EXCLUSIVE: Where Are They Now? An Interview with Chris Seavor

RareFanDaBase: It has been a few years now since your departure from Rare. What led to this decision?

Chris Seavor: Ha, you make it sound like it was mine to make.. Actually, they decided not to re-hire me when all the artists had to re-apply for their jobs, in fact I was one amongst about 30 I think it was who eventually parted company either of their own accord or involuntarily.. Water under the bridge for me and subsequently quite apparent as the best way forward at that stage in my working life.

RFDB: What was it like working for Rare and what projects did you do while there?

CS: It had its moments.. Nah, mainly it was a ton of work, a ton of pressure, a ton of internal rivalry and venom (of which I was involved :) ), but ultimately everyone only wanted the one thing.. Make the best fucking game you possibly could, irrespective of any potential constraints. We did that, then we did it again, then again, then again……….. I’ve heard the period of time when i was involved with Rare was called the ‘Golden Age’ of the company, and looking back I guess that could be true (although for me, nothing really tops that first time i fired up Knightlore on a borrowed Speccy ) . Anyway, the thing is at the time, when you’re in the middle of it you can’t tell what an indelible mark the company is making. It just seems like a never ending lack of sleep, punctuated by heavy drinking, and curry.

As for projects finished or otherwise, well first there was Killer Instinct (called Brute Force for a time).. then Killer 2, Killer Gold, Twelve Tales, Bad Fur Day, Other Bad Day, Arc Angel, Getting Medieval, Urchin (really regret not pushing harder on this one), PD Core, and a small team prototype my last job as a designer called Ordinary Joe which despite the innocuous name was my take on the survival horror genre (nothing to do with Jo Dark) . After that I just did the odd graphics jobs which was all rather dull and by the numbers…. Then I got my bag and drove home.

RFDB: Recently, we had a very brief discussion on some of the work you did in regards to a Conker sequel. Could you elaborate on just how much work was done on the game, platform (s) it would have been on and why it was never completed? What could we have expected from it?

CS:Erm, well it was pretty much designed in outline…. The story, the levels, some of the gameplay (loosely) which movies were ripe for parody, and general tests for the graphics. A ton of artwork was done, which spilled over into the multiplayer only game called Getting Medieval, based in the Conker universe with Gregg the Grim Reaper as the principle protagonist rather than Conker.. It all got a bit messy and tbh I couldn’t face another 3 years of the squirrel and gang. Summat like that…. Not really sure when it stopped exactly, we just kinda moved onto something else. Looking back, probably should have stuck with Other Bad Day, but hey ho, we live and learn. What would I have expected? Erm… it would have been fucking brilliant and JK Rowling would definitely have sued… :)

RFDB: An interview recently cropped up with a former coworker of yours at Rare who suggested that you had some really awesome prototypes that you showed to Microsoft that would have been “big hits”–to quote–but Microsoft rejected them all for whatever reason. Could you tell us anything about what those prototypes were?

CS: Mmmm.. Beyond the names listed above I’m not sure I can… The one that had the most work was probably PD core, although Urchin had a ton of concepts done, some design, and the whole story arc figured out… I’d planned it as 3 games, each with a cliffhanger ending. PD was the same… Valve were experimenting with an episodic format at the time with HL which I thought was a good business model.. i.e. 1 engine, 3 – 4 games…. released in relatively quick succession because there wouldn’t be any expectation about the graphic engine improving, just more of the same. Nowadays a sequel has to be ‘Moon on a Stick ‘ levels of difference in terms of it’s scope, content and visual to its predecessor . Expensive business, and 1 flop can fuck ya big time…. Look around.. It’s fucking murder out there for the big players. I really don’t envy the backers of 20 mill + projects….

As for content, well I think someone leaked some stuff about PD Core already suffice to say it was pretty mature stuff thematically.. Jo was definitely the semi psychotic , sarcastic, foul tempered, sadistic assassin she always should have been… And Urchin…. Well, Urchin was the little thing I always wanted to make and who knows may well still make one day (not called Urchin obviously)…… A lovely , creepy , beautiful and tight little fairy tale for those who felt short changed by Fable’s good v bad mechanic.. In Urchin, it was ALL about being bad :) Some art work from that got sneaked on the web as well a while ago I seem to recall.

