Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ghost's Angry Reviews - Yooka-Laylee: The Profitability of Good Gaming

Well Well, what have we here?

Ghost here, thanks for joining.

Here lately my blog has been a little more on point with current gaming talk more-so than it ever has been in the past.  My general M.O. is beating a long-dead horse by talking about games no one cares about or everyone has already said everything about making my opinion generally pointless.  Yet here lately I've been talking about Mario Kart and Smash Bros only a few days or week after an announcement involving those games.  Somehow today falls in line with current events as well since this whole thing started just a few days ago... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

On Friday, May 1st, I was looking through Facebook just wasting time and talking to some friends when I noticed something a bit different on the trending list to the right-hand side.  It read "Yooka-Laylee : Former 'Banjo-Kazooie' Developers reach kickstarter goal for new video game."

oh well that's ni...wait WHAT?

Being the sucker I am for video games I, of course, clicked immediately to look at not only the article but the attached video from the developers themselves.  What I found looked pretty great.  For those of you who don't know what this is or didn't see it, let me tell you what this is and why it's kind of a big deal.

If you talk to any child of the 90's who had any interest in gaming you are bound to hear one company in particular, Rare Ltd.  There's just something special about Rare and how they made games that it's hard to pinpoint one reason alone.  There is a sort of genuine nature to Rare games that make them believable and wonderful.  From a development side, Rare games are taken seriously by putting lots of personality and flavor into each character, world, or item while from a gameplay, story, and aesthetic point they are taken lightheartedly and fun.

Rare has produced some of the greatest games for Nintendo consoles that are beloved by many people.  They made some of the classic game-changing and challenging games that people still talk about today; games such as Donkey Kong Country, GoldenEye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64, Perfect Dark, and my personal favorite of their arsenal, Conker's Bad Fur Day.  Each and every one of these have that undeniable Rare feel that you just can't compare with.   Even games I didn't realize at the time were created by Rare felt like Rare games and thus weren't really a surprise when I eventually found out... such as Battletoads, Star Fox Adventures, and Jet Force Gemini.
You know.. that one!  No?  ...ok

Despite the fact that Rare made a lot of games that I am quite frankly terrible at and don't really play I absolutely cannot say that they made bad games as I recognize each of these games are considered masterpieces of classic gaming by the people who actually like platformers and first person shooters.  Now why do I say classic gaming if Rare still exists?  Well... in 2002, Microsoft bought out Rare Ltd. which was a stupefying move by the video game company who had done so much work for Nintendo.  I'm certain they had excellent reasons and probably one of those was their $375 million price tag.  Can't say I blame them when that amount of cash is dangling in front of you.  The public remained hopeful but knew deep down that it was the nail in the coffin for Rare...and it kind of was.

In their tenure with Microsoft, Rare produced a fun new series called Viva Pinata, which has now practically died off, they produced a new Banjo-Kazooie game that tanked hard, and they produced Perfect Dark Zero and Killer Instinct which I've legitimately never heard a single thing about. Of course the crowning jewel and the series that has dominated three of the four titles they have made int he last six years is... KINECT SPORTS!!  Anyone who knows anything about the X-box knows what a disaster the kinect has been for several people.  Rare no longer makes such wonderful games that made them a powerhouse of the SNES and N64 era so effectively the true essence of Rare is dead from several people's standpoints.

Or is it?

Now that we have arrived in 2015, we have discovered something fantastic.  Many of the head people behind the old Rare games have been jumping ship from the Microsoft owned company and took a stroll over to England to create a brand new company, Playtonic Games.

