Breadcrumbs Interactive: A Q&A of Yaga
We speak to Breadcrumbs Interactive about their new title, Yaga
We at Absolute Xbox have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to Breadcrumbs Interactive, who are in the midst of their newest title, Yaga. Catalin Zima-Zegreanu, Who is the one of the Game Designers for the team, very kindly took time to answer a load of questions for us.
When we tried to define what kind of games we want to create, our primary goals were making games where exploration is an important part of the experience, and that have a narrative component to lead you into the game’s world. Thus, the idea of breadcrumbs came up, and our goal of making games “that you can get lost in”.
We’re now a group of 8 people. Most of us have worked together in the past on various mobile games and contract work, but with Breadcrumbs and Yaga, we set out to create a rich experience with a focus on storytelling.
Yaga is an action RPG set in a world heavily inspired by Slavic folklore and folktales. You play as Ivan, a one-handed blacksmith sent on impossible quests by a paranoid Tzar, and in your journey you will get to meet a big cast of quirky characters, powerful witches, and lots of scary creatures.
In the beginning, when we looked at several ideas on what game we wanted to make, the idea of using creatures from Eastern European mythology was something all of us in the team found exciting. We knew that the specific charm and mood of the beliefs, superstitions and characters in Slavic folklore was something that was both very interesting and underused in other games. This became the focus of our work, and we soon started identifying key characters and creatures we wanted to highlight.
The initial idea was to create a roguelike with these elements, but we soon realised the charm was in the characters and their storylines, so we shifted focus to a narrative-led game with dialogues and choices, while keeping some elements from roguelike games.
Folktales and oral storytelling are the primary source for Slavic characters, creatures and old beliefs. So since they were our primary source of reference, why not go all in, and set the game in a folktale as well?
Also, one particular thing I like about orally-transmitted folktales is that they’re never told in exactly the same way. Each time someone tells a folktale, they change it up a bit. Who is the hero? What is he like? Who is helping him? What challenges does he face? All of these are left
up to the narrator, and even though the message or journey is the same, the tale feels fresh each time you hear it.
And this was one of the key aspects we tried to capture in our game and its mechanics: a tale that is familiar, but has new elements and twists each time. A story where you meet all sorts of characters that help or hinder you, and where death is never the end of the hero, just an obstacle that he must overcome. In short, we want the players to feel as if they’re the hero of a folktale.
The aesthetics of the game were very important to us from the very beginning. The guiding principle when we started to define the style was something that looks hand-drawn and would fit in a story-book.
The art style we settled on incorporates details from Russian storybook illustrations, traditional clothing and rural art from the countryside of several Eastern European countries. Visually, we were inspired by the beautiful illustrations of Ivan Bilibin and Nikolai Kocerghin, as well as details from traditional art, decorations and garments from the area.
Our artists gathered lots of references, and then took the liberty of bringing their own ideas and of experimenting with the direction.
Hand-in-hand with the visual art, we also chose the direction for the music to try and incorporate traditional instruments and sounds, which is what led to the soundtrack we have now: a combination of modern hip hop tunes and folkloric elements and instruments used centuries ago.
As mentioned earlier, a guiding principle was having a story that feels fresh each time. So even if the major story beats stay the same over multiple playthrough, the choices you make and the characters you meet take it into different directions each time.
Roleplaying is an important part of the game. Rather that making a division between “good” versus “evil” responses, the choices and actions you take in the game lead your character towards one of four different reputations: aggressive, selfish, righteous or foolish. Depending on how your character has, there will be a difference in which choices are available to him and how some other characters react to them.
The base story beats of the game are fixed, but the way each chapter or encounter of the story ends depends largely on how your character acts. While the game has six different endings, the way you get to those endings can vary widely between two different playthroughs.
Our initial source of inspiration was two main books with russian tales. One was a collection called “Enchanted Russian Tales” and the other was “The Litle Humpbacked Horse” by Piotr Ershov. Going forward we read as many collections of stories and folktales as we could get our hands on. If I had to point to the three tales that had the most direct influence on the main characters and story of the game, they would be:
“The One-Eyed Likho” – where we got our main character and antagonist from
“Go I Know Not Whither and Fetch I Know Not What” – inspired the Tzar and his disposition towards impossible quests
“Maria Morevna” – inspired the character with the same name you’ll get to meet later in the game And references, we have lots of those, but may of them are towards small stories that aren’t that well known by title.
At this moment and in the near future we’re extremely focused on supporting Yaga, making sure the experience the players are getting is a pleasant one, and being ready to jump on any issues that might come up. We’d love to expand Yaga’s universe with all the stuff we gathered but didn’t manage to add in the game as it is now. We’ll let you know as soon as we can talk about what’s next.
Looking way into the future beyond Yaga, we hope to be able to create more games that you can get lost in.
Thanks to Catalin for taking time to answer some questions regarding Yaga, and thanks to Plan of Attack for arranging the opportunity for us. Yaga wil be releasing in the near future, so please do keep an eye out, because it sounds pretty unique and fun.