RFDB: What are the challenges in leading the overall design of a game?

Biggest one for me is having 20 artists sat around at the beginning looking at you like you’re a cunt for not having any placeholder assets ready for them to work on. Takes about 6 months to really start nailing the structure, gameplay, and even then it’s hard to ‘feel’ the game and really get to grips with what it is you’re after… Usually because you’re winging it, I know I was a lot of the time. My biggest problem was a combination of over ambition and overcomplicated control.. if in doubt, pear back.. look again, then pear back some more……. Simple really is best and I don’t mean make it simplistic, quite the contrary… make it clean and concise. If it isn’t it’s what we used to call at Rare ‘Woolly’, a word that perfectly describes when design and content just aren’t working…..

Focus groups… Them as well.. Focus groups can get the Fuck!……. Cunts, the lot of ‘em.

RFDB: What are your thoughts on the Rare of today?

CS: I don’t really think about Rare… I do have to listen to other people’s opinions about it sometimes, and I feel sad for them that they feel something fundamental has been lost, like an old friend gone to pasture, suddenly replaced by the zany new kid and his fancy boots . But tbh nothing lasts forever, people move on, things change.. that’s just the way it is… Like I said earlier, expensive business now, with no room for noble auteurs and old design hippies like me to toss off 6 months and a million quid on a crazy idea. Shame, but hey ho ;)

RFDB: If Rare were still with Nintendo today, do you think the company would have still been the same as it was all those years ago?

CS: Pretty much. Tim and Chris would still be around, Mark B, Simon, loads of other people who subsequently left as well… Even me maybe :) A company isn’t defined by bricks and mortar. It’s a people thing, so yeah , bar a few tweaks it would have been pretty much the same, both the good and the bad ;)

RFDB: Now that you’re no longer a part of Rare, what is that you do now? [Editor's Note: The world premiere of Seavor's new game debuted exclusively at the RareFanDaBase on Monday, September 3rd. View it here for additional artwork not found in this interview.]

Currently making a game believe it or not.. Can I plug it ?? Go on …….. Here’s a teaser for ya. World Exclusive, just for you…….

 

These are a few of the protagonists.. Actually it’s pretty much done, just about to go into alpha test…… The target audience seem to like it; kids who don’t mind wasting hours on mindless collecting things. I’m not claiming it to be anything particularly ground breaking, just my take on a old favourite genre.

Kept it quiet till now, for no other reason than you asked….. Was just gonna release in Oct sometime and be damned……. Oh well, nows as good a time as any to plant a flag in the ground………

It’s also the 3rd one we’ve started, (others were over ambitious as i say, my bane) and has gone from a quick test of pipeline and business model, into a proper, if little, game.. bosses, pets, shop, stupid storyline, gory deaths, my vocal ahem ‘talents’ even.. all that shit!! Buy it you fuckers, so I can make the next one, and then the next one after that….. Hmm, ‘Buy It You Fuckers.’ …. Marketing never was my strong point……. ‘ Well done, Chris, you’re going for that insult the punters into thinking it’s a ‘mates’ insult dollar… that’s a good dollar….’ Bill Hicks fans will understand that last line.

So, Mr Apple if you’re out there…. Ex Rare dev, loves making games on iPad and its kin, looking for some action.. Hahahaha. That was terrible…. Maybe I need some PR after all…. Anyway, seriously I have enjoyed every single second of making this little game.. Just like old times, almost.

RFDB: What’s your favorite pub to frequent? Any particular beer preference?

CS: Finally an interesting question…. The Irby Mill, in Irby. Favourite pint, I guess is (apart from the stuff bubbling away in my garage), is Jennings Cumberland Ale… Never had a bad pint. Timothy Taylor’s Porter as well a dark treacle of loveliness but it’s been years since I tasted that as the Fleece in Howarth don’t keep it anymore.. buggers.

RFDB: If you could have chosen any other profession, what would it have been?

CS:Probably something in the film industry.. It was where I was heading anyway until I got snared by the promise of as many Lotus Esprits as I could eat (never did get one in the end, just as well, I’d be dead).

RFDB: What advice would you give to those who hope to one day design their own game?

CS: If you wouldn’t buy it yourself, don’t fucking make it…