Published On: Sun, May 17th, 2020

Feature: Perfect Dark Turns 20

Perfect DarkPerfect Dark© Nintendo Life

How do we follow GoldenEye 007?

In a summer of 2000 – that’s 20 years ago this month – Rare presented a answer: Perfect Dark, a sci-fi view shooter centred around an visitor conspiracy. It delivered a cool, efficient heroine, a single-player debate ripping with desirous ideas, and a many extensive multiplayer knowledge on a Nintendo 64. To this day, it stands as Rare’s highest-rated diversion on Metacritic, achieving an normal measure of 97. So how did a group not usually follow, yet transcend GoldenEye 007? For Martin Hollis, a game’s executive for a initial half of development, a essential preference was stepping divided from Britain’s many famous illusory tip agent.

“The initial doubt was, ‘Did we wish to do another Bond game?’ and Nintendo indeed offering that choice yet that was unequivocally simply dispatched,” Hollis tells us. “I privately wasn’t meddlesome in doing another diversion in that universe, we’d spent adequate time – 3 years, radically – in a Bond star for my taste.”

The initial doubt was, ‘Did we wish to do another Bond game?’ we privately wasn’t meddlesome in doing another diversion in that universe, we’d spent adequate time – 3 years, radically – in a Bond star for my taste

David Doak (yes, a scientist we all shot in Facility) adds: “We were flattering many Bonded-out. There’s usually so many Soviet-era things we can endure. And during a time we were competing with things like Turok, and they all had grant blanche to do whatever they wanted with baddies and weapons and so on. If we done another Bond game, it’d be like a second manuscript and people wouldn’t consider we’ve unequivocally innovated.”

The group didn’t wish to desert all it had achieved with GoldenEye 007, of course. For many of them, a James Bond shooter was a initial diversion they had ever made. They had grown a code new engine, so it done clarity to build on that and emanate a new pretension in a same vein, with identical gameplay and a same “weapon centricity,” as Hollis put it.

From a unequivocally beginning, Perfect Dark was designed as a devout inheritor to GoldenEye, with a aim to have a diversion finished within usually one year. In theory, a categorical bid would go into building new levels that ran on a prior game’s tech. But a team’s aspiration stretched via a march of a project, and many of GoldenEye’s systems were softened and overhauled.

“Perfect Dark was like a semi-sequel to GoldenEye, and it’s always formidable creation a sequel,” recalls Mark Edmonds, who led growth by a end. “Can we make it improved than a initial one? That should be easy, yet generally, it isn’t. So everybody was in a mindset of ‘What can we do to make this improved than GoldenEye?’ There were a lot of ideas for new facilities and everybody had thoughts about what could have left into that diversion yet didn’t.”


The group had been reading a lot of scholarship novella during a time, and posters from films such as Nikita graced a walls of their office. This desirous both a preference to make a sci-fi shooter, and one with a womanlike protagonist. The group were penetrating to gaunt into a swindling theories that surrounded aliens, sketch impulse from things like The X-Files, as good as other pillars of a genre such as Blade Runner.

But a diversion was to sojourn rather grounded. This was in partial due to a near-future sourroundings (the events of Perfect Dark are ostensible to take place in 2023, usually around a dilemma for us), yet also stemmed from a GoldenEye tech using in a background. The James Bond diversion was built to be picturesque and this could still be felt in Perfect Dark. That’s partly given a infancy of guns still use bullets rather than lasers or other fantastical sci-fi tropes – with sincerely apparent exceptions, such as a X-ray prophesy FarSight.

David Doak with Martin HollisDavid Doak with Martin Hollis© David Doak
David Doak with Martin Hollis

GoldenEye also partly gathering a preference to make Perfect Dark a view shooter. While a group was finished with Bond and his universe, a gameplay possibilities afforded by being a tip representative were too tantalizing to ignore. “By a time we got to a finish of GoldenEye, we’d built adult a underline set of non-combat gameplay, like a unctuous and secrecy stuff,” says Doak. “And we realised there was a lot of intensity there, yet there wasn’t time to go behind and do some-more of it in GoldenEye. At a start of GoldenEye, unctuous wasn’t unequivocally one of a core gameplay mechanics – detached from a fact we competence set off alarms. It usually became a gameplay automechanic as we started to strength out a turn and found that it worked.”

There was also a lot of indebtedness for 1998’s Metal Gear Solid, that clearly indicated there was an ardour for a some-more growth shooter. Duncan Botwood, who helped figure a multiplayer for both GoldenEye and Perfect Dark, reveals a group wanted to do some-more with gadgets, a enterprise that would eventually lead to a Data Uplink, and a CamSpy and a variants.

