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Ex-Rare devs talk Killer Instinct, Perfect Dark

Starfire Studios recounts Rare's heyday.
Eurogamer You've said Perfect Dark Zero made money. Why did it die?
Chris Tilston

For Microsoft it was a special case because they had Halo, which sells a bazillion. They had Gears. So in a way they've got those bases covered. In a way, with Perfect Dark Zero, because we were a launch game, we were lucky in some ways but we were unlucky. The first lot of machines, there was only about 1.2, 1.5 million. Then there was another batch a couple of months later. You look at Perfect Dark on N64 and it sold 3.2 million. But there were 35 million N64s out there. When we released there were 1.5 or two million.

What's moved on since then is the second hand market. That does have an impact over time with your new sales. So suddenly we're in a position where four months down the line there's a new batch of machines, people are excited for 360 and it's like, there's already second hand copies of the game on there. To me it seems to be there's a spike right at the start now, two or three weeks, and then after that they're back to the shops.

Definitely some of the fans didn't like what we did. We were never immune to the feedback. It was just one of those things. There were limited resources at Rare and they thought, we've got the shooter category nailed. We need a platformer or a driver. It was to make sure it was a balanced portfolio. It's unfortunate in a way. It can't be easy to make sure there are so many games for this kind of fan and that kind of fan.

Maybe there will be one again. Maybe there will be a need for it. But they're having great success with Sports. It's the most successful game since they were bought. So if I was making those big bets and somebody said to me, do you want a Banjo, which has sold this amount, or do you want a Kinect Sports, which has sold this amount, I'm going to be judged on, ultimately as a businessman who is okaying things, on whether the games are being successful.

You can understand the anger of the fans, that they feel they've been deserted, but there are two sides to it. I don't know how you resolve that one. But ultimately, they've got this great IP there waiting for them. They can always go back to it. They're just concentrating on a certain thing.

Eurogamer I'd be surprised if they went back to it now.
Chris Tilston

Yeah. They've definitely got that slot filled.

Eurogamer Although they don't have a fighting game.
Chris Tilston

No they don't. That's true actually. Ken does mention Killer Instinct 3. You never know. One day. You never know.

Phil Dunne

There are still an awful lot of fans of Killer Instinct.

Eurogamer Are there really, though?
Phil Dunne

I remember meeting the Bungie guys over at SIGGRAPH, and a couple of them were like, oh no way! Killer Instinct! That's so awesome! You worked on that!

Chris Tilston

I bet that made you feel really old.

Phil Dunne

Yeah.

Chris Tilston

You'd have to update it and reinvent it. You couldn't do what they've done with Street Fighter. Killer Instinct wasn't designed for the home. It was designed to go into the arcades and be loud and be brash and be in your face for the arcade market. It was never a home game. It did well when we ported it to SNES.

Eurogamer How well did it do?
Chris Tilston

3.2 million it sold. That was something they said we could never do. Some guys at Rare said you'll never be able to chop the detail down. Tim said, yeah we can! I ended up taking 80 per cent of the animation out. It was a bastardisation of the arcade thing. But if you hadn't been to the arcade, it gave you a taster.

We actually had Killer Instinct 2 in development for SNES. That was quite far along. There were more frames and it was looking decent. Obviously the Nintendo 64 then came along and we released Gold for the N64.

Eurogamer Street Fighter does well. Mortal Kombat did well. New Tekken, new SoulCalibur, Street Fighter x Tekken, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom - it's like the nineties again.
Chris Tilston

We've definitely got ideas of where it should go. It's almost like you need to do a World of Warcraft to it. You can't just have the traditional thing. It's like, how can you make it more accessible in a way.

Eurogamer That's a dirty word.
Chris Tilston

Yeah I know. You're on the tightrope between the hardcore Killer Instinct fans and new audiences. Maybe we'll leave that one to somebody else.

Eurogamer If Microsoft asked you to make it would you do it?
Chris Tilston

Yeah. We'd consider it, yeah definitely. But they've got a team of guys at Rare. There's nobody from the original team left. That's the thing. But yeah, I'd love to revisit it. But you'll probably all chase me down and string me up based off what we'd do. It was designed for the arcade and that's it.

Eurogamer Killer Instinct was on an episode of Gamesmaster, wasn't it?
Chris Tilston

Yeah. That was me. I did one take. One take! That's my claim to fame. It was cool. We'd just finished the game. A group of us went up there. They said, we've booked you a slot on Gamesmaster. We get there, they need somebody to pull off a twenty or thirty hit combo and I'm like, OK, you might need some takes for this. But I did it in one take. I was a lot younger then.

Eurogamer Which character was used again?
Chris Tilston

Jago, and he knocked him off the 3D rooftop.

To be honest there were loads of exploits and bugs. When we first tested that, the two testers we had, they hated fighting games. They absolutely despised fighting games. I don't want to blame them.

It's just nostalgia from when you were a child and you went to an arcade. You'd just all gang up on us and hunt me down if we made one wasn't what's in your head. It's the same as GoldenEye and the first Perfect Dark. Games you played ten years ago, you had a great time playing them. It was probably at a certain time in your life when maybe you were a student or a group of friends came round your house.

Now, compared to the production values of games nowadays, they don't hold up. But just keep thinking of the good things in your head.

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About the Author

Wesley Yin-Poole avatar

Wesley Yin-Poole

Deputy Editorial Director

Wesley is deputy editorial director of ReedPop. He likes news, interviews, and more news. He also likes Street Fighter more than anyone can get him to shut up about it.

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