BLOG: How VGC will cover the new Yooka-Laylee, a game that I worked on

Next week I will – as far as I can tell – be the only journalist covering E3 who also has a game present at the show.

On Friday Playtonic Games announced Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, a “platforming adventure hybrid” for Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One.

I worked on Impossible Lair for almost its entire development – more than two years – from concept stage right up until my departure from Playtonic in February 2019.

Obviously, that makes it impossible for me to cover as a journalist – whilst VGC may still cover the game and the studio, it’ll be done by other writers. We also aren’t going to be reviewing the game when it releases.

But at the debut, with my work on the game still fresh in my mind, I wanted to talk briefly about what it’s like to work on a game and how it feels to head into a reveal like this from the other side of the fence.

My core responsibility for Impossible Lair involved dialogue and story, however I was also handed some design tasks, most notably helping shape the game’s UI.

Like everyone who’s ever worked on a game will attest, when you’ve created something in a collaborative environment, you end up seeing your fingerprints simultaneously on everything and nothing.

For full disclosure, I also managed the Kickstarter for the original Yooka-Laylee and was part of the founding team, who went on to establish the characters and game world featured in the series.

Working on Impossible Lair was a really satisfying experience. Playtonic learned some important lessons from the first Yooka-Laylee, which it’s fair to say was created under far more challenging conditions, when we had to build a team while simultaneously creating a big 3D game using a small (by game development standards) Kickstarter budget.

“It’s going to be a weird, conflicting experience seeing something I spent years of my life contributing to from the other side of the fence.”

In comparison, the second game turned out to be a far more comfortable, iterative development experience which prioritised quality in all departments. The development team is far bigger than it was in 2016, which required some structural reorganisation in how the team worked, and resulted in a much more focused approach.

It must also be nice for the team to be able to market the game after core development has finished, rather than scrambling to do both in tandem.

I believe that Impossible Lair is a polished, unique take on the platformer genre that will be well received when it releases this year. It also has one of the best soundtracks of any game, ever (David Wise! Grant Kirkhope! And two excellent young composers).

But having returned to journalism, I now can’t say any more about it. I’ll recuse myself from any future coverage of Yooka-Laylee and Impossible Lair on VGC (any news reporting will be done by other team members, at their discretion) and a disclaimer pointing to this article will be placed on all coverage we do decide to publish relating to Yooka-Laylee.

I’m incredibly grateful for the experience, friendships and memories I created during my four years at Playtonic and I ultimately believe this experience will benefit our coverage of development-related issues on VGC.

It’s going to be a weird, conflicting experience seeing something I spent years of my life contributing to from the other side of the fence. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to see the reception to our good work.