A Purrtato Tail has been demoed at a bunch of events, has had quite a number of people enjoy it, and yet - nobody has yet played something that represents the whole game. What we have always demoed has been the introduction area of the game. You meet our heroine, navigate a burning castle, fight a boss, discover something strange - boom, end. This is the game introduction - which, like most introductions, serves as a way to get the player comfortable with some core mechanics, moving of characters, stuff like that.
And yet, it only contains about 5% of the overall mechanics from the entire game.
We have been tremendously hard at work at what we keep calling 'The New Demo'. But what IS this New Demo? How does it differ from the game introduction? What all does it show? To answer that, we'll need to first go back - to a time when Purrtato had very little following, no Discord community, and had barely seen the light of day...
A Purrtato Tail is without question an example of when feature creep gets out of hand - we won't debate that for even a second. It started as a stage-based puzzler, then turned into a Metroidvania, then that Metroidvania turned more into an open-world experience, then had JRPG elements added, etc. But how? Didn't we have a design? We absolutely did! And we built all the mechanics needed for that design, reached out for funding and publishers - and met bumpkiss. Nobody was interested. We had burned through all the money we had for the game. Yet we had something we felt contained a ton of potential, and yet - nobody was interested. We were told to "scrap and redo all the art", "try making something that doesn't look like a mobile game", and "maybe just do something else entirely - something simple".
So - we did what any insane developer who refuses to give up would do - we continued seeking an outlet for the game. Behind the scenes however... we kept adding features, and expanding the game. Adding some of this, and some of that, and a whole heaping bunch of those things over there. And we kept this up for about 2 years, while seeking the audience and voice for the game.
After what felt like nothing but silence - we found it. Suddenly, people were interested. More than just interested - they wanted to be part of this growing world.
We created a Discord community, which steadily grew. Press outlets found the game and started playing it. Other development studios started taking notice of the game and its technology - and they all loved it. Everyone wanted to play, and they wanted more. The demo we had at the time fueled their interest for furry potatoes! When we took the game to Japan, people even stopped us from telling them the story because they wanted to be surprised - they didn't want spoilers.
It had happened. We had found the audience. It was huge, it was growing, and it was hungry!
We finally turned off the flowing tap and ended the feature creep, then looked back at what the game had become. We had to take a step back and marvel in what we had built. No longer was this just a puzzle game... it had grown into something with features to rival those of some AAA games. The codebase was massive, the system count was insane, and we had written enough standalone support code that we could build 10 other games.
And yet, we were still showing off this 15 minute demo that showed nothing more than the game introduction and base game mechanics.
So we took the time to add some of the new mechanics to the demo - enemies, combat, abilities (like the Pounce), and a boss battle. Yet even still, while this demo was an excellent beginning to a far larger game - it still failed to represent the actual product itself as a whole - something we heard time and time again from potential publishers. We needed to build something bigger. First, there was consideration to assemble a new demo of the first couple hours of the actual game beyond just the introduction, but realized that wouldn't work as well as we had hoped. We needed something extremely focused. Stand-alone. Something that encompassed a lot of the game's capabilities and dynamics in a stand-alone experience.
So we designed exactly that. A stand-alone experience that can exist on its own, within the world of Purrtato Tail. Something that could eventually be inserted into the overall game as an entire side quest. And we called it The Caterwauling of Cantermow - a story about the people of the Dimlit District area of Purrtato Town preparing to flee after a rash of hauntings have scared and frustrated everyone in the area. This is the demo that we are preparing to send around to interested parties, publishers, press, and will become our Kickstarter demo. But what exactly all does it have? All those years of feature creep - once we finally turned off the creeping, what had crept into the game? What will actually be in this new demo? Let's take a look...
Bosses often CAN be defeated with pure force and scratching of the claws - but there can be much better ways! Use those characters to reach different parts of the boss arena. Use their abilities. Use your mind and creative thinking - what other ways can this boss be taken out? There may even be different rewards depending on how you defeat them...
We discussed Quests in detail in an earlier DevBlog. These came out of that big creep phase as the answer to the question of "How do we keep the player directed to ongoing game goals?". Quests can be discovered absolutely anywhere and everywhere - NPCs may assign them during conversation, they can come out of discovering something in the world, or they may happen on their own while exploring an area and needing a guide. The new demo has a series of Key and Optional quests to complete - but can you find them all?
Defeating enemies and searching the world will earn the player Kibble - the money within the world of Purrtato Tail. Kibble can be spent at shops to purchase crafting supplies, healing items, and sometimes even quest answers. Within the Dimlit District, the shopkeeper of Bumbul is still packing up to flee - but his shop is still open. Bumbul's Emporium can be found near the entrance of the Dimlit District.
Queen Pixel has a handful of stats that represent her skill levels in the game. These stats can be permenantly upgraded through the Ancestral Yarn Grid of the Pawfathers. The Yarn Grid is one feature that is actually not in this demo - however, stats can also be adjusted in other, less permenant ways, as discussed below. The main stats the player has are:
- Shards - The number of mysterious Shard objects that the player has discovered in the world. These are used in the Yarn Grid to permanently increase Pixel's stats.
