At gamescom 2016, Mark Stevenson of Playtonic was kind enough to talk with us about Yooka-Laylee. The game will be coming early next year, and promises to be an homage to the days of the classic 3D platformer.
For our readers who aren’t familiar with the Playtonic and Yooka-Laylee Story, could you let us know how it came about?
There was a group of us that worked on games previously like Donkey Kong Country and the Banjo Kazooie games, we had an opportunity to come together and start a new company and make a game like we used to make. We decided to go down a crowdfunding route and did a Kickstarter which was an unbelievable success and blew our minds!
We hit our target in 40 minutes, hit a million pounds within 24 hours. The response was just utterly overwhelming. We had an idea that people were interested in a revival of this kind of game but no idea how interested people were, we ended up with something like 80,000 backers, which was incredible.
What was your aim going in? Did you have a number in mind beforehand?
We set the target [on Kickstarter], and that, for us was what we needed to go ahead, but the support and the funding has allowed us to go multi platform with it, expand the team, and get a bigger game, faster, across multiple platforms. It’s expanded the scope more than anything, beyond what we imagined when we first set out, we were gonna be happy with just making this game!
It’s safe to say a lot of what you do is purely because you enjoy doing this then?
Absolutely. I don’t think I’d be in the games industry if I didn’t enjoy it. It’s a privilege to be able to do something that you enjoy and get paid for it. And as well, just to have people love your work, it’s mind-blowing to be honest.
Yooka-Laylee is the spiritual successor to what you were doing in the earlier years, the N64 games like Banjo Kazooie. What made you pick those games in particular as your inspiration?
I guess because we’re all massive fans of that kind of game. We felt there was nothing really out there in this day and age that was like those N64 platformers. Those kind of open world experiences. Part of it was just the desire to bring that kind of game back; they were games we enjoyed making and games we enjoyed playing as well.
We’re seeing a resurgence as well around the genre lately. Even here at gamescom, we’ve seen more platformers than we’re used to seeing. Do you feel that’s something that you’ve had a hand in?
I don’t know to be honest. It’d be nice to have had an impact you know but I’m not really sure.
How did the creative process work in terms of selecting Yooka and Laylee as your main characters?
It was kind of organic. One of the things that we wanted to do with this project was we wanted the move sets to really reflect the characters, so that was part of the decision. Chameleons are interesting because of that ability to change, they camouflage themselves and so Yooka has the ability to do that and become invisible. There’s also the ability to eat stuff and change Yooka’s colour as well but it also changes his abilities. Then with Laylee there the sonar stuff from being a bat as well. Part of that process was definitely wanting the moves to reflect the characters , we knew we wanted a buddy duo as well, it’s nice to have that interaction. It’s amusing to see that interaction and how they pair up to create those moves, it just makes for a more interesting and entertaining experience.
You're getting closer to release now, Q1 next year, after a short delay, is it all hand on deck here or are you looking towards next projects?
We decided to spend a bit more time polishing the game up. we’ve had a lot of support from people and we want to make sure we live up to people's expectations and release the best possible game we can. It's all on this at the moment and it’s going really really well.
Is there anything brewing for what happens after this?
We’ve always got tonnes of ideas, but at the moment the focus is all on this project at the moment. It’s always exciting to move on to new things but the focus is on Yooka-Laylee right now.
Are you hoping for all platforms at the same time or is there gonna be a staggered release?
That’s the plan, that’s what the Kickstarter funding was for.
It’s very open world, not a traditional linear platform. What was the idea there?
We wanted to bring this genre back but also wanted to update it, and not just do a carbon copy of what was before. There’s things that have progressed a lot in game design and there’s been a lot more sandbox and open world experiences, a lot more player choice and we wanted to embrace the way things have moved on in the games industry as well as have the nostalgia.
So the new technology you’ve got now has given you more? Are we seeing things now that you wanted to do back in the day?
Certainly, the size of the worlds are bigger, and the lushness, what you can achieve, is much greater.
Is there anything you’ve come across that you wanted to do that you couldn’t through either budget or time constraints?
I don’t think so, I think we’ve gone pretty great guns. Every level’s got a mine cart sequence, every level’s got a boss, every one’s got a unique transformation, we’ve got five levels that can all expand and a world that connects them all together. We’ve pushed and pushed to get as much as we possibly can. There’s always stuff that we wanna do but you know you have to draw a line somewhere.
We'd like to thank Mark once again for his time. Yooka-Laylee is expected for a multi-platform release in Q1 of 2017. If you want to read more about the title in the meantime, why not check out our preview of the game?