Rare was working on Avatars "before Miis were part of gaming scene"

Studio dismisses copycat claims.

Rare has vigorously denied suggestions that its Avatars for Xbox 360 are a deliberate attempt to copy Nintendo's popular Mii template, claiming that it began work on the project before Wii had launched.

Speaking to Eurogamer TV for today's show, head of art Lee Musgrave revealed that it was only after Microsoft had seen the original concepts for customisable in-game characters that it decided to put Avatars at the centre of the New Xbox Experience, the forthcoming dashboard overhaul due to launch this autumn.

Musgrave said: "It was an idea we had, even before Miis were part of the gaming scene, of putting these characters that you have an affinity with, not necessarily as part of the Xbox dash, but somewhere in the Xbox that you would play multiple games with, that you would have multiple experiences with that same character."

Seeking to hammer home the point that any similarity between Avatars and Miis was purely coincidental, producer Chris Sutherland added: "We had a project up and running that had Avatars in them and the aim was always to have this component where you were able to customise your character and apply clothing to them."

And just in case there was any remaining confusion, Musgrave assured us that "Microsoft did not turn up one day in a speeding car and say, 'They've got Miis - do something!' It wasn't like that at all; it was something that fell into place over a period of time." More likely a private jet anyway.

The lovely chaps at Rare also told us there was some confusion early on as to what form the Avatars should take. "Should these things be little animals, should they be quirky characters, should they be Spore-like creatures, should they be ultra-real humans? We landed in the place that we have from the overriding theme that is approachability," said Musgrave.

You can see the full interview with Team Avatar in the latest episode of The Eurogamer TV Show.

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