It’s been a little while since our last run of staff profiles as we were all wildly busy launching our first title for the Xbox One. But as we look ahead to what comes next and welcome more staff into the studio, we’re getting back showing you the people behind the games.
For the next couple of weeks we’ll focus on this year’s batch of interns. They’re an enthusiastic and talented bunch and will be sharing what it’s like to be starting their games careers here at Rare.
In this edition: Arran Topalian, Design intern and Topher Winward, Software Development Engineer intern. Take it away guys!
So, Arran, where are you studying and what’s your chosen subject?
I’m currently studying Game Design and Production Management at Abertay Dundee university.
What led you to apply for a Microsoft internship?
A number of things! I felt it was the best possible opportunity to enter a successful corporation, as well as the ideal chance to learn from the industry’s finest and enhance my own skills. I have been a great admirer of Microsoft – its innovation and its passion – for a very long time. Additionally, on a more personal level, I felt that being accepted by such a prestigious company says a lot about me as an aspiring professional. What’s more, Microsoft has a rich and exciting history where design is concerned – software or otherwise – which has created and been responsible for the creation of products I’ve enjoyed both as a child and adult, and I really wanted to be part of that process and help create these experiences for others.
Were you a Rare fan before you began your internship?
Being a little older, it was many of Rare’s classic titles which first got me into video games. I can’t count how many fond childhood memories I have playing games such as GoldenEye, Perfect Dark and Banjo-Kazooie with friends or family. To me, Rare was one of – if not THE – first studio that infused their titles (and do to this day) with what can only be described as ‘Rareness’: an intangible quality that exists in the art, story, style and mechanics of their games, which tells you without any prior knowledge that the game you’re playing is from Rare. So yeah, I was a Rare fan long before I began my internship – and working here is, in all seriousness, nothing short of a dream come true.
How would you describe your first few months at Rare?
Truth be told I was a little starstruck when I first started, having found myself at a studio responsible for titles I had played and loved for so many years – as well as developers who’d actually been involved in their making! Beyond that, buzzwords would probably include exciting, fun, motivating and inspiring: having been surrounded by like-minded people with so many years of experience and insurmountable passion for what we do. Most importantly, I’ve not felt like ‘the intern’. Everyone I’ve worked with has never treated me with any less respect, trust or open-mindedness than they would a full-time employee. This acceptance has only been furthered by my manager, who has continually entrusted me with real tasks that have a real, visible impact on the project.
There are lots of you out there who have proved that you’ve got the skills and determination to show us up in Kinect Sports Rivals. From smashing records set by the team behind the game to defeating every challenge we set, you’re a talented bunch!
We decided to put the spotlight on a few of our superstar players to show off their skills and success. Let’s go!
First up in the spotlight is Terry, aka Deadly Silent74 on Xbox Live. Terry is one of our most dedicated players, having logged almost 110 hours on the Kinect Sports Rivals island. Winning fan after fan has led Terry to climb the Rivals League to reach the top level of the Legendary League, an exclusive status only matched by 12 other players in history. Here’s Terry to explain how he did it!
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a 40 year old gamer. I have played video games since the Odyssey. I have played Xbox since the first system. I have had Gold for about five years now.
What attracted you to Kinect Sports Rivals?
What attracted me to KSR was I was actually doing the motions on the game, not just using the controller. That made the game feel somewhat more real to me, even though I am terrible at real sports!
What’s your favourite sport in the game?
My favourite sport in Rivals is Bowling. My favourite in the first two games was Golf.
Which team have you joined?
My team choice was easy. I joined the Eagle Legion. I enjoy fairness in games, boosting my own abilities. I do not enjoy dirty, offensive tricks.
What has been the biggest challenge in climbing the ranks to the top?
The biggest challenge in climbing ranks was collecting fame. It can be very time consuming. For example, I have played over 100 hours to get where I am today!
What motivated you to keep going until you reached the Legendary League?
What kept me going all the way to Legendary is I like to complete a challenge I set for myself. I want to get every achievement, every challenge, every rank possible.
