not to be underestimated, we posed a few questions to lead designer Shaun Reed.
How does this new take on Banjo differ from past iterations of the series? Is the heart of the gameplay the same?
While ‘Nuts and Bolts’ shares many features with its predecessors, the core gameplay is new and very different. We all loved the first two games but felt it was time to take the bear and bird somewhere new. By giving the player the power to create their own gameplay in such a new and unique manner, we believe we’ve developed a game worthy of the Banjo name.
Are you worried that older fans might not like the new direction you've taken, or was the innovation regarded as essential to attract new audiences?
Once people start to play the game, we’re sure that even the most hardened Banjo fans will learn to love the new direction we’ve taken. Not meaning to come across as arrogant, but we’re that confident in our game. It’s just great to have worked on a title that can provoke such passionate views even after all of these years.
How has the Xbox 360 empowered you in developing Nuts & Bolts?
The power of the 360 console has been fundamental at every level. Not until now have we had the ability to provide the player with the level of creative freedom that we’ve manage to pack into Nuts and Bolts. This is also the first Banjo title to embrace real-world physics and from the very start we wanted to push this area as far as we could (too far at times, according to our physics guys!) When you play Nuts and Bolts it becomes that this type of game would have been impossible on previous generations of hardware.
How easy to use is the vehicle creation functionality; and how key is this side of things to the overall game experience?
We like to think that the vehicle editor is incredibly easy for new players to pick up, while at the same time offering the level of functionality that we originally envisioned for it. When we first started the game, a period of six months was allocated to the development of the editor. This turned into three years, virtually the entire length of the game's development. Without doubt it has been the hardest thing to get right but we’re now confident our perseverance has paid off. While the editor is key to playing the game to its full potential it is by no means essential to completing it. Various features are present in the game that allows players with no interest in building vehicles to complete the game and have a great time in doing so.
The game worlds look more than a little whacky - from where did you draw the inspiration for this, and how difficult is it mixing open world and platforming elements?
The majority of platforming is done on our hub world, Showdown Town. On this level the player is restricted to controlling a single, pre-built vehicle. This was a key design decision that allowed us to design a more traditionally structured level without having to worry what crazy contraptions the player may be taking on it. This provides two very distinct styles of gameplay that constantly gives the player a varied and unpredictable experience.
The game worlds are indeed wacky but are really just an evolution of the crazy places that Banjo has spent his entire career exploring. Rumours of us having to create such fantastical worlds to counteract our existence in Twycross are entirely fabricated.
How important is user-generated content; and where do you see it going in the future?
Well, for our game, very. User-generated content is something that has always intrigued us and was one of the first ideas to be put forward for the new game. As well as the obvious vehicle building, we’re extremely pleased with how other features such as blueprint sharing, replays and photo mode have all turned out. However, I think it’s a technology that has its own individual place in gaming and won’t necessarily redefine the way future titles are made. Many players aren’t interested in creating stuff, they just want to be given a game they can play and enjoy. Hopefully Nuts and Bolts hits the sweet spot and offers both type of player an all-round fun experience.