Interview with game developer Chris Seavor
Posted on April 6, 2015
Lewd, rude, and excessively vulgar – these are all expressions that can be used to describe Conker’s Bad Fur Day, the 3D platformer released by Rare in 2001.
With its overt references to sex, scatological humour, and excessive cursing, the game has become a cult classic amongst mature gamers, whilst simultaneously earning the scorn of parents the world over. But the game hadn’t always been this way.
Originally the game was being produced as a more child-friendly adventure, featuring the cute and harmless character Conker from an earlier Rare release, Diddy Kong Racing. The game was being developed under the working title Twelve Tales, and instead revolved around the character collecting acorns and other items in a style reminiscent of later Rare platformers Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64.
Chris Seavor, director and voice artist on Conker’s Bad Fur Day, states: “After finishing Killer Instinct (Arcade) I started work on the N64 version, whilst in the meantime other people started work on the next original game we were to work on. That was what eventually (after a few iterations) what became Twelve Tales.”
“Rare was very much about the team, i.e. we weren’t just a bunch of resources to be moved around like chess pieces. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts and management knew better than to ruin the ‘black magic’ that held good teams together. So as a team, we all moved onto Twelve Tales simply because of the great job we’d proven we could do on Killer Instinct.”
The Killer Instinct team worked tirelessly on Twelve Tales, before gradually becoming disillusioned with the project due to its similarity to other Rare titles. Needing a new ideas and direction, Chris Seavor was appointed the leader of the development team. It was his decision to retool the title into a more mature release that saved the project from obscurity. Around this time, the game was renamed to its official title, Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
He argues: “We were always going to be playing second fiddle to Banjo…it’s just the way it was. It made sense to pull it away from the safe bets, so that’s exactly what I did. Amazingly everyone agreed and off we went. If there were any reservations it wouldn’t have been from people with any clout…”
Upon its release, Conker’s Bad Fur Day was met by a significant amount of controversy due to its mature content. But, despite this and its disappointing sales, the game still managed to garner a loyal following, and high acclaim from critics. Amongst the aspects praised were its tremendous graphics, outrageous humour, and incredible character animation.
Since the game’s release, Chris Seavor has worked on a few other projects for Rare. These include appearances as characters in Grabbed By The Ghoulies, and Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, as well as work on a Conker remake for the original Xbox, Conker: Live and Reloaded. These would be the last few Rare games he would contribute to, before eventually leaving the company in January 2011.
A year later, in 2012, Seavor created his own videogame studio called Gory Detail. His intention with the studio was to create mobile games, before moving on to larger and more ambitious projects.
Regarding his newfound independence, he states: “I’ve never felt more liberated! Not to say there aren’t problems, in fact they’re a legion, but the freedom afforded can’t be expressed by mere words. As I’ve said before, there’s nothing more soul destroying than trying to sell an idea to people who just aren’t interested, and in more recent years not actually qualified to judge. That’s not a problem anymore.”
Gory Detail’s first release was the game “Parashoot Stan” on IOS and Android – a title where the player has to avoid obstacles and collect items in order to beat an antagonist named Baron Bully. The studio is currently working on its second release, a more ambitious game called The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup, to be published on the Wii U and 3DS sometime next year.
“The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup is actually our second game. So, Gory Detail was set up about a year after leaving Rare, with a view to do mobile games, which we did. However, our long term goal was always more ambitious, and Rusty is the next step (after Parashoot Stan) in that plan
“The inspiration for Rusty stems from my love of films like City of Lost Children, Labyrinth and more recently Hugo: all things clockwork, not to mention endless opportunity for game mechanics and luxurious visuals. There seems to be a trend these days for that ‘retro’ pixel art look, especially on mobile, but I’ve always preferred a more literal, detailed richness to the world created. It’s a lot more work, but I think it’s worth it.”
At the moment details on Rusty Pup are pretty scarce, with only a few tech demos having been shown to the public. But the game definitely looks set to become one of the more interesting titles to be released on the Wii U and 3DS eShop.
Referring to the game’s tone, Seavor explains: “[Rusty Pup] definitely has dark themes. However it also has very light hearted moments, if not exactly laugh out loud ones, I do hope a little wry smile is occasionally painted on player’s faces. Conker, however, it certainly is not.
“Nor, I hasten to add is it one of those ‘narrative only’ experiences where the story is the focus rather than gameplay. Everything is important, but blended in measure lest you become what I playfully like to refer to as ‘un-game’: neither a game, nor not a game. Gameplay, as ever, is King, and long life to that!”
In spite of this exciting new chapter in his career, however, Seavor hasn’t completely disassociated himself from his previous work. At E3 2014, he appeared once again as the voice of Conker in the promo for Project Spark – the new videogame creating software from Microsoft, which will feature Conker as a useable character.
The inclusion of the squirrel will allow players of the Microsoft title to create their own Conker sequel, with the finished version being playable to both friends and strangers alike via the game’s online functionality.
“About a week before E3, believe it or not, Ken Lobb gave me a call out of the blue and asked if I’d voice Conker for the promo. I think everyone else at Microsoft were probably too scared I’d give them a tirade of abuse.
“I was quite happy to do it, and that subsequently involved a little bit of abuse on twitter for selling out, as they put it which is rubbish, as I did it as a favor.”
Asked what he believes makes Conker suitable for the project, he jokingly replies: “I guess people can build what they want, which is handy as Microsoft will never get sued by irate parents who bought it for their kids by mistake. Microsoft can simply say…‘But Mrs. Brown, I think you need to look closer to home…that giant nob made from poo, the one squirting its milk on that kitten’s head, IS WHAT YOUR LITTLE BILLY MADE!’”
Beyond Project Spark, very little is known as to the future of Conker the squirrel. Even Chris Seavor is unsure as to the fate of the character he once helped catapult to fame.
“It’s really out of my hands. I honestly have no idea what they have planned for Conker, or any other classic Rare IP, but it seems increasingly likely that they do have some plans. There’s a definite change in the wind going on all things Rare. I can feel it in my old bones!”
Instead, Seavor is focused on developing new worlds and characters for players to enjoy, independent from larger studios. This will continue with The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup, due out in 2015.
Written By: Jack Yarwood