Jorge Glez, Mark Mazzei, Iker Pérez

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Chatting in Paradise

With Trouble in Paradise heading into retailers as early as next week, the proposed Trouble in Paradise chat was in a way both surprising and unsurprising. How much more information can you get on a game that’s almost close to release, yet still keep it new for upcoming purchasers of the title?

Justin Cook, lead designer of Trouble in Paradise, did just that. In a two hour time-frame, Cook answered questions from various fansites such as Rare-Elite and Pinata Island. Representing MundoRare was one of MR’s most underappreciated staffers, Jorge Glez, while Mark once again represented the DKU.

Needless to say, there are still very interesting tidbits that only Pester and his Mole Esther knew about before today. So grab your drink of choice as you recollect our Live Chat in Paradise thanks to George Kelion, Justin Cook, and of course, Rare, for providing this upcoming title in the days to come.

Justin Cook

Agent_Icebeezy @ NeoGAF: Is Piñata Vision going to eventually extend to items and accessories in the future, or is this just a piñata only feature?

Justin Cook: The cards are completely open. We can manipulate all sorts of things in the game. So we can change the weather, change the music, drop in fruit, vegetables or objects. Almost anything in the game is accessible with the cards.

Mark @ DKU: Shortly after the original Viva Piñata was released, a frequent comment was that you guys were waiting to see if the game's sales were doing well in order to start thinking about DLC. Then you made a whole new game. What would you say to those players who think that Trouble in Paradise is just an expansion and would've preferred to add new things via Xbox Live to a game they already have?

Justin Cook: We've done lots of things that we couldn't have done with DLC. We could have added new content but it wouldn't have interacted with the game in the same way as things that came on the disk. We didn't think that was a very good experience for players, where the sequel has allowed us to make new creatures that actually interact with the whole game.

Francis @ Perfect Rare: At Rare the VP team have been working for more than four years on Viva Piñata. Was it hard to come up with fresh ideas? And speaking of fresh idea's, what's in your opinion the best new feature you've included?

Justin Cook: New ideas were easy. Everyone on the team had something they wanted to add to the game, or a complaint about the old one that they wanted to fix.

We had lots of ideas that we didn't have time for from the previous game and some new stuff popped up that was unexpected (like Piñata Vision). My favourite new feature is probably the new seed packet UI which makes things much easier when you're busy in the garden.

Rich @ RWP: In VP:TiP three different wild cards will be obtainable per piñata through skill in the romance mini-game oppose to through luck like in the previous game. What level of difficulty are we looking at to earn the special types, especially for the rarer piñata? Will they be a simple matter of making it to the end in a decent amount of time without getting hit or will they be Blast Corps platinum medal frustrating?

Justin Cook: The wild cards are more difficult as the level of the piñata increases. I hope we've got the balance right so that you always feel as if you have a chance to get the wildcards without superhuman capabilities. That said the later ones are tricky and will need some practice.

Jim @ Piñata Island: Hi Justin, I'll start with the basics. Please give us a little background on yourself and your involvement in Trouble in Paradise.

Justin Cook: I worked on the original 3 man team that started the project that became Viva Piñata. For the first game I was working under veteran/expert/clever clogs Gregg Mayles. When we finished VP, he moved onto work on Banjo Nuts & Bolts and I was left with the team to work on the new VP title. So if you don't like this one it's really my fault.

Mario @ Rare-Elite: Can you tell us anything about your plans about VP2 after the release. Will there be downloadable content, special Card actions, or anything like that?

Justin Cook: We'd like to keep the cards coming for those people who enjoy the game and keep playing. We don't have plans for DLC. We really focussed on the cards because we thought it was something interesting, and something we can work on without having to go through a long certification process or tie up the team for a long time.

Glztt @ MundoRare: Is it possible for the Xbox Vision Camera to read codes of the Vision Cards displayed in devices such as Zunes, iPods and iPhones or do you always need the physical card in order to make it work?

Justin Cook: We've tried it here (successfully) with the image on a zune, iPod, from the computer monitor. As long as the image is sharp enough it should work.

Agent_Icebeezy @ NeoGAF: Given that the dimensions of the garden are the same in VP2 as they were in VP1, that strikes me as the VP team acknowledging that while the size of the garden was of sufficient size, maybe the gameplay was somewhat restrictive. If that is indeed the case of how the VP team felt, how did the VP team go about adding functionality, without hindering what made the first VP loved by many?

Justin Cook: Because I was 'in control' this time I asked myself the same question. I wanted to keep the things that people loved but create a better experience... So we've kept the animal behaviour and tried to make the game easier to play. Weve added tools to let you do what you want more easily. Then we've added things that compliment the idea of attracting animals and getting them to stay (like the traps) and we've added things to do with your piñata once they live in the garden. (like tricks and parties). We also looked at the limits of the last game and tried to give the player more. So even though the area is the same size we've crunched stuff so the limits are more generous.

Mark @ DKU: Is there any truth to the rumoured title of Viva Piñata Dos? Furthermore, were there any other titles being considered before ultimately calling it Trouble in Paradise?

Justin Cook: Yes, we had a few attempts at a new title. Because Party Animals had come out we didn't want to call this game VP2 because it may be confusing. The team struggled with titles for a long time. Failed attempt included: Weed it and Reap, Traps and Tricks, Pester and his Mole Esther, Vini Vidi Sweetie, Living On The Hedge, International Candy Master, Candy Calamity, The Hills Are Alive With the Sound Of Two Sticks, Live and Tricking, So as you can see we probably chose quite wisely.

Trouble in Paradise screenshot

Francis @ Perfect Rare: Who's idea was it to make full use of the Xbox Vision, how long will (can) you keep the idea alive? And the Vision feature seems kind of important, but why doesn't VP2 include a Vision Camera?

Justin Cook: It was our senior engineer - Will Bryan who developed the camera feature. He asked if we could use it and I was like 'Oh Yes!'. We have lots of stuff we can do with the cards so if people are interested we can keep making them for 12 months or longer. Finally the vision camera stuff is really a kind of cherry on top of a very tasty cake. We knew not everyone has a camera so you can enjoy VP:TiP without the camera but it adds lots of fun if you do have one. I guess as far as we were concerned a camera bundle seemed like it may make the game more expensive, and we'd like more people to play so we were happy to have the game shipped on it's own.

Glztt @ MundoRare: MundoRare had the chance to try Trouble in Paradise in New York last month and one of the things that surprised us the most were the Vision Cards. It's as simple as holding your card in front of the camera and voila, there you have a new piñata. Part of us thought a device like that goes against the whole goal of the game. Why work hard to attract new species if you can make them pop up just like that? Don't you think that the Vision Cards could ease some tasks too much and some gamers may see them as cheating?

Justin Cook: Yes, you are partially right. But the cards work in a very similar way to crates, in the last game you can 'cheat' by getting someone to send you all the piñata so you don't have to play. However some people may get more from the game by using the cards. Or there may be people who use the cards when they get stuck. Or some people will use them after they have completed as much of the game as they can. We just thought it was a neat little idea that might make some people more interested in the game, or allow those people who dedicate so much time to the game a chance to go back and see new stuff in a game that they have thoroughly beaten. We think the cards make more fun than they spoil.

Rich @ RWP: Is the current lack of plans for additional downloadable content due to the potential of a future installment in the series? If so, would the option be reconsidered should plans for a third Viva Piñata fall through?

Justin Cook: We don't have any plans for DLC. As far as the team is concerned we are taking a break from VP for a while to make something new. But things change quickly in the software industry so next week it may be a completely different story :)

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