PN Exclusive Interview: Ackk Studios Talks About YIIK Gameplay
Pure Nintendo has been keeping up with indie game developer Ackk Studios about their projects, Two Brothers and YIIK, that are both due to release on Wii U. In this exclusive interview Andrew Allanson of Ackk Studios talks a bit about how YIIK has evolved as they continue development on the game, how other games influence development, and a little tidbit about the release of Two Brothers for Wii U.
Pure Nintendo: Since we last spoke with Ackk Studios about Project Y2K, now called simply Y2K or YIIK, we pretty much only had an idea of the story or plot line for the game and that it would be an
RPG inspired by the Mother series.
Now that some time has passed, how has Y2K changed since its initial conceptualization?
Ackk Studios: Quite a bit has happened since we last got to talk about Y2K! The biggest changes are to the gameplay, and ending of the story. The gameplay previously was something like Majora’s Mask, with a cycling day system. We experiment with this for a while, and eventually decided to take a slightly more traditional approach.. although the game does have four seasons. Starts in the spring, and ends in the new year. We show the visual passage of time too, so winter feels like winter, and summer feels like summer.
We’ve also gotten a lot further into development, which has opened our eyes up to some new possibilities.
Usually when you start with a concept of the game, once you actually play it you see how it works better with a few things changed here or there, or all together.
Pure Nintendo: Like we mentioned, Ackk has stated that Y2K is influenced by the Mother series. Have other games or series inspired the Ackk Studios team since development of Y2K began?
Ackk Studios: Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about influence, and trying to capture something you saw in another game. I love Mother 1-3, so much… it keeps me up some days. And with all that time I spent thinking about Mother, I realized how I can’t make Mother 4. It was never my intention to make Y2K a mother game, obviously, but the more I told people it was inspired by that series, the more they started to expect it. I could do a cold approximation of what makes Mother-Mother, but it wouldn’t be authentic… so I’m doing my best to not think in those terms. Obviously the color pallet, the setting (90s), element of the music, are clearly inspired there, but the game is going to be it’s own thing.
Sadly, in games you have to compare your games to get people to pay attention to what you’re making. I had people ready to walk away without playing the demo, and then I dropped the words ‘Earthbound’ and they played through the entire 40 minute demo.
If I hadn’t they probably wouldn’t have given it the time of day. Which makes sense, that’s pretty human.
Funny how in games we refer to Genre by describing gameplay, and yet Genre in film/books/comics usually means setting, tropes, overall tone.
So I think in games we’ve developed a culture of using other games to define tone, and then the genre to explain the gameplay. If I say a Turn Based-RPG that mixes in elements of Metal Gear Solid, you could probably get some assumptions from that. It’s probably stealth based, and probably has to do with clones, or other Metal Gear like things. It’s just easy to do…
But it’s probably dangerous. So yes, lots of games inspired Y2K, and they will continue to…but Y2K is Y2K, and not one of those other games. Those are sacred. I can’t compare.
Pure Nintendo: There are some unique features that Ackk has revealed about the game in reference to the method by which the music tracks are played during battles. Can this be elaborated on and what other features does Ackk find particularly unique to Y2K?
Ackk Studios: Sure! So, I composed a battle theme (a melody), and I’m doing various arrangements of it, based on context. So, let’s say… 10 per dungeon, each matching the style of the dungeon. Whenever you encounter an enemy in the game you go into battle, music cues, but after
you’ve heard that track you’ll cycle through 10 more before you have to listen to a new one again. This happens for each dungeon.
Some features are still up in the there. We’re experimenting and seeing what feels fun! We’re doing a lot with testers this time around and getting feedback. One potential unique feature inside of battle is being able to control the speed of battle, using one of the analogue sticks. (Or analogue triggers on a non-nintendo console.) So big deal, lots of games let you make turn based combat get faster. Except using this feature too much can actually hinder you, so you need to master it if you’re going to rely on it.
One example is dodging. When an enemy attacks you, you are always given a chance to dodge. A meter appears, and you need to do the combo in time to get out of the way. (Using defense makes the meter go slower.) But if you have increased the speed of battle, this dodge meter will increase as well. So you must have good timing to reduce speed right before an enemy gets a blow in on you.
In addition to standard magic/skill/melee attacks, there are also traps in battle. One example of a trap is: Upon getting hit with fire magic, swap position of party member with a stuffed Panda. So using this strategy against a fire monster MUCH stronger than you might be necessary if you are under leveled.
In addition to standard items you can equip, you can also bring world items you find in the dungeon into battle. If you’re carrying a ladder, or a box, or a bomb for a puzzle, and get ambushed by a group of enemies, you can use this to fight them off.
Some enemies might even require you to find a bomb or a giant sword that is very powerful, to be able to take them down, as you couldn’t possibly be strong enough to fight them at this point in the game.
Another unique element is how are handling enemy encounters. The enemies can be seen on screen, and making contact with them triggers he battle. However, once you kill this enemy, they are gone forever. This makes leveling up become about hunting down as many enemies as possible, and trying to find every last one before leaving the room.
