EXCLUSIVE: A Classic Viva Pinata Interview with Gregg Mayles

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview is with Rare veteran and head of what used to be known as the Banjo Team, Gregg Mayles. It was conducted several years ago when RFDB was previously known as Rare-Elite and its primary focus is on Viva Pinata.

RareFanDaBase: Hi thanks for taking time from your schedule to answer these questions we really appreciate it.

Gregg Mayles: Not a problem!

RFDB: How many Pinatas are available in the game?

GM:There are 68 Pinatas.

RFDB: Will we see any guest appearances from some of our favorite Rare characters?

GM: Of course there will! This is something that I personally like doing and I know some of you guys love looking for them. So see how many you can find!

RFDB: Will every breed of Pinata have a Sour counterpart?

GM: No. There are 8 Sours species, each one having a non-Sour version. Each Sour brings a unique bad behaviour into the garden, but cure the Sour of this and it will change into its non-Sour counterpart. Cured Sours help the player with a good behaviour, often the reverse of its bad trait.

RFDB: Will there be a full list of Pinatas available for people to refer to?

GM: No, as this would make it too easy! When a Pinata species appears in your game it is included within the in-game Journal. The Journal is the source of information for the whole game and any useful things you are told or discover are stored here. By looking in the Journal the player can find out all about the Pinatas they have seen, and what their garden needs in order to attract them. The player will be told everything that is needed for the lower level Pinatas, but as the player progresses the information given out by the Journal will decrease, meaning little will be known about the highest level species. You’ll have to discover this by yourself or ask your friends that already have one!

RFDB: Will the list grow through downloadable content?

GM: Yes. Any new species will seamlessly fit into your existing garden, some even changing things that are already in there.

RFDB: Where did your team get the inspiration to develop the game?

GM: It was from a mixture of elements really. There is the basic fascination of watching animals in the wild. As you probably know, Rare is based in the countryside and you only have to look out of the window to see all sorts of animals existing within the same environment, all with their own needs and ways of interacting with each other. The trading element comes from the basic human desire to swap and collect things, as done by generations of children in school playgrounds (in my childhood anyway). The actual Pinata look was discovered almost by accident, as we were looking for a unique artistic style for our animals and came across images of Pinatas on the internet. Pinatas were almost unheard of in the UK a few years ago, but we knew straight away we had found a style that we could develop and make our own.

RFDB: What has been the greatest challenge for you and the rest of the Viva Pinata Team in developing the game?

GM: The simple rule that your garden is an empty space that you can put anything into, in any amount, in any place, at any time – makes it extremely difficult to predict what the player might do. The Pinatas are very independent creatures with lots of different behaviours, making it even harder to ensure that the game can handle any combination of events and – most importantly – is always entertaining to play.

RFDB: During testing, have any of your testers discovered anything interesting and unintended?

GM: There were too many to mention them all. Most were sadly bugs that we had to correct, but were often amusing. We’ve seen Pinatas moving backwards, land based species flying, Pinatas getting buried and Pinatas with odd body parts. Occasionally we have seen things happen that weren’t supposed to, but work so well that they become features we leave in and make use of.

RFDB: What would you say to those people who think that Viva Pinata was designed specifically for kids?

GM: Designing a game that is targeted exclusively at kids is not what we intended to do, as it limits your potential market immediately. Younger players aspire to games that older people play and will quite happily try games that are slightly above their current skill level. But the same can’t be said about many older players; they will not want to play a game if they think it is too childish or too easy. So what we have tried to do is create a game that has something for everyone. Very young players can have fun creating a small garden with just a few Pinatas, plants and items; whereas skilful experienced players will have their hands full trying to get all the Pinatas, keeping control of the ones they have got while trying to chase all kinds of other targets and achievements.

RFDB: Considering Viva Pinata is not only a video game but also a television show and many products such as t-shirts, toys, etc. to be released, can you foresee Viva Pinata as becoming as popular as other games that have done the same? Like, say, Pokemon?

GM: Who knows? Viva Pinata started life as a small experimental game and certainly had no plans of grandeur. I would say it is very difficult, if not impossible to try and create something designed specifically to become a very successful franchise. All you can do is try to create the best possible game and then let the players out there decide its success. Irrespective of what Viva Pinata becomes, I will always remember it as that small prototype game started a long time ago.

RFDB: Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions.