The Rare directors of the 90s, and what they do today - La Bustina di Lakitu

The Rare directors of the 90s, and what they do today - La Bustina di Lakitu

The Rare directors of the 90s

Sea of ​​Thieves is a great game, with sublime interaction and appreciable artistic direction, sublimated by a simply exceptional realization of the sea; we talked about it in our review, you did not know the work and were interested in approaching it. There is no doubt, however, that, despite the excellent results achieved recently, the Rare of the 90s was a software house of different prestige: it was one of the most influential in the world, for quality and consistency. It was Donkey Kong Country who allowed the final acceleration of SNES, capable of detaching Sega Mega Drive in a much more balanced console war than the final numbers tell.

Sea of ​​Thieves: the work of the recent "resurrection" Rare Above all, without Rare there would be no Nintendo 64; not as we know it, at least. Between 1997 and 2001 the Twycross software house was in a state of grace, managing to combine quantity and quality like perhaps no other in the three-dimensional era. It is true that that generation in retrospect was a watershed between two eras, because it allowed to experiment and create "great experiences" with relatively limited budgets, but it is equally true that no one, or very few, managed to keep the rhythms Rare. In 1997 GoldenEye 007 and Diddy Kong Racing were released, in 1998 Banjo-Kazooie, in 1999 Donkey Kong 64 and Jet Force Gemini, in 2000 Perfect Dark and Banjo-Tooie, in 2001 Conker's Bad Fur Day. They created big games and potentially big universes at a fast pace; unsurprisingly, such talent convinced Microsoft to buy the company, which at the time worked exclusively with Nintendo.

Today, however, we are not here to talk about the acquisition of Microsoft (or rather, the non-purchase of Nintendo); we wrote this piece to inform you about who the main protagonists of the Rare of that period are, and what they are doing now. Surprise: one of them is still at Twycross.

Stamper Brothers

Rare: Company founders, Chris and Tim Stamper Our list can only start with Tim and Chris Stamper, the two brothers who founded the company. Unlike what you think they are not "simple" entrepreneurs or managers, but also video game creators. The trilogy that marked the final years of SNES bears their name: even if there are some more important designers - which we will talk about in a while - the Stamper brothers are credited as the project managers of Donkey Kong Country (1994), while Tim alone shot Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (1995) and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble (1996). It was a trilogy with a devastating impact, graphically daring, which managed to revive a historic brand, at the time in a coma.

Donkey Kong Country: to see, in 1994, it was truly impressive The Stamper brothers from there to then they would produce several projects, without ever returning to the control room. Honored by the flattery Microsoft, they welcomed the passage under their aegis in 2002 (handsomely paid), and only in 2007 they abandoned "their" Rare. Recently Tim Stamper - together with his son - founded FortuneFish, a software house that mainly deals with mobile gaming; has published Kroko Bongo, which mentions Donkey Kong Country on several occasions.

Martin Hollis

Rare: Martin Hollis, director of GoldenEye 007 Before joining Rare, in 1993, Martin Hollis he had studied computer science at Cambridge University; a rather prestigious resume, at the time, for a video game developer. Martin soon showed his talent, and his ambition too: he had a strong desire to work on a James Bond game. Thanks to his determination and lucky circumstances, the dream came true: from that moment he spent years working day and night on the same project, a project that was published in late 1997. We are talking about GoldenEye 007, one of the most important titles of the generation, which showed how it was possible to create excellent FPS even on the home console. Despite the optimal outcome, the development tried Martin Hollis, eager to change area and devote himself to other areas. He did not renew his contract with Rare; despite this, he participated in the first 14 months of the creation of Perfect Dark (spiritual sequel to GoldenEye 007), also giving life to its protagonist, Joanna Dark.

