We had the opportunity to interview Jóhann Guðjónsson of Lumenox Games about YamaYama, their party game that is currently in Early Access on Steam. Having played YamaYama, and showcased it last month at a local gaming/bar event, we of course jumped at the opportunity to learn more.
YamaYama is a….strange game, but one that I can wholeheartedly admit is tons of fun. Something akin to the offspring of Mario Party and Ren & Stimpy, YamaYama is a party game for up to four players that involves chasing a bee driving a pancake, avoiding barrels of TNT floating down a stream towards a waterfall, and running around with a platypus on your head. No, I am not making this up. YamaYama is bonkers.
IndieHangover – Give us a little background about Lumenox and your history as indie developers in your own words.
Jóhann Guðjónsson- Short story, we’re a small indie developer based out of Reykjavik, Iceland. The studio is currently 8 people large and the best way to describe us is “game fanatics”. That’s why we’re in this and that’s how we came to be. Three of the founders of the company met in a video game class in their computer science studies. They made a prototype for a platformer that the teachers were so impressed with that they entered the game in an Icelandic game creation competition – which they wound up winning and as a prize got funding to create a company and help make the project a reality.
IH – What was the inspiration for YamaYama? It seems like a pretty different direction from Aaru’s Awakening.
JG – During our years developing Aaru’s Awakening, we’d joked around with the idea of making a crazy game based off of Japanese game shows. After the release of Aaru’s Awakening, we we’re juggling a few ideas and that was one of the ideas and the prototype was very enjoyable. After a bunch of playtests and fixing the game after what made sense, it doesn’t really resemble a Japanese game show anymore – but it’s still whacky and crazy!
IH – The first thing that I think would jump out at anyone playing YamaYama is the artstyle. It’s garish, bright and more than a little disturbing at points. What was your artistic inspiration? What’s the aim of having such utterly bizarre artistic direction (which I love it btw)
[Agust Freyr Kristinsson, art director] – Well, the point of party games is kinda just to laugh and have a good time with friends, right? So that was the starting point of the art direction – have an art style that pushes for laughs. As it turns out, having an old guy called Susan in a chicken suite, with underwear attached to a toilet roll on his head – well that’s something that I find quite… funny.
IH – Mechanically, YamaYama is very simple. All you have is a Dash and (normally) Fat Suit Button. What was the discussion like about how complex or simple to make the game?
JG – Yes this was actually a big part of the development of the game and very conscious. People that have played Aaru’s Awakening can most likely testify that the controls have a learning curve. The game was specifically targeted at hardcore gamers and we’d be lying if we said we didn’t get some backlash for that. Making a party game that is meant to be enjoyed in parties, with friends and family – you can’t impose controls that take a long time to get the hang of. We knew we had to make controls that were easy enough for people to pick up and play from the first try, so we keep it limited to controlling the character and using two abilities. You could say that the backlash we received from Aaru’s Awakening made us a lot more aware of this.
IH – What sort of challenges were there in making a party game that you didn’t originally expect or predict?
JG – Honestly, we didn’t know what to expect so wasn’t anything that came as a big shock to us. We knew that the online networking would take some time to figure out and that’s what we’re still working on. We also decided early that the hassle of creating good AI for a game like this wohttp://www.indiehangover.com/wp-admin/media-upload.php?post_id=7650&type=image&TB_iframe=1uld be too much in terms of reward. These kind of games are by far more fun against friends than computers – the whole part of a party game is to enjoy with a party of friends or family.
IH – What’s your next step on YamaYama? The game is in Early Access, but describe your plan moving forward with updates.
JG – We are continuously working on it and we’re pushing out an update every two weeks with upgraded arts, animations and gameplay features. We hope to finish the networking soon as well. Our hope is to gather up a bit of a community around the game soon so we can use that to help us decide on what to add to the game in the coming months leading up to the fall release.
IH – What’s your typical day like as a Lumenox Games Dev, if there is such a thing as a typical day!
JG – A typical day for us 9-5, we’ve been trying to keep it that way to maintain sanity – crunching all the time in our last project was hard. That doesn’t mean we still don’t have to crunch from time to time now to meet deadlines. Some of us try to meet up at the gym a bit before work – when we feel like it at least! The one thing we make sure to do everyday at work is a few sessions of YamaYama. We’ve become very competitive in it and I’m sure the people around our office are growing very tired of the noise!
IH – What other games have you been playing other than your own?
JG – We have a very diverse taste in games actually. Tyrfingur has been playing The Division, Helldivers and Witcher 3, Marino has been totally devoted to Witcher 3, Agust has been splitting time between Bloodborne and Diablo 3 when he’s not playing Magic, Burkni tries to get a little time with Age of Empires now and then and I’ve been playing The Division recently after finishing the incredible Journey and Firewatch – and while I wait for Uncharted 4!
IH – Could you suggest an indie game/ indie dev that your team thinks is doing something cool or innovative that people should be paying attention to?
JG – Our shout out would have to go to Klang Games and Solid Clouds – both Icelandic companies making very interesting and promising games! Very different games, though. Klang Games is making ReRunners, a very cool smartphone racing game where you can compete through the internet – pretty much anyone can play it. Solid Clouds is making Starborne, a HUGE space-strategy game that is coming out and should appeal to hardcore gamers!
Our thanks to Jóhann and the Lumenox Team for agreeing to answer our questions. We are looking forward to see what new madness comes to YamaYama as they continue to update it.