Gavin Price Talks Yooka-Laylee
An exclusive interview with the studio director of Playtonic Games
We’ve previously identified Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair as a dark horse of this year’s E3. While the first Yooka-Laylee game was met with mixed critical reception, Impossible Lair seems to be an entirely different story, garnering a fair amount of excitement and praise for the game’s intricately designed environments, impressive soundtrack, and tight platforming mechanics. Recently, we were privileged with the opportunity to sit down with Gavin Price, studio director of Playtonic Games and creative lead on the Yooka-Laylee series, to talk about the upcoming title, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair.
While their last game was a 3D platformer in the style of the team’s previous work on Nintendo 64-era classics such as Banjo-Kazooie, Impossible Lair’s two-dimensional direction is simultaneously more traditional and less familiar. Despite the games’ contrasting styles, apparently this shift was a more natural progression than might be assumed. When asked what prompted the move to the 2D platformer genre, Price answered:
“It was pretty difficult, in terms of what we’re going to do with game number two. We want to have it where no one knows what’s going to come out of our studio next. We’ve always said from day one, we don’t want to be a single-genre studio. We want to do a few different things. There was a point during [the original] Yooka-Laylee’s development where we tried prototyping some 2D levels to appear in the first game. We didn’t have the bandwidth to do it proper justice at the time … but we found that it worked quite a lot better than we expected, even with our rough designer-mad approach and ad-hoc way of doing it.
“It was a shame we couldn’t get those levels into the first game, but the outcome of it is that it sparked a lot of interest among us. We kept discussing it along the side of delivering the first game. It was clear that it was something we thought we could deliver to a great standard. And, the longer we thought on it, it was clear that we wanted to do something the second time around that didn’t have a foot in the past, like Yooka-Laylee does as a spiritual successor to Banjo. We never started this game out [thinking] ‘Oh, what would a spiritual successor to Donkey Kong Country be like?’ because we have a lot of Donkey Kong Country ex-devs.”
Though the team is trying to stand on their own feet with Impossible Lair, comparisons to Donkey Kong Country, as an example of what the team had previously worked on in the 2D platforming space during their time at Rare, are understood.
“It’s inevitable. I think if we ever did a karting game, people might say ‘Oh, they’ve got some people from Diddy Kong Racing,’ or fighting or first-person, they might say ‘Killer Instinct’ or ‘Perfect Dark.’ It’s kind of unavoidable. You can’t turn your back on that fact; you can’t turn back time and say that we didn’t work on that stuff. But what we wanted to do was focus much more in the areas that would help this game stand on its own and do stuff that’s never been seen before… things that are vastly different with an overworld and a game structure where you can take on the last level at any time. Lots of the decisions we were making led to new opportunities that normally don’t happen in this genre, so we’re really happy with where we’ve ended up.”
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair releases for all major platforms in Q4 2019.
In the full conversation, we go into much deeper detail about how the the game had a name change less than a week before it was announced, the possibility of the studio moving on to games in other genres starring other characters, how targeting a Switch release concurrent with other platforms was accomplished, and we finally unearth the last secrets regarding Stop ’n’ Swop. The interview, in addition to our regular segments, can be found in this week’s episode of the Super Jump Podcast.
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Episode 323: With Playtonic Games
Wyatt and Mitchell talk about some of the latest releases and final tip our toes into some Gamer Girl Bath Water, but…
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