Why I have deep concerns about Yooka-Laylee

6 mins read

Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the weekend (or using your weekend to do something offline, in which case I tip my hat to you), then chances are that you’ve heard about Yooka-Laylee. The newest darling of the Kickstarter phenomenon, Yooka-Layleee is a game that is being developed by ex-Rare employees (including David Wise, who is contributing the soundtrack), and it bills itself as the spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64; it’s a 3D platformer with an emphasis on collecting a billion different things in each level (that may or may not be an exaggeration).

It sounds good, right? You wouldn’t be the only one to think so. The game hit its initial Kickstarter goal of £175,000 in minutes (literally), and hasn’t stopped raking in the money since. It hit all of its initial stretch goals within the first day, leaving the developers to scramble to come up with new stretch goals to keep the momentum going, and at time of writing currently sits at £1,276,058. By the time I finish writing this it’ll be higher than that.
In clear terms the game is an unmitigated success on Kickstarter, making it one of the most anticipated games to ever come from the platform. But I have deep concerns about the game, and as it currently stands I can’t see it delivering on everything it promises.

The biggest issue for me is in the stretch goals, which makes me question just how carefully the developer has budgeted this game. Take, for example, the translation stretch goal. At £715,000, the developers promised full translations in French, German, Italian and Spanish. This sounds reasonable enough, until you consider that that stretch goal is only £50,000 beyond the previous one, and what had been promised in the previous stretch goals included new levels, bosses, and multiplayer; all significant investments in time and energy from any development team. But the idea that you can fully localise a game into four different languages for £50,000 is… brave, to say the least. Translation work typically requires additional design work (as text lengths change, so too does the design of the environment need to change to fit them in). While these are all Latin-based languages and won’t therefore need extreme redesigns to squash them in, the developer in the stretch goal also promises “extra languages to be voted on by backers.” If the backers happen to vote for Japanese or Arabic (both entirely possible, given the size of their respective populations that play games), then that £50,000 can be expected to blow out completely, because those languages do require complete redesigns of any screen where there will be text.

Another example that concerns me greatly with just how well this project has been budgeted is the promise at £1,000,000 that there would be a simultaneous release across Wii U, PlayStation 4, PC, Linux, and Xbox One. Without, apparently, affecting the date of the release in general. This is utter nonsense. It takes significant time, energy, and capital to prepare a cross-platform release, and a couple hundred thousand dollars (this stretch goal was only £125,000 ahead of the previous one) is simply not going to let you take a PC release, and bring it to all platforms, including ones as different as the Wii U, while still hitting the same development and budget deadlines.

Equally telling, the game is currently in the works by a team of seven developers. While they promise to scale the company up to 15 to produce this game, that’s still an incredibly small team for such an ambitious project. That’s not to suggest it’s impossible, because we’ve seen with games like Contrast and Papo & Yo that compelling 3D platforming experiences can be created with small teams, but people are buying in to this game because they have fond memories of Banjo-Kazooie, which was for all intent a blockbuster game of its era. A simple indie platformer homage to that game won’t meet the expectations of many who are backing this game, and I suspect that a team of 15 will struggle to deliver on the quality that they’re promising… especially with the incredibly generous stretch goals that they’ve offering.

I don’t want to discourage people from supporting the game if it’s of interest, because it is indeed an interesting project, at it would be great to see it deliver the collect-a-thon platformer experience that so many people are missing. My personal hope is that this game, as with some other crowdfunding darlings such as Project Cars, finds itself a proper publisher, and that publisher provides the resources the team actually needs to realise the vision of Yooka-Laylee.

And hey, this Kickstarter has been such a success surely the publishers would look at it and think to themselves “there is clearly demand for this game.” Hopefully the team at Playtonic are able to execute on their vision.

If you would like to back this Kickstarter, click here.

– Matt S. 
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld

This is the bio under which all legacy DigitallyDownloaded.net articles are published (as in the 12,000-odd, before we moved to the new Website and platform). This is not a member of the DDNet Team. Please see the article's text for byline attribution.

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