Of course, a difficulty afterwards was if it wasn’t bloody ideal by a time we finished it, we’d unequivocally set ourselves adult for a fall

“With GoldenEye, we used a gadgets in a unequivocally regular approach given we were building something unequivocally quickly,” he says. “It was unequivocally ‘throw something onto a intent and that’s it, pattern completed’. We wanted to try what other things we could do that wasn’t gun-related and could assistance us do other things. We were perplexing to enlarge out a player’s repertoire, let them demonstrate themselves in ways that weren’t usually shooting.

“There are games that could do this yet don’t mostly do so, and we consider they’re reduction given of it – nonetheless we still suffer them. Shooting itself is good when we get it right, and so many games get it right. But if it’s all we do, longevity becomes an issue, and we don’t consider it’s unequivocally useful to a actor to usually ever do that. As a player, I’d rather be doing other things.”

The strange operative pretension was Covert Ops, yet this grown over time into Alien Intelligence and eventually Perfect Dark. Brett Jones, who built and charcterised a infancy of a impression models and led motion-capture efforts, says this was reached by a rarely systematic process: a group wrote down a lot of detailed words, a lot of nouns, and stranded them on a behind of a doorway in opposite combinations. They attempted hundreds until they found one that felt right. “Of course, a difficulty afterwards was if it wasn’t bloody ideal by a time we finished it, we’d unequivocally set ourselves adult for a fall,” laughs Jones.

Introducing Joanna Dark

With Bond out of a picture, a group set about formulating a new view icon. Determined to have a womanlike lead (but also unwavering that a certain Ms Croft was still a standout instance of a video diversion heroine), Doak says there was a genuine expostulate to pattern someone that “wasn’t a ‘tits and arse’ character.”

It’s been pronounced in a past that Joanna Dark was modelled on chronological figure Joan of Arc, yet Doak confesses that’s not wholly true. “I consider that’s a thing that usually sounds good. we can’t remember either Joanna Dark or Perfect Dark came first. we consider Joanna came first, yet as we recall, a Joan of Arc thing was a kind of retro-fit. Joanna Dark sounded like a good name, and then, ‘Ooh, it sounds a bit like Joan of Arc. That’s utterly good.’ As against to it wise a other approach around.”

Defining Joanna Dark was Jones’ initial assign on a project. In an bid to get divided from womanlike heroines with sex interest executive to their design, he directed for something some-more utilitarian. “We’d all been enjoying Ghost In The Shell and a Sylvester Stallone Judge Dredd film – a lot of change from those,” he says. “We were heavily shabby by early anime stuff. Even Joanna’s dress is roughly directly ripped from Ghost In The Shell. Also, a leather outfit was desirous by Mrs Peel from The Avengers, and a dragon dress indeed used a dragon pattern from Killer Instinct.

Laurie Sage behaving suit constraint for Joanna DarkLaurie Sage behaving suit constraint for Joanna Dark© Brett Jones
Laurie Sage behaving suit constraint for Joanna Dark

“For Joanna, we also got a womanlike suit constraint artist called Laurie Sage. She came in for one day and we did a infancy of her things then. She was a correct distance for Joanna Dark, utterly brief and petite, so we indeed had a lady doing womanlike suit capture, as against to Duncan Botwood prancing around [in high heels].” However, Joanna Dark was not modelled on Sage yet on a distant some-more famous face.

“She was totally formed on Winona Ryder,” Jones admits. “I was collecting images of faces, had a large collection of anxiety images and we usually picked her. She had this good pixie haircut and over a demeanour of what we wanted Joanna to demeanour like.”

The game’s lead was not a usually impression modelled on a celebrity. Her trainer Daniel Carrington was formed on James Robinson Justice, famous for cinema trimming from The Guns of Navarone to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. NSA executive and delegate knave Trent Easton was modelled on Titanic actor Billy Zane, while a puzzling Mr Blonde was formed on Götz Otto, who played Tomorrow Never Dies companion Mr Stamper. Finally, a boss of a USA was modelled on Babylon 5 star Richard Biggs, who happens to be Jones’ friend.

There were some-more common origins for other characters. The womanlike bodyguards of categorical knave Cassandra De Vries were formed on a promotional girls used in a game’s E3 announcement. Jones designed an suitable dress for a uncover and after practical it to a game. Even a girls’ faces were used for a bodyguards. Jonathan, another Carrington Institute agent, was also sourced from E3: he was a male who gave Jones several Star Wars T-shirts as partial of a team’s inner foe to see who could get a many sell from a show.

