If the core appeal of your game is 3D platforming, there are key ingredients that simply must be included - slick controls, a smooth camera and solid mechanics are naturally part of the recipe. Immediately charming characters are also a must, though - unlike some genres where generic or non-existent protagonists are needed, a 3D platformer simple must hits its mark in character design.
Fortunately for Playtonic Games' Yooka-Laylee it has Rare veteran and Banjo-Kazooie designer Steve Mayles on board. With a combination of Mayles' design and some impressive early animation this title has already succeeded in grabbing the attention of thousands of gamers, as its hugely successful Kickstarter campaign attests.
In an interview posted on the game's official website, Mayles answers some typically quirky questions on how the design came together, and the secrets behind his success in creating walking animals for platformers.
Being given free reign and trust to create (with only gentle prodding from Gav!) is a great thing. I steered away from brown fur and pink skin though – I've had enough of that. There's no fur here.
My initial idea was a tiger as they are great-looking animals, but he never got past the sketch phase. He was deemed a bit too much of a 'hero' with wide shoulders, tiny waist. My past characters were rather reluctant heroes, underdogs if you like, and we've looked to capture something similar with Yooka and Laylee.
Something we thought about for a good while was how Laylee would be attached to Yooka. The desire to add a backpack was great I must admit; what a fine solution that was! But backpacks are so 1998. In the end Yooka's head crest was adapted slightly for carrying Laylee.
In terms of personalities, the classic template of big and small characters is being followed.
Not unlike a certain bear and bird, Yooka is the more sensible of the duo, Laylee being rather highly strung and crazy. Bigger character = sensible, smaller character = a bit mad. A time-honoured tradition – it's a winner. I don't think the bat will be quite as insulting as the bird though!It's really important to create a dynamic yes. Laylee provides the comic relief, while Yooka is more of an all-round good guy who hopefully the player will be able to relate with.
There'll be various abilities and moves for Yooka, in particular, on account of the fact he's a chameleon. Camo changes will be part of that, which is part of the reasoning for his aversion to clothing.
Well, I tried gloves, shoes, a hoody, trousers, knee pads and even leg warmers(!) But he just looked wrong. Or maybe it was my bad art skills? Anyway, au-naturale was the way to go. Especially since he's going to need to use those special camo powers.
We're certainly fans of the designs, and they work rather nicely in the early build produced in just three months. Don't forget you can read our first impressions of Yooka-Laylee, and in the meantime let us know what you think of these character designs - are they destined to go down as classics to rival those of the Nintendo 64 era?