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30 great developers in 30 years: Rare

A studio whose influence transcends genre boundaries...

Although most gamers these days harp on about the likes of Bungie, Naughty Dog, Epic and Infinity Ward, Rare can also claim ownership of some of the most popular and important titles in gaming history.

But unlike most 'triple-A' developers, the Leicestershire studio boasts a library that spans a wide range of genres, and whether it's platform, FPS or the relatively young world of motion control, Rare seems to have had a significant impact in all areas of gaming.

It may not be the go to name for chart topping core titles at the moment, but Rare certainly commands a history and level of affection from gamers that few can truly compete with. Names like Banjo-Kazooie, Killer Instinct and Perfect Dark are all iconic among fans of our pastime, and that's why the house the Stampers built deserves to be among CVG's 30 great developers in 30 years.

OVERVIEW

Founded: 1982 (formerly Ultimate Play the Game)
Location: Twycross, England
Killer quote: "You can't help but look forward to what this Great British studio is going to come up with next."

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KEY PEOPLE

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Chris and Tim Stamper
The Stamper brothers originally founded Ashby Computers and Graphics Ltd in 1982 after Chris Stamper dropped out of university and started experimenting with programming on the Sinclair ZX80.

In 1983, they released their first game, Jetpac, for the ZX Spectrum, trading under the name Ultimate Play the Game.

When Chris and Tim Stamper realised they had pushed the Spectrum to its limits, they began getting interested in developing on Nintendo platforms and went on to form a subdivision inside Ashby Computers and Graphics Ltd. named Rare Ltd. They would later convince Nintendo to allow them to develop games for their 8-bit console.

Gregg Mayles

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To date, Gregg is one of the longest serving employees at Rare, having joined the company in 1990 and kick started his career as a designer on the original Donkey Kong Country.

Mayles' work on DKC inspired the designer to come up with Project Dream, an early Nintendo 64 concept which eventually became the much-loved platformer Banjo-Kazooie, a series which he's headed up ever since.

Gregg has since worked in key roles on Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Viva Piņata and Kinect Sports, and in 2007 the Stamper Brothers' departure led to Mayles being promoted to Creative Director at Rare.

3 RARE GAMES WE LOVE

Donkey Kong Country

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Donkey Kong Country was the first of the Kong series not to be made by Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto and the then-small studio from the UK managed to reinvent the classic for a new generation.

Fast, colourful and incredibly challenging, Donkey Kong Country is a seminal platformer praised for its then-stunning visuals. In fact they were something of a revolution at the time. Donkey Kong Country was one of the first home console games to use pre-rendered 3D graphics.

Designer Gregg Mayles recalled: "Nintendo were really impressed by what they'd seen. Aladdin was out on the Mega Drive and it had really good graphics. Nintendo said: 'We want a game that looks better than that using your new technology and using Donkey Kong.'

"Apart from Donkey Kong himself, we created everything else. Originally we were going to use Donkey Kong Jr as Donkey Kong's sidekick, but we'd reimagined him as what became Diddy. They weren't happy with that; they wanted him to look more like Donkey Kong in a nappy. But we wanted something a bit more dynamic, something that could jump around - so we went with our new character, but decided to call him something else."

GoldenEye 007

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There's nothing we can say about GoldenEye 007 that any gamer worth his muffins doesn't already know. Even though it may not be much of a looker these days, the N64 shooter is still considered the spawn of the modern day console FPS.

With a compelling single-player campaign that followed the plot of the 1995 film and solid shooting mechanics, GoldenEye 007 was a great single-player experience but outdid itself when it came to multiplayer. It's the definitive split-screen experience. So much so that it's been remade not once but (soon) twice and is still used as a point of comparison more than 15 years later.

Mayles revealed it wasn't just Rare's customers who became addicted to splitscreen face-shooting: "Usually, when our games come out, we never play them again. You've worked on them for so long that you just don't want to see them. But GoldenEye - a bunch of us used to play it every lunchtime without fail. We'd eat our sandwiches as quickly as possible. I think we stopped playing it after seven years."

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