What was the inspiration for Viva Piñata, back in the days when it was conceptualized? Was the television show envisioned from the start too?
JT: No, no, not at all. That was something that Microsoft brought to the table, when they'd seen the game and greenlit it and decided that we were going to run with it. They contacted 4Kids -- because of their work on Pokémon -- and we showed the game to 4Kids and they loved it, and that's where the TV show came from. We were really lucky, I think.
It almost struck me as a Pokémon-style arrangement, in that you could move into other media with it.
JT: Yes, and I think that's quite a problem for Microsoft, because they haven't gotten any properties of that nature at all, and we've given them a vehicle. You've seen Party Animals -- they had no property for a party game before that, they'd have had to port that in, so we actually...
JC: I can't see what Master Chief and
Cortana would do in a Mario Party-style game!
JT: I think we've created something that's useful for them on a lot of levels.
It's almost like the revival of the He-Man model. I don't know if you know what the He-Man shows were like, but basically you release an episode of the cartoon -- and in that case it was cheaply and crappily done, and that's not the case here... But back then that's what you did. You did that, and you'd introduce a new character, like, "Here's this guy! By the way, you can buy this in stores!"
JT: That isn't quite the model, but from my point of view, when they suggested a cartoon series, it seemed like a brilliant idea. We wanted to bring new people to the Xbox. Basically, when you put something on TV, even if it's a small audience, TV-wise, it's a massive audience compared to computer games. You might bring some of these people back. To me, that was the interesting thing -- to expand our fanbase, really.
JC: I suppose in a way, the TV series does feed upon the promotional aspect of the animals in the game. A while ago, there was an episode on TV that introduced a yeti character, Magellan. You can't get that in Viva Piñata, but everyone was clamoring and clamoring for it, thinking it was an unlockable code or something. If we're lucky enough to do a sequel, you can pretty much guarantee that animals that you've seen in the TV series could be introduced. It's almost like an incentive thing, so you can see it there, and now you can try and get it in the garden.
It seems like if you were to follow that model exactly, you could have downloadable content, if you had built it in.
JT: They probably could have done that, I think. I also think that if you build a family-friendly title, you have to think value. I'm a parent myself, so I hate these things I can see that clearly put the clamps on the kids. That's going to feed back to the parents, and I never really wanted us to do that. I only wanted this to be a better value kind of prospect.
Yeah, because you've got to have
all the Pokémon cards and all the Yu-Gi-Oh!
cards, and make sure that you've got all of them.
JT: I'd have to wash down because I'd
feel a bit dirty if I started going down that road!
Dirty with money!
JT: Yeah, perhaps we should do that! (laughs)
With Krome doing Party Animals, how much hands-on do you have with it?
JC: They send versions to us, and we have versions in test. I've looked at it quite a bit, since I'm kind of looking after all things Viva Piñata. I was working under Gregg Mayles before, but he's moved on to do something else, so I'm kind of overseeing all those kinds of things. I've got to play it a bit, but it isn't our project.
it to us as a courtesy and we're allowed to provide feedback, but it's
not actually under our control. I have to say we're as interested as
everybody else to see how that works out. It seemed to go down quite
well at E3. People liked the look of it, and the idea of just being
able to jump in and out anytime. That's really appealing.
JT: It's got a good reaction round the office as well. Although the designers have got to see it quite recently, the actual programmers haven't seen it until about a couple of weeks ago. And then we've got a build up, and pretty much we wanked off the rest of the day working. It was good fun! I think the one thing we're worried about is letting our franchises in someone else's hands, but I think they've done a good job.
And do they get to use many of your assets and things like that?
JC: Interestingly, they've gone to 4Kids themselves, and it's almost gone full circle. We give our assets to 4Kids for them to make their TV models, and now they've supplied their TV models to Krome to make their game.
JT: It's mostly because the models
at 4Kids have got more joints, and more possibilities for more animations.
The piñatas in our garden were very, I suppose, stylized in the way
they walked, but when you're using the TV series ones, you can have
more facial expressions, and, I suppose the piñatas don't have hands,
but more hand movements to hold things, and so on.
JC: And there was a closer link between the cartoon and that game. They're releasing the second series of the cartoon series, and I think you'll find some tie-in things between the two. It's a closer link between the cartoon and the game, which we didn't quite have the first time.
Did the idea for making this game come from you guys?
JC: No, that was Microsoft. It was all on that side.
Makes sense. Let's see, what else do I need to ask you about..?
JC: Stop 'N' Swop! No, no, I'm joking. (laughs)
What was that?
JT: The infamous Stop 'N' Swop.
I don't know what that is.
JT: Well, that's all right then.
JC: That's OK. That's good!
No, now I want to know! What are you talking about?
JC: Well, there's nothing to tell, that's the funny thing. We're often asked about when we worked on the N64 -- that was some sort of planned system where you could wrench a cart out and pop a new one in, and it would retain information between the two.
Why would I have asked about that?
JC: Because that's the sort of thing we get asked!