Designs on a future

The lengths Jones went to in conceptualizing strange characters is demonstrative of one of a biggest hurdles a Perfect Dark group faced: formulating a new universe. Unshackled from a looseness restrictions of a Bond looseness and bolstered by a trust warranted from Rare’s management, a organisation had finish artistic freedom.

“It was outrageous and intimidating,” says Hollis. “Creating a new star takes a lot of work. There’s a lot of element and fact to fill in. Authors contend this – we finish adult formulating a lot of credentials element for your characters and it doesn’t indeed make it into a final cut. There was so many we done adult that isn’t unequivocally manifest in a game. We didn’t wish prolonged and elaborate cutscenes given it’s unequivocally about a action.”

There was so many we done adult that isn’t unequivocally manifest in a game. We didn’t wish prolonged and elaborate cutscenes given it’s unequivocally about a action

Jonathan was a primary example; he was creatively Jonathan Dark, Joanna’s brother. Similarly, Velvet Dark – a second player’s impression in co-op, radically Joanna with a blonde wig – was also ostensible to be grown serve as a impression but, as with Jonathan, this was left on a slicing room floor.

Even a aliens weren’t as entirely fleshed-out in a diversion as they were behind a scenes. Botwood had given a immorality Skedar a deeper backstory to make them sympathetic, explaining that their world was collapsing – hence a busted coming in a final mission. Meanwhile, visitor fan Elvis creatively had even some-more quirks. “Elvis went by so many iterations given creatively he was many some-more of an Elvis fan,” Jones explains. “I had him in blue suede shoes, and he was an anglophile so we have drawings of him in Union Jack waistcoats. But we were removing into all sorts of copyright issues, so we had to tinge it down a bit.”

Some group members recognize that, in hindsight, maybe they had too much freedom. The diversion stretched distant over a strange scope, that done it harder to restrict into an N64 cartridge (more on that later). Chris Tilston, who became lead engineer by a end, records that distinct games today, Perfect Dark “didn’t have a writer revelation people when to stop.”

“Rare government was flattering hands-off, as they could see a swell a group was creation and Tim [Stamper, Rare’s co-founder] was super supportive,” he says. “I’m certain behind a scenes he was doing all he could to defense a group from any outmost pressures. Mark Edmonds was substantially a gateway to stop too many chaos. He’d say, ‘Maybe we should finish this bit first’, yet even he assimilated in by a finish when he designed and automatic all of a multiplayer hurdles after we had a six-month extension. It was a rarely collaborative, ego-free sourroundings and when someone came adult with a good thought it was flattering straightforwardly incorporated, that was what done a growth sourroundings unique.”

Botwood agrees: “It was a sincerely organic routine from there, and it was sincerely approved as well. There wasn’t one chairman saying, ‘I’m a artistic director, we’re going to do this and that.’ The group structure was partially prosaic – Martin was really in charge, yet everybody else was unequivocally learned and had their possess ideas. Both a GoldenEye and a early Perfect Dark teams are dual of a many collaborative we have ever worked with.”

Rare was an peculiar place to work in some ways, they always seemed to be somewhat uncanny about credits

Edmonds explains that this is partial of a reason there were no pursuit titles in a finish credits (or, indeed, in this unequivocally feature). Since everybody chipped in with mixed aspects of a game, regardless of their specialisation, it was astray to tag them by such singular means. There was also another factor, an ongoing gift of a studio.

“Rare was an peculiar place to work in some ways, they always seemed to be somewhat uncanny about credits,” Edmonds says. “Maybe given they were disturbed if people had their names in credits underneath certain titles, unexpected recruitment agents would try to hit that chairman and take them for another company. we don’t know if that was a genuine reason. But many of a games didn’t have credits that specified what people did. we know that was a problem on GoldenEye. You can roughly work out from a names what people did, though.”

Jones, for example, was credited as ‘Bodybuilder’ given he literally built all a characters and creatures, and rubbed their animation. Chris Darling, who designed many of a guns, was listed as ‘Weapons Specialist.’

This did lead to problems for one member of a team. Beau Ner Chesluk, who indeed automatic a credits, had to yield central marker to Nintendo to determine his name was legitimate – his pursuit pretension of ‘Guns and Visual Orgasms’ total with his initial dual names sounding like ‘boner’ worried suspicions behind in Japan. More interestingly, Chesluk reveals that a initial collection of names in a credits always seem in a pointless order. This was a group consensus; given everybody played an equal partial in conceptualizing a game, pointless would be some-more satisfactory than alphabetical.

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