GoldenEye 007: a 1997 FPS masterpiece, for Nintendo 64 Now after leaving Rare, Hollis worked for a while at Nintendo, overseeing the hardware development of GameCube, focusing in particular on its accessibility for programmers. A few years later he founded Zoonami, which fans of the time will remember for its fame: there was hope, given the subject involved, that it could become one of the giants of the industry. Unfortunately, things did not go that way; big projects were canceled, and Zoonami only gave birth to puzzle games (Zendoku, Go! Puzzle) and quirky indie titles (Bonsai Barber, for WiiWare). Zoonami closed in 2010, twelve years ago now.

Lee Schuneman

Rare: Lee Schuneman, director of Diddy Kong Racing, now in the Microsoft administration We were undecided whether to include Lee Schuneman in the our list, however his curriculum has basically obliged us. This is because we don't have a lot of information about him, neither biographical nor working (recent). The first game he works on for Rare is Donkey Kong Land 2 (1996) and he must have shown considerable talent, as only a year later he is already project manager, and what a project: Diddy Kong Racing comes out in 1997, and is still today. one of the most celebrated and cited cartoon racing games. A clone of Mario Kart in British sauce, with an exceptional battle mode, and above all a respectable adventure, with history and challenges that still give hope for a sequel. In that same game, which represents a Rare proto-universe (among the characters appear Banjo and Conker, at the time of rookies), Schuneman also provides the voice for Bumper the mole.

Star Fox Adventures, the last game in collaboration between Rare and Nintendo In 1999 it is the turn of Jet Force Gemini, which he directs together with Paul Mountain: the development team is the one who, years earlier, had dealt with Blast Corps (with the exception of George Andreas , committed to directing the contemporary Donkey Kong 64). Jet Force Gemini is not one of the best Rare games, but it is still a valid sci-fi mix between action and three-dimensional shooters. From there Schuneman moves on to GameCube, for which he directs the only Rare title for the console, namely Star Fox Adventures (2002). After the acquisition of Microsoft, he is first elevated to Rare Producer and Manager, then joins Bill Gates' company directly.

Chris Seavor

Rare: Chris Seavor, the author of Conker's Bad Fur Day Chris Seavor is one of the most famous creatives of the Rare of the 90s and also one of the strangest: as a curriculum and as an attitude. We could also say that, as a game designer, he may not be up to par with the others on the list; at the same time, he managed to stand out brilliantly. He was born in 1968, and is not only a game designer but also a voice actor. His moment comes when the development of Twelve Tales: Conker 64 faces a crisis: he lets himself be found ready, and gives the project an imprint of his own. Without throwing away what he has done up to that moment, he gives the work a satirical, quotation and content-related adult direction: it is he who directs the game, and it is always he who writes the screenplay and takes care (almost entirely) of the dubbing.

Conker: Live & Reloaded, with its surprising fur shading When Rare moves to Microsoft, he gets to work on the remake of his work (as Conker: Live & Reloaded), which is released in 2005. The graphics are extraordinary, some a little less censorship. In 2011 he founded the independent company Gory Detail; exactly like Zoonami, despite expectations, at the moment it has only released minor titles, among which The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pop (for PC and iOS) stands out. Although announced several times for various Nintendo consoles, including the Switch, it has not yet arrived; it's a strange title to say the least, with a meditative toy dog ​​as the protagonist, voiced - predictably - by Seavor himself.

Gregg Mayles

Rare: Gregg Mayles, perhaps the most important man of the whole company Gregg Mayles, despite not being one of the best known names in the industry - at least not as much as he deserves - could be the most representative man of Rare; even more than the Stamper brothers, yes. Through his creations he contributed decisively in defining the corporate identity, the stylistic code of the English company. He joined Rare in 1990, immediately working as a designer at Battletoads, but his breakthrough came through Donkey Kong Country, where he collaborated closely with Nintendo and played the role of lead designer, as well as devising the look of Diddy Kong. and to give the "pirate" imprint - his great passion - to the saga; performed the same task for the 1995 sequel, which many consider superior to the progenitor, only to abandon the monkeys (not coincidentally, the third chapter is the worst of the three, albeit beautiful) to devote himself to Nintendo 64 and Project Dream, in which for the first time he plays the role of director. That game would become Banjo-Kazooie, one of the Nintendo 64 masterpieces and one of the best titles of the generation. Mayles exasperates the concept in 2000, with the successor, Banjo-Tooie: a game for the times that was mammoth, and partly dispersive, but also pioneering in the management of the map, the most "open world" among the three-dimensional platformers of the time.

