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Why bringing Donkey Kong 64 into the third dimension required a mental shift

Donkey Kong 64 is about to turn 20, and to celebrate that marvelous but inevitable milestone, GameSpot had a sit down chat with some of the creative leads behind the beloved platformer. 

Donkey Kong 64 is about to turn 20, and to celebrate that marvelous but inevitable milestone, GamesRadar had a sit down chat with some of the creative leads behind the beloved platformer.

While the full interview contains plenty of tidbits and tales from day days gone by, it's particularly interesting to hear how lead designer Mark Stevenson struggled to yank the franchise into the third dimension for the very first time. 

Describing the process, Stevenson, who was working for developer Rare at the time, explained how "going 3D was a whole different ball game" back in the '90s. 

"The technology, at that point, was in its infancy," he recalls. "From an art perspective, you couldn't achieve anything visually comparable to the Donkey Kong Country games. It was an incredible challenge to produce 3D graphics, and building 3D models was really hard work -- they only had a few hundred polygons but it was tough using the tools we had to manipulate them." 

Having largely worked on 2D titles until then, Stevenson was so used to designing characters from a fixed side-on view, that he struggled to break those habits when making the switch to 3D. It meant a lot of trial and error before he landed on the models players eventually saw in-game. 

"As an artist who was on the Donkey Kong Country games, I used to build and animate the characters from a fixed side-on view," continues Stevenson. "Being able to see this character from any angle, you'd make an animation, put it in the game, and you'd think it looked good side-on, but awful from every other angle. It was challenging from a technical and design perspective."

For more game development anecdotes from yesteryear, be sure to check out the full interview on GamesRadar. It's well worth a read.

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