Men at Work

It’s all been going on since we last communicated. With the Kickstarter nothing but a hazy, mental, RSI-inducing memory, we’ve got down to the business of actually making a game.

"Hmmm... I'm not sure if that *is* the right fart noise"
“Hmmm… I’m not sure if that *is* the right fart noise”

Last week the International Playtonic Design Summit saw employees travel from as far away as Essex to finalise the specific details of our game plan. There were debates, difficult sacrifices and a man may or may not have fallen asleep during a discussion about AI pathfinding.

And when it was finally all over we celebrated (how else?) with a curry and a visit to a pub with a stuffed bear in it.

Truth be told, this doesn’t mean an awful lot for you, our fans at this point. We want to make sure that the next time Yooka-Laylee shows its face in public, it’s at a level of polish that’s absolutely representative of what we’re trying to achieve with the final game. We want to make you proud, so bear (wahey!) with us while we get all our zeroes and ones in the right order.

In the meantime, we have a few updates for you…

 

Backer Update

Since the Yooka-Laylee Kickstarter campaign ended last month, we’ve had plenty of you get in touch to ask when you’ll be able to nail down your reward details and what to do if your payment failed. Well today – in tantalizing bullet point form – we have your answers:

  • Rewards: If you successfully backed on either Kickstarter or PayPal, in the coming days we’ll be sending you a invitation through BackerKit  that will allow you to confirm the details of your reward(s) and (if applicable) shipping address.
  • Failed Payments: If you originally backed on Kickstarter, but your payment failed to go through, we’ll also be sending information to you in the coming days that will allow you to still get the reward you originally pledged for; this is also happening through BackerKit.

What do you need to do?

  • Ensure your email address is valid with Kickstarter or PayPal to ensure you receive the update from us via BackerKit in the coming days.
  • Did a friend back for you either on Kickstarter or PayPal? How nice of them! But make sure they are aware to look out for an email from BackerKit in future (e.g. so it doesn’t get mistaken for junk mail). If you wish, your friend will be able (via BackerKit) to amend their email address to yours to pass control of the reward to you.

We’ll be sending out the BackerKit messages within the next few days – we’ll let you know via another Kickstarter Campaign update when this has happened, init.

 

Q&A: Kev Bayliss

The Bayliss love affair grows strong in Playtonic Towers. It started with a wink and a sly stretch goal, before developing into a blossoming romance full of ‘naughty’ visits and ‘cheeky’ pencil sketches – and now we can’t move for his strange apparatus scattered across the office. It’s like Fifty Shades of Grey except in a more tanned, bronze colour.

Yes, we’re very lucky to have the art machine behind the likes of Killer Instinct, Battletoads and Diddy Kong Racing on our arm – and not only because he’s useful for opening tight jars and fighting off intruders. In between lunchtime dumbbell curls, we managed to get a few questions answered by the man himself…

 


 

Right. Could you give us a brief summary of your gaming CV?

I began working for Rare in 1987. Back then, there were just a few people making up the company. To begin with I was assigned to working on licensed games for the NES such as Wheel of Fortune, Hollywood Squares and California Games.

Testosterone in black and white.
Testosterone in black and white.

After a while I began working on other titles like WrestleMania, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Beetlejuice and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. These titles were a lot more involving and I had more freedom which allowed me to be more creative.

The whole thing was a learning process, and after a few years I had worked on many NES, Gameboy and SNES titles, alongside Tim Stamper. Together we created many different concepts and ideas for new games and characters. Battletoads was probably one of my favourites, as I was let loose on the artwork and developed a whole cast of crazy characters.

As the company grew, I  became ‘Head of Graphics’ and eventually ‘Graphics Director’ where my role then included interviewing and training other artists and animators, although I always tried to keep myself involved in development as I’m not really the kind of person that enjoys working in management. It was good fun and rewarding to see new artists arrive at Rare and create fantastic looking games though.

One of the most significant times for me was when I was given the chance to re-design and build Shigeru Miyamoto’s ‘Donkey Kong’ character for DKC. It was when the company were just moving into using 3D software to create models to generate sprites, so it was very exciting.

What was it like redesigning DK? Did Miyamoto-san shout at you?

When working on his re-design I was just given a brief to make him look a little more modern than how he looked when he appeared in his own ‘Donkey Kong’ Arcade game. Nintendo were happy with the direction I took him in, and although he’s been tweaked a little over the years since, he’s pretty much the same now as he was when I modified him.