When I say head people behind the old Rare games, I'm talking about some of the heavyweights of great gaming here!  The development team currently consists of 7 members, 6 of them are Rare alumni who's collective work at Rare clocks in at over 100 years total between 6 guys!  They've got Chris Sutherland who voiced Banjo-Kazooie and was responsible for the mechanics of many of Rare's best games, Gavin Price who did design work for Banjo-Kazooie and Viva Pinata, Steve Mayles who created Banjo-Kazooie and the modern Donkey Kong family characters, Jens Restemeier who is responsible for a lot of the techno-babble and porting of the classic Rare games, Steven Hurst who did the backgrounds for Donkey Kong Country and many designs for Banjo-Kazooie and Viva Pinata, and Mark Stevenson, lead designer of Donkey Kong Country and contributor to Donkey Kong 64.  They also have added Andy Robinson as a writer and editor who may not have worked on these classic rare titles, but certainly played them like the rest of us.  You can check out their mini profile and collective body of works on the Playtonic Games Team Page here.

Together these seven guys have decided to re-kindle the old days by creating a new 3D platforming game Yooka-Laylee.  It's the spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie in many many ways.  There will be different worlds to explore, there will be items to collect, the art style is incredibly similar, and there is a duo of heroes who work together to solve puzzles and navigate worlds while one is land-based and the other flying.  It's the Banjo-Threeie that gamers desperately wanted but got Nuts-N-Bolts instead.  I can only imagine the discussion after the critical backlash for Nuts-N-Bolts probably went a little something like this

Why is this a big deal?
Now you may be asking yourself exactly why this is a big deal.   "People announce games all the time and they end up not meeting expectation" you may be wanting to mention.  Well yes this is true.  There is always a risk in hyping up something that won't deliver on the goods; this is true with any in-progress work but I feel that this is completely different.

Not only do these men have a legacy behind them of excellent games that people adore, but they have started their own company to create games like this the way they want to create them.  One other reason that I believe the hype for this is legitimate would be the fact that they waited till they had been working for two months on the actual game before they announced it on a wide-scale.  They have invited people to actually come and physically play what they have created so far rather than starting this off with some concept art or a pre-rendered trailer like so many other projects and games do.  People have ACTUALLY played what they have created so far.
This is actual gameplay footage from Eurogamer's Youtube Video!

With this legacy collection of excellent games and professionalism combined with actual work that people can see and have physically played there is no doubt in my mind that Yooka-Laylee will be everything it possibly can be to bring back that old spirit of the classic Rare games so many people love.  But that's not the only amazing part.  If you want to see something truly astounding, you need to look no further than Kickstarter.

Being an independent company producing their very first game for PC and consoles, Playtonic Games needed a little bit of help to get off the ground; a 175,000 British Pound bit of help.  Since they needed, at minimum, this amount of money to create the game they launched a Kickstarter Campaign on May 1st complete with details about the development team, some sample music, details about the characters and game, some gameplay footage, and interviews with the developers.

They included several incentives to give to the project including your name in the credits, a digital download, a hard copy with soundtrack, an exclusive T-shirt, an autographed character poster, and for those with deep pockets you could even be coached by Chris Sutherland and voice act IN THE GAME.  With all of these incentives, the only thing left was to see if gamers would want to pitch in some money towards this game.  That answer came swiftly.  They were able to reach their 175,000 pound goal in....
40 minutes

That's right folks they reached their goal in 40 minutes.  In 24 hours they had received a pledged goal of ONE MILLION POUNDS!  Within four days they were only 176,000 pounds away from reach every single one of their stretch goals of making this game as massive and extensive as it could possibly be.  Nerds from all over the world pledged over 1,300,000 British Pounds worth of their cold-hard cash to these guys to create the 3D platformer that they have been craving thus allowing the team to not only make the game but to also...
  • Add unique bosses on every level with unique boss songs
  • Add a pre-final boss quiz show challenge like in Banjo-Kazooie
  • Add transformations into unique things with different controls and abilities with a new NPC to utilize this transformation
  • Mine cart sections 
  • Local co-op "buddy" mode to play through the game
  • 2-4 player local multiplayer verses mode
  • Professional French, German, Spanish, and Italian translations of the game plus any additional translations voted on by the community
  • Exclusive character designs from ex-rare guest artists who had worked on classic rare titles.
  • 4 additional multi player games
  • WiiU, XBox One, and PS4 releases on DAY ONE
  • N64 shader mode plus a unique song
  • Developer Let's Play walkthrough and commentary
Literally the only goal left is getting an ACTUAL ORCHESTRA to perform all of the music for the game and with them only being 176,000 pounds away from that goal with 43 days left to go on the campaign I feel confident that they will reach that goal.

