Homegrown Gaming: A visit to Rare

XBW heads into deepest, darkest Leicestershire to visit the Kinect Sports developer...

There are some benefits to living in the Midlands. Okay, it may take a good hour and a half on the train to get from Twycross to civilisation, but Rare's headquarters are nestled in the rolling hills of an enormous countryside estate in Manor Park. It's not even a sprawling campus - just a single bright, airy complex and acres of unused, verdant pasture.


The relaxed vibe extends to the staff as well - there's no 100-miles-aminute PR spiel as we're given the guided tour, just a friendly confidence. If the pace seems slow, though, it belies Rare's unparalleled ability to juice Kinect for everything it's currently got. With fellow UK studio Lionhead seemingly keeping its most exciting research a secret, Rare is a more public trailblazer and as a first party developer its work flows back into the software development kit furnished to all Kinect developers.

Somewhere, squirrelled away are the minds that have cleaned up the side-on detection technology that makes golf in Kinect Sports: Season 2 possible and the finger tracking that allows the game to work out when you've released a dart. Stuff that 12 months ago, in the wake of guff like Sonic Free Riders, people were convinced simply couldn't be done.

We assume from Rare's reluctance to discuss their back catalogue that we're unlikely to see any remakes

And Kinect is very much the priority these days. Long time fans of the company would be dismayed by how little evidence of 'old Rare' there is at its Twycross HQ. The Microsoftgreen lobby is adorned with quotes from Kinect Sports reviews and a huge vinyl artwork from the game's athletics portion. Anyone expecting to be greeted by Pierce Brosnan's smug, pistol-toting pose or Orchid's frighteningly pointy chest is offered a blunt reminder - worth a thousand words - that the 90s was an awfully long time ago.

Even veteran mascots Banjo and Kazooie seem to have been swept under the carpet, presumably mothballed after Nuts & Bolts failed to construct itself an audience.


Still, there's the odd hint here and there. Surely that banana stand in the hallway is a nod to Donkey Kong Country? Was that a small picture of the old Killer Instinct line-up pinned to that noticeboard? Either way, the staff are evasive when it comes to talk of remakes or revisits of old intellectual properties.

The implication is that a murderous robot superheating its opponents until their heads explode, for example, isn't in keeping with the studio's new cuddly, casual vibe. Could it be that Rare's actively embarrassed about its teenage years?

It's not as bad as that. Venture into the canteen, the most public space, and you'll discover Rare's entire history - all the way back to the Ultimate Play The Game years - collected in a single glass cabinet and lovingly arranged and presided over by Viva Piņata's Horstachio.


So while we'd assume from Rare's reluctance to discuss their back catalogue that we're unlikely to see remakes of classic titles, everyone on the team is well aware of their shared history.

It may not be the Rare of old, but the company has moved that brilliance forward, into an ability to create Kinect games that play perfectly to the strengths of the technology. No mean feat.

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