29 de marzo de 2016

Interview with Ackk Studios - Developers of YIIK: A PostModern RPG

Ackk Studios is a small indie studio founded by the Allanson brothers, RPG fans themselves. They already got a good start in Two Brothers (PC, 2013), which is right now being converted into Chromophore. Their newest project is YIIK: A post Modern RPG, the pre-alfa of which we had a chance to try out last year, and it's one of the indie RPGs we're keeping an eye on for 2016.

Here at Destino RPG we had the chance to ask YIIK's dev team for an interview, now that they're nearing release for their project, with inspiration from high-profile classic titles (as you'll see below), but being fresh in most of it's concepts and execution.

We hope that this'll bring the game into your scope, if it wasn't already.

First of all, for those who do not know anything about your game: what is YIIK?

YIIK is a Japanese Style RPG inspired by Earthbound, Wild Arms, and Persona with turn based Wario Ware inspired combat! So, each character has a different set of mini games to execute their attacks.

How did the main idea to create YIIK come up? Why did you choose this particular setting? Why did you decide to make it an RPG?

We first had the idea to make YIIK when we were playing Super Smash Bros Melee in the Onett stage. We'd pause the game and rotate the camera around just to try and get a look at the stage. Dreaming about what it would be like to have a fully 3D earthbound game, we started thinking about Earthbound 64, and how sad it was that the game never came out in a 3D state. So, we started talking about making a game inspired by Earthbound 64, and it just spiraled from there.

We picked the 90's setting because we were intrigued by the idea of the internet back then. In the 90s, everything on the internet seemed real. We weren't as jaded. So, the game revolves around internet conspiracies, and the super natural. That story couldn't be told in a 2016 setting, because everyone calls things out for being fake within 5 minutes of them being posted. So, the backdrop is how naive we used to be.

We made it an RPG because that's our favorite genre, and really just what we enjoy making.

The influence of Earthbound in YIIK is clear. Among other things, Earthbound was surprising because of its modern-day setting, while most of the RPGs at the time were based on medieval worlds. Since the success of the Persona series, this kind of daily stories are becoming more and more popular nowadays. Did Persona also influenced YIIK? If so, which elements of this saga inspired YIIK?

Persona influenced us, although mostly in terms of how they craft their cutscenes and gameplay. Persona is a very Japanese setting, and our characters are american young adults. (the youngest in 18, the oldest is 30) So, in Persona things like high school and other anime tropes are important to the story telling, and our game is sort of the opposite. It takes place after the protagonist finishes school, and chronicles that aspect of life.

Very recently, Undertale (which is also inspired on Earthbound) has been a critical acclaimed and a commercially successful game. Do you think that the popularity of Undertale can benefit or impair the reception of YIIK somehow?

Undertale is something special, I can only hope some people will enjoy it as much as they enjoyed Undertale. It's a very different type of game though. Undertale is very optimistic, our game is a bit more cynical. Maybe a bit more adult. Perhaps we'll receive an M rating from the ESRB. It's really not for everyone.

One of the key aspects of Undertale was the deconstruction of certain dogmas very tied to classic JRPGs. Does YIIK also intend to introduce innovative elements in the JRPG genre?

Yes. We break genre, and defy trope expectations. That's something Earthbound did, Yume Nikki, OFF, and all the other great games inspired by earthbound. Link's Awakening did it too! Links Awakening always seemed to have a lot in common with Earthbound.

Traditionally, JRPGs show a strong barrier between battles and narrative. How does YIIK integrate game mechanics and story-telling? For instance, is the origin of the enemies explained? Are their present or important outside the battles? Do they have a distinct personality or are they just padding enemies like in most of the JRPGs?

The reason for enemies is indeed part of the story, even if it may appear to not be at first. The answer to this question: it depends. Some areas the enemies are 100% story characters and each one has important dialogue. Then on the overworld you'll fight a slime, or an alien in a flying saucer who don't really have story arches.

Regarding YIIK´s plot, we know that humor will be an important element. However, will it also include a dark, creepy counterpart?

Humor is important because a large portion of the game is kinda scary. Some of the beta testers have asked us to tone it down a bit at times, because they didn't expect it to be so creepy based on the initial screenshots. (we're not.)

The story revolves around a missing woman, and usually when you go missing it's for some pretty tragic reasons. YIIK goes some dark places... but has enough humor and quirkiness that the darkness doesn't weigh you down. Or, at least I hope it does!

Let´s talk now about game developing. RPGs are generally considered to be deeper than other genres. Do you think that this element makes it a less accessible genre for an indie developer?

It's incredibly challenging, but very much worth it. I love RPGs, and they are part of me. Everything I am today is because of the games I grew up playing. So, even if they are more challenging I can't see every thing I make not being an RPG in some way.

The reason they are inaccessible for an indie is because they require so many different areas, different enemies, and unique animations for each party member. I don't recommend it. But, if you're crazy enough to want to try, DO IT.

Do you think that JRPGs players are too used to a fixed set of rules? Is it more risky to innovate in this genre, considering player’s reactions based on expectations?

I think the trickiest part is when your game is compared to what inspires it. Earthbound is very very important to a lot of people, and I want people to know that despite being inspired by Earthbound, I'm going out of my way to make it something entirely different. of course you'll get Earthbound vibes at times, but this is it's own thing. I love Earthbound too much to copy it directly. So, I intentionally play against expectation.

Would you like to share with us any particular interesting story about the game’s development?

We work in a warehouse. We rent a room from a shipping company, and it's mostly fine. However, when we first moved in everyone who work for them was VERY nosey. We couldn't go ten minutes without them knocking on the door to ask us questions about what we do! To this day they're still confused. Some of them think we make music, since our sound team works out of the same space, and others think we make mobile phone games. *sigh*

Earthbound and Undertale were made on 2D graphics style. Being pixel art so trendy nowadays, why did you decide to make YIIK with 3D graphics? When did the graphic design come up during the development? Did you consider from the beginning using 3D graphics for the game?

YIIK was always going to be 3D. I prefer making 3D games, it comes naturally to me. 2D I struggle with. Just not how my brain works. I like dramatic camera work too much!

Designed by @BrigidAllanson

The latest release date you announced for YIIK is around May, 2016. Can you confirm that it will be available on USA and Europe in this period?

We're currently preparing for certification, so I can say it will be out between May and end of June.

You have announced that there will be a physical edition for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. Will this edition be also available in Europe? Is it possible to pre-order it? How limited will it be?

I don't think I can talk about exact numbers, but they won't be very high. We're a small studio, and it's more important that we move every copy to justify the cost. We'll announce via Twitter when the pre-orders become available!

Thanks again to Ackk Studios for giving us their time, it's been really interesting. The game has an amazing vibe, and it definitely got our attention.

4 comentarios:

  1. ¿Alguien ha hackeado Destino RPG o algo y ahora se va a volver un blog en inglés? No he entendido ni papa :B

    1. Tanto al principio de la entrada como justo debajo o con el enlace lateral, puedes ir a la versión en español. ^^u

  2. Muchas gracias por la entrevista.

    Me pasa que en los ultimos años los unicos juegos que me interezan pertenecen a estudios medianos y pequeños. Quienes hacen cosas nuevas o crean juegos con fuertes raices en los clasicos.

  3. Estupenda entrevista, cid. Andaré con un ojo en el proyecto porque no le tenía mucha idea hasta ahora.