Talk turns to GoldenEye on LIVE Arcade and unwarranted hate.
VideoGamer.com: Does GoldenEye almost haunt the studio?
NB: No, not at all. I wouldn't say indifference. It's nice to see people still talk about it. But I also think, and a lot of us think this, that you look back at it and it's still good fun to play, but if I played it now with my gaming tastes as refined as they are now, would I still have the same reaction or have I really got rose tinted spectacles on? It's almost impossible to separate one from the other. I still look at it and think, no, it's got great level design for instance, but then you think I'm saying that because maybe the control feels really good, but it's not perfect. But it's not perfect because the frame rate wasn't high enough. It's very difficult to separate your memory. As someone coined at work the other week. "You need some brain bleach" so you can get rid of the memory. Maybe I should get hypnotherapy to remove the memories. It'd be interesting. Then go an play it and see if it still stands up. We're not "oh God, get over it" and we're not like "urrggh, look, everybody still worships that thing". I think sometimes it gets to you a bit when you a get a forum poster say "Rare's not as good as it used to be". In reality, if you look at our recent games, they're better than they ever were. It's just that the market has changed, and diversified and got a lot bigger, and we still appeal to the audience we appealed to. Gaming changed and started to fracture a lot. One studio will find it very difficult to fulfil everybody's tastes, unless you get that one golden moment where you get that true breakout game, that breaks outside of its niche and becomes that phenomenon like GTA and Halo. They do that because they're very good games, without doubt, but these days you have to have that alignment of the planets, where the marketing has to be right, the time has to be right, all the social aspects have to come into alignment. And when it does you get an amazing effect, but it's more than the sum of its parts, without a doubt.
VideoGamer.com: The games you mentioned that Rare is working on but can't talk about. Is some of that stuff going to answer critics? Shut some of those people up?
NB: I don't think some of them it will ever shut up. They're critical because they're critical.
VideoGamer.com: This is the internet.
NB: Yeah, the internet haters. It's easy for people on the internet to vent anger or their own opinions, and everybody's a critic. Sometimes from a developer's point of view that hurts some people, especially the younger developers. The older guys, the more experienced guys are like "Yeah, whatever. That's probably 5000 people out of 40 billion. I'm not too worried about it". For some of them it will answer it. For others it will probably confirm what they think they already know. We went through, I wouldn't say dark times, we went through a bit of a lull as we had the changeover. I truly believe that since the launch of the 360, we've had a really good catalogue of games. One of the things that I always find funny is when people always quote Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero as being flops at the launch of the 360. In the industry if you break even you're lucky, you're in the minority. If you make a decent amount of money you're really in the minority. You're in the top percentile. Those two games made a lot of money. For the install base they sold phenomenally well. Kameo is still selling now.
VideoGamer.com: So what's everyone's problem then?
NB: Well, I don't think it's everyone's problem. I think it's a small, vocal group. I think it's what somebody said about Microsoft in general actually, like how everyone bitches about Windows and says Apple is genius. If that's the case how come there's 10 Microsoft products for every Apple product in terms of sales? To quote my ultimate boss, since Bill retired, Steve Ballmer, "the tallest trees catch the most wind". So when you're there at the top people want to knock you down. And if you stumble everybody will start kicking. Some of those people will never stop. You've got a right to say what they want to say. That's the point and the great thing about the internet, but you just have to look at how many people there are compared to how vocal they are. All we do in the end is we make the games we think people will want to play. If nobody plays them then we have to question what we've done, and we've taken a wrong step.
It seems the bar for us, to be what people would call a success, seems to be higher than a lot of other studios. People just expect so much more. Maybe because they have fonder memories. I harp back to the George Lucas Star Wars. When I first saw the first Star Wars saga, as far as I was concerned they were the best films ever made because I was eight. And then I went to see the new films and came out, it was almost like I wanted to go and burn my Star Wars collection. Jar Jar Binks, what have you done? Then I come away and think, actually, it's because I'm not eight. So the last Star Wars film I thought I'm going to try and not be critical as an adult. And think right, if I wanted big explosions and was maybe my daughter's age or a bit older, what would I like? Yeah, actually it's no different really.
I think people have these amazing fond memories of Banjo and GoldenEye, their formative gaming years, and they want that again. Who doesn't? They're never going to get that back. I've never managed to get it back. I have these amazingly fond memories of playing OutRun. I occasionally go and play on MAME, play the original OutRun, play Marble Madness, Space Harrier. To me they still seem good, but that's because I have this childhood memory and it'll never tarnish it really. If someone's got that for one of our games, whatever we do to address it is never going to be as good as that memory, even if the game is fantastic. That's one thing everybody said about Piñata, "Oh, it's a commercial failure". No it isn't. It's doing very well thank you very much. And critical acclaim. It's a bloody good game. When you get people coming up saying they can't wait to play VP2 that's fantastic, and people asking when Banjo's coming out. But there'll still be people that hate it because it's not Banjo 3 as they imagined it.
We're lucky being inside MGS that our remit is to kind of expand and broaden this demographic and do things that are slightly more out there. In a way we don't have some of the commercial pressures that some other developers do. We can take a risk now and again. Piñata was a risk and it's paid off. Would that have come out of another studio? It might have come out of Lionhead maybe. It might have come out of Will Wright, something like that. Spore is fantastic, but massive risk. Of course, nobody thought of the ability to actually make creatures that actually look like they're several creatures doing something. A sure-fire success without doubt.