It’s a bit like the Big Brother house in our new office at the moment. Dean Wilson stumbled on the entrance steps, Steve Mayles keeps promising to ‘sex up’ the place, and there’s a constant stream of new people looking to stir it up.
Sneaking through a secret bedroom door – almost certainly tasked with some evil deed – are housemates number 11 and 12, Dave ‘kiss from a’ Rose and Ross ‘work less’ Bullimore. Knowing the format as we do, their z-list ex-lovers will almost certainly be arriving shortly behind them.
Artist Mr. Rose joins following an 18-year career at Rare, where he created environments, animation and contributed design to Conker’s Bad Fur Day (and before that its cutesier origin, Twelve Tales). His mammoth artistry CV also includes Kameo, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and the recently announced Sea of Thieves.
Ross’s story meanwhile kicks off in the Rare QA team during the late 90s, after which he moved into design with the Perfect Dark series. The experienced designer later joined Guildford-based SuperMassive, where he worked on the LittleBigPlanet series and more recently, PS4 horror game Until Dawn.
The pair join following the arrivals of programmer duo Karn and Becky, and beefy crayon unit Dean Wilson as Playtonic chases its mission to expand to an ‘N64-sized’ team for Yooka-Laylee.
As always, ahead of their arrival we managed to get a few choice questions answered by Dave and Ross, and you can see their answers below. Welcome to the house! Don’t nominate me, or I’ll slag you off in the papers.
SmELL THE ROSE
Let’s start with the obligatory question: Why Playtonic? (Other than the chance to sit next to me)
I loved my time at Rare and I learnt a lot from a lot of great people. But as soon as this opportunity appeared I knew it was for me. A great bunch of people combined with a great game idea? What’s not to like! One of my favourite times at Rare was working with Gavin [Price] on Banjo Land in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, so I knew Playtonic would be the place for me.
The first platform game you worked on was Conker: Twelve Tales – which eventually became Bad Fur Day…
I have so many great memories on that project… it was a lot of fun. I was on it from the very start when it was called ’Twelve Tales’ and I was focused on characters and animation. By the time it morphed into Bad Fur Day I was focused on environments and also contributed to the game design.
There are so many Easter Eggs and ‘references’ in Conker. I met some random guys at E3 who listed their favourite movie references in the game, some of which I didn’t even know were in there! As the project went on and new movies came out we just grabbed bits that we thought were cool.
The Saving Private Ryan beach level started as a small arena with a kind of Whack-a-Mole mini game in it. There was one main mole character that had an army helmet and after the film came out the whole level snowballed from there.
Another favourite memory was building the Millennium Falcon for the ‘Dune’ multiplayer level. We thought there was no way it was getting past the legal department, it was a blatant copy (minus the cockpit) but it got through. The final level is an Empire Strikes Back/Aliens mash up which was a lot of fun to work on as was the Matrix level.
On the N64 version I had put in the largest texture in the game. It was a picture postcard in a frame on the desk of the Matrix level, showing me and Donnchadh Murphy snowboarding in France. I had to slice it up into smaller textures and piece it together like a jigsaw to get it to display in game but it was certainly the highest resolution image in the game!
You’re also known for creating Nuts & Bolts’ Banjo Land level. What was it like bringing together so much nostalgia in one environment?
That level was HUGE! So many different areas. Gav gave me a top down paper design of the level (I might still have it…) which is actually the shape of Banjos head! It was a real pain fitting everything in to the shape but we did it anyway even though you can’t actually fly out and above the level to see that it is the shape of Banjo’s head!
It was great fun making high res versions of all the old Banjo Stuff. There are a few ‘Banksy’ references within Banjo Land too, if you can find them…
On that subject, we understand you have quite a reputation for your ‘sneaky’ art elements…
It’s so fun to put stuff in and I think fans love it. There are plenty of erm… dubious shapes in every game we ever made I think. We enjoyed following that tradition while also adding some clever bits and pieces that I am amazed made it into the final versions of the games. The Alien in Conker, the Banksy graffiti in Banjo Land. My holiday pictures etc…
Greg [Mayles] had requested a few names to put on the lockers in Davie Jones Locker room under Banjo Land. Something to do with ‘Anchor’ but I swear I can’t remember what it was (and it certainly didn’t make the final game…)
There was also another incident that caused Rare’s post to be diverted for an entire year, but that was nothing to do with me and I can’t talk about that one!!
Finally, what would you like to achieve with Yooka-Laylee?
Its going to look awesome and Its going to be massively fun to play. And if I have my way, it will be littered with Easter Eggs…
BULLI FOR YOU
So… why join us smelly lot?
Basically for the chance to work on a game in a genre I adore, with people I know I get on with and I know understand what they are doing (having worked with them previously during a decade spent at Rare) in a truly independent studio where the priority is to make fans, and not publishers happy. The opportunity of creating a game with the purity of an N64 era title, but being able to take advantage of the efficiency of a modern toolset is pretty much a dream come true for me.
You’re a fan of 3D platformers then?
3D platformers, 2D platformers, 2.5D platformers I love them all! My first job in the industry was doing QA on Banjo-Toole and more recently I worked on content for various LittleBigPlanet projects. Long working days have sometimes even caused me to play platformers in my dreams!
Like Gavin, you also came through Rare’s QA team. Do you have any fun testing anecdotes? (Gav claims he once got an entire waterfall removed from Jet Force Gemini)
I’m struggling to think of any anecdotes that are fit for print to be honest, I do remember Canary Mary causing some spectacularly inventive swear words to be invented though!
What advantage does QA experience give you as a designer?
Working in QA certainly develops your communication skills, as precise bug descriptions and reproduction steps are vitally important. It also made me very aware of the many things that can go wrong, so now when I’m creating games I know what to look out for, and spot potential problems before they develop. Learning from your mistakes is good, but learning from other people’s mistakes is even better.
You also recently shipped PS4 horror game Until Dawn. Does that give you first dibs on Yooka’s scary levels?
Until Dawn is very much 18 rated horror, and I’m not sure a chameleon would like it stranded on a cold mountain, but I’m sure I could come up with some more family friendly shocks!