MundoRare: GoldenEye 007 was a big hit as it revived the James Bond franchise. How could the project of adapting such an important movie end up on a small team full of newcomers at Rare, and even so, become one of the best shooters ever made?
Duncan Botwood: Right game, right people, right time, right place. Also, news of people enjoying the game spread mainly by word of mouth, which is far more influential than magazine reviews.
Mark Edmonds: Nintendo originally bought the GoldenEye 007 licence and it seemed like a good idea to ask Rare to make it. Rare had 40 employees spread across several existing projects at the time, so all the teams were small. Martin Hollis got to start up a new team which slowly grew as people joined the company – there were nine of us by the end.
During development we played a lot of networked Doom in the evenings – along with Virtua Cop this really helped shape the sort of gameplay we wanted. Everyone was incredibly passionate and really put in the time and effort to make the game as good as we could.
MR: You approached the project from the very beginning as a 3D shooter taking the basis of Virtua Cop. Was the game always intended to be for the N64 even knowing that the console was probably going to be delayed?
DB: Yes, it was always going to be an N64 game, although very early on it was intended to be a SNES game, with the rendered graphics style of sprites and backgrounds that Rare had been doing – like those in Killer Instinct and Donkey Kong Country.
ME: Originally I believe Nintendo wanted GoldenEye 007 for SNES using the rendering technology that was in Donkey Kong Country, but when Martin Hollis was offered the chance to make the game he refused to do it on anything other than the N64 (or Ultra 64 as it was then). It was originally intended to be released with the launch of the console, but didn’t actually make it until a year later.
MR: What can you tell us about the famous unfinished Virtual Boy version of the game? The few images on the net show the Aston Martin DB5, was it ever considered to be on the Nintendo 64 version?
DB: I have no knowledge of any Virtual Boy project, unfortunately. We never really considered the Aston Martin for the game, since it plays only a tiny part in the movie.
ME: I really don’t know much about the Virtual Boy version as I think it was developed by Nintendo themselves and was nothing to do with us. I’m not sure we ever discussed having an Aston Martin in the game, but I do remember lots of talk about a motorbike for some reason, and being able to ride it through any level.
MR: Was there much pressure from EON Productions or Nintendo between 1995, when the film was released, and 1997, when the game finally came out?
DB: If there was, we didn’t get that much of it on the team. The management at Rare were very supportive of the team during development, and shielded us from a lot of that.
ME: I don’t remember much pressure from them – management certainly did a good job keeping it away from the team if there was any. They just let us get on with it, which worked out well.
MR: Was it actually decided to decline the adaptation of Tomorrow Never Dies? Why?
ME: I can’t remember if we ever had the option...
DB: A large amount of the decision was out of our hands – the team did not get to make the actual decision, if I recall correctly. Licences are by nature highly restrictive agreements, and while GoldenEye 007 slipped past under the radar of the licence holders, the success of our game meant that subsequent games have been less fortunate, and probably less free from that kind of oversight in their development than those teams would have liked.
MR: Taking into account that even after Perfect Dark, lots of fans still prefer GoldenEye 007, do you believe that Rare should have continued with the James Bond franchise?
DB: No, I believe Rare made the right choice there.
ME: James Bond is one of the all time classic franchises and I do wish Rare could have somehow kept an option open to make another James Bond game. I would certainly love to work on another one.
At the time though it was really good to get a change after the end of GoldenEye 007 and work on something different. Creating our own universe seemed like a cool idea at the time – you get a lot more freedom with some of the gameplay elements that you can put in.
With Perfect Dark we were aiming to create a female version of James Bond living in the future. I do think the gameplay in Perfect Dark was better than GoldenEye 007, but the feel and style of the James Bond universe is just so cool!
MR: Do you think that there will be any chance to see a downloadable version of GoldenEye 007 for any system of the current generation? What is your bet?
ME: I think there might be a chance of this sometime in the future.
DB: I have no idea where or when it would be released. So many people have a possible interest in where it would turn up, and in my experience, the more interested parties you have, the more barriers to progress appear.