Somewhere to the right: Grant Kirkhope.
Somewhere to the right: Grant Kirkhope.

I didn’t actually meet Miyamoto until years later, when I spent a week in Japan working with him and Takaya Imamura on Starfox Adventures. We didn’t talk about Donkey Kong as we were busy working on the new project, but he was very friendly and seemed a very happy guy, so I assume (hope anyway!) that I didn’t ruin his original idea for him!

Today it makes me smile to see so many products with DK on the front, and that he’s pretty much still the same as he looked when I gave him a once-over. So that’s good enough for me – I must have done something right!

The bloke on the left? Definitely Kev.
The bloke on the left? Definitely Kev.

Surprisingly, you’re perhaps even better known for a certain beat-em-up…

Yes, following DKC I worked on Killer Instinct, where I developed characters and animated them both with hand animation and motion capture. I love fighting games probably more than any other genre, and was such a big Street Fighter fan, and as a young guy I was really into Martial Arts.

KI was fantastic because it was the first time we had a chance to use Motion Capture software for our games. It was a very early system and we beta tested the software, using it with a custom made suit that we developed to wear when performing moves.

As I was a bit of a Bruce Lee and Karate fan at the time, and did some Martial arts, it was my opportunity to see how it worked. I knew exactly what moves the characters needed, and so I did most of them myself. It was an amazing piece of technology at the time, and I felt like a pioneer using it for Killer Instinct. I was really proud to have the chance to do it that way. And very lucky too!

“I knew exactly what moves the characters needed, and so I motion captured most of them myself”

Beyond DKC and KI, one of the most fun games I worked on was Diddy Kong Racing, as it was such a change from working on the KI series and I was such a fan of Mario Kart. Doing another racing game in the future would be great fun. Especially if it involves fun characters that give it a storyline. Playtonic will have some fantastic characters that would be superb for a racer!

I think the last few games I worked on while at Rare were Starfox Adventures and Perfect Dark Zero. The list of games I worked on is fairly large, but the ones mentioned are probably the ones I enjoyed working on the most.

How did a superstar like you end up in Playtonic’s toilet-sized office, rather than a private beach on Bayliss Island?

I had been working on various small projects alongside music for the last 10 years taking a break from video games graphics. But recently I started working on concept art for some video games again, and coincidentally I was approached by Gavin when he was looking at setting up Playtonic. After taking a look at what they wanted to do, and especially after seeing that the group were such a talented bunch that I had worked with long ago, I was very pleased to get the chance to work with them again, and very flattered that I’d been asked to join.

Missing: Have you seen these mascots?
Missing: Have you seen these mascots?
Definitely nicked those trousers out of our bins.
Definitely nicked those trousers from our bins.

How does working in a small team again, with some of your former colleagues, compare to the old days?

I love it right now. It’s like I’ve closed my eyes, and opened them up to find out I’m ten years into the future. Games have progressed, hardware is so powerful, and the stuff you can do with graphics takes us so much closer to the standard of blockbuster movies from Disney and Pixar. We’re now able to create what we dreamed of way back when I was at Rare, and it’s great to be re-connected to old friends.

“We’re now able to create what we dreamed of way back when I was at Rare”

The Kickstarter stretch goals included character designs by yourself. What kind of crazy creations can we expect?

Same old, same old! I’m working with Steve and Gav in particular at the moment on a few ‘NPC’ characters, some of which you may see more than others… ! So it’s all great fun.

There is a mixture of wacky and serious, darker style characters. This is a great time to be involved as these characters are being created ‘now’ and I am looking forward to seeing them in the future, making cameo appearances in other games, and expanding the Playtonic Universe!

Your experience on the painfully-colourful Diddy Kong Racing must provide useful inspiration for this type of game?

Yep, this is a fun game to work on. I think I mentioned DKR being a favourite title earlier. But in particular, I think the sense of humour and gags that the guys at Playtonic all come up with, are going to help establish who these characters really are!

What do you think of the Yooka and Laylee characters? Bit rubbish?

I LOVE them. I was blown away by what the guys had done so far before I joined the team, both Mark and Steve are creating a great style that looks unique, and the wonderful looking environments created by Mr. Hurst, and now Dean, are making the whole thing look like something you just want to jump right in to.

Finally, have you persuaded the bosses to greenlight a fighting game yet?

Watch this space!!