Sutherland worked as a programmer on the likes of Donkey Kong Country, Banjo-Kazooie and Kinect Sports during his time at Rare; he's also famous for providing the character voices to many of Rare's '90s hits. He left to co-found Playtonic Games in 2014, along with fellow Rare staffers Steve Hurst, Steve Mayles, Gavin Price, Jens Restemeier and Mark Stevenson.
I was interviewed there in 1989, and there seemed to be all these little pockets of cool game developers squirrelled away in the house and outbuildings.
For whatever strange reason, prior to joining, in my head I thought that game development would be a super scientific process of evaluating and discussing different techniques and ideas before implementing them, but it was quite unlike that! It was much more a case of “off you go, start making a game”, and you’d be nudged with appropriate feedback as you went along to keep the project improving.
So, for example, on my second day there I was handed a folder from Carole Stamper with some Spider-Man information and told “this is the game you’ll be working on”! Initially, you could wander around into most other areas of the buildings, but that changed a bit when we started Donkey Kong Country.
Rare was generally considered a secretive developer anyway, but then (perhaps for contractual reasons) DKC development was kept under wraps even from other parts of the studio, with all the team operating in one ‘barn’.
There were certainly no distractions. Unless you really like tractors - there was a tractor showroom up the road from Rare. We had a strict 30-minute lunchtime, so if you floored it in your car, you could get to the post office and back, but that was about it.
I had three offices during my time at Rare. The first was the music block. This was a 4-room barn shared with David Wise, Eveline Fischer and Robin Beanland. Robin's room also doubled as a makeshift recording booth. Then I was moved to what I reckon was the smallest room at Rare during my time working on Diddy Kong Racing. Originally known as the 'Dutch Barn', it has been converted into offices when Rare needed more space. Whilst on that project, the music block was broken up and each musician would work alongside the team rather than together. So after Diddy Kong Racing, I moved in with the Perfect Dark team. They had taken over the original music block and the adjacent rooms that housed the creche and the Blast Corps team. I think I was basically back in my original room. Robin's room had been converted to a full-time vocal/recording booth, so I had easy access to that.
My least favourite thing about the location was probably the parking situation. To work at Rare, you had to drive; there was no other option unless you lived close by and had a bicycle. As the company expanded, the car park stayed the same. You could end up rounding up six or maybe more people to move their cars to allow you to leave in the evening. The whole place resembled one of the sliding blocks puzzles where one space was empty, and you had to manoeuvre each car to allow the person to leave. If you were working late, you could be called to move your car several times whilst people went to the gym, or God forbid, actually went home on time.
My favourite memories have got to be the comradery. There was a strong team spirit and pride of the game you were working on, and for me, there was an especially strong bond with the audio team; we all made friends for life working there.
Seavor joined Rare in 1994, with Killer Instinct being his first game. He also worked on Donkey Kong 64 and was the driving force behind Conker's Bad Fur Day, one of Rare's most infamous (and beloved) titles. He left Rare in 2011 to establish Gory Detail with fellow Rare alumni, Shawn Pile.
One morning on the way into work in 1994, we were stuck in traffic, and I noticed a pair of legs sticking out of a bush in a layby just as the coppers arrived. It was quite a famous case in Nuneaton – a bank manager was murdered by her husband; it was on Crime Watch and everything. I think that was within my first few weeks; I was like, 'What the hell is this place?' Despite that, I have really fond memories of the Farm. It was like an extended family all mucking in together. That pretty much evaporated when we moved down to Manor Park.
Other key memories: Watching Hollis and Doaky dressed like Russian agents stalking around the graveyard opposite on a ciggy break. I'm amazed the cops weren't called on them!
The custom-built barbeque didn't leave any expansion for the bricks it was made from, so one day it exploded... This would definitely have killed people had it happened 10 minutes later!
Grant shouting 'BALDY!' at Norgate across the car park just as Chris Stamper walked across. The funny bit was Grant's attempts to point out it was directed at Noz, making things much, much worse...
Amazingly, there were no fights at the Christmas parties, despite how much all the teams loathed each other!
The Killer Instinct barn had a good vibe. You got your head down till 5pm, then it was more relaxed until midnight. We had take-out Chinese food most nights! To be honest, I did my best work during the evenings. Conker: Twelve Tales was made in that location for a while, then we moved to a recently-converted Dutch barn, next to the music block. That's where Twelve Tales set fire to itself, and Bad Fur Day rose from the ashes.