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Ex-RARE devs look back on Perfect Dark: Skipping a GoldenEye sequel, RARE keeping Nintendo in business, and 64DD/online interest

The mother of all interviews

Its officially been 20 years since Perfect Dark hit the N64, a game that's absolutely synonymous with the platform. Yet another feather in RARE's cap at the time, Perfect Dark took what GoldenEye 007 did and pushed it to the limit. The game forever remains in the minds of RARE and Nintendo fans, and is still a very important part of FPS history.

In honor of the 20-year anniversary, Eurogamer reached out to a number of different people who were tied to Perfect Dark at the time. Former RARE members, Nintendo employees, and more. Martin Hollis, David Doak, Karl Hilton, Steve Ellis, Graeme Norgate, Brett Jones, Ken Lobb, and others gathered to look back on the game's creation, struggles, and much more. You can check out a few choice snippets from the interview below.

Passing up the chance for a GoldenEye 007 sequel

MARTIN HOLLIS (team lead): From my desk, I had a call come in from Simon Farmer, head of production at Rare, to ask if we were interested in doing a sequel. You know, straight up. We thought about this for a day or two, and we replied to him to say no, and that was the last we ever heard of doing a Bond sequel. I'm surprised in retrospect because Nintendo made so much money from the game you would have thought they would have put more pressure or at least made more encouraging noises towards Rare to try and persuade them to do a sequel in the same line so they could have a similarly financially successful second product. But after myself and the team saying no, I didn't hear anything more about it, and they respected our choice to make a different style of game.

Joanna Dark as the anti-Lara Croft

BRETT JONES (animator): The idea was to do something that was the antithesis of Lara Croft. Although she was incredibly successful, she was a bit two dimensional. We wanted a female heroine with a bit more pizzazz and snap to her. Dr. Doak came up with Joanna Dark, which is from Joan of Arc, Jeanne d'Arc being the French, so that's where the name comes from.

Arriving at the Perfect Dark name

DOAK: Covert Ops became Alien Intelligence when we decided we were going to have aliens in the story. Trying to name it was hilarious. In the end, Martin and I had a random word mixer. It had a database of 200 words, and it just used to run and spit out names. And we'd go, oh, we like that one. The test of a name was, if you printed it out on a piece of paper and stuck it to the wall and you didn't hate it in two days' time, then maybe that was okay. Perfect Dark came out of that because dark and perfect were two of the words that were in there.

RARE keeping Nintendo in business

DOAK: Looking back on it, I think it was an amazing place. The stuff Rare did, particularly the N64, kept Nintendo in business. It was a powerhouse. Without the Rare catalogue, Nintendo might not be in business now. Also, at Rare, we weren't competing with the rest of the world. We were competing with the other teams at Rare. It was a hotbed of creativity. Tim and Chris did a really good job of insulating the creativity and the production and development from the usual bullshit that is out there, but we kind of paid a price for that as well, I suppose.

Using the RAM expansion

HOLLIS: We didn't plan to use the ram pak from the beginning. It was simply the accretion of all the features that were added to the engine, to the levels of the game, meant that it didn't really work on the conventional size of N64. So the decision to actually use that was made fairly late in development, to have that as a required thing.

64DD and online support interest

LOBB: I wanted them to use the 64DD and have online; and although that ended up not happening, I still wanted the Expansion Pak to ship.

This is just a small snippet of a massive interview. Make sure you take the time to read the full thing.

Tags: n64, rare

Comments

Top Rated Comment

What colossal arrogance. "We kept Nintendo in business on the N64!" No you didn't. Rare made a handful of N64 games, that's not enough to keep a company in business.

What colossal arrogance. "We kept Nintendo in business on the N64!" No you didn't. Rare made a handful of N64 games, that's not enough to keep a company in business.

kcst
Fri May 22 20 09:40am
Rating: 1

If they were acting like this at the time, then it would make Nintendo's once baffling decision not to re-up with them during the Gamecube era make a lot more sense than it ever has before.

