Have you been keeping up with the development of YIIK? Not sure what YIIK is? It’s a colourful 3D JRPG set in the 1990s, about eight strangers, a mysterious woman who vanishes in an elevator, and weaponized Panda plushies. We had a chat with Ackk Studios, the team behind the game to find out more.
Thanks for talking with us! Can you tell us a little bit about Ackk Studios?
Thank you for having us! Ackk Studios is based in NJ, formed by brothers Brian & Andrew Allanson. In the past we created a little game called Two Brothers inspired by Gameboy Games, which is being remade as Chromophore and coming to Vita! There are five of us here. Brian, handling 3D modeling and programer, Brigid handling 2d Illustrations, Jose handling Mixing, mastering, and editing of YIIK’s 10 hours of cutscene dialogue, and 4 hours of soundtrack. Andrew, who wrote the game’s script, as well as all 4 hours of the soundtrack, and Ian who works on level designs.
YIIK looks incredible. How did you come up with the idea for the game?
Thank you! We wanted to make an RPG, and we knew we wanted it to be 3D, and set in modern times. I, personally (can’t speak for the team on this one), have always had a bit of a hang up about Mother 64. I remember seeing the first trailer, and falling in love… and then being really upset when it was canceled. So, for me I wanted to make a game that had the vibe of a lost PS1 or N64 RPG. Something that, when you play it, feels modern, but also feels like the lost game of that era that everyone forgot existed.
Have any games inspired you with development for YIIK?
Lufia 2, Wild Arms 1, Mother 1-3 (3 particularly), Zelda, and Paper Mario.
That’s quite a differing range of games to drive that imagination, but also very Nintendo-centric. Do you think it will go down well with a PlayStation audience?
I think so. The PlayStation Audience has always been wildly appreciative of RPGs, so I think that will help. Also, Persona 4 really brought a lot more people into the RPG world. Nintendo isn’t really making the kind of games that people want form Nintendo any more… that and the PlayStation hardware is superior… so that’s the draw for me. People love to say that it’s not the power of the system that matters, but the game itself… only thing is, for a developer, it’s much easier to get a game to be decent if the system itself is.
What sort of gameplay can gamers expect to see with YIIK? How long do you expect the game to be?
For exploration, you can expect a hybrid of Zelda and Wild Arms 1. Lots of puzzles, platforming elements, and dungeons to tackle.
For combat, there are turn based battles, that feature 8 party members, and up to 8 enemies. Each character has a different play style. So Alex, the second character you play as (and the one we’ve shown in trailers so far), fights with records. So, we created something inspired by the Judgement Ring from Shadow Hearts. This record player shows up, and a LP spins, you drop the needle on the sweet spots to increase the attack power, and combos.
Claudio, the wooden-sword wielding badass, fights with something that feels like a hybrid of Sabin from FF6 and side scrolling DDR.
Vella, has music based combat. So, everything she does contains elements of rhythm. We wanted to have lots of variety in combat, so we decided to make each character control different, so each turn you were handling a new issue.
In combat, you can speed up and slow down battle in real time with L and R. However, there is a trade off here. When an enemy attacks you, you have the chance to dodge or defend every time. So, you may choose to slow down combat to better execute a dodge… however, this drains your time meter. Taking damage adds to the time meter. The time meter is only used for slowing down time, you can speed up as frequently as you desire… just get ready to switch back to real time so you don’t take too much damage!
The game is at least 25 hours long. I can beat it in 14, but I also made it.
Is there anything new you can tell us about YIIK?
Yes! I alluded to it in an earlier question, but… Alex, the red-headed-“hipster, is not the character you first play as in YIIK. There are two main characters. Alex takes up more of the gameplay time, but he isn’t necessarily the protagonist.
How are you finding developing YIIK for the Vita? Have you had to make any compromises to get it running?
Thankfully, biggest issue we’ve run into is the lack of buttons… so, this just forced us to simplify the controls on every platform. The game mostly looks the same on Vita as it does on PS4. The biggest thing is PS4 is always 60 fps, and vita is usually closer to 40.
Are you trying to get that Vita version up to 60 FPS? Or do you think you’ll settle on 30 in the end?
I’d love for it to be 60 fps, so I’ll aim for that.
You are also developing the game for the PS4, will there be any cross-buy or cross-save planned? Do you have a price-point in mind at this stage?
Yes, I would love to do cross-buy and cross-save. Cross save I just need to learn how to implement it and I’ll get it in. $15-$20 is what i’m thinking now.
We are finding that delays to the Vita versions of titles are increasing. How is the Vita version coming along? Are you still planning on a simultaneous release for the game?
Vita version is as far along as the other console versions! Game runs on it, you can play it, some shaders don’t render… but that’s all fixable. I will release the Vita version the same time as the PS4 version if everything goes according to plan… this will have the game releasing this winter.
What made you want to bring the game to the Vita?
I love my vita. I’m very busy, and I spend most of my time playing portable games. The Vita hardware is ideal for YIIK, over the 3Ds… so I chose to focus on Vita as my mobile version of the game.
What do you like about the Vita as a system?
The machine is very comfortable to hold, and very beautiful in terms of display.
Is there anything you don’t like about the Vita, or wish you could change? You mentioned buttons earlier…
Buttons would be good. I’d love more first party support. Other than that, there isn’t anything from a hardware perspective that has given me too much trouble.
Whilst this is your first Vita title, it is not your game as a studio. You previously produced the classic GameBOY stylised action-adventure game Two Brothers in 2013. Would you ever consider bringing that to Vita?
I am! That will likely be out before YIIK. We’ll see…
Are you Vita gamers yourselves? What are your favourite Vita titles?
Persona 4 (obviously), Uncharted, virtue’s last reward, and Gravity Rush…. and YIIK. 😛
What would you say to a developer looking to start working with the Vita?
Thank you for wanting to make a game for Vita, we need more people like you. Think about what type of game is missing on the system, and try and fill that gap. That’s important to people I think. It’s a great system with great fans, so are developers, we need to anticipate what people might want on the system.
YIIK is set to launch on the PS Vita this winter and we are very excited for it. You can keep up to date with developments from the Ackk Studios website. You can also follow them on twitter via @AckkStudios. Are you interested in YIIK? Let us know in the comments!
This interview first appeared in The Vita Lounge Magazine Issue Three. Look for more exclusive content in the magazine soon!