Dichotomy

It has been really eye-opening in the last few weeks, talking and showing the prototype to people.

I love that sweet spot just after the kitten rolls over and begins to purr, when almost everyone lets out a bit of a giggle.

What fascinates (and also frustrates) me most is the gulf between how people’s expectations differ. Some conversations get as far as “you’re in a beautiful garden, the birds are singing, and there are kittens to play with” and there is a gasp and smiles and “wonderful!” or “I can see how that would be very relaxing”.

And then there are the people who wait for more explanation, and we talk about ‘Neko Atsume’, ‘Nintendogs’, ‘Gnomes and Goblins’ and ‘Destinations’, and they caution me about the amount of work I’ll need to gain and hold people’s interest.

There are sometimes long conversations about pitch decks, the immense importance of concept art and the problems with my current models, and how we’re going to incorporate achievement systems and level progression. Other times there is surety that the concept fits so snugly with current publisher interests that getting hung up on anything but my enthusiasm and the fianancials is a mistake.

Two separate investors urged me (in casual conversation, not in a pitch) to pursue the end-of-life care market which has already shown an interest in the early concept, but to do it fast.

What I can see is that Game Publishing is like everything in life. Some people have agendas that align with their organisational goals. Other people just have conflicting opinions, even though they are all still experts. At the end of the day, I think you probably need to do what’s in your heart, because that is what will keep the soul beating in the life of the project.

Why did I love this in the first place?

Simplicity and relaxation. The idea that there were no big gameplay goals. The sense of joy at being greeted by happy kittens in a garden I could potter around in, or maybe chill out for a while in. Bringing that sense of joy and peace for a time to people who were otherwise unhappy and overwhelmed in their lives.

Where does this leave the project?

In game terms: It by no means removes all gameplay elements, it just makes them lovely subtle ones. It’s a customisable VR experience, and progress towards achievements should be measured in a way which rewards relaxing and spending time there, rather than working hard. Importantly, nothing should punish the user, as they should always feel a sense of delight (rather than guilt or trepidation) when logging back in.

In publishing terms: I think it probably means that we are going to self-publish and then go after med-tech and seed funding, rather than try to fund through a game company. There’s a lot of push to design a certain way to fit the platform or the audience to suit the publisher, and when they’re paying a lump sum for your IP that’s fair. I already know I don’t want to work on a project that’s creatively pulled out of my control to be more ‘gamey’.

Too Many Secrets

We’re in such a privilidged position now, as we’ve been strongly encouraged today to pitch to a major games publisher as our Kitten Time game is ‘right in their ballpark’.

It’s a weird and exciting feeling, but also majorly confusing! We essentially have a prototype which is ready for early access launch on Steam, and which we were intending to build on while we looked for other funding to build out the product. Now we’re in a position where we need to decide whether to hold off on that in order to pitch to a major hardware manufacturer/publisher, but with the disadvantage that there will be a long wait time involved between now and publishing, rather than the incremental indie updates that we were originally thinking of.

This is a huge decision for us!

There may be some radio silence while we mull it over!

NI Developer Conference

Wheeee…. I just did a massive talk about VR development! Well… it felt massive, because it was in the main room and it was the final talk of the whole conference! But it was great. I had to water things down a little so as not to lose people along the journey, as VR is not too mainstream yet, but I think they did okay! Here’s a link!

https://youtu.be/SVEZsb2yv2I

User Interface and User Experience are so entangled in VR, and as a developer you can affect more than you think from within the Engine. Like good code standards, we should take pride in only producing VR games which implement good basic practice for user comfort, and all the major manufacturers have issued best practice guidelines. This presentation takes a look at some of the new challenges VR presents, and how you can compensate for them in your code and in your design. Forewarned is forearmed.

Glenn also demoed Kitten Time in a side room, and had some really amazing comments. And the conference as a whole was teriffic. Just full of great developers who really know their stuff and are sharing with each other. Brilliant day!