Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts - interview

Did you get that a lot the first time around with Banjo? People saying it was very similar to Mario 64?

Mayles: It is. I think the difference then was the platform genre was probably the major genre on that platform, and that was before GoldenEye came with its first-person shooting. But now it's a lot different, there's a lot less platformers.

I think to draw people back to platformers - certainly on an Xbox - we've got to do something that's different and will actually appeal to a modern audience. And modern audiences, I think, don't want to collect millions of objects.

Are there a million bit and pieces to collect?

Mayles: No, no.

But there's going to be a fair bit?

Mayles: In any game of this type there are things to collect, but we're trying to make sure that the stuff you do collect plays a fundamental role in the game. Obviously the biggest is the vehicle parts themselves - the more you collect, the better vehicles you can build. If you don't fancy collecting them, that's fine. You'll get given a certain amount anyway, but then the player can go out and find some more.

The notes have got a function where they act as a currency and you can buy additional parts or buy vehicles or buy all sorts of other bits and pieces, but again if you don't want to collect the notes then don't. It's there if you want to do it but it's not the be all and end all which maybe it was before.

Is there anything, looking back at it ten years on, that you may have changed in Banjo? Or was it perfect?

Mayles: No, of course it's not. I think it still holds up reasonably well. Some of the tasks we led the player on were awfully long-winded, especially in the second game. I think we fell into the trap of, "Everyone liked what we had in the first game, let's just do more of the same." And I think we went a bit overboard and tried to be a bit too clever in places with the level design.

We've kind of taken a step back from that and tried to make it a simpler, cleaner approach, obviously with this new mechanic in place. I guess we're all hoping for a clean start, that's what I think it'll do. It's kind of, "There's your old Banjo games, let's put those in the past, you can remember how good those were, this is Banjo for the future."

Yes, we've got all the humour you love. That's the thing that people tend to comment on most when they look back on old Banjo games. 'Oh I love the characters, I love the diversity, I love the clever worlds, I love the humour' - that's all still in there, it's just we've taken the core mechanic and tweaked it a bit.

When you revealed the trailer at E3 how much of the game was actually built?

Mayles: That had no game content in it whatsoever.

But looking back it was really colourful and exactly what we would what we might have expected from Banjo. What we saw today looked a little more, dare we say, gritty?

Mayles: We could have shown you a very basic vehicle driving around and the blocks fitting together, but it looked nothing like what it does at the moment. It was very simplistic, non-shaded cubes and... the Banjo model was in there... Even if we wanted to show it we couldn't because it would have taken a certain person to see beyond the appalling graphics what we were trying to do.

We didn't want to stray too far from the original Banjo. It's still colourful but it's probably less saturated than it was before and slightly more grown up. I mean, everything hasn't got goggly eyes any more but hopefully the key elements of the humour remain.

If we're going to take a large portion of our lives doing another Banjo game, let's at least try and do something it might be remembered for rather than being, "Hey, remember Banjo 3? It was crap. It was worse than the other two."

Confident it'll be out this year then?

Mayles: Yes (a mobile phone suddenly buzzes aggressively on a table). What's that, the lie detector? (everyone laughs).

Do you plan to have a demo on Xbox Live before launch?

Mayles: I don't know. Obviously in a ideal world we'd have demos everywhere and demo it to everybody on the planet, but we can't.

How complete is it?

Mayles: You can appreciate that the core mechanic of trying to build a vehicle and then put it into a world and then the software taking over and being able to control that, was a scary job. But that's been done. That was by far the hardest thing. Now it's a case of putting the content in - what can you actually do with these vehicles that you've created?

We always say the hardest work's been done, but there's still a lot of hard work to do to get it finished. But the biggest hill was passed a long time ago, thank God.

Courtesy of CVG.

May 13, 2008