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Interview: Jeffrey Yohalem Reflects On Child of Light

Interview: Jeffrey Yohalem Reflects On Child of Light

Ubisoft has released a number of games over the past year, each standing out in their own right. Whether it was utilizing technical know-how to turn the tables in Watch Dogs or the multiplayer platforming game Rayman Legends, there was something for everyone.

But in the summer of 2014, a unique role-playing game made its way to consoles and PC. In Child of Light, you portray Aurora, a child who takes on the insurmountable task of having to restore the sun, the moon and the stars, all being held captive by the Queen of the Night. Between various turn-based battles and the introduction of new characters, it’s a refreshing change of pace from the usual role-playing fare.

In hindsight, we had a chance to catch up with lead writer Jeffrey Yohalem over various aspects of the game, including its battle system and its wondrous hand drawn style.

You’ve been working for Ubisoft for quite a few years, but Child of Light is much different from other projects that you’ve worked on. How excited were you to get into it?

Child of Light was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a world from scratch. We had carte blanche with the project, and it came from a place of artistic integrity rather than branding. On top of that, I was excited to make a modern fairytale, to explore what wisdom we could offer about the world today.

Tell us about the battle system. It’s based more on a timing system when it comes to fighting enemies, a change of pace from usual games in the genre.

The goal is to attack enemies when they are in a red zone on a timeline at the bottom of the screen, kind of like whack-a-mole. If you hit them in the red, they lose their turn. Aurora, the protagonist, has a companion, Igniculus, who can slow down enemies. It’s very strategic, which fits with our metaphor: That life is about facing tough challenges and thinking through them.

Child 2

Image source: Ubisoft

Tell us about the world you get to explore in the game, as well as the main characters players can take control of.

Aurora is the daughter of a Duke from 1895 Austria who finds herself whisked away to the Kingdom of Lemuria, a lost continent where all the fairytale creatures from books live. There she must face off against the Queen of the Night in order to return home to her dying father. Along the way she meets a firefly named Igniculus and several other creatures. But little does she know that the journey will transform both her destiny and herself along the way.

The UbiArt engine (the one used for previous Rayman games) looks astounding. How were you able to make such a game stand out with the over-complexity of 3D-based RPG’s these days?

The hand drawn aesthetic of Child of Light is exactly what makes it stand out. The Ubi Art Framework allowed concept artists to paint directly into the game. So we were directly inspired by pre-Disney drawings and paintings from the golden age of illustration.

What’s probably the most complicated thing that comes with developing a solid role-playing game?

Balancing the crafting and combat. You have to make it just hard enough to stay engaging. And in this case we had to make it fun for two players.

Finally, what’s next for your team? Can we expect a sequel sometime off in the future, or are you working on something new? (If you can tell us, that is.)

The team has split up to produce other projects within Ubi. I am the lead writer for the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Syndicate set in Victorian London, for example. But we hope to craft another game in Lemuria at some point in the future. That would be a dream come true!


Child of Light is available for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Wii U and PC.

Image source: Ubisoft

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