with Chris Kimmel about Viva Pinata
Product Manager, Microsoft Game Studios -
Leipzig Games Convention 2006,
(Xbox Community Network), with which Xbox Gazette is affiliated, has been able
to ask some questions to Chris Kimmel, Product Manager at Microsoft Game Studios,
about the game Viva Pinata at the Leipzig Games Convention 2006.
: There was a little problem with Viva Pinata out on the showfloor at the
Leipzig GC 2006. What went wrong there?
Chris Kimmel : The set up
wasnt optimal so we had to quickly change things. The problem was that the
console on the showfloor were retail consoles rather than debug units, and retail
consoles block out any interaction between the user and the hard drive. We had
just added a new autosave feature and that was causing us issues, but we got it
cleared up and we had great feedback on Viva Pinata from the show attendees.
: Viva Pinata sounds like quite a complicated idea. Where do you start?
Chris Kimmel : Literally, in the dirt. You start with a tiny garden thats
really just a patch of dirt. It used to be this wonderful, famous place, but its
fallen into disrepair and all that remains is debris, weeds and you guessed
it - dirt. Its your job to return this garden to its former glory. You start
off with a small area that you can influence bounded by white lines, and as you
build your garden those lines push further and further out until youve got
a sprawling piñata paradise. But yeah, it can be quite intimidating to
be given this patch of dirt and told to make it great again, and thats why
we have a host of characters who are there to help you out.
: So what do these guys do for you?
Chris Kimmel : Theyre
there to offer advice, reward your efforts, and help you out with specific jobs
in the game. Leafos, for instance, is the first character you meet and the first
thing she does is give you a Pinata Encyclopaedia which collects information about
the Pinatas you own and also gives you hints about how to attract new Pinatas.
It also lists all the Pinatas you have in your garden and lists their value, so
as the game progresses this is a really valuable tool. As for other characters,
some build structures for you, heal sick Pinatas, and so on.
: Are you keen to keep the game as accessible as possible to appeal to a wider
Chris Kimmel : We have three main audiences for this game:
The kid gamer, the casual gamer and the female gamer. Having said that, our marketing
push is primarily to the kid gamer. Thats why voiceover is very important
for us because some of your younger target audience wont be able to read
very well and we want to make the game as simple and as accessible as possible
for them. Well be localising all the text and voiceover into more than ten
languages including European languages, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.
: Will experienced gamers not enjoy Viva Pinata then?
: This is very important. Youll hear a lot of talk about us marketing
the game at young players, casual players and female players. But this game is
actually aimed at everyone. Its extremely scaleable so that whether youve
never picked up a joypad or youre a hardcore gamer youll be able to
enjoy it. Its as complicated as you want it to be. Theres a lot of
people out there who are still kids at heart, who still remember playing Nintendo
games and Rare games when they were younger, and were excited about appealing
to these people.
XCN : Alright,
so whats the first thing we need to do in our garden?
: Well, the first tool you get in Viva Pinata is your shovel. The first shovel
you get is this old beat-up thing, but its still the most important tool
youll have throughout the game. And as you progress, your shovel will be
upgraded. So you get the shovel and start turning over the hard dirt to create
nice loose soil, dig out the weeds, and smash up any debris that might be lying
XCN : So were digging
the ground up
When do the Pinatas come in?
Chris Kimmel : Pinatas
need special conditions to enter your garden, and luckily the first Pinata youll
attract looks for big patches of nice new soil its the Whirlm! All
the Pinatas are named after types of candy, so youve got the Whirlm which
is a worm like a strawberry whirl, the Bunnycomb which is a rabbit like honeycomb,
a bee is a Buzzlegum, a horse is a Horsetachio and so on. There are four stages
to attracting a Pinata. The first is to attract them to the world. The second
is to get them to actually enter the borders of your garden by making the conditions
as good as possible for them. The third is to get them to become a resident, and
this is where things get really interesting. To begin with all wild Pinatas are
black and white, but when they become a resident they change into bright colours,
and once theyre a resident you can name them, select them and tell them
where to go. The final stage is to make the Pinatas fall in love so they reproduce.
XCN : You breed Pinatas?
Kimmel : Exactly. Only two wild Pinatas will enter your garden. If you want
more you need to make them do something we like to call Pinata Romancing.
For this to happen the Pinatas need a nice place to cosy up, so Leafos will give
you a Whirlm house to get started. Once youve found a spot for that the
builder will turn up and erect the house. Once youve got that you can introduce
your Pinatas to each other. All Pinatas are asexual so you dont have to
worry about matching up boys and girls. Next step is to make them fall in love,
and to do that youve got to complete a little mini-game. This is different
for every Pinata and theyll get harder as the game goes on. With the Whirlms
I just need to guide one to the other through a little love maze. Assuming that
goes well, then its time for the Romance Dance to start! Your Pinatas will
head inside the house and you get to go with them! Every species of Pinata has
a unique music and dance style, so the Whirlms are pretty funky, the bears are
into surf rhythms, and the dogs do a Scottish-style dance.
: Then we get a Pinata baby?