After making it to the final of last year’s football tournament in aid of SpecialEffect, we sent two teams this year in hopes of glory! While not all went to plan, the teams had a great day supporting a worthy cause. Here’s our match report from James. Pay special attention to the intense on-pitch facial expressions in the photos…
After a sterling run to the final in the inaugural SpecialEffect Wembley 5s charity football tournament, this year we decided to stack the deck in our favour and double the number of teams heading south for the event. After all, if you’re playing against yourself in the final at least someone from the company walks home with the trophy.
That was the conceited plan, anyway. Shame the other squads in attendance weren’t on the same page as us.
As with last year the tournament took the same format as the World Cup, a series of groups with every team playing each other with the group winners and runners-up progressing to the knockout stages. Word of the event had spread, however, and so the number of teams had grown to include the likes of Sega, Sports Interactive, Rebellion, and 5-a-side’s most feared gaming team, Testology. On paper alone it looked tough!
With such heavyweights we knew that a tricky draw was a possibility, and Rare Blue (there were no A or B teams for us, we tried to split the squad evenly, honest) of the two Twycross teams fared worse. Carrying on from where we left off last year, Blues tumbled to a defeat against reigning champions Creative Assembly before promptly losing to an impressive SpecialEffect. The latter can almost be forgiven as not trying to upset our hosts but the first was a sharp reminder of how last year we let our game slip at a vital time.
Since KSR was announced around this time last year, we’ve had Rare reps out promoting the game across the world from its Gamescom debut in Cologne to the Tokyo Game Show, Eurogamer Expo in London, Paris Games Week and of course Comic-Con in San Diego only a few weeks back.
One place we hadn’t really covered was Asia, but now with the market opening up and the Xbox One about to launch there with KSR and a clutch of other games among the advance guard, ChinaJoy 2014 presented itself as the perfect time and place. This time around we sent Pete and Nick from Rare to do the on-stage honours. Here’s Pete with a rundown of how it went!
Arrival! Nick and I got to the hotel on Monday morning, freshened up from around 18 hours of travelling and decided to go for a walk around Pudong district to get the lay of the land. Our hotel was close to Century Park so we began our journey there and ended up at the Shanghai Tower and World Financial Center.
We popped into a shopping mall to take a look around and were surprised to find a lot of influential Western shops and brands. On the way back we took the scenic route, walking along the Huangpu River while the sun began to set.
On Tuesday we ventured out to the Microsoft offices in Shanghai where we met up with several other Microsoft representatives participating in ChinaJoy. We had lunch at the Shanghai Min, where our host ordered several local dishes including jellyfish and others probably best not to mention!
During the afternoon we toured the local tech shops and grey markets where you could purchase imported electronic goods. Later we went over to the convention centre to help with setup, finding the team hard at work putting the finishing touches to the Xbox booth. The Shanghai New Expo Centre is absolutely massive.
After months of intense competition, the Kinect Sports Rivals World Championship concluded with all the drama and spectacle you’d expect from a live public finale at Comic-Con. Organised by Microsoft and supported by Rare, the Championship offered some exceptional prizes for digital athletes who could prove themselves the best in the world, both in the qualification stages and on a physical stage in front of a buzzing Saturday night Comic-Con audience.
Adam and Darren were Rare’s men on the ground, helping out the Xbox team, spending time with the 11 finalists (from eight different countries) and live tweeting from the Championship showdown. Now that it’s all over, here’s Adam with a first-hand perspective on the whole thing!
Comic-Con is massive. And by massive we mean a heaving great spectacle of popular culture plastered across San Diego for four sweltering days. Regardless of your interests, there will be something here to sate your appetite. Ranging from the most niche comic books through to Hollywood’s billion-dollar franchises, Comic-Con serves to remove any fandom battle lines and unite the attendees in a celebration of their beloved IPs.
As ever, Xbox had a huge presence at the show – painting the town green with a stand in the main convention centre and the dedicated Xbox Lounge at the adjacent Hyatt Manchester hotel. Given the scale of Comic-Con, it seemed only fitting that Kinect Sports Rivals should go big and match the event’s epic scale by hosting our World Championship final in front of the cosplay hordes.