- PawPips - The health of Queen Pixel. Each PawPip represents one point of damage she can withstand. When all PawPips are lost - it's game over.
- Attack - How much damage Pixel does when swiping her claws.
- Breath - How long Pixel can hold her breath under water.
- Tea - There is a Tea Crafting mechanic in the game (not available in the Cantermow demo). This stat represents how advanced of Tea that Pixel can create.
Timed Buffs & Perks
Some parts of Purrtato can become quite difficult - and that is part of the design! Sometimes a puzzle isn't specifically built around placing characters in the game world and jumping on them. In some cases, you have to approach something - like a boss battle - with some modifications to your stats in place. Timed Buffs are earned by consuming something in your inventory - like drinking a bottle of Pawbloom Oil to give you 2 additional PawPips for 30 minutes. On the other hand, Perks come from Clothing (discussed below), and last for as long as the clothing item is being worn. So if you really want to pump Pixel up for battle - wear a clothing item that increases her attack, AND drink a bottle of Clawbloom Oil - which combined can boost Pixel's attack by quite a bit!
Throughout Purrtato Tail, different clothing items can be discovered - new hats, different sweaters, even ties! Clothing items will often apply a Perk to our heroine, Queen Pixel, for as long as the clothing item is being worn. A handful of clothing items can be found throughout the Dimlit District, including some hidden items...
Active & Passive Dialogs
Like any RPG, we have a lot of conversations! There are 2 kinds - Active Conversations are ones that the player has direct control to move through and read at their own speed. These are direct conversations between Queen Pixel and another character. Then there are Passive Conversations, which are one or more NPCs talking on their own. Passive Conversations are not controlled by the player, and continue on while the player goes about their own business, often acting as either some additional flavor in the world, or might contain hints...
A number of places within the game world can be interacted with, however require an item to be used. This might include a door that needs a specific key to open, or a machine that needs a particular component. To anyone who played point and click adventures this concept probably seems familiar! There is always one correct item, however using certain wrong items will often reward the player with some fun flavor text.
Crafting With the Oil Press
We have two kinds of crafting systems in the game - Tea Crafting, and the Oil Press. While Tea Crafting did not make it in the Cantermow demo - the Oil Press did! When the player uses the Oil Press, they can choose any number of up to three different items to place inside it. The items are removed from the player's inventory, and - if a correct combination was found - will result in an item that can be consumed, used in Tea Crafting, or might even be useable in other Oil Press recipes. (If the combination was incorrect, the player will still receive a pressed oil item - only it will be a 'Sludge' item that can heal some health but isn't anything hugely desired. Or is it...?)
Being a mix of a Metroidvania and a JRPG, we opted to give the player a save experience similar to both in the form of an object in the game world that can save their game. These Totems were constructed throughout the world by the ancient race known as the Furst - the original cat creatures who lived on The Isle of Moar. Travelers find these totems and scratch their stories into them - saving their progress.
Let's face it - cats don't speak English. They may understand some of it, but it's not their native language. Long ago, the Furst developed a writing and language system known as Pawvian. Any in-world text found within the game - like words on signs - is all in the Pawvian language. We don't leave you in the dark however - when approaching Pawvian language signs, Queen Pixel will translate it for the player. Pawvian itself however is not just random symbols - it can entirely be translated into English. And Pixel won't translate absolutely everything... Can you figure out how to translate Pawvian and read all the bonus text?
Pixel keeps a journal of her adventures - and you can access it as well! This acts as the Pause Menu in the game, and gives access to quite a number of elements including:
- Pixel's Stats (including any active Perks and Timed Buffs)
- Items (view them and use some)
- Clothing (Change equipped clothing)
- Party (See your collected characters)
- Quests (Keep track of quests you have acquired, their progress, completed quests, and failed quests)
- The World Map
- Game Settings
MiniMap and World Map
The MiniMap is actually already in the Introduction Demo - it's right there, in the upper-left, under the PawPips. However, with the intro demo being somewhat linear - it isn't extremely useful. In the Cantermow demo, however, along with the rest of the game - it becomes extremely useful to keep track of the large game world! Plus, going into the Journal will allow you to view the entire World Map to help you see where you are, and where you need to go.
There are additional mechanics as well that won't be entirely polished or ready for the Cantermow demo. Those include...
Tea Crafting is similar in ways to how the Oil Press functions - however while the player only starts with the ability to use 3 different items, it can be upgraded to 6 via the Yarn Grid. In addition, recipes for Tea are not pre-defined - the player can combine anything they want to make different kinds of brew. We have developed a system that allows for dynamic crafting - therefore, if you were to make tea out of 1 object that restored 5 PawPips, and 1 object that gave a Timed Buff of +5 Attack for 10 minutes - then you would end up with tea that, when consumed, restored 5 PawPips and gave +5 to attack for 10 minutes. Some ingredients can also act as a modifier - like one that multiplies the time length of buffs, or increases the strength of ingredients (IE: Healing 5 PawPips becomes 10 PawPips). This system is already finished and functional - we just didn't include it because the interface for it is not yet completed.
