Developers Reveal How Yooka-Laylee Reinvents the 90s Platformer

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Developers Reveal How Yooka-Laylee Reinvents the 90s Platformer

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Several game development veterans walk into a bar. After a few drinks, they come up with the idea to create a game inspired by one of their previous successes. A kind witch hears their wish and grants them millions of dollars to create said game. The bewildered-but-grateful development team skip out into the night to dive into their newfound wealth, Scrooge McDuck-style.

Okay, so that’s not quite how Yooka-Laylee was conceived. While a trip to the pub may have been involved, it took years of hard work, the formation of a new company, some revised concepts, and eventually a hugely successful Kickstarter funded by 80,000 eager backers before their open-world 3D platformer became a reality.

Ironically, after all that, it only took 38 minutes for Yooka-Laylee to hit its crowdfunding target, flying past £1 million in under a day, and amassing a total of £2.1 million by the campaign’s crescendo.

“It’s still a shock,” says composer Grant Kirkhope. “None of us for a second thought that it would get that far. We never actually saw the funding counter at zero — we thought it was broken!”

Now 20 people strong, the modest Playtonic team are using this inspirational feat to drive them in making a game that feels like a spiritual successor to the bygone Banjo-Kazooie era. Which means big environments, wacky characters, a colorful art style… and collectibles. Wait! Come back!

“We want to capture the good things about collect-athons from the past and avoid the tedium,” explains writer Andy Robinson.

“Every collectible has meaningful impact on gameplay. For example, quills can be used to pay for special moves, butterflies refill the health and power meters, and Pagies unlock new areas and environments, which in turn open up fresh challenges and secrets.”

Playtonic is confident in its approach, showing an example where Nimbo the cloud (lamenting his ex-wife… don’t ask) can be filled up with water. This causes the lush world to be drenched with rain, filling up riverbeds and unlocking new areas. Shoot him up with ice blasts instead and the world becomes snow covered, opening up different challenges — so a once surefooted race mini-game seamlessly becomes a slippery ice skate.

Refreshing the genre also extends to the titular duo. Yooka the chameleon can use his powers to blend with environments and tongue-lash enemies, while Laylee the bat has the ability to fire sonar blasts and fly. Both can swallow fruit to imbue them with special powers, but it’s the mischievous character design which really brings them alive — leave the controller alone and Laylee will gnaw at Yooka’s shoulder, resulting in a comedic tussle between the two.

The game’s playful sense of humor really shines when talking with the Playtonic crew about the additional members of the eclectic cast.

“We wanted the characters to live on beyond just this game so that we can build our own universe,” says Andy. “So when we designed them, we thought about whether they could be in a different genre, or star in their own game.

“Big baddie Capital B was fun to write — we gave him a lot of business-style taunts, like ‘Just you wait until Q4 of the game! Did you know world-on-world, you’re down on your forecasts?’ My background is in the media, so I’ve spent so much time sat in conference calls, listening to all of this stuff!”

And then there’s Trowzer, the snake “salesman.” “Gavin [Price, Creative Lead] suggested a snake in shorts, and I thought that sounded ridiculous,” smiles Steve. “But after going away to think about it and coming up with a concept, it worked really well.”

“We thought that the humour behind Trowzer was really subtle…” says Andy.

“I thought it was terrible!” laughs Steve.

“I think Steve was one of the guys who didn’t get the joke the first time around, half the team didn’t until afterwards!” jabs Andy, prompting a howl of derision from Steve.

“We want to create a family game for everyone, but get in fun jokes for an older audience — like in The Simpsons or Pixar films.

All jokes aside, the team takes their responsibility to their fans — and backers — seriously.

“It would be easy for us to just go into autopilot when making the game, so we’re very conscious about that,” says Grant. “That said, there’s not much out there that looks like Yooka-Laylee right now, which is weird because back in the ’90s there were tons of 3D platformers.”

“And anyone can do nice graphics these days because the technology is there,” says Steve.

“You really need something to stand out,” adds Steve. “We’ve played many games recently where you feel exhausted when you finished them because it wasn’t as enjoyable an experience as you wanted. But every time you pick up the controller for Yooka Laylee we just want you to have a good time.”

And it’s that sentiment which is at the heart of Yooka-Laylee. Because no matter how the game was initially devised, the toothy grin of its titular heroes sums up Playtonic’s gratitude.

“It’s been amazing to have the support of Sony and be on magazine covers… the whole process has been pretty wild, especially for such a small team,” says Andy.

“And we’ll never forget the backers who essentially started Playtonic off,” says Steve. “We’ll be forever grateful to those people. It’s been wonderful.”