Chris Kimmel : Right. Pinatas arent
born live though, they appear in an egg delivered by Storkos. The egg takes a
while to hatch but in this time you can deliver it to your friend over Xbox Live
or wait and add the Pinata to your garden. If you let the Whirlm baby hatch then
suddenly the Sparrowmint is interested in becoming a resident
: Youve told us we can give our Pinatas names. How else can we customise
Chris Kimmel : You can also tag your Pinatas with information
like their name and where they came from. Once of the coolest things about the
game is that youll be able to trade your Pinatas with your friends and keep
track of where your Pinata ends up as it travels through the Viva Pinata universe,
passing from player to player. You can customise their look with a huge range
of accessories like backpacks and glasses!
: Can you alter the colours of the Pinatas?
Chris Kimmel : No.
Colours are very important for Pinatas as they mark out the progression between
certain levels of Pinata. For example, the pony has a very distinct colour scheme
from the horse, and we want to make sure those colour schemes stay the same.
: Alright, so weve got our first Whirlm baby. How do we attract more
Chris Kimmel : Once youve got a Whirlm baby the Sparrowmint
will turn up. You see, not all Pinatas are attracted just by your garden. Some
are attracted by other Pinatas and youll have to work out how to attract
them both to your garden so you can attract yet more Pinatas. For instance, the
snake will come to your garden if you have plenty of lush grass, but he wont
become a resident until he can eat a mouse. So you need to work out how to attract
a mouse Pinata, make him a resident, and keep him from getting too scared and
running away so that the snake can eat him! Its all about balancing the
ecosystem and keeping all your Pinatas as happy as they can be to progress.
: Is there an in-game currency?
Chris Kimmel : Yes. As you break
debris in the garden youll collect chocolate coins. Once the Village Store
opens up Ill be able to spend the coins on seeds, tools, and even hire workers
to help out in the garden. You can also make money by trading you Pinatas. Every
Pinata in your garden has a value assigned to it, so you can build up quite a
profitable business by breeding Pinatas and trading them.
: Does the trading system work on Xbox Live?
Chris Kimmel : You
can send you friends objects and Pinatas from your garden over Xbox Live. A big
crate shows up and you pack it with what you want to send and your friend receives
it in the crate. This is going to be really cool because it means if youre
stuck and cant attract a certain type of Pinata to your garden you can ask
your friend to send some over. You can also cause mischief by putting things in
the crates that your friend might not appreciate, like Sour Pinatas
: Sour Pinatas? Are they bad?
Chris Kimmel : Sour Pinatas are evil
Pinatas. Theyre bright red so you can tell them apart from the good Pinatas.
Theyre very destructive. Theyll break down fences and structures in
your garden, cause fights between your resident Pinatas, make your residents ill,
and generally make your life tough.
XCN : What other plans do you
have for Xbox Live play?
Chris Kimmel : Were only talking about
the trading system at the moment, but we do have big plans. Actually, one other
thing I can tell you about is the Xbox Live challenges that will pop up from time
to time. Youll see these at the bottom of the screen. For instance, it might
say Pinata Factory needs three Horsetachios for birthday parties, can you
supply them? If you say yes youll get a time limit to produce the
Pinatas required and youll be ranked on Xbox Live for your time and score.
If youre after competitive play thatll be great for you.
: Will we be able to visit our friends garden over Xbox Live?
Kimmel : Thats something were looking at.
: You usually see Pinatas getting hit with a baseball bat. Can you do this
in the game?
Chris Kimmel : We dont have a baseball bat but you
can bust open your Pinatas. However, this is a positive game and there are consequences
for breaking Pinatas.
XCN : Have
you kept the control system simple so as not to alienate younger or more casual
Chris Kimmel : Absolutely. Its very simple and based
on only a few key controls and button presses, and we always have instructions
on the screen. That said, if youre a more experienced gamer used to life
simulations and micro-management, then theres lots of depth for you. If
youre not used to that you can hire workers to help with all the little
things you need to keep an eye on in your garden so you can concentrate on having
XCN : How many different
varieties of plants and trees are there to put in your garden?
: Theres something in the region of 50 different plants and trees to
collect. You can buy them in the Village Store and they all have a use, although
some are good for your garden and some are not so good. Youll have to experiment
and find out what you need to keep an eye on. Also, the seeds you buy will cause
different Pinatas to be attracted to your garden. Carrots, for instance, attract
rabbits (Bunnycombs) and turnips will attract mice (Mousemallows). Its not
as simple as just planting a seed and forgetting about it either. If you want
the seed to grow youll have to water it!
: Do you have plans for Marketplace?
Chris Kimmel : We DEFINITELY
have big plans for Marketplace. I cant talk about what they are yet, but
theres going to be a lot of things available for download through Marketplace.
XCN : How does the TV show tie
into the game?
Chris Kimmel : In every episode of the TV show therell
be two storylines, and both will contain gameplay hints. For instance, one episode
might be about attracting a unicorn to a garden, and if you want to do that in
your game youll need to set up the same circumstances.
: How does the game end?
Chris Kimmel : Theres no end to
Viva Pinata. There are 60 different Pinatas to collect and thats going to
take a significant amount of playtime, especially when you start dealing with
Sour Pinatas and the inter-relationships between different species of Pinata.
For instance, ducks and geese dont like each other, so youll have
to keep them apart if you want a peaceful garden!
: Many thanks for your time Chris!
: official site
: french fan site
Pinata : official site
- Other Xbox
Gazette, September 21st 2006
Thanks to : Chris
Kimmel, Graeme Boyd, XCN