Ackk Studios is just one of many indie developers who used EGX 2015 as a platform to showcase its upcoming wares. With YIIK: A Postmodern RPG set to arrive on Wii U, PlayStation 4, PS Vita, and Xbox One this winter, myself and fellow Nintendo News correspondent Kerry-Lee Copsey sat down with the game’s co-director Andrew Allanson at the event in Birmingham, UK over the weekend.
Whether you’ve been following YIIK since its announcement and want to learn more about its dark themes, or if you’re only just hearing about it and would like to learn more, we have you covered.
Kerry: For those who don’t know about the game, how would you describe YIIK?
YIIK is a turn-based Japanese-style RPG set in the 1990s. It’s like a cross between EarthBound and Persona and the battle mode is kind of like … we call it “WarioWare RPG,” so every move is like a mini-game. That’s basically how I’d describe it.
Martyn: You mentioned that the gameplay is based on Persona and other RPGs. What about the dark themes in the story? The demo we played saw children addressing money in society, for example.
One of my favorite things about EarthBound, which I always say is like our main influence, is the game could go from being really funny and happy to just being really screwed up. So, we kinda like to walk that line. We lean toward the more messed up parts, but I think it’s always good contrast if you have a game that has lots of joy and happiness, and then some parts that just make you feel a little uncomfortable.
K: What would you say sets it apart from everything else in the genre on the market right now?
Well, a few things! There’s not a lot of traditional Japanese RPGs coming out; Japan kind of abandoned them for a while. There are a few things that make it unique so I’ll do my best to explain them.
In most traditional RPGs there are random encounters, or encounters that keep respawning. In YIIK, when you defeat an enemy, that enemy is defeated forever. So, the way that an RPG is balanced is … let’s say that you’re at level ten and you have to fight a level twenty boss. You have to beat a bunch of guys to make your character as powerful as the boss. That’s easy when enemies keep regenerating, but in YIIK, defeating an enemy means they’re gone for good. You have to hunt down enemies in the game, so rather than treating enemies like an obstacle we treat it like a quest. There are not enough enemies in the world so you have to seek them out and go on quests to power up your characters.
“Rather than it being just a byproduct of fighting and grinding, it’s more gameplay orientated.”
Another thing is, in most RPGs — or rather every RPG — when you defeat an enemy you gain experience points and your characters level up. In YIIK we handle that differently. Gaining experience points gives you keys to something called the Mind Dungeon. The Mind Dungeon is a randomly generated dungeon. For example, when you go up a level you get five keys, each of which can be used to open a door. Each door leads to a procedurally generated room with its own story, content, puzzles, and battles. Basically, you conquer the Mind Dungeon the same way you level up your character. So going through an HP door will give you a task, and completing it will give you a stat increase to your health points. A good example would be fighting against a mini-boss: If you can defend against it ten times, you get to power-up your character’s defense. Or if you can dodge 50 times in a row, you get a bigger dodge meter. It’s very difficult, but if you do it, you get a big increase.
So we made leveling up more interactive. Rather than it being just a byproduct of fighting and grinding, it’s more gameplay orientated.
K: Grinding definitely gets tiring — we’re glad you’re doing something new!
Yeah, what we found was, for people who played EarthBound when they were kids … they may be thinking “I would love to play an EarthBound-style game, but I have a family. What can I do to play your game?” We made it so that if you’re busy and don’t have a lot of time, you can turn off the encounters with regular enemies so the only battles you’ll fight are the story battles.
M: Wow, has it been difficult to find a balance between the two styles of play?
Yes, it’s been a pain in the ass to balance that. We call it the “Tell Me a Story” mode. At the beginning of the game we ask “how much time do you have to invest?” This can take off around ten hours of the game by getting rid of the battle gameplay, but the story and puzzles are compelling enough and the boss battles are the big events in the game. It still holds up in terms of being a good game, I think, but you guys can tell me when it comes out and you play it. [Laughs]
[Laughs] M: Speaking of the game coming out, is it arriving this year on Wii U alongside PS4 and other platforms?
M: Definitely Wii U?
Yes. Well, we say “YIIK this winter.” For us it means December to February. So before spring it’ll be out on everything. The entire game already runs on Wii U! It’s beatable and it’s a real game, I promise!
K: Do you have any plans to use the GamePad in any way?
Yes, one example is the record. When you fight with Alex’s main attack (the spinning record), there’s a Wii U-specific move called Record Scratch where the GamePad becomes a virtual turntable.
K: I see where this is going!
You can do a bunch of DJ-style things that are exclusive to the Wii U version. The other moves have been tailored, so you execute them on the GamePad as well — albeit in a slightly different manner.
K: Could YIIK potentially receive a retail release?
Yes. It will more than likely be for the Vita and PS4 instead of Wii U because it’s easier [to develop].
M: Would you be interested in amiibo as well?
Of course. Of course we would.
K: I think everyone is. [laughs]
Yeah, we’re friends with the guys from Yacht Club so when they told us about their amiibo I was like, “you bastards!” [Laughs]
“If Nintendo’s new console supports Unity, we’ll bring YIIK to it.”
[Laughs] K: Any plans for NX in the future then?
Oh man, I know as much about NX as everyone else. If Nintendo’s new console supports Unity, we’ll bring YIIK to it. Unity is sort of like “program once, port everywhere,” so it’s a matter of, I’d say, around six weeks per console. It’s pretty short!
M: Speaking of development, how long is left on YIIK?
We’ll finish in November and then submit to Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft for certification. They make sure the game isn’t broken and they’ll get an ESRB rating. Once they approve it, we’ll start releasing the game. So whoever approves it first will get the game first!
M: Are you in a mad rush toward the end now, then, or are you well organized?
We are extremely organized. We are fortunate enough to have a publisher who has given us a lot of assistance with finishing the game, so the game’s actually been playable from start to finish for around five months now. It’s in a good place. We’re with private beta testers who are trying to break the game. Once that’s done, the game is supposed to ship, but it’s all a matter of certification.
M: Well, we look forward to it!
K: Yeah, the game looks awesome!
I’d like to thank Andrew for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. I also had the opportunity to go hands-on with YIIK at EGX, so keep your eyes on Nintendo News for my impressions in the near future.