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  • day one for me, just rob my money, can’t wait to play it looks so much fun to play with my family

    • Isn’t robbing if it’s really really good!!! :D

      Just all around great experiences that wait for us that anticipate the game. Very excited also. Can’t wait. <3

  • I so can’t wait for this game. It will be amazing, I know it. I know this is a Playstation site, but I hope you can make a Nintendo NX version.

    Some questions:
    -Remote Play on Vita?
    -Any PS exclusives, themes, avatars, outfits,

    • Remote Play works for just about anything.

      I would hope they don’t make an NX version. I don’t think the NX is going to do well at all. My prediction is it’s going to hit 20 million years from now at a snail’s pace, and then Nintendo will announce that they’re going to handhelds only. Smartphones and the 4DS or what ever.

      The only way the NX is going to do well is if it comes out for $300, and they drop the Wii U to $200 or less. People aren’t going to spend $400+ dollars.

      The ONLY reason why the Wii did any good was a launch price of $250 and Wii Fit. Wii Sports resort 32 million, Wii Play 28 million, Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus doing 22 million on average each… But that is probably a 1 time ordeal. The NX is not going to do well, don’t expect a lot of 3rd party support. Unless Nintendo launches the NX at $250-300 range and maybe packs in the “NX Gym” with a bunch of accessories, the system is just not going to do much more than the Wii U sales wise.

  • Hadn’t heard of this but it looks great. Looks like you’ve mashed up all the best things from 90s platformers in the trailers I watched on youtube.I’ll probably buy it at launch.

  • So glad to have backed this! Looking forward to the Toybox :)

  • Very curious how this turns out. I want this game to be great but too much recent disappointment in both kickstarted games and retro style genres. I am rooting for this one hard, though!

  • Cant wait but please dont turn in to another flop like Mighty No.9. I will pre-order as soon as it goes live.

  • For me, the only horrible thing that I’ve seen from this game, is the horrific bat’s nose. if only they would redesigned it, but of course it’s too late.

  • The villain reminds me of Gru as far as looks are concerned. Not as tall slightly more round, jagged long nose, and horrible teeth, but still gives me a very Gru vibe from the looks.

  • I hopped on this Kickstarter nearly immediately. I never had an N64 growing up, but that console seemed to have all the platformers on it at the time. We eventually got Ratchet & Clank and Jak & Daxter, which are great for their own reasons, but those Nintendo games seemed to have all these different things spread about for you to collect, and that’s what my young brain really wanted at the time.

    I am super excited for this one, for sure.

    • We had Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Tomba, Castlevania, Klonoa, Gex, Rayman, Pac-man World, Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time, Tomb Raider, Strider….I’m sure I’m forgetting some but we definitely had a bunch. The N64 ones I think are better known because the N64 didn’t have even a third as many games in its library as the PS1.

  • reinvent…
    what a bad pr/marketing buzzword you’ve got there.

  • I’m really, really happy to see you guys succeed here! I still can’t believe gaming as a whole is so lacking in 3D platformers (or heck, kids’ games, really. It’s basically just Mario and Skylanders now), and it’s fantastic to see indie teams bringing them back when “AAA” publishers (phooey) are ignoring the entire genre (like they are arcadey futuristic racers and many others). But you guys are the biggest fish in the pond, and all eyes are on you, and yours is the only one with retail presence thanks to Team17 picking it up – you can’t believe how important Yooka Laylee is to the people making A Hat in Time, Skylar & Plux, Clive & Wrench, Happy Hell, Poi, Oliver & Spike: Dimension Jumpers, etc. Also, it’s rad that Grant Kirkhope is contributing music to some of those games too! We really need 3D Platformers to come back, big-time. And with Vicarious Visions’ Crash Bandicoot HD Remake Trilogy so far away, Yooka Laylee is without a doubt the highest profile game of this wave and I’m happy it is! I couldn’t think of anyone better to lead the charge than ex-Rare staffers :D

  • I ignored this game when I saw it here on the Blog before E3 but then I took a look at a gameplay from E3 (glad I did) and I couldn’t believe ma eyes,damn this game is incredible…I miss games like these,it makes me remember the good old times of PS1 and PS2 and thats why devs can count with ma support on this one.Can’t wait to play Yooka-Laylee.

    Great job devs and people please support this game.

  • >> “We’ve played many games recently where you feel exhausted when you finished them because it wasn’t as enjoyable an experience as you wanted.”

    So true. Really looking forward to play Yooka-Laylee, it looks fun and amazing!

    • I agree. A lot of games make me feel like that. It’s super ironic too because when I was younger I couldn’t beat a lot of games but I still enjoyed trying. Now I just beat them to get them off my backlog.

  • This sounds like a fun(ny) game, looking forward to seeing some trailers.

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