Alberto @ MundoRare: Another question with DKRDS as a reference. That one featured online Wi-Fi, but VPPP doesn't. Gary Richards recently said that you were "not sure the younger kids go online", but from my point of view both games may aim to the same kind of young audience, right?
Paul Machacek: I can't comment on what Gary was reported to have said. The main reason we left it out was that we had gone through a lot of technical problems with extensive Wifi communications on DKR and they would have been exacerbated by everything else we were trying to do with the system on VP. We pushed the hardware very very hard on VP and the wireless considerations would have made our job harder. Multiplayer gardening was discussed, but it would have complicated many areas of the design and function of the game and we were trying to produce something that was already very complicated in a short space of time. I think there's more than enough game there for our 1st attempt at it.
Francis @ Perfect Rare: If I understand correctly, you have completed VPPP in October last year. Does localization take a whole year? And does this mean a sequel or another project is already in development?
Paul Machacek: I've been on a long skiing holiday since October. no, not really. We are working on something else, but of course you wouldn't expect me to discuss that here now, would you?
Jim @ Piñata Island: Does Pocket Paradise take place in the same location of Piñata Island as the original Xbox 360 game? From the screenshots, there appears to be some sandy beach there.
Paul Machacek: The sandy beach you've seen is exclusive to our Playground mode which is a sandbox environment. We then took that theme a bit literally when deciding where to set it, but we knew we wanted to differentiate it from the main garden. The main garden is a similar setting to that in VP1, but clearly looks different due to our camera and terraforming limitations.
Alberto @ MundoRare: Some previews have said that the encyclopedia have gotten some nice improvements. Can you comment on the changes of this feature and its significance for the game?
Paul Machacek: As we do with any game, we looked at the platform and the audience and made a number of decisions to suit. We had a touch screen so this was a big obvious change. We were aware that a very wide demographic would find VPPP appealing so wanted to make sure that it was very easy to get into and play, but with huge amounts of depth and gameplay for those that wanted a big experience. The touch screen and 2nd screen gave us ways to directly show the player everything they really needed to know in as simple a way as possible, and a very simple direct way to dig deeper (pun intended) if they needed to find out more. Every single icon you see in the game, on either screen is touchable.
Yes, the top screen can't be touched directly, but you can swap screens around using a swap icon and then all the icons that were on the journal screen are on the touch screen and you can touch them. For instance, touch a pretztail in the garden and it's next/remaining requirements are shown immediately on the top screen. swap the screens over so that the journal appears on the bottom screen and then touch the requirement for the bunnycomb (via its icon) and you get taken to the encyclopedia page about bunnycombs so that you can see how to get one. from there you'll see a carrot is a bunnycomb requirement, so just touch the carrot icon and it takes you to another page that tells you how to get a carrot etc. At any time there is a single "return to garden" icon that takes you straight back to what you were doing. simple!
Francis @ Perfect Rare: Was your idea from the beginning to create a handheld version of Viva Piñata? Has it ever crossed your mind to create a Party Animals DS version?
Paul Machacek: No and no.
Jim @ Piñata Island: Does Pocket Paradise have the same space limitations as the original Xbox 360 game? Does your garden become "too full" at the same rate or are there different hardware limitations to contend with?
Paul Machacek: It's a completely different set of numbers being juggled on a different platform with different limitations. The only time I run out of space is when I physically can't find somewhere in the garden to place something. The system we have written just about fits in the limitations we had after an awful lot of talented work by my great team. Actually the fact that we have a fixed view from a screen that acts like a scrollable window allowed us to avoid a situation when the player could try to view everything by directly controlling the camera view. This made it easier for us to do what we wanted to without apparent limitations.
Alberto @ MundoRare: I have read that there are also some changes regarding the romance sweets and that you are not able to use them so easily. Is that right? And, if so, why?
Paul Machacek: Complex question as the same reasoning was behind a bunch of decisions in VPPP... A number of things have been taken out of shops so that you spend less time in shops, more time in the garden, increase the apparent value of those things and give greater meaning to some of the things that the player does.
We removed the romancing mini-games for various reasons, but altered some of the other requirements to get a good ballance of things to do in the game, getting progressively harder as you play. Because of our understanding that many younger people were likely to play (because of the platform) we didn't want it to be too hard for them to get through it so you can shortcut the romance requirements process with romance sweets. but then if these sweets are freely available it becomes too easy. So we took them out of shops and the only way to get them is to do the Piñata Central challenges and win them as prizes for successful challenge completions. Piñata Central has a clear goal with this (as a way, the only way, to get romance sweets) but you'll never have too many so you use them wisely.
