Yooka-Laylee was one of the most high profile and successful Kickstarter campaigns of 2016, but its path to Nintendo systems has been a little troubled. The planned Wii U version eventually bit the dust, with confirmation coming after it was already suspected, and the game had a mixed critical reception when it launched on other platforms earlier this year. Since then there have been some major updates and adjustments to improve the game, while the internally developed Switch port has taken a little longer than expected to arrive.
Well, the wait is almost over, with confirmation that the game will launch on Switch on 14th December, with the option to pre-load / pre-purchase on the eShop from 7th December; it's download only for now.
We've also had a chat with Playtonic Games' creative lead and managing director, Gavin Price. He gives us the full lowdown on unique features on the Switch, the resolution when playing docked and undocked, and the humbling experience of working with Nintendo to get this version out of the door.
What have you made of the critical response to Yooka-Laylee so far? Has it met your expectations?
We’ve received tons of amazing messages and great critical feedback, which has helped us improve the game further. It's difficult to please everybody all the time of course, but the comments we saw suggest that fans of golden age 3D platformers enjoyed Yooka-Laylee a lot. Of course, we take all constructive criticism on board, which is why we've spent the months since release adding significant updates to address as much feedback as possible and further improve things like performance and polish. The Switch version has all of this on day one and we hope fans will be pleased.
The Switch port has been subject to quite a lengthy dev period - what issues have you encountered during the transition?
It’s never easy developing for a new console, especially when you’re one of the first indie games of this scale on the platform. But thanks to support from Unity and Nintendo, plus Team 17, we think the hard work has paid off. The Playtonic team has personally handled development on Switch and spent months adding really significant optimisations and dozens of updates, so we think this version has turned out really great.
We definitely needed assistance from Unity to get the game performing up to our standards, but you can see from the final results they gave us the support we needed to make Yooka-Laylee on Switch our most optimised release yet. We realise it’s been a long wait but we hope our fans on Nintendo Switch will be pleased.
We spent a lot of time adding tons of optimisations to ensure that Switch players will enjoy a smooth experience. On top of that, there’s single-Joy-Con support across our eight multiplayer games, the ability to play on-the-go, plus a massive list of updates since launch such as a brand new camera mode, control improvements, menu options, music… there’s a lot!
What kind of resolution can we expect from the Switch port, in both docked and portable modes?
We’re running at 900p docked and 600p undocked, while the UI always renders at 1080p, which we’re really happy with and is competitive with other games. This is the balance we’re most happy with, one that still looks great and runs as smooth as possible. Our priority for Nintendo Switch was to deliver players a smooth, optimised experience and we hope they’ll be pleased with how the game looks and runs.
How close will the Switch port be to the Xbox One and PS4 versions, in visual terms? Have you had to make any big graphical sacrifices to get it running on the system?
We’ve actually made improvements and this is definitely the most optimised version of the game. Our priority with the Switch version was to deliver a smooth experience for players, so some compromises naturally had to be made, such as comprimises a small amount of resolution for better performance and optimisations. However, it’s nothing that we think players will notice, especially in handheld mode on that excellent screen. In fact, some elements such as shadows are actually improved since the original release! We’re really pleased with how this version is running.
Why digital only?
Our aim was to get the game into players’ hands as soon as possible and a digital launch allowed us to do that. We haven’t ruled out doing a physical release in future and would strive to make sure it would have added value which takes time to get right.
What do you make of the Switch as a machine, purely from a gamer's perspective?
It’s answered all of my lifestyle requirements to enjoy playing games. 12 o’clock and 5 o’clock are always Karting time in our office and to be honest, it’s totally dominated my playtime this year. Nintendo have had a phenomenal line-up of games.
What kind of relationship have you had with Nintendo so far?
Brilliant and very humbling. Nintendo have helped us both technically and with support for stuff like marketing and release plans. We were really chuffed to be honest to receive so much attention from them for our tiny indie company.
Could you see yourselves developing a game exclusively for Switch which makes use of its unique features?
That would be awesome, especially if it involved working closely with Nintendo itself.
What's next for Playtonic?
Free-to-play, Battle Royal meets Match-3 puzzling. Wait until you see how many customisable hats we’ve made for Trowzer…
We'd like to thank Gavin Price and Andy Robinson for their time. Let us know if you're planning to pick up Yooka-Laylee on Switch on 14th December.