Game Name: Strange Pets™
Release Date: 18 December 2016
Platforms: iOS - Universal for iPhone and iPad. Other platforms to follow.
Leo: Strange Pets is a new game where you parachute onto mysterious faraway places in the search for new pets. We believe this is a truly original endless puzzle game, beautifully designed and crafted with elements of arcade, strategy and adventure gaming.
During gameplay, you find new pets by combing two pets together. The pets have a special sequence which you must learn to better plan your moves and decide where to place your pets. It’s massively tactical!
Getting your pets in the right place at the right time can reap rewards in the form of combos. You can create combos by chaining a group of pets in the correct sequence. The bigger the chain, the bigger the combos and in turn your rewards.
Combos will earn you coins and Magic Heroes, which have special powers to help you progress in the game. There are several Magic Heroes to find with unique power ups to unleash.
The fun and challenging gameplay combined with the gorgeous graphics will appeal to large audiences including dudes, dudettes, kids, teens and also their moms and dads.
There’s also Secret Quests which I’m not supposed to talk about… since they are meant to be secret.
Leo: The whole process started back in Feb 2015 with a little prototype we built in Unity. We put about 20 animals in the prototype with the basic core mechanics to test the concept. At the time we were calling the game Farmables™.
This early prototype was a big hit with our test players. We felt we were on to something special so we decided to move on to the next stage and start production.
Leo: During production we ended up creating several beta versions of the game each focused in different key aspects of the Strange Pets universe. It was a very organic process with loads of experimentation and constant iterations adding and throwing bits away.
I remember, at some point we had versions called ‘Joe Hunter’ and ‘Found’ which were level based games focused in the main character’s (Joe Hunter) journey through different levels. They even had their own ‘Marioesque’ world map in voxel art. It was awesome!
However as the dev evolved we decided to drop out the world map from the game as we felt it wasn’t a good fit for the core mechanic.
We needed to create a much simpler progression mechanic to replace the level system. We believed the result is a truly unique endless gameplay and seamless continuous in-game progression which delivers a super smooth experience and fits perfectly with the endless nature of the gameplay.
We also spent what seemed like an eternity polishing the game during 2016. As always cash was scarce which put pressure on available dev time. But we always kept a ‘the game is ready when is ready’ attitude through out the project.
Leo: We wanted to create a great game for mobile devices.
We decided to focus on 4 key design goals:
Brain vs. Dexterity
We wanted to create a game that makes good use of the player’s cognitive skills, things like logic, memory, planning, etc. Basically something which is super fun to play and encourages players to think. No more Skinner boxes, please!
Play on the move
You can play anywhere specially when offline like traveling in the tube, planes, trains and automobiles. The controls must be very simple and take full advantage of the touchscreen, ideally taps or swipes. You can play with just one hand, basically the same hand holding your phone.
You can play anytime for as long as you want. It must be great fun playing for a few minutes on a coffee break or playing for half hour or longer in the evening. You can also play the entire game for free without any paywalls that unlock levels and content or having to wait for things to charge up and getting in the way of your fun. If ads are to be used for monetisation, they should never be forced on you. Instead you should choose to watch them and always be rewarded for doing so.
The gameplay must be easy to learn and hard to master. It should also be timeless and enable you to play for weeks, months if not years to come.
Leo: The brain vs dexterity is not a new thing for us. Over the years we’ve created some other games in this territory.
For example, one of our earlier games called UNPUZZLED is an interesting and original number game which combines the challenging number crunching nature of games like Soduku with an interesting evolution of the game mechanic as you progress, which is very similar to what you find in level based games like Cut The Rope and Candy Crush.
We wanted to create a new game that is a bit clever like UNPUZZLED but not too clever so it can be accessible to more players. It became clear the new game was not going to be another number game but a game about animals instead.
We also learned from our previous level based games like UNPUZZLED and Drain Pipe Surf Dudes that constantly creating new levels can very challenging creatively speaking. Making a procedural level generation system that feels right is tricky as is creating unique hand made levels. Eventually you run out of level ideas.
So we set out to create a new game about animals that had endless gameplay with a unique progression system that would somehow incorporate the benefits of having levels without having actual levels.
Leo: We wanted the game to look fun, colourful and ideally take players to a mysterious 'happy place'.
Due to the relative large scope and number of assets required we knew we had to keep things simple. We needed to find a feasible and realistic way to create a huge number of unique pets with our limited resources.
So we decided to stick with simple shapes and geometries for our gameplay objects. Obviously!
Our first design paradigm was very extreme. The approach was to create each pet with just a single cube with 16x16 pixelart textures on each cube face. In fact we tried this in the Farmables™ prototype and it looked pretty cool. As a bonus, it was also super easy to create simple sprite animations for each cube face texture.
However later on we realised the single cube approach was too limiting as the cubes looked more like they were just heads rather than an entire pet. We thought this was going to become a big issue once our pet list started increasing and getting more complex.
So we came up with a new approach. Basically we would turn our single cube into a 3D voxel cube with 18x18x18 voxels and sculpt each pet from that. The result was these relatively simple 3d voxel pets that looked gorgeous and unique.
There were some interesting creative challenges we had to solve along the way, for example how to make long animals like a crocodile or a snake to fit within our cube constrain. I’ve always been obsessed with voxels so it was unbelievably great fun to create the voxel pets thanks to MagicaVoxel.
Leo: No, absolutely not! Strange Pets is not about hatching eggs, taking care of pets and etc. The only common element here is the pet theme and that’s it.
Leo: The final the game was build entirely in Unity. We used the awesome MagicaVoxel editor by @ephtracy to create all our unique 3D assets and Blender to tweak them before importing into Unity. For the audio we used Bxfr to create sound fxs and Audacity to tweak audio assets.
Leo: We’ll be adding new worlds packed with awesome new pets. We are also working to bring the game to new platforms.
As always, there are tons of crazy but awesome ideas floating about that didn’t make it into initial release but might get added later.
For example, we think it would be great fun to bring the initial Farmables™ prototype to the game as a bonus challenge mode. Basically we would create a voxel mobile phone for our main character Joe Hunter and would 'install' and run the Farmables™ game inside his voxel phone. So imagine you would play this little mini game in his voxel phone within the main game. It’s would be super cool and very ‘Inception’ like!
Leo Marques: Code + Art + Design (@leomarques)
Radka Podolska:: Project Management + Design
Lucy Marques:: Test
Glaucius Miguens:: Test
NetDevo™ is a London based award winning digital studio founded by Leo Marques. NetDevo™ specialises in developing indie games and building digital products such as games, apps and websites for digital agencies and clients.
Launch Trailer: https://youtu.be/fFN-9LRrAgo
Download ZIP: Presskit.zip