Young Souls Developer Interview – Jérôme Fait on Balance Challenges & Dungeon Chic

Young Souls, the upcoming beat ’em up/RPG hybrid from 1P2P, is looking pretty sweet so far, and we recently got a chance to ask 1P2P co-founder Jérôme Fait a few questions — so we did! Read on for the complete interview.

EIP: First, could give us a brief history of the paths that led to being co-founders of 1P2P? I know both of you have years of experience in game development — what were your roles in your previous teams? How did you meet?

Jérôme: It’s pretty simple to sum up – with Baptiste, we’ve always worked together! We both started as interns at Hydravision (a French studio which developed a game called “Obscure”) around 2006. From that moment, we never left each other. We started as assistant producers before quickly joining the game design teams and learning on the job. Very quickly, we started developing prototypes and mini-games using the “Game Maker Studio” tool. Then we naturally tried the game jam adventure with a crew called “TurboDindon”. In 2011, we both left Hydravision at the same time to go to Ankama where we diversified our skills. Then in 2016, we embarked on the 1P2P adventure and started what would later become Young Souls.

young souls interview old lady conversation

EIP: Jérôme, I wanted to ask about the “Life System” that you mentioned in your Playstation Blog. Can you expand on how that works? Will we run into bosses multiple times throughout the course of the game?

Jérôme: Absolutely! In Young Souls, main bosses can have multiple “lives” or “life bars.” Each bar corresponds to a state in the boss’ behavior; it’s pretty straightforward in that sense. The idea is not new, but it was a solution for what we wanted: bosses with evolving behaviors and long but well-paced battles. It gives players benchmarks on the progress of their combat, and allows us to clearly distinguish the enemy’s behavior. Also, this allowed us to include a quite enjoyable “finish” phase that punctuates each phase and allows you to take a breath during an epic fight. In Young Souls, the majority of bosses are unique. You can sometimes encounter variations of a boss, but it’s rare and always justified. We have been very careful to take care of the pace and not to lengthen the games duration in an artificial way. So Young Souls is not a very long game, but it’s designed so that you will never get bored.

EIP: I was pleasantly surprised to discover the ability to customize your character’s look underneath the armor — usually in games where you’re playing a specific character, you can’t do as much customization. What made you decide to allow the player to modify Jenn and Tristan’s look to such an extent?

Jérôme: It has been one of our goals since the first months of development, and I’m delighted that you picked it up. We really wanted the two universes to overlap directly on our heroes’ look. We quickly set up two customization systems; one purely cosmetic (clothes), and another purely functional (combat gear). Thus, in the game, you can find light armor that reveals your stylish jacket, and how it’s perfectly matched to your jeans. We wanted to give our heroes a teenage look, something depicting kids teaming up as best as they can to protect themselves. However, the more you progress in the game, the more armor you find will cover your clothes, and the more you’ll look like a badass medieval warrior. Which means something actually. That said, nothing prevents you from pairing your dark black armor with a super cute cat beanie!

young souls developer interview fashion
I wonder if this is what Jérôme envisioned

EIP: The games that inspired the gameplay aren’t too hard for me to guess — Streets of Rage, Dark Souls, Diablo, and so on. But what about the game’s aesthetic? I definitely see Xavier Houssin’s style in the art, but is there anything you can point to that helped your team create the world and characters of Young Souls?

Jérôme: Yes, Xa’s style clearly influenced the visual of the game, yet all the art direction was in place before he joined us. Our initial desire was to make a game that looks and moves like a cartoon. We spent a lot of time finding the right visual chemistry between 2D characters (animated in flash – yes, that still happens!) and 3D backgrounds. In our early research, we envisioned a full 2D game, but we weren’t happy with the rendering, especially given the competition in the genre. So we started to include 3D elements in these 2D environments, but it still didn’t work. The real trigger was to turn the problem around by making the game in 3D, using advanced lighting and effects and thinking about integrating 2D characters naturally into it. It was from there that we started to develop a real visual identity.

EIP: Could you talk a little bit about the decision to have the game be a Stadia-first title?

Cyrille Imbert (The Arcade Crew CEO): The Google Stadia team had been very supportive of Young Souls at an early stage of the development, so it was just natural for us to be supportive of this new platform in return.

EIP: The game feels fairly challenging, at least at first, but you can definitely grind levels and get stronger if you’re stuck. What would you say your goal was in terms of player experience in that regard? Did you want a quarter-eater like the beat-em-ups that inspired Young Souls, a game that was fairly accessible to anyone, or something in-between?

Jérôme: Our approach with the difficulty aspect has changed a lot over the course of development. Initially, we wanted a tough and challenging experience to live in co-op – the sort of game where you hug and kiss when you beat an impossible boss. However, we also didn’t want to get locked into “co-op only” and so we spent a lot of time defining a “single player” mode that would be at least as interesting as co-op. We wanted a tough but fair, rewarding, and deep combat system. We are happy with the end result.

However, we found that due to its visual appearance, Young Souls attracted a fairly large fringe of players, and we wanted to make sure those players were still able to enjoy the game despite its challenge. We resolved to integrate difficulty modes coupled with accessibility options to help players grapple with the difficulty and pace of the game.

In the end, Young Souls is a game with a very customizable challenge according to your expectations and preferences as a player. We have an in-game recommendation to indicate what difficulty we think is best for a challenging experience, but everyone is free to play it the way they want, and that’s great.

young souls interview combat
“You fight, I’ll pose for the screenshot”

EIP: I noticed that it was pretty tough to only block or dodge — it feels like you need to use all of the game’s many mechanics to succeed; is this an intentional design decision?

Jérôme: Yes it is intentional. As said before, we wanted the fight to be tough. That said, this requirement is lessened by the level of difficulty you choose at the start. In the simpler difficulty modes, the game is very manageable, but it is true that you will need to have a good grasp of the basics if you want to progress to a higher level. Also, accessories or weapon skills are gradually added to enrich the gameplay as the adventure progresses. At the end of the game, you will have to deal with a lot of things at the same time, especially if you are playing as a single player! But it’s this part of the game that we find the most fun (and we hope you will too!)

EIP: What part of Young Souls are you most proud of?

Jérôme: The visual dynamism of the game, especially in combat, is something I’ve focused on from the beginning of the project. It’s the adequacy of the combat system, animations and graphics which creates a wonderful mess on the screen. I really like this mess!

EIP: What was the most challenging part of development?

Jérôme: Two things haunted us throughout the production of Young Souls: the long-term balancing, and handling the gameplay loop. Balance and difficulty are pretty standard issues when tackling a systems game with an RPG-like evolution. We tried to find the right setting, the right pace and it took a veeeery long time and many iterations to be happy with that.

Regarding the gameplay loop, we went in way too many different, often wacky directions, to end up with something simple. When we play the game today, everything looks simple and smooth, but you can’t imagine the detours we went through to end up with that solution!

young souls dev interview shopping

EIP: Is there anything at all you’d like to share?

Jérôme: Thank you for your interest in the game and for this interview. Young Souls is the first game from our studio, and it’s a very important moment for us to be able to share it with everyone. We hope that you will like what we have prepared for you. In any case we had a lot of fun doing it, and we hope you feel that while playing the game.

We hope you enjoyed reading this interview! Once again, a big thanks to 1P2P for answering our questions so thoughtfully. Young Souls releases Q4 of 2021 on PC, PS4, XB1, and Switch.

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Unabashed FromSoftware fanboy still learning to take his time with games (and everything else, really). The time he doesn't spend on games is spent on music, books, or occasionally going outside.

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