A group of former Rare employees has banded together to establish a new studio which is now working on a spiritual successor to the Banjo-Kazooie series.
Speaking to EDGE magazine, the core members of Playtonic - Gavin Price, Chris Sutherland and Steve Mayles - have explained how they recently parted company with Rare and want to recreate the kind of games produced during their former employer's N64-based golden era.
Price - who, along with Sutherland, was let go from Rare last year - explains the aim of the team:
Imagine there's an alternative timeline where Rare became independent instead of being bought by Microsoft. What would that company be like? What would it have gone on to become? That's our ambition.
Playtonic is made up of so much famous Rare talent that it makes you genuinely wonder how much of the "old" Rare is still left at the company's Twycross HQ. Price was a designer on Viva Piñata, Conker's Bad Fur Day, Banjo Tooie and Jet Force Gemini, while Sutherland was lead programmer on Donkey Kong County and the Banjo-Kazooie games. Steve Mayles created Banjo and his friends, and is the brother of Gregg Mayles, one of the longest-serving Rare employees. These three core members are joined by the likes of Steve Hurst (Banjo-Kazooie, GoldenEye 007), Mark Stevenson (Kameo art lead) and Jens Restemeier (Perfect Dark Zero software engineer). To cap it all off, former Rare musician Grant Kirkhope has stated that he will be helping the studio out with audio, presumably on a freelance basis.
The current plan is to expand the team to around 15 people in order to create a title which should appeal to fans of Rare's '90s output. Price explains:
Without giving the game away, I think it's pretty obvious what kind of game we're making from the history of the team. We consider it a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie. We want to make a game where you control a fun character, learn new skills, add some new twists to the genre, and also listen to Grant's tunes!
For Mayles, Playtonic is about recreating not only the feel of classic Rare, but also the way in which the studio operated when it was owned by the Stamper brothers:
For me, the appeal is that I'll be able to create characters for a game myself again, creating a whole chain of animation, whereas at Rare now, you're just a small cog... you have to filter through three or four different people before something is approved.
Price has revealed that Playtonic has enough funding to complete its first game - currently known as Project Ukulele or Game 01 - and is aiming to release on PC and "certain" consoles. However, he is open to the idea of a publishing deal to truly secure the project's future and perhaps even expand its scope. Given Rare's history with Nintendo - and taking into account that the studio's best titles were arguably those on Nintendo's consoles - it should come as no great shock to learn that Price is open to the idea of working with the Japanese giant again:
There's a history of working with Nintendo, so we'd naturally love to see our game on a Nintendo platform. If people tell us to make Wii U our target console platform, then we've got the flexibility to do that.
Since Rare was purchased by Microsoft in 2002 many staff have left to set-up their own studios. Crash Lab was founded by Steve Ellis, Martin Wakeley and Lee Musgrave, while Gory Detail is where Conker creator Chris Seavor and former Rare staffer Shawn Pile now call home. Last year, there was the news that Tim Stamper was involved in establishing FortuneFish, a company which aims to create smartphone games. Playtonic is another name to add to the growing list of ex-staffers aiming to capture that elusive Rare magic.
Would you like to see Playtonic's title come to a Nintendo format? Do you think Nintendo should become more hands-on with the game, and possibly even secure it as an exclusive? Is there scope for a "second coming", with Nintendo potentially snapping up Playtonic in the same way it did with Rare? Whatever you think of this news and Playtonic in general, make sure you leave a comment below.