You’ll thank me for this later: an interview with frecle on Youropa

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I have a tendency to seek out the quirkier little games in our industry and champion them the best I can until they finally get a proper, localized release. My collection is full of obscure, charmingly clever games like Mad Maestro, Disaster Report, Go Go Hypergrind, Earth Defense Force 2017, and It’s Mr. Pants. I hope to add Youropa to that list someday but there’s a long road ahead for Danish developer frecle before it’s on store shelves. So I’m picking up my Championing stick and megaphone once again and letting you know what it’s all about right now.

I first spotted Youropa at Leipzig 2008 as I was trawling through press releases and screenshots and, to be honest, it’s the only thing I remember from that show. You play as the titular Youropean, a little white guy with suction cup feet who looks not a little bit like an urban vinyl toy. With sticky feet at, err, hand, you set out to reclaim these peculiar lands from the hulking Onesiders who have muscled their way in. Navigating the environment takes you all over these stylized worlds, on top and underneath, and presents plenty of switch-flipping, platform-jumping exploration. Dealing with the massive Onesiders requires the same kind of physical puzzle solving as you’ll need to outsmart them as opposed to blasting away with rockets or 12-hit combos.

That’s the basis of the game; puzzle platforming and exploration. What I love about Youropa is its visual style but I’ll pipe down for now and let my interview with frecle Founder, Mikkel Fredborg detail the rest.

A "game" that takes place solely on frecle's homepage. Amazing work.

A "game" that takes place solely on frecle's homepage. Amazing work. Try it right now!

After first seeing Youropa over a year ago I was worried that it was lost after such a long silence but frecle isn’t solely a games developer counting on new releases in order to thrive. What else does frecle do?

We do outsourcing and consulting for game developers, advertising agencies, broadcast etc. We really do a lot of different things, but most of it revolves around 3D graphics, real-time or rendered, in some way. That’s the way we are currently financing the development of Youropa.

About Youropa specifically now, how long have you been working on it and how is the production coming along?

We started work on the concept in late 2007, but didn’t start actual development work until April 2008. Since then we’ve worked on it as much as we could, and so far we’ve probably worked on it for around 6-7 months full time. We do a lot of other stuff in between, so we can’t always focus 100% on it, although we’d love to. Production is moving along at a good pace, and we are starting to implement some of the more interesting features. We aim at going in to full production in the next 3-4 months.

In the “20% complete” YouTube videos, the visuals had taken on a much more detailed, complex and gorgeous look. How is it looking now, what percentage would you say you’re at?

We’ve added quite a bit since then, but it’s hard to say what percentage we’re at exactly. From the start we designed it to be a modular project, because we wanted a lot of flexibility in the development. But compared to a glorified version that encapsulates the entire vision of the game, we are probably at around 35% now. There are still a lot of the more complex mechanics that need to be added, but everything is shaping up nicely.

I loved the way the music was incorporated into the “Construction Site” level as an interactive element. Are there any other clever touches you can mention and do the cans have any other purpose besides being collectible?

Yes, there are more sneaky bits, but nothing we can tell too much about yet. The spray cans play an important part, and have impacts on the gameplay and story in different ways. That’s all I can say right now.

Every time I picture Youropa I think of the old Genesis/Mega Drive game Toejam & Earl because of all the floating “islands” or an urban take on M.C. Escher. Since I’m probably way off the mark, what are the game’s artistic influences and goals?

Well, I’ve never played the original T&E so I can’t say if that is similar in some ways. M.C. Escher is certainly one of the sources of inspiration, but we’ve primarily been looking at street art and designer toys, along with urban architecture in general to come up with the look of the game. As the game is taking place above European cities, each part is inspired by a specific city, so we’ve been going to different locations to try to identify what makes them special. The goal is to create a world that is abstract and unique while being easily recognizable. We wanted to create something that steers a little away from the standard fairytale setting of most games in the genre, but we didn’t want to go completely abstract so we’re trying to balance it.

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Is there a problem with the city below and how do these “levels” manage to stay afloat? Or should I stop worrying and just focus on the adventure?

From a philosophical point of view you could say that the conflict in the air is a mirror of the world below. But it is completely open to interpretation, so you’re free to make up your own story. Floating levels are simply one of the premises for the game, it doesn’t really need any real explanation, it’s just the way it is. From a gameplay perspective it is a framework where it is possible to explore interactions and concepts that wouldn’t work as well if the game took place on the ground.

Are you designing Youropa for any particular platform and do you think it would be possible to release it as a downloadable title? Is it still too early to ask how many levels and features you’re aiming for?

We’re aiming to put it on a couple of different platforms, and it will be download only as it makes most sense in terms of the game structure. The final number of levels comes down to quality, but the goal is between 20 and 40. In terms of features a lot of this is still under wraps, but I guess I can say that there will be at least one multiplayer mode, although the primary focus is the single player experience.

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And one last question, is there any word on a publisher or release date? I am genuinely looking forward to exploring the world of Youropa… as soon as possible!

Hehe, so are we 🙂 We’re in talks with different parties, but nothing is set in stone yet. The release date is still TBA.

This was definitely an insightful interview and gives a better picture of what the final game will be like but all these words are like trying to describe a painting. Head over to the official Youropa page at frecle’s site and soak in all the screenshots and videos. The game’s design is still largely under development but the visuals, even at this early stage, never stop impressing me.

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