Having arrived in San Diego late on Tuesday night, we headed down to the Xbox Lounge early on Wednesday morning to ensure the Kinect Sports Rivals booth was up and running for the event’s opening on Thursday. Having made a textbook British error of walking from the hotel to the Lounge, we arrived with a crispy pink hue and found ourselves sporting a gorgeous shade of sunburn for the remainder of the event. It did however complement our Xbox branded T-shirts perfectly. Swings and roundabouts.
Stationed next to Dance Central, we had everything up and running by late afternoon and following a quick pit stop at the hotel we were back in the evening for final preparations ahead of the public opening. Thanks to our Marketing team, we were given passes to attend the Comic-Con preview evening in the main convention centre and rapidly found ourselves submerged in a sea of cosplay, jumbotrons, giveaways galore and more film props than you could wave a sonic screwdriver at.
With the videogame industry still being relatively young, it’s especially sad when any of its talented figures pass away. Unfortunately, that’s the news we heard this year about Jon Mummery, who joined Rare back in 1998 and worked here for over a decade before moving on to other prestigious studios like Starbreeze and Crytek.
During his time as a Senior and Lead Animator at Rare, Jon made significant contributions to games ranging from the original Perfect Dark on N64 through to the Xbox 360 Kinect Sports titles, taking in Viva Piñata, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Perfect Dark Zero and both of Rare’s DS releases along the way. He was credited on four BAFTA-winning titles during his animation career, and as an artist of many talents he was previously influential on the Brighton graffiti scene, where a tribute wall has now been painted in his honour.
Jon lived with cystic fibrosis from birth, and finally lost the battle in March 2014 at the age of 41. We wanted to leave a permanent post here to mark his accomplishments and the impression he left on those around him, so we asked some of Jon’s Rare colleagues to share their memories.
Louise O’Connor, Art Director:
“Jon and I started working at Rare as animators within a year of each other. He was on the PD team, I was on the Conker team. Unsurprisingly we had little contact with each other during our early years. It was only after we started working together on our central art services team that we discovered our shared passion for all things animation. We began talking seriously about how animation was viewed in the studio, and eventually went on to help mentor and structure our animation team. We organised life drawing lessons, weekly animation reviews and mini animation projects.
“In all my time working with Jon, I never knew he was ill, not until just before he left. He was so positive and easy-going that it was impossible to believe he could be ill – he never let you know. I admired Jon greatly, as an animator and as a colleague. He was so dedicated to our studio and to his team and to his friends, and it is truly heartbreaking that Jon has passed away. He’ll be sorely missed, but his legacy of friendship and mentorship will live on in the hearts of the team he helped build at Rare.”
Champions and contenders! Are we all enjoying life on the KSR island with its motivational musical backdrop? Many players have asked for this information since the game was launched, and we haven’t seen the breakdown posted anywhere else, so here it is for your easy reference: the official hand-picked list of licensed tracks as featured in Kinect Sports Rivals. Enjoy!
* Alive (Zedd Remix) – Empire Of The Sun
* Are You Ready For Me – The Unknown
* Baby I Call Hell – Deap Vally
* Collide – Youngblood Hawke
* Come And Get It – The Unknown
* Feel So Close – Calvin Harris
* Forever (feat will.i.am) – Wolfgang Gartner
* Gold Dust (feat Ms Dynamite) – DJ Fresh
* Ilium – Alex Metric & Mark Yardley
* Let’s Go (feat Ne-Yo) – Calvin Harris
* Loveline (feat Haz-Mat) – Brookes Brothers
* Me And You – Nero
* Overtime – Cash Cash
* Right Action – Franz Ferdinand
* Start A Fire – Madison
* Technicolor – Madeon
* Technologic (Digitalism Remix) – Daft Punk
* Time To Realize – Lemaitre
* Wake Me Up (feat Aloe Blacc) – Avicii
* We Can Only Live Today (feat Billie) (Lemaitre Remix) – Netsky
* Where I Really Want To Go – Young London
All additional music is original work by Rare institution Mr. Robin Beanland.