With Viva Pinata already available on US soil, it’s not too long until these bright little critters infest our Xbox 360’s over here in the UK and Europe. Today we have an exclusive XCN Q&A with Justin Cook, who is a designer at RARE and has worked on the Viva Piñata title. Read on to find out more information on the game since our last Q&A on the game.

If Halo is the series that defines Xbox and Xbox 360 as consoles, how difficult has it been to try and change people’s view with a game like Viva Pinata?
Halo defines the Xbox and Xbox 360 for the traditional gamer market. What Viva Piñata is trying to do is to redefine that same piece of hardware to a different audience. I thought that it would be something very difficult but everyone that’s seen or played the game seems to really enjoy it. That’s been a reassuring surprise.

How will the Xbox Live multiplayer work? How many players? We’ve heard that gamers will have the opportunity to have friends and rivals in a worldwide community of Viva Piñata-gamers.
Initially the multiplayer aspect is just online trading. Any player can pack any items from their garden into a crate and send them to their friends. The crates are all identical and you can’t find out what’s inside until you unpack them so you’ll have the element of surprise. We have some plans for more multiplayer features in the future.

Will your pinatas die on a natural way, (including being eaten by another Pinata) or will you have an overpopulation in the future?
Piñata can be smashed open and eaten by other piñata, but they just rebuild themselves outside the garden and leave. The garden has a limited space and when it is full new piñata cannot come in. Part of the game is deciding which piñata you’d like to fill your garden space with.

Viva Pinata reminds someone of games like Creatures or Pikmin. Did you lean on those classic games to get ideas for Viva Pinata?
We started with a clean slate and built a game up from the ground up. When you play Viva Piñata I think you will find that we are something new. There are not many ’sandbox’ type games so we are always compared to the others, but you haven’t played anything like Viva Pinata before.

Some of the more hardcore Xbox 360 gamers are dismissing Viva Pinata as a ’kid’s game’. How do you react to this?
We made a great game that is a lot of fun to play. If someone won’t try this game because of the way it looks then they are going to miss out on something fresh and exciting. The game is complex if you want it to be, but children can play at their own level. Only a real gamer will uncover all Viva Pinata’s secrets.

Viva Pinata feels quite different to Rare’s other titles. How do you see it fitting into Rare’s catalogue?
Viva Piñata is something new for Rare. Rare will continue to try new game styles. Working at Rare is about quality and entertaining games not about specific genres.

What are your plans for DLC with Viva Pinata? It seems to be the perfect game for this kind of content.
We have some DLC planned. There will be new features, new piñatas as well as some surprises.

Some people have accused Microsoft of being cynical by marketing Viva Pinata at kids, particularly because of the TV show. What would you say to these people?
We made a game that anyone can play, but kids don’t read the gaming press. The best way to ’talk’ to kids is through TV. 4kids have made a great show. It’s a great show if you buy the game or not, and the game is a great game if you watch the TV show or not. All the show does is let the kids know about our characters and the world of Viva Pinata. Its not some cynical advert it’s just two (almost independent) parts of one franchise.

Have you seen the Viva Pinata TV show? What do you think of it, and how does it tie into the game?
We see all the scripts and get the show sent to us here at Rare. We all like the show and look forward to ’cartoon’ day when the next episode arrives.

Do you hope that Viva Pinata will have the same kind of success as a game series like The Sims? Do you want to expand the game in the same way that EA did with its expansion packs?
We hope that Viva Piñata is successful, but we are not a copy cat game. We don’t want to follow the Sims we want to build our own brand.

Microsoft is putting a lot of pressure on Viva Pinata to bring more kids to the Xbox 360. Do you really think that 1 game can widen the appeal of a console to such an extent?
No, but someone has to make a start. We want to make a big enough splash to attract more developers into this part of the market. We have worked very hard to set a standard for family titles on Xbox 360, we hope that others will follow our lead.

Thank you for your time Justin!

Anthony Barker

Anthony is the designer, developer and owner of Console Monster. In his spare time, Anthony is a keen gamer who enjoys playing mostly First-Person Shooters and Racing games. When he is not developing games or tweaking this site, Anthony likes to be on the slopes snowboarding or hurtling down off-road tracks on his mountain bike.

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