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Mario + Rabbids devs on the music, initial leaks, director’s emotional response, inspirations

Posted on July 18, 2017 by (@NE_Brian) in News, Switch

Today, GamesIndustry published a new interview with a couple of people involved with Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Director Davide Soliani and composer Grant Kirkhope participated in the discussion.

During the interview, Kirkhope talked about first finding out about the game, also shared an… interesting story about an encounter with Shigeru Miyamoto from his time at Rare. Soliani also talked about being starstruck with Kirkhpoe, worries stemming from the initial leaks, and the game’s inspirations.

You can find that and a bit more below. You can read up on GamesIndustry’s full piece here for additional comments.

Kirkhope on first finding out about the project…

“It took them a while to fly me out to Paris to meet with Davide [Kirkhope is based in LA]. I remember they took me to the studio and into this backroom. It was all big security, no-one could get in, it had secret keys and all that. I thought it was a bit strange for a Rabbids game. I sat down, and Davide turned on the TV and Mario was there. I thought they’d just been playing a Mario game. And then he started to move Mario. And I was like, ‘What are you doing’? And he said: ‘This is the game, it’s a Mario game’. That was the first I heard about it. It struck me… how on earth was I going to write music for Mario after Koji Kondo, who is the greatest games composer in the world? I thought this is impossible. I can’t possibly write music for this game, I’m just not good enough. So I had this blank expression because the fear had gone from 0 to 60 in one second flat.”

Soliani on working with Kirkhope…

“The relationship between me and Grant was harder for me at the beginning compared to the relationship I had with Miyamoto-san. With Miyamoto we were receiving feedback, and with Grant I had to give him feedback. And for the first month I was completely shy to do it. I called Grant to come on-board because he was my idol. I was in love with what he did during the N64 era, so it was very strange for me on the few occasions I had to give Grant feedback. Although for the majority of time, I was just amazed. Working with Grant was so easy. It’s like having him on the team. So where I could expect him to behave like a superstar, he doesn’t do that at all. He’s a little bit of a princess, but apart from that…”

Kirkhope sharing a story about Miyamoto when he was at Rare…

“Yeah… my Miyamoto story is a bit worse. It was when E3 had moved to Atlanta [1997]. Nintendo had a party in a museum, and we all got hideously drunk. I saw [Rare founder] Tim Stamper talking to Miyamoto, and I introduced myself as the composer of Banjo-Kazooie, totally drunk. He just looked at me with the blankest expression, he couldn’t tell what I was saying. A while later, I was in the bathroom – and this is embarrassing – I was trying to pull down [Donkey Kong 64 designer] George Andreas’ trousers for a joke. I was on my knees and I looked up to see Miyamoto staring down at me. That was the last time I spoke to him.”

– 1,500 different character animations in the game
– Nearly three hours of music

“You are trying to make it great because our childhood was spent playing Mario. I feel like pinching myself everyday, because I can’t believe I’m working on this. No-one would let anything go that was slightly below par. It was always pushing, pushing, pushing all the time. That passion level was up there for the entire time, and not once did anyone slack off.” – Kirkhope

“We decided to try and re-do some of the classic Mario ditties that we’ve all heard down the years. I listened to Koji Kondo’s clips to work out what was going on and did it. I sent it to Davide, who sent it to Nintendo. I got one of the notes wrong, so they sent back the sheet music to this little ditty. I was like: ‘Oh my god, I’ve just received the sheet music to this thing that I’ve heard like a gazillion times’. It was so special, even if it was a little thing. They were so polite about it. That was a moment that I will never forget.” – Kirkhope

“Nintendo is polite, but also very precise. We received loads of comments on all the details. Things like the reflection in Mario’s eyes, or how Mario is posing… super small details.” – Davide

Kirkhope on scoring the music for the Peach Castle level…

“Davide said that it would be great if we could use the castle theme from Mario 64. That’s my favourite piece. I started at Rare in 1995 and that was one of the first games I got when I started. For me to get to play with that tune was just breathtaking. I did this thing where I cut it into little bits and used it with my own tune. I sent it to Davide and he was in tears. He’s always in tears.”

On the leaks…

“When the game leaks, no one is happy. Also, let’s be honest, the reaction at the beginning was not ‘skeptical’ – it was a little bit worse than that. It was quite hard on the team morale to read some of those comments. I asked for Grant’s opinion, [since he] has way more experience than me. ‘Do you think they will love it? Do you think they will hate us? Do you think that we’ve done everything wrong?’ I was very, very worried. Because, you know, people on the internet can be very, very, very harsh.” – Soliani

“Davide was completely panicking. I kept saying to him not to worry and that everyone was going to love it.” – Kirkhope

– Soliani had warned his team to prepare for the worst at E3
– His best hope was that someone would think, “It’s OK for a strategy game”

On Soliani’s emotional response…

“When the conference finished, Davide and I went for a sandwich across the street. We sat in this little cafe and we were both in shock. It had gone so well. We couldn’t believe it. We were drinking our glasses of water and shaking. We were there for half an hour, not saying anything, just staring at each other. We knew that Miyamoto was going to be on stage, but seeing him there, with the gun, and saying such nice words, and mentioning Davide by name… all of that was so surreal.” – Kirkhope

“It took me like two weeks to process what had happened. After the conference, we were walking the streets and people were stopping us and congratulating us. I was amazed by the player reaction. We had a queue that was six hours long, and at the end of the waiting time, they were still happy. That was the best reward we could have received. When I arrived back in Milan, the team felt like a new team. It was the same for Paris. They were completely aware of how it did.” – Soliani

“We went from completely worrying ourselves sick that people might not like it, to all of a sudden everybody going doolally over it. And it goes everywhere. Davide becomes a meme on the internet. I couldn’t even find Davide the next day. I tried to get on the Ubisoft booth, I tried calling him… he just ignored me. He was thinking he was a superstar all of a sudden [laughing].” – Kirkhope

On inspirations…

“When we started brainstorming, XCOM was not part of the conversation. We thought it might be cool to make our combat as frenzied and economical as Mario Kart. We wanted to see how Mario Kart without karts would be. That was our first reference. Our second reference was Worms, and also several other action games. Later on, of course, XCOM. I’m a huge XCOM fan, starting from the original game. Five or six years ago I did a workshop in London with Julian Gollop [creator of XCOM], and I love the new games by Jake Solomon. I saw a YouTube video of Jake’s reaction to Mario + Rabbids. The whole team was amazed, because he was happy. And as soon as we can, we will send a copy of Mario + Rabbids to him and Julian.” – Soliani

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