Francis @ Perfect Rare: Do you think sales of VPPP will surpass the Xbox original? I hear a lot of people say VP would be a great game on a Nintendo platform, so VPPP should be a hell of a hit, right?
Paul Machacek: Microsoft does not comment on rumour and speculation, haha. Who knows, we really hope everyone buys it. VP1 is a brilliant game that sold very well. VP: Trouble in Paradise is a great sequel to it. VPPP is ona different platform with some different goals and aims because of that platform and audience. We hope they all sell well (obviously), and I'm certainly not going to attempt to predict the future anyway. Are you going to buy it?
Jim @ Piñata Island: Was the development team able to re-use any underlying code from the original Xbox 360 game or did they have to start completely from scratch?
Paul Machacek: no and no (again). nothing software-wise was carried over at all, it wasn't possible. However, one reason we developed it in 8 months flat (apart from all the great support, help and assets we got from the VP1 team) was that fact that we had a team that was up-2-speed on DS development and carried many systems across from DKR. So we didn't start from scratch, and things appeared on screen very quickly because of code we already had from DKR.
Alberto @ MundoRare: Without the intention of spoiling us the new species (we have already seen some of them, though), can you hype us with anything regarding those seven new piñatas?
Paul Machacek: yes, there are 7 new ones. Have you actually seen them? My wife started playing it two nights ago and she's already about 21% into it. She found the first of the 7 new Piñata's late last night and loved it when it appeared as it's so cute. Let's just say that not all of them will be easy to find and you may need some friends to get all of them. Oh, just to clarify, there are 70 total species in VPPP
Francis @ Perfect Rare: Is there a question you haven't been asked yet, which you think is very important to know about the development or about the final game people should know?
Paul Machacek: Yes, no one has asked me what it smells like with so many animals in the garden. There's nothing important to know about the development as the only thing that counts is the end experience for the players who (hopefully) enjoy it. I just want to find a way that as many people as possible can get to see this game as I'm so proud of it and all of those people throughout Rare that have contributed to it one way or the other. It's a favourite of mine and I want that message to get out there.
Jim @ Piñata Island: it has been mentioned that each piñata species only has one color variant in Pocket Paradise. What about the Flutterscotch?
Paul Machacek: The Flutterscotch colours were evolves and not variants. We still have a whole lot of diffrerent Flutterscotches to get, don't worry about that.
Alberto @ MundoRare: All the three Piñata games developed by Rare are all about the classical 'gardening' simulation. Do you think Rare should extend the franchise to other areas for yourselves?
Paul Machacek: That's a crafty question. We have a very clear focus on what we're trying to achieve with VP and you'll see that in the Rare games. We want to build a succesful franchise. Any further games we may do will be evolutions (pun again intended) of the current games. However, I can't say what our future plans actually are, haha.
Jim @ Piñata Island: As a broader question about the VP franchise as a whole, do you see this as something that will continue to grow beyond this September?
Paul Machacek: I sincerely hope so. Especially as September is when we launch the next two so we hope for huge growth then. I can't predict the future though. More than anything I would like to see these games succeed hugely as it gives us the scope to continue.
Alberto @ MundoRare: So we can take September as the official release date, then? Unless THQ has given a date recently, it was 'Fall' last time I checked, I think.
Paul Machacek: Well, September/October, I don't know, sometime in this thing called "fall" I suppose. Haha.
Jim @ Piñata Island: How does the size of the Pocket Paradise team compare to the team that worked on the original Viva Piñata game?
Paul Machacek: sort of impossible to say. VPPP was about 13-15 people (it varied slightly during development). VP1 was developed from a small prototype team early on up to a much larger team to deliver the original (and fabulous) content. Not sure exactly how big the VP1 team got, somewhere between 50-70 people I think. But we also have people outside teams that contribute engineering/asset help to teams in production so it's difficult to quantify really without a detailed spreadsheet with staffing stats on it. Which is a dull answer so I'll stop...
Alberto @ MundoRare: Apart from the whole VP1 team, has Gregg Mayles somehow been 'especially' involved in VPPP?
Paul Machacek: We were pretty much left alone by everyone during development, though we instigated occasional disccussions with the VP1 guys/gals over odd issues. These are team efforts. All of the new design changes made to VPPP were done by members of the handheld team.
Alberto @ MundoRare: I wonder which are your fave piñata species!
Paul Machacek: My absolute favourite was something that I asked to include after getting inspiration from PiñataIsland.info. But I can't talk about that here. I love the way the Taffly's romance. And the Tafflys do something extra, new, fun and comical in. Ok, Taffly it is.