[In this fascinating illustration-filled article, developer Rare explains the visual and design genesis of the Viva Pinata game franchise, from the original design document through concept sketches, mobile, PDA, and Xbox iterations to the finished Xbox 360 game.]
On December 1, 2006, a brightly-colored garden simulator for Xbox 360 finally hit the shelves in Rare's homeland, the United Kingdom. This game was, of course, called Viva Piņata. Since its launch, a dedicated and committed group of fans have worked tirelessly to find every secret, discover every Wildcard and perfect their digital green-fingered skills.
To mark a year of VP in the UK (and slightly more elsewhere) Rare presents some rarely-seen artwork spanning the game's entire lifetime. And so we dive straight into Part 1: entitled "Origins", this slide shows the real beginnings of Viva Piņata.
On the right-hand side is the original design document written by Rare founder Tim Stamper many, many years ago. Although short, it still puts forward the core gameplay seen in today's Viva Piņata: gardening, animals and the ability to trade. During this early period, Xbox Live had not really taken off to the extent that you see today and so the chosen platforms were mobile phones and PDAs. The screenshot hearkens back to this time.
If you look closely at the image, you can see that there were already trees, flowers and ponds available to the discerning gardener. As for animals, a pony and a warren of rabbits play by the water's edge. The more eagle-eyed may also be able to spot a character or two borrowed from Banjo. When concepting a new product it can be prudent to borrow assets wherever possible to get things up and running quickly.
This second image provides a closer look at the animals in that screenshot. On the right of the image are Ryan's concept sketches. His first batch of animals was based around simple cartoon characters with a pastel color spin and, as you can see, don't resemble the piņatas that you know and smash today at all.
In the main image you can find a cute little bunny being shadowed by a larger pink horse (or pony, hard to tell). These both made it to the final cut but with drastic changes - the rabbit alone changed color, style, posture and size. But this was still too conventional, and easy to lose in the mass of games that featured animals at the time. In his bid to find a truly unique style, Ryan went back to the drawing board and Part Two will demonstrate what he came up with.