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Former RARE devs talk Wii U/3DS interest, clear up Timber 64 rumor, talk Donkey Kong Racing

by rawmeatcowboy
02 October 2012
GN Version 4.0
A portion of an NES interview with Steve Ellis, Martin Wakeley and Lee Musgrave...

NES: The games you are developing for mobile devices are controlled with a touchscreen. Is there any interest in porting some Crash Lab projects to other devices with touchscreens like the Wii U’s eShop, PS Vita, 3DS, or Microsoft’s SmartGlass? Also, what is your opinion of the Wii U?

SE: Yes, we’re interested in any device that makes sense for the games. The main constraint is that at our current size we can’t do everything at once, so we have to carefully choose where to focus our resources.

NES: There was a rumor that Timber 64 was a game Rare was developing during the N64 days. Basically, the rumor was that Timber from Diddy Kong Racing would get his own game just like Banjo and Conker did. Pipsy and Bumper would co-star in Timber 64.

Can you or Lee provide any details on this rumor? It’s interesting because Diddy Kong Racing takes place on Timber Island so it seemed that Rare really liked the Timber character.

Martin Wakeley: I couldn’t say for definite but I have no recollection of that ever being in development. Where the rumour may have started is that an early version of DKR (I think it was called RC Pro Am at the time) had Timber as the lead character. I’m sure I’ve got a badly fitting Nylon polo shirt with the game logo on it somewhere.

Lee Musgrave: There was never a Timber 64 game. Yes, there was Pro-Am64 that had Timber as the main character, but that became Diddy Kong Racing and that was the end of that.

NES: Donkey Kong Racing (GameCube) is kind of shrouded in mystery, and Donnchadh (Don) Murphy told us in an interview that you were the right person to clear up questions because you lead the project. The only time we saw video footage of DKR was a prerendered CGI video at E3 2001, and then the game later turned into Sabreman Stampede. Was there ever an existing playable prototype of Donkey Kong Racing, and why was the game cancelled so quickly? Also, can you provide some insight on how the gameplay, level design, and animal racing would have been like if Donkey Kong Racing had been made?

Lee Musgrave: Ha! – yes, I made that video! . . . Donkey Kong Racing was obviously pretty heavily tied to Nintendo as a franchise, and as Rare approached the finalization of a buyout deal with Microsoft it was clear that the game had no future, at least with the ape’s as characters. We switched it around to be a Sabreman game, and there was a great early Xbox prototype – but someone, somewhere decreed that it was a little too old-school for the kind of ‘revolutionary gaming experiences’ that the Xbox was capable of delivering, and so it started down a path of meandering changes, updates and ‘evolution’ that finally saw it run out of steam and fall over. There were some great ideas in the game as it developed though, and I still look back to the early racing game design and think we could have done something great with that.

It was a pure racing game, the underlying software mechanics were actually based on car physics, but it also incorporated the idea of riders jumping between different animals mid-race, to always be riding the ones that were bigger or faster . . . we had some awesome gameplay in place, and it was lots of fun – we even had a multiplayer version working – and when you fell off, you had to tap-tap-tap (HyperSports style) to run on foot and catch up with an animal. Fun, but it lost some appeal without the DK universe around it, and Microsoft were unsure of its potential with Xbox gamers I think.

Full interview here