Mature Comic Mischief

By Porter Hall

A game designer at Rare, one of the premier game development houses for the Nintendo platforms, gave us some insight on the development, gameplay, and controversy surrounding Conker's Bad Fur Day, but he agreed to speak to us only on the condition of anonymity. He talked about the maturing of Conker, the game's inspirations, and the difficulties in getting the video game world to be perceived as anything other than a kids' medium. And while he wouldn't say much on the record regarding the subject, he did confirm the existence of a secret, alternate version of Conker's locked deep within Rare's vaults.

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Porter B. Hall, video games editor, Conker the squirrel has been in other Nintendo games. He had a part in Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo 64 and starred in Conker's Pocket Tales for the Game Boy, both of them E-rated games. Why did you pick him to star in this M-rated game rather than build a story around a new character?

Unnamed game designer, Rare: Originally Conker's Bad Fur Day was a different game, called Twelve Tales you may remember. At the time "cute platform games" were 10 to the dozen, with Rare itself developing two others: Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64. So naturally we felt it unwise to produce yet another. We already had the main character (although he was eventually remodeled) and a good deal of code already written, so the best option seemed to be to change the game's direction. Mature humor was a key element. The original games that Conker has appeared in were never even considered as potential source material, and I think the best way to view Conker with respect to his earlier incarnations is that, like people, he's changed and matured--or become more cynical--with age. Nintendo initially had concerns regarding this issue, because kids might confuse the product as being aimed at them, but I'm sure you'll agree if you've seen the box that Nintendo is making sure nobody makes that mistake.

Amazon: Yeah, I know what you mean. Speaking of those earlier games, it certainly seems that Conker's gameplay benefits from Rare's experience in the platform adventure genre. Did anything in Conker's Bad Fur Day come from ideas that you developed for previous games but couldn't use due to story, space, or content considerations?

Unnamed source: This is the first game I've designed, so up until now I hadn't really thought about what a game should be like, or what game I'd really like to do but couldn't get away with. I think it's true to say that had Nintendo been pitched the Conker's concept a year earlier, they'd have shown it the door--and as it was their jaws still hit the floor. Of course, concept aside, the game still had to be a quality product, which was the team's and Rare's job, but that's what we're good at. So two years after the initial demo, a quality product is what [Nintendo] got!

Amazon: Most would say that video games are held to a tougher standard, in terms of depicting mature content, than mainstream theatrical movies. How do you think Conker's Bad Fur Day will affect the way video games are perceived as an entertainment medium?

Unnamed source: I can tell you they definitely have a higher standard when it comes to video games. You only have to look at the kinds of things movies like South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut got away with, which is effectively two notches below Conker's on the ratings scale. Video games still have the stigma of "younger generation" attached to them, which is going to be difficult--maybe impossible--to break. As for Conker's changing any of this, I doubt it.

Amazon: Speaking of movies, the prerelease video of Conker's Bad Fur Day shows a parody of the gruesome D-day scene from Saving Private Ryan. What are some of the other movie parodies in this game?

Unnamed source: There are loads of movie references throughout the game, although not all are as obvious as the Omaha Beach homage. As for what they are, you'll just have play it through... but some things are not all as they seem, Mr. Neo!

Amazon: What computer or video games influenced you in creating this game?

Unnamed source: From the design side of things, there isn't any specific product I can think of, but graphically we touch a forlock towards Banjo-Kazooie . Conker's derives its inspiration more from TV and films than anything else, but, obviously, there will be things in there--particularly specific game mechanics--that owe a debt to the many and varied game genres.

Amazon: Are there any cameo appearances from other Rare or Nintendo characters in this game?

Unnamed source: Banjo and Kazooie make an appearance in the front end, sort of. Actually it's just their heads. As for others, who knows?

Amazon: How did you know which jokes would go too far to be included in Conker's Bad Fur Day ?

Unnamed source: As part of a normal review process, Nintendo helps make assessments of what the general audience will find funny and what it won't.

Amazon: Were there any jokes or scenes that had to be edited out for content late in the development process?

Unnamed source: There is a version of Conker's in the Rare archives that nobody, save a select few sworn to absolute secrecy, will ever, ever see! Enough said.

Amazon: The gameplay seems to be a mix of 3-D platformer and first-person shooter genres. Are there other genres also represented in the gameplay?

Unnamed source: You can attach any number of game genre titles to Conker's Bad Fur Day in any combination and in any order. It's a bit of mature comic mischief.

Amazon: Any plans yet for a Conker game for the GameCube or Game Boy Advance?

Unnamed source: The team is certainly engaged at the moment on another game, for the GameCube, of course, but it doesn't take a genius to guess that one. As for what it is, you'll just have to wait. E3 2001 maybe? Who knows?