Donkey Kong and James Bond made them famous. Now, they are big enough to have another company working on their original characters, just like they did in the past with those borrowed franchises. Steve Brand, Viva Piñata producer, talks with us about Krome's new piñatas and Microsoft's plans to broaden audiences.
[ ‘Viva Piñata: Party Animals’ for Xbox 360 ]
MundoRare: Was it Rare or Microsoft's idea of a Party game with the Piñata franchise?
Steve Brand: For Microsoft, the Viva Piñata franchise was always intended to help broaden the Xbox demographic to include the ‘family’ market.
Viva Piñata Party Animals was seen by Microsoft as a good addition to the franchise, and as such the title was included as part of their plans.
MR: Why is Rare not developing the game?
Steve: The development teams at Rare are currently busy working on other projects. When the idea of a party game surfaced, it was decided that the best route would be to approach other developers to handle this for us.
MR: Is Rare supporting the development process in any way?
Steve: In some ways, yes. As Krome have focussed more on the characters featured in the TV series, they were able to use the assets that were created for the show. These assets were originally extracted directly from the game.
We’ve also had the chance to review builds and give feedback, but generally we have been very hands off and have let Krome and the team at MGS look after the game.
[ ‘Viva Piñata’ for Windows ]
MR: Why did Rare/Microsoft decide to port Piñata to PC?
Steve: Again, this goes back to the ‘broadening’ initiative that Microsoft are currently undertaking. Porting the game to PC allows the franchise to potentially reach a large number of people who may not have been exposed to Viva Piñata. The style and mechanics of the game also make the game a good fit for the PC market.
MR: Is Rare working on this PC title? If not, again, is Rare supporting its development in any way?
Steve: Rare isn’t directly working on the PC title but have been involved from the start as Climax took all code and assets from us so they could begin the port. We receive regular builds that we play test and offer feedback for.
MR: Is the PC version getting any extra features in the way Epic is adding them on their Gears of War for Windows? In case there is any new addition, would they make their way to the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live?
Steve: The only extra or different feature that the PC version will have is the new control system designed specifically for mouse and keyboard interaction.
MR: How do you feel about Xbox 360 games being ported for Windows?
Steve: I personally think that if this helps to reach a broader audience then it can only be a good thing for the games in question. Some titles will obviously suit the platform jump more than others, but overall the games that have been announced for this change seem to fit the bill.
In terms of the broadening intuitive, the PC user base represents probably the broadest range of users of any existing market at present. If we can reach a new audience with the Viva Piñata franchise in this way then I’m all for it! Over time these cross platform titles may even bring new customers back to the Xbox platform.
[ ‘Viva Piñata’ for Xbox 360 ]
MR: Are there any plans for future Piñata expansions through Xbox Live Marketplace? There are already new polar piñata species in the TV series...
Steve: There are currently no plans for further expansions through Xbox Live at present.
MR: Any plans for a patch update for the 360 version? It was reported months ago that some random players have been experiencing annoying bugs, like objects turning invisible and other unusual stuff...
Steve: We are aware that some people have experienced this problem but as yet we haven’t made any announcements for a patch.
MR: Kameo got new player modes and features after its release. In Piñata terms, we know once you had plans for a visiting friends' gardens feature, and Shane Kim recently said "coop modes might be interesting" (TeamXbox, February 16th, 2007). So, can we still expect some extras for the original game?
Steve: At present we don’t have any announcements to make regarding updates for Viva Piñata.
[ ‘Viva Piñata’... for DS? ]
MR: Last February, Shane Kim also stated that "A Kameo or a Viva Piñata on a DS makes a lot of sense in a lot of ways from a franchise perspective" (1Up, February 3rd, 2007). What do you feel about Shane's thoughts "from a franchise perspective"?
Steve: I agree with Shane. Again it’s a question of reaching as broad an audience as possible for the franchise. The DS would be a perfect platform for a version of Viva Piñata. The mechanics of the game would be very well suited to a touch screen interface...
MR: Thanks a lot for sharing your time with us and our readers.
Steve: No problem at all! Thanks for your continued interest in all things Rare... Viva Piñata!