Community Spotlight - DK Vine
We've got a double dose of DK Vine details in our next Community Spotlight.
It’s been a couple of weeks since we introduced lifetime Rare fan Amir, in our first ever community spotlight. It was great hearing more about just one of the many fans that make up our fantastic community so we thought, “Why stop there?”. Carrying on from our last spotlight, we thought we’d take the time to introduce everyone to the duo behind long-running fan site, DK Vine. Both Chad and Hyle, who have been running the site since the tail end of the 90’s have taken the time to answer some of our questions, so get comfy and enjoy the read!
We can only approve of the beard Chad is growing here.
Q: Tell us a little bit about what got you into gaming. A [Chad]: I've been curious about technology from a young age, but in the early nineties, my parents were initially sceptical that games were a worthwhile way for a kid to be spending his time. Eventually I used a school essay's open prompt to persuade my parents to let me spend my lawn-mowing money on a Game Boy. It wasn't long until I was saving up for a Super Nintendo, and the rest was history. Funnily enough, without realizing it, I was a Rare fan from the start; Among my first crop of Game Boy titles was Rare's own Sneaky Snakes, a 2D platformer version of Snake Rattle & Roll! Rattle and Roll may wear their isometric shenanigans well, but my snakes will always be Atilla and Genghis.
A [Hyle]: I'd have to say there are three definite stages to my evolution as a gamer. I was introduced to games through my parents' dusty old Atari 2600, but Super Mario Bros. was the first game that truly captured my imagination. However, I never felt said imagination was truly nurtured in the way I wanted it to be until 1994. That's when a little game called Donkey Kong Country was released and my life was completely upended. It was everything I always yearned for in a video game! For the first time, I truly believed in the in-game universe. It was atmospheric, moody, and hinted at a deeper lore that was just waiting to be told... and all of this with a game starring cartoon animals! I think the best thing was that it didn't take itself seriously. A video game that's self-deprecating is still the most refreshing thing in the world to me.
Donkey Kong Country began an obsession that carried forward with its console and handheld sequels, but Diddy Kong Racing really made me a devotee of Rare in general. From there, I followed Banjo and Conker into their own series, and even chased obscure side characters like Roysten the goldfish to their myriad of cameos. I've definitely hit the point where I consider myself a Rare fan first and a gamer second. Sure, I love games from other studios, but nothing can touch that intangibly magic Rare quality.
What is your favourite Rare game and why? A [Chad]: The knee-jerk answer is Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, which has generally been my favorite game of all time since it came out. It's simply a master class in game design. But usurping it on occasion, given my whims, is Banjo-Tooie. I know that B-K was a bit more focused, but I think Banjo-Tooie pushes 3D platforming in very interesting directions, effectively turning the entire game into one giant world with themed sections. Banjo-Tooie is essentially a "Metroidvania" game in platformer clothing, and it's a fascinating evolutionary branch for the genre that never really went any further. The Tooie team deserves massive credit for taking a risk and pushing their franchise into brilliantly complex uncharted territory, rather than just making a safe Kazooie-style sequel.
A [Hyle]: Choosing my favorite Rare game is like a parent being forced to choose their favorite child. I'd have to say it depends on my mood and where I am in life at the moment. I'll debate anyone over the indisputable fact that Donkey Kong Country 2 is the finest 2D platformer ever crafted. I also believe that Banjo-Tooie is an astonishing work of art that's the high-water mark for 3D platforming. While I'm up on the soapbox though, I'd like to advocate for Grabbed by the Ghoulies. Why Ghoulies doesn't get the adoration it deserves is one of the most baffling, dispiriting mysteries in my life as a gamer. It updated the classic 8-bit beat 'em up games for a new generation, but found a way to reinvent the traditionally repetitive gameplay into something wildly unique. Ghoulies is so much fun to play; it's filled with so much personality and charm that you could spend hours just exploring a single room and observing the fine details. It's the most quintessentially Rare game that ever was, and I hope one day it will be recognized as the stone cold modern classic it truly is.
Q: What games are you playing currently? Any favourites? A [Chad]: I do a regular series of Twitch streams, and just finished the final Rare DKC game, Donkey Kong Country 3. Up next is actually Banjo-Tooie, so I look forward to delving back into that world to see how my fond memories hold up! But in my off-the-books leisure time, I've recently fallen hopelessly in love with Minecraft. I know I'm late to the game, but the larger MC community still seems to be going strong! I've been hooked by the way Minecraft demands you to constantly create your own objectives and find creative ways to their end. But that's not the only way to play! it's also surprisingly therapeutic to cap a stressful day at work by digging in one direction for twenty minutes. Gaming!
A [Hyle]: Obviously I've been playing Rare Replay off and on since August. It's a gloriously giddy celebration of Rare's history and I couldn't be happier with it. However, I've also been playing #IDARB, a quirky little Xbox One game that's best described as "vertical association football". It's a wonderfully silly homage to classic games sports games during the 8-bit era (as well as featuring a splash of NBA Jam). Of course, the fact that there's an entire Rare Ltd. team of characters is what first sucked me in. Having Banjo take on former U.S. President Richard Nixon in athletic competition is not something I ever knew I wanted, but now it's something I couldn't possibly live without.
A look at the character selection menu in #IDARB, featuring some Rare fan favourites.
Q: If you had to pick a pirate name, what would it be and why? A [Chad]: It may be slightly anachronistic, but I'll go with "The Red Menace." Against my better judgement, I've recently been attempting to grow a beard. It's red because I wear my Irish heritage on my sleeve (and face). And it's a menace because certain patches just refuse to grow in, no matter how many disapproving looks in the mirror I give them.
