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Rare’s Craig Duncan Talks Backward Compatibility and Cloud Gaming

Today, we shared the exciting news that 16 backward compatible titles will be coming to Xbox Cloud Gaming, including classics like Viva Pinata, Fable II, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and Banjo-Kazooie. That’s right: Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members can now tap into a collection of favorites from the past right on their mobile devices, effectively turning them into retro handheld game systems. With that in mind, we figured now would be a great time to talk to one of the developers responsible for creating a number of those classic titles to see what he thinks about bringing these games to a brand-new audience.

So, without further ado, please join us in welcoming Craig Duncan, Studio Head of Rare, as he chats with us about the history of video games, adding touch controls to some classic Rare games, and much more.

Xbox Wire: Did the process of bringing these games to Xbox Game Pass members via the cloud bring back any specific memories for you?

Craig Duncan: I have found memories of all Rare games, both as a player growing up and more recently when we put the Rare Replay collection together back in 2015. Viva Pinata is a game I personally remember putting hours and hours into, growing my garden and Pinatas. I jump back into that from time to time. It’s a super interesting game about nurturing, growing and discovery that was ahead of its time. It’s a lot of fun to jump back into.

Xbox Wire: How important is backward compatibility in terms of preserving video game history?

Craig Duncan: It’s essential. There are just a bunch of inherent complexities when generations and platforms change and being able to relive games you played previously and fondly remember is important. Those games contain memories and moments you can share with others and being able to do that quickly by just selecting the game in Xbox Game Pass is easy and just works with no fuss. The alternative is firing up an older console, finding all the cables, and preserving the discs so they still work (which some collectors do as a passionate hobby). Making the history of games available to everyone and making your game library a click away is awesome!

Xbox Wire: Have you seen many new fans embracing titles like Kameo and Banjo Kazooie in Xbox Game Pass?

Craig Duncan: Rare games have spanned so many generations that there are fans of Rare games of all ages. That is the real beauty of having a game library on every device, including your favorite games from years ago.

Xbox Wire: Do you see backward compatibility on phone and mobile as a way of bringing these titles to a new audience?

Craig Duncan: Being able to play your library of games on the device you want is a wonderful promise, be that on console, PC or on a mobile phone or tablet. I believe it offers real freedom of choice in terms of where you play, but as cloud gaming on mobile grows it’s exciting to think that that might be where someone discovered their first Rare game.

Xbox Wire: Will fans see any notable improvements over the original versions of these games?

Craig Duncan: The backward compatibility team are genuine wizards. Being able to makes games just run better, as the hardware they are on, both on this generation of consoles or in the cloud, is more powerful than the platforms the games were originally on. That means quicker loading times and faster framerates.

Xbox Wire: How did you decide which titles would get the touch control treatment?

Craig Duncan: We took the lead from the Cloud Gaming team, as they did the implementation and shared with us to play and test. It’s always tricky, as touch is different than a controller and certain games with fewer inputs do lend themselves better to a touch experience than others. Jetpac Refuelled is a good example of fewer inputs, but if touch is the way you as a player want to play any game, we want to make sure it works as well as it can. Of course, we also welcome feedback from our players.

Xbox Wire: What do you say to those very smart people that believe Viva Pinata an absolute masterpiece that everyone should play?

Craig Duncan: Lots of people love Viva Pinata so they must be smart people! When it came out there was nothing like it and it still looks and sounds amazing to play today. In the original concept, there was a lot of thinking about playing on the go and the type of game does lend itself to a mobile experience (and back in the day Rare made a version for the Nintendo DS called Pocket Paradise). Now, the thought of people being able to experience the full Xbox 360 version of the original Viva Pinata and the sequel Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise on their phone through the power of backward compatibility and Cloud Gaming is magic. I hope everyone tries it out.

Thanks again to Craig Duncan, Studio Head of Rare, for taking the time to chat with us.

For the full breakdown of what Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members can expect from backwards compatible titles on Xbox Cloud Gaming, be sure to check out our full announcement.