the secret life of a strategy guide writer / 07

Last time: I got rather fond of the vertical monitors the chaps at Maxis have repositioned on their desks just to read email. This time, I reminisce about a trip to Rare, the creators of some classic and brilliant gaming franchises, who live in the middle of bleedin’ nowhere.

Part 7: A Rare Treat

A train ride across the misty English countryside is the best way to visit one of the U.K.’s premiere game developers, as it allows you to gaze out of your train window at the ridge and furrow, the hedgerows, and the bizarre little hamlets straight out of An American Werewolf in London. Rare’s place is a little bit like a step back in time, at least on the outside (and before they converted their giant barn structures into a Doombase). Rare’s palace is deep in the rural hillside, in a place called Twycross; famous for a small zoo, a big developer, and very little else. As the taxi pulled in to the front gate of what can only be described as a medieval manor house, I noticed that Rare take their security seriously. Not only was there a warning sign with a picture of a guard and a dog on it, but there was actually a guard and a German Shepherd canine unit prowling the grounds for ne’er-do-wells.

I approached the front door of the establishment, and was greeted by Simon Farmer, one of Rare’s longest serving personnel. I know he’s long serving, as my trip was ten years ago, and he’s still at the place. Since then, I’ve written guides for Conker’s Bad Fur Day, the criminally under-appreciated Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Perfect Dark, and Viva Pinata. So I know my Rare games. But back then, when I was working for the part-sanitarium, part-fraternity known as GameFan magazine, I was here to see an N64 title called Blast Corps. Mr. Farmer told me to head inside, and I stooped as I entered the reception room. This was due to the fact that the building was so old, people were made smaller back then. Seriously. I was then lead to an adjacent conference room, adorned with full-sized standees of all Rare’s most famous characters. Then I was left alone, which was slightly unnerving. Partly because the security in the building rivaled the CTU building in 24, with swipe cards allowing access to rooms and there was no escape, but mainly because I was staring into Joanna Dark’s cold, dead, 16-bit eyes. It was a bit like a two-dimensional Madame Tussards.

Once the demonstration was over, a lovely dinner lady waddled in from nowhere, and asked if I fancied something to eat. I asked whether a bacon sandwich was out of the question. It was, but she had something better; a full English breakfast, including, bacon, eggs, fried bread, cholesterol, and a side helping of full-fat butter. It was, perhaps, the single best meal I’ve had at a software developer. I wheezed my way back to the train station, and never forgot my Rare treat.

Next time, I remember braving the hilariously inclement weather conditions on my visit to Bioware’s thunderdome, up in tundra-central.

Just finished: The Main Quest for Fallout 3.

Currently: Watching Top Gear, and waiting for Ron & Fez to come back from vacation.

About to: Begin a massive tour of the irradiated wastes, showcasing interesting landmarks, flora and fungi.




2 Responses to “the secret life of a strategy guide writer / 07”

  1. 1 webescape
    July 15, 2008 at 6:20 am

    Rare make awesome and innovative games, as a designer I’d love to work with them or just have a chance to meet their creative team and take a hands on look at what they do.

  2. 2 Marshall
    November 3, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    I heard you on R&F! Where can I find the blurb? Very cool of you.

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