The Ancestral Yarn Grid of the Forepawthers
The Yarn Grid acts as a way for the player to permanently upgrade Queen Pixel's stats, and to unlock new abilities such as Double Jump, Ground Pound, Air Attack, and more. The grid itself looks sort of like a board game. Each space costs 1 Shard to unlock. The player can unlock spaces in any direction they want, however spaces must be unlocked in order - so you can't just jump from the first to the last space on the board! We have already developed the functionality for this system, and it is already entirely functional - we are not including this in the demo because the interface for it is not yet completed.
The Spherical Link Card Game
Spherical Link is an ongoing minigame that continues throughout the entirety of Purrtato Tail. For anyone who played Triple Triad in Final Fantasy VIII or Final Fantasy IX, this will be sort of familiar to you! Cards can be found throughout the world - purchased in blind-bag packs in shops, found hidden in dungeons, or earned by completing quests. A game of Spherical Link involves the player building a chain of cards between a start and end point on a grid of spaces, while attempting to hinder your opponent from doing the same. Cards have Attack and Defense, and in some cases special abilities. Spherical Link can be played against NPCs to earn extra Kibble and Items as well as unlock some additional game secrets. Spherical Link is not available in the demo because it is one of the very few things that is not yet finished being developed! We do however have playable prototypes here at Drunk Robot Games, and are honing the experience to be the best it can be before showing it off.
We don't want to spoil exactly what the fast travel in the game is, as it's an intentionally comedic experience and best discovered on your own. We WILL tell you how it works however - and that is quite simple. Throughout the game world are broken objects that are discovered. Solving the puzzle on how to fix each one will make it operational once again. Once a Fast Travel Object is operational, it can be traveled to and from. These have been carefully placed throughout the game world so the player is never that far from one of these, allowing them to easily get around the large world without needing to constantly walk from one end of the island to the other. Fast Travel is not available in the demo because the demo area is not large enough to need this.
Different Claws can be found throughout the Isle of Moar and equipped to Queen Pixel. Much like Clothing, these will give one or more Perks to the player - and always has a solid increase to Attack. These aren't available in the demo namely because the visual interface for these isn't finished yet - but depending on time, we might sneak these in at the end before we launch the demo to the world.
Additional World Map Functionality
Currently the world map shows what you have discovered, and where you are in the world. But we need to show a lot more - like where you can find shops, save totems, what doors and exits connects to other parts of the map. Maybe even where quest turn-ins are... and possibly a GPS style system? Those are not in the demo because they are not finished being developed.
There are a bunch of internal systems as well that aren't really game mechanics, but help to control the inner game. These are things like:
- World Timer (to keep track of how long you've played the game, and can also be used to track time passing between events). This is entirely finished and functional.
- Multilingual Support (Dynamically stores ID driven entries for literally all text in the game and can swap it out based on the selected language). This is entirely finished, functional, and we even showed off a Japanese version of our older demo back in 2017.
- Multi Platform Controller (Allows the game to run on multiple platforms include PC, Mac, Steam, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and others. Also allows us to add new platforms with minimal effort). This is entirely finished - which means yes, A Purrtato Tail already runs on all of our target platforms. Don't believe us? Check out what we demoed at Dreamhack Atlanta last year - we had the game running on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch for everyone to play.
Along with scene load controllers, music management system, audio playback system, level editor, items editor, quest editor, crafting editor, visual effect control systems, and a ton of others.
Let me take a quick breath... that was a lot. And truth is, most of that really is finished! Sure, there is some polish needed here and there, some balancing adjustments, visual improvements, etc. - but our core development is not far off from completion. So you may be wondering - if we're showing so much off in the Cantermow demo, and we're launching a Kickstarter soon-ish, and have so little actual development to finish - what ARE we seeking funding for from Kickstarter?
We namely need to be able to pay our artists to finish the artwork for the title. Our game tech is basically done, as you can clearly see above. We are building the game world itself - the vast Isle of Moar, all of its dungeons, towns, events, and little hidden things to discover. We're going to need some funding to help get that done. We do have a good stack of assets already created from when we had more budget available in the past - enough to build a chunk of the game world! So once we wrap up the remainder of the code and visual interfaces for the elements listed above, we're not about to take a break or stop development - we're going to be building The Isle of Moar itself! The goal is to continue world development, and then bring in that sweet sweet Kickstarter cash to be able to continue production without taking our feet off the ground.
Will it happen? Kickstarter can be a fickle beast... but, we have a tremendous amount of interest from the fans and community. So we are hopeful! And with such a feature-filled demo as The Caterwauling of Cantermow included FOR FREE to download once the Kickstarter goes live - everyone will have a chance to get a feel for the bigger picture of the game, and we hope that will help get everyone excited enough to back it.
Thank you for sticking around and reading this weeks DevBlog! Until next time - I'm RedVonix, and this... is A Purrtato Tail.