You often hear stories of people and gaming companies complaining about people not wanting to pay for games or DLC.
They tend to leave the impression that gamers are just waiting around for the next Pirate Bay to show up so they can download everything for free and feel entitled to do so when this simply isn't true.  Yes there are a few people out there that do that sort of thing but the majority of people will gladly pay good money for quality products at a reasonable price.  I don't blame people for not wanting to spend money on lackluster cash-grab games that have little to no point or value.  I mean look at the kind of insanity we have to deal with here...

$5 Steam games that although they are cheap have less value than many of the most basic pokemon hacks I've played for free... or most free flash animation games even.

Repetitive games that bring nothing new to the table and get shoved out every single year only will end up cluttering used game store shelves for a few months with over 50 copies of the old game now discounted to $3.99 out of the hopes of getting rid of at least 1/4th of them.

Mindless waves of downloadable content that do not act in any way that downloadable content was meant to be used as.  Things like 30 Easy Fatalities is basically just a way to kill your enemy by emptying your wallet for no real reason that adds no real content

People exploiting the pay system to get money for doing little to nothing even if the picture here is an obvious joke at the Skyrim Paid Mods' expense which has thankfully been rectified recently. 

Not only that but the price of games themselves have become ridiculous.  Back when I first started playing video games a good game with a lot of content was around 30-40 dollars depending on where you went.  I realize the price of things increase but unless your game is beyond amazing I certainly won't be shelling out $60 or more when I could simply wait for a year and a half and find it used for $14 at Gamestop or a second-hand game store.  This is why most of the games I talk about are older or forgotten because I rarely spend that much money for a brand new game unless it's something special.

The video game industry could learn a lot from Yooka-Laylee in these last few days.  It's something that thankfully Nintendo has come to learn or is at least in the process of remembering.  People will gladly hand over their money to you if you offer them something well crafted and thought out.  They WANT to give you money for treating your product as if it's something special and delivering on that thought.  If you want your company to be profitable don't be afraid to take risks.  Find something that's not being done a whole lot anymore and do it.  Throw your all into it.  Give it character and personality to stand out among the crowd.  Have something legitimate to show people other than a pre-rendered trailer that is guaranteed to NOT be how the game is actually played.  Offer games at an excellent pre-order price, because effectively by pledging $24 US Dollars for Yooka-Laylee you get a download code of the game so it's kind of a pre-order.  If all of the gaming industry would take a look at what has happened with  Yooka-Laylee, learn something, and follow in their footsteps then there would be far less criticism and negativity, and there would be a lot more money flowing through the hands of video game executives.

Of course, having a legacy of excellent games under the belt of your development team never hurts either.  If you were to announce a game as  "From the developers of Super Mario Galaxy"  or  "From the team that brought you Halo" or something like that people would really take notice because there are just some games that last...

You know that got me to thinking... what actually DOES make a game last?  Why are some games considered classics that people are still playing a few months or years after their release?  What is that special quality that makes people come back to old games that are 20+ years old and play them as if they had never played the game to begin with?
To help with that question, Next week I'll be taking a look at a game that I absolutely love and still play three years after its release... Skyrim!

In the mean time if you wish to keep updated on Yooka-Laylee's Kickstarter progress you can check it out here!  Feel free to donate to this wonderful potential and grab you some rewards along the way.  Yooka-Laylee is currently scheduled for a hopeful release in October of 2016.

Till Next week, this is Ghost, fading into the darkness!

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What?  Skyrim?  What does that fool think he's doing?
Is he honestly going to talk about the spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie and then follow that up with something completely unrelated?  No, this shall not stand.  There's only one way to follow up a talk about Yooka-Laylee...
and there's only one way I'm going to accept.

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If you want to see my other Video Game discussions and reviews, click here!

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