It's actually not particularly baffling if you think about it. NIntendo owned roughly 49% of Rare at the time of Microsoft's purchase of the developer. Up to that point Nintendo had slowly and steadily acquired stock of Rare until they hit 49% ownership, paying a not insignificant some of money over the course of around a decade. Eventually Microsoft came sniffing around looking to acquire Rare and made an offer, around $190,000,000 for the 51% stake in the company. Rare went to Nintendo with Microsoft's offer and gave them the chance to match it and Nintendo not only balked at the idea due to the cost and their dissatisfaction with Rare over Starfox Adventures. So Microsoft bought the half of Rare that Nintendo didn't want and Nintendo's half as well.

Rare was not worth $375,000,000 in 2002, Microsoft got ripped off and that was immediately apparent with four straight flops on the Xbox line of systems. Nintendo was aware that Rare had lost its best employees to Free Radical, and that with the exception of Banjo Kazooie they did not have any mass market IPs. Whereas Microsoft allegedly had at least one or two out of touch executives involved in the purchase under the impression that buying Rare would include the DK IP. So really, Nintendo got around $180,000,000 for dumping dead weight.

Rare developed 11 games for N64. 9 of which have a rating of 80 or higher on meta critic.

Nintendo developed 17 games in-house. Not counting their outsourcing to independents like HAL, Camelot, LucasArts, Treasure, Etc etc.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Nintendo_64_games

So no, they didn’t “make a handful of games”.

11 is a handful and I'm not saying Nintendo developed a lot either. However of those 11, how many did people remember six months after their release? Goldeneye, Banjo Kazooie, Tooie, DK64, and Perfect Dark. Rare did not keep Nintendo afloat and to think they did is arrogance of the highest order.

thedestructo94
Fri May 22 20 09:36am
Rating: 5 (Updated 2 times)

Don't see it as arrogance at all. Without Rare's help the N64 line-up would have been pretty abysmal and the PS1 would've overthrown the N64 completely. Nintendo lost a lot of 3rd parties due to expensive to produce carts. Major 3rd party franchises moved over to Sony (Final Fantasy being the biggest) and other major 3rd party franchises were born on the PS1.

Rare is right they had:

- Goldeneye 007
- Donkey Kong 64
- Diddy Kong Racing
- Killer Instinct Gold
- Blast Corps
- Jet Force Gemini
- Conker's Bad Fur Day
- Perfect Dark
- Banjo-Kazooie
- Banjo Tooie
- Mickey's Speedway USA

Almost all of which were both critically and financially successful which is surprising since they all released within a 3 year time span. Much more than just a "handful". Games like Banjo, DK64, Goldeneye, and Diddy Kong Racing are some of the best selling software on the system. Nintendo could not have survived with just Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time.

While you're right about the N64, Nintendo had the GameBoy Color during that time. No doubt Rare helped them a lot though with the N64.

Still seems arrogant. Did they make some really successful games for the N64? Undoubtedly. Would Nintendo have gone under without them? No way.

How many stories have we seen about how much money Nintendo is sitting on? About how long they could live off of that money, bleeding millions per year? And then they still have IPs out the butt they can sell.

The PS1 already overthrew the N64, with or without Rare games. Nintendo wouldn't have just folded without Rare--they sold Rare and released a new console at about the same time, lol.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_Nintendo_64_video_games

Out of the top ten best selling games, four are Rare-made. Out of the top 45, 7 are. In the top 45 it would account for ~28 million sales which is definitely not nothing, but wouldn't make or break the company. Mario 64, Mario Kart 64 and Ocarina of Time account for over 29 million alone.

ummbelievable
Fri May 22 20 06:46pm
Rating: 1 (Updated 1 time)

Very cool interviews. I love it when old Rare opens up a bit more on their past.

And, I personally don't care about any perceived arrogance they had or what people think of their importance to Nintendo during the N64 era... What matters is that it happened and it was kick-ass. I own every single Rare N64 game and love them to bits (Well, aside from Jet Force Gemini). Still an eclectic mix of great games made out of passion.

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