Feature: Banjo-Tooie Turns 20 – The Rare Team Tells The Story Of Bombs, Bugs And Bottles

© Nintendo Life

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 instantly 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 Super 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 presumably the perfect 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 reveals 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 workforce will need to have been assured in what 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 ‘Stop n’ Swop’ gadgets that shaped a hyperlink between the 2 video games. What Tooie would really be had not been thought of at that time!”

“There was a optimistic response to what we confirmed publicly,” says head programmer Chris Sutherland, certainly one of a number of Banjo veterans that will 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 number of the workforce originated from DKC video games so in some methods it mirrored how we would rolled straight onto DKC2 from DKC1… I suppose 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

Banjo Tooie Bottles Brown Bread

From the very starting, Banjo-Tooie feels darker—a bit of 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 basic ‘darker second act’ method. “We didn’t need 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 primary supporting characters and I can bear 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 feel my favorite was when Bottles’ household was asking about him and Banjo needed to faux he didn’t know the mole was no extra.”

Bottles’ angelic spirit lingers the place he fell exterior 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 suppose we have 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 feel, you need to push the envelope a bit extra. Bottles received what was coming to him anyway, he was fairly annoying in Banjo-Kazooie!”

That barely grimmer tone influenced the musical course. “I feel I simply felt that it was a darker sport,” composer Grant Kirkhope tells us. “The degrees have been positively much less jolly then the primary sport. Truthfully I used to be just about left to my very own gadgets by this time, I feel 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 have been all my first concepts.”

Design duties on Tooie have 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 workforce to move up DK64 and he wanted a alternative.”

One other massive sport that got here alongside whereas we have been making it was Steel Gear Stable, which we cherished. Video games simply gave the impression to be rising up a bit.

The sequel’s bleaker tone and expanded ambitions have been influenced by tendencies 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 may 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 further stage design complexity additionally got here a barely extra grown-up story, despite the fact that it was nonetheless supposed to be humorous and attraction to all ages. The course was all right down to Gregg however I definitely bear in mind agreeing it was the best way to go. One other massive sport that got here alongside whereas we have been making it was Metal Gear Solid, 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 plenty 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 have been developing with concepts for duties, puzzles, stage options, and so on. That stuff all the time got here first, with the worlds designed to accommodate them, by no means the opposite manner round. Gregg had numerous 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 executed and I received 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 tough to start with, with numerous guidelines to keep in mind. It was all executed on paper as maps and sketches again then, adopted by numerous iteration with the surroundings artists. You couldn’t simply shortly construct a ‘gray field’ stage like you may in Unity or Unreal now.”

"I hate and love the Saucer of Peril in equal measures." — Gregg Mayles
“I hate and love the Saucer of Peril in equal measures.” — Gregg Mayles

Although trendy titles and consoles are way more advanced, improved instruments make the duty of making a online game far more user-friendly nowadays. Again within the late ’90s, designers at Uncommon have been utilizing the N64’s controller itself—certainly one 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 reasonable 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 on.) and such,” explains Malpass. “Designer instruments have been often a ache to make use of as a result of there have been no established instruments for us as there are actually. All of the instruments for Banjo have been written by a programmer on the workforce, 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 reasonable (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 things 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 things went by means of Gregg, so finally he determined what ended up within the sport, which was nice for consistency. However he was all the time very 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 different and I realized an enormous quantity in a comparatively quick time, as you may think about. It was daunting, as a result of there was so much to study, however it was additionally enjoyable and comparatively stress-free, as I recall.”

Pleasant rivalries

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 12 months later in North America (though it would not arrive on European shores till the next 12 months) and Conker’s Bad Fur Day launched only a handful of months after that. That is an entire 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 totally weird factor to do… it definitely wouldn’t occur nowadays!” says Gavin Value. “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 not likely uncovered to what every groups opinion on the matter could also be… I feel it in all probability triggered extra rivalry issues than advantages within the long-run sadly.”

At the moment 3D platformers have been so in style I do not suppose we have been involved about having a number of examples of the style so long as they distinguished themselves from one another not directly.

Uncommon’s observe of separating groups throughout its notorious ‘barns’ naturally created some competitors. “I am not likely positive we thought of that on the time,” remembers lead surroundings artist Steven Hurst. “In these days every workforce labored in relative isolation and competed in opposition to one another to develop the ‘greatest’ 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 workforce have been doing. Up till that time BK was extra akin to a 3D sport taking part in in a 2D airplane with a hard and fast digital camera. Altering to a completely 3D sport gave us extra gameplay alternatives. At the moment 3D platformers have been so in style I do not suppose we have been involved about having a number of examples of the style so long as they distinguished themselves from one another not directly.”

Secrecy across the tasks inevitably generated rumour and gossip across the studio. “Grant [Kirkhope] was all the time a terrific 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 in all probability trusted most, received to play and suggestions on the opposite video games periodically, so he knew largely what the opposite groups have been as much as.”

Banjo Tooie Mumbo

“Uncommon was famously secretive,” Steve Mayles remembers, “and that included different video games being made within the firm. Many individuals on the workforce 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 in style, so there was no motive to suppose the sequel wouldn’t be acquired simply as properly, no matter what different video games have been being launched. Additionally, I feel Banjo-Tooie had a special sufficient identification when considered 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 workforce wouldn’t have seen a lot (if something) of DK64 and Conker

The groups have 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 have been famously restyled to characteristic the foul-mouthed squirrel we all know and love who ended up having a Bad 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 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 far more concerned in overseeing the design of that. A few of our artists have been serving to out on it from our constructing too, so we received to see bits and items and have been properly conscious there have been issues in widespread.”

Total, Uncommon’s segregated method produced some spectacular outcomes. “You sometimes get to see one other workforce’s sport,” remembers senior artist Ed Bryan. “It was all the time enjoyable to see what the others have been as much as. I feel we labored on the concept that the video games have been totally different sufficient, with their very own mascots and their very own form of fashion, that gamers would need to play all of them. Throughout the workforce it was all the time good to see different stuff because it helped to focus what you have been doing; you may 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 nearly as good as we might. There might have been issues larger up in regards to the similarities however they have been a number of the kinds of issues Uncommon was famend for, so I don’t bear in mind any nice panic about it.”

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