So what happens if you have killed all the enemies and you’re still not strong enough for the boss? Well, get on a pay phone (in the game.) and dial #333. This will take you inside the Mind Dungeon, which is a place that exists for grinding, as well as finding chests that contain new moves that are hidden, and can’t be acquired through leveling up naturally.
However, you can’t just jump into the mind dungeon. Defeating enemies, and talking to NPCs can unlock keys for the mind dungeon, which allow you to proceed. So if you want to max out your characters, you’ll really have to hunt down every key and NPC.
Pure Nintendo: Based on what Ackk has told us in the past, there is a fairly large plot in Y2K. Will the story be told primarily through gameplay or will there be the addition of cut-scenes?
Ackk Studios: So, back to influences… the story was inspired by the meta-physical and odd writings of Haruki Murakami. I wanted to make a game that felt like you were in one of his novels.
While playing the game Alex will narrate and you’ll get insight into what he’s thinking the dungeon. Characters will talk to each other while you’re solving puzzles, so the gameplay doesn’t stop so often.
In addition to that we do have cut-scenes that are lengthy and epic like you’d expect from any RPG… but we’re trying to find a blend between say… half Life 2 and Persona 4. There you see? Name dropping gets the point across.
Pure Nintendo: Has Ackk Studios nailed down much of the gameplay mechanics of the game? How does Ackk plan to differentiate gameplay, such as combat, from other RPGs? Will it be a turn based
system or do you plan on a real-time approach?
Ackk Studios: In a previous question I covered combat, so I’ll talk about exploration gameplay here. We have a design rule at the studio (for Y2K) that says if a room does not have a puzzle,a secret, or a point for being there, it’s not going into the game. So far the result has yielded some pretty fun action/platforming style dungeons. There isn’t jumping, but there is falling, crazy mazes filled with treadmills and saws, the use of wrecking balls, elaborate bomb puzzles, and a lot more adventure style fun.
The player has a series of items at their disposal that can help with exploration. One is the Panda Barrier which can be summoned to block against enemies, press down switches, clear gaps, and a variety of other things. Another is a cat named Dali, who can fetch items over large holes, as well as fit inside small holes to find secrets/switches.
Our main goal is to have the player always feel engaged and on the hunt for secrets.
Pure Nintendo: What kind of variety can players expect to experience when they play Y2K?
Ackk Studios: There is one portion of the plot that has the player making all sorts of choices. These choices drastically change the outcome of certain elements of the game. So you’ll be juggling that, combat, hunting enemies, clearing the mind dungeon, and doing crazy mind bending puzzles inside of dungeons. Outside of dungeons… well, actually… I won’t talk about that yet.
Pure Nintendo: We would like to congratulate Ackk Studios for obtaining a publisher for Y2K. That is exciting news and is typically a pretty big feat for an indie developer to achieve.
Ackk Studios: Thank you!
Pure Nintendo: How does having your game published by a third-party affect the game development process?
Ackk Studios: We’re very fortunate to have found amazing partners in Ysbryd Games who can support us creatively, financially, and emotionally as we make a rather large game. It’s very good to know you have a team of people supporting you whenever you have to decide on something that is a bit over your head. (especially with things like press and pr.)
Pure Nintendo: What has it changed for the development of Y2K?
Ackk Studios: In a way it’s really motivating. The requirement to produce weekly updates that other people will get really pushes you to make usable content every single day. So that’s pretty awesome.
Pure Nintendo: We assume that the recent hiring of voice actors for Y2K is a direct result of obtaining a publisher. How does or has voice acting changed for Y2K?
Ackk Studios: It’s something we REALLY wanted to do for a long time. Thankfully with the aid of the publisher we were able to organize it, fund it, and get some really really talented (and famous hehe) people to join us!
Pure Nintendo: Focusing more on the Wii U now, is Ackk using the GamePad in any unique ways for Y2K?
Ackk Studios: Yes. Most of which are in combat besides some better looking interface stuff. Going back to the thing I said about dodging. Almost all of the moves in combat have you doing something to pull them off. Either a button combo, some touch screen puzzle, using the microphone, etc. This works a LOT better with the Wii U. We’ve had to change things up for the PS4 version as it doesn’t have a second screen. But combat uses the gamepad for a variety of
Pure Nintendo: Is there anything outside of the GamePad, content or gameplay features for instance, that will be exclusive to the Wii U version of Y2K?
Ackk Studios: I’ll pass on this one for now.
Pure Nintendo: Ackk Studios’ first title, Two Brothers, is still a pending release for Wii U. Is there a better idea on when Nintendo fans can expect to see Two Brothers on Wii U?
Ackk Studios: Sooner than you might think. It’s really great to play it on the Wii u! It’s so smooth. I am really happy we made the choice to remake it in Unity. I am, as always, sad people had to wait so long… but as Miyamoto said… “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” And I don’t want to rush the console version… I want it to feel polished in ways we didn’t have time for on the PC.