A [Hyle]: Rough-Sailin' Slush. Slush was my online moniker back in the early days of the Internet (a shortened version of "Sir Slush", the cackling evil snowmen from Banjo-Kazooie), and I presume that I would be the guy on the pirate ship suffering from intense nausea whenever the waves would get choppy. I really hope Sea of Thieves comes bundled with motion sickness tablets.
Q: How are you involved with the Rare community? A [Chad]: With Hyle Russell, also being interviewed (hi, Hyle!), I'm one half of the two-headed monster that created DK Vine in 1999, basically a fan-site for the cartoon animal universe of games Rare established with Donkey Kong Country. Thanks to Diddy Kong Racing, we cover the Banjo and Conker series. And thanks to Banjo's nomadic pet goldfish Roysten, we cover almost everything else Rare has released since! You'll find me running our site's Twitter @DKVine, streaming Rare games every Sunday on Twitch, and you can hear me with Hyle on our weekly Kongversation podcast. I should also mention that many of DK Vine's features and community engagement projects are made possible thanks to the hard work of our fantastic additional volunteer staff, Matt Cornah, Cameron Reigle, and Nick Prol.
A [Hyle]: When I was a kid, I remember having an intense need to reach fellow Rare fans. I even created monthly "newsletters" to be distributed to no one in particular, but it helped temporarily scratch the itch I had to be an advocate for these games. In 1999, that desire finally became a reality when I founded DK Vine with my creative collaborator and friend Chad (hi Chad!). Whether it's communicating with Rare fans on a daily basis through our Forum or Facebook page or doing our weekly podcast, the Kongversation, I'm now living and breathing Rare most of my waking hours! We're even writing for the indie game Lobodestroyo, filling it with our brand of humor that was definitely shaped in our formative years by Rare (and the likes of Leigh Loveday in the olden days of Rare's web presence!)
However, what's been most rewarding is seeing the renewed enthusiasm for Rare slowly take hold outside of the traditional Rare fan community. It's one thing to help be torchbearers, but to see that flame now burning in others? It's extremely heartening to know that were I to be hit by a bus tomorrow, the Rare fan culture would continue without missing a beat. Note: I do not wish to be hit by a bus.
You can check out Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie AND Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts in Rare Replay.
Q: What sort of hobbies do you enjoy outside of gaming? A [Chad]:I'll admit that I'm a newbie to this sphere, not having equipment of any sort, but my wife and I are really into astronomy. We live in Brooklyn, and an unexpected perk has been the regular pub nights put on by astronomers from the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium. They give scientific lectures in a casual atmosphere, letting us engage with that community despite the city's standard-issue light pollution. I also have a cat. Does that count as a hobby?
A [Hyle]: I'm an avid hiker. If I don't get out in the wilderness at least once I week I go through symptoms of withdrawal. I think my healthy love of nature, and committed vegetarianism, is due to Rare. You can only put so many googly eyes on animals before it has an effect on the way someone perceives the natural world! It's even a tradition of mine to go hiking immediately before E3, with the added superstition that encountering a bear in the wild will be a good omen for Rare fans in the show to come. I've only ever actually been chased by a bear once, but that was merely because I clumsily stepped between it and its cub. Why didn't Rare prepare me for that scenario? That never happened in Donkey Kong Country 3!
Q: What do you hope to do the most in Sea of Thieves? A [Chad]: Despite not knowing too much about what form Sea of Thieves will actually take, I'm fairly sure exploration will factor heavily into the game's appeal. Watching last year's E3 trailer, my eyes were glued on the horizon, and the distant landmasses peeking out from the haze. I want to go there! And then I want to go to another! I would happily spend actual aggregate days sailing to distant digital climes, simply for exploration's sake. And getting to share that experience online, with friends, would be incredible.
A [Hyle]: A Rare game that focuses exclusively on pirates is something I've dreamed about since 1995. From DKC2 to Banjo-Tooie to Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Rare has consistently reinforced my love for piracy and all things nautical. So what do I want to do the most in Sea of Thieves? Simply living the pirate life with my friends. I've always daydreamed what it would be like to live life out at sea on a galleon or another type of old-timey sea vessel, so I think my biggest joy with Sea of Thieves will simply be existing and going about mundane day-to-day tasks. If Sea of Thieves was released as Pirate Chore Simulator, I don't think my enthusiasm for the game would take a hit one bit.
I'm also hoping to run into and meet familiar Rare pirates. Surely the legendary Captain Blackeye has to be hiding somewhere out at sea, right?
A community favourite - Conker made his debut in Diddy Kong Racing in 1997 before his leading role in Conker's Bad Fur Day in 2001.
Q: Share a fun fact about yourself. Anything is fair game! A [Chad]: It didn't really qualify as a regular hobby, but I love any opportunity for voice acting, and working on impressions of my favorite characters. They're nothing approaching The Good Mr. Seavor's originals of course, but I've got a fair few Conker characters in my repertoire! (Sorry, Louise; Berri evades me.)
A [Hyle]: I'm getting married to the love of my life, Michelle, this August. I've not only found someone who tolerates my Rare obsession, but she actually encourages it! It's nice to know I'll be able to co-host bizarre podcasts that attempt to reconcile the worlds of Conker's Pocket Tales and Conker's Bad Fur Day well into old age without being the crazy man that local children speak about in hushed whispers. Take it from me: You can get older, but you never have to truly grow up.
And that's a wrap....
We'd like to thank both Hyle and Chad for taking the time to answer our questions and even more so for supporting us for nearly two decades now! We hope you enjoyed this community spotlight and don't forget to stay on the lookout for more over the coming months.