Banjo-Kazooie: Screws and Bolts, one of the games directed by Mayles under Microsoft Soon after he starts working on the first game for GameCube, another non-linear three-dimensional platformer; meanwhile Microsoft buys Rare, and the project is transferred to Xbox. It is made simpler and less exploratory - for timing reasons - and is the first publication in the name of Rare / Microsoft; we are talking about Grabbed by the Ghoulies, of which Mayles is director, which does not even partially approach the heights touched on Nintendo 64. Unlike other designers, Mayles remains faithful to the British company, going through the darkest period, from which it contributes to come out thanks to the lead design of Viva Piñata and the direction of Banjo-Kazooie: Viti e Bulloni, which does not reveal itself to the level of its ancestor, but still achieves a more than dignified quality. Mayles contributes as a designer to the Kinect era (Kinect Sports in particular, a good commercial success), and above all lays the foundations for the definitive resurrection of the company, albeit different from the past.

Sea of ​​Thieves: probably the best Rare operates under Microsoft In 2014, also thanks to the aforementioned love for pirates, he began working on a new project, a project that saw the light in 2018: Sea of ​​Thieves. A game that shows a new Rare, creative and ambitious, which immediately reveals itself as a commercial success and, despite the first not exactly exciting reviews, increases its caliber thanks to continuous and progressive updates, until it reaches the excellent current quality. Since 2007, when Stamper and Rare are no longer one, Mayles has also been the creative director of the entire company, one of the very few who have never left, and is currently busy with the promising Everwild.

Free Radical Design and Playtonic Games

TimeSplitters 2: developed by Free Radical Design, founded by former Rare creatives. , are a direct continuation. The first is Free Radical Design, a software house founded in 1999, initially composed almost entirely by ex-developers of GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark. The company gives birth to the successful TimeSplitters series, great for offline multiplayer (always FPS, of course), before being bought by Crytek, and going bankrupt in 2014. Thanks to Depp Silver is revitalized in 2021, and is currently working on a new TimeSplitters, although it is not known how many Rare employees are still involved: surely Steve Ellis and David Doak, two of the founders of the company.

Yooka-Laylee: similar to Banjo-Kazooie even in the font Playtonic Games was born in 2014 , and is largely made up of creatives from "that" Rare; among the biggest names are Gavin Price (head of the company), Chris Sutherland (main programmer of Donkey Kong Country and sequel) and Steve Mayles, younger brother of Gregg, a high quality designer, who helped define the identity visual of Donkey Kong Country and Banjo-Kazooie. In 2017 they publish Banjo-Kazooie's spiritual sequel, Yooka-Laylee, a good three-dimensional platformer imprisoned in the 90s; luckier is the sequel to 2019, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, polygonal and two-dimensional. In anticipation of the next creation, they have also opened a supervision and production division, Playtonic Friends. Since November 2021, part of the company shares have been owned by the giant Tencent.

Everwild: the next Rare work, on which great hopes are placed And here we are at the end of our piece, which we hope has introduced you to the sprawling branches that took on the Rare creatives of the 1990s. Despite some peaks, many of them have never reached the results of that era; among these stands out Gregg Mayles, the only one mentioned to have never abandoned British society, who after an abundant decade of difficulties is now enjoying a new success, Sea of ​​Thieves. There will always remain the doubt about what would have happened to Rare if it had remained under the aegis of Nintendo, how it would have evolved, how it would have reacted to increasing development times and costs, if it would have been able to maintain its greatness. . The Western market is so dynamic and polymorphic that it would be arrogant to venture any guess; for sure, they remain the masterpieces of that period, a time when Rare was on Olympus.

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