TechRaptor likes to introduce and support new development talent whenever it can and as such I reached out to talk to Stanley Kuschick of Hamhock Games to talk about their first project CatFish, a comfort cat fishing simulator. We talk the game, indie development and working with the new media.
TR: Tell us about yourselves and introduce us to CatFish
Hamhock Games is a small 4 member studio with myself, Founder Patricio Delgado who is the 3D modeler and animator, Christopher Ross, the Programmer and Project Manager, Jarrett Rhodes, our Concept and Texture artist, and me, Stan Kuschick, the Public Relations Coordinator and Community Manager for Hamhock Games and CatFish. We are all aspiring game devs leading a secret double life as students at the University of Central Florida.
CatFish is an open world game where players set sail in search of fish, collectibles and adventure. The objective is to become the master of the seas, which is done by capturing at least one of every type of fish in the ocean including the legendary fish that felled your brave parents all those years ago.
Game progression occurs when players catch fish, bring them to the harbor to sell, and then use the accumulated resources to buy new ships and equipment as they progress.
The main 3 focuses of the game are fishing, sailing and customization. Fishing is done is a very original way using items and other fish as different influences on the tide of battle. Sailing is the way players can explore, and how many fish they can hold as well as the overall stats of the ship are why players would try to upgrade. Lastly, the customization is in place to allow all players to experience it the way they want to, in terms of visual aesthetic.
TR: What was your inspiration for CatFish?
Patricio came up with the CatFish one day when he was reflecting on his love of cats and the ocean. The initial concept was born from that moment, and has evolved with all of the team's help into what is now CatFish. Side note: Pat is a huge Zelda Wind Waker fan and that definitely comes into play a bit with our visual design.
TR: Many indie teams are going towards a retro pixel art style. What made you stay away from this?
It's funny that you ask this question. The original art direction for CatFish was heavily pixelated to go after a retro vibe as well. This created a few cool effects, like making an island slowly fade into clarity as players sailed towards it. As we continued to work on the project however, we realized that mechanically, the style was rather limiting. Something primarily acting as an homage is hardly worth imposing new, unnecessary challenges on players- and even us as a team making the game. After that decision, we decided that our cel-shading was the way we wanted to go. To sum it up, we stayed away from the retro pixel art because it wasn't mechanically viable. You should never let a commitment to style damage the overall experience.
All that said, there may be some references to that original visual design in the final game, but nothing we're willing to commit to.
My personal opinion is that for many, pixel is the easy way to do things. It allows people to cut corners and justify it as "retro". Only a fraction of the games out there doing it are doing it right and for the right reasons. Again, this is my opinion and not that of the company.
TR: I found you through KickStarter. Has it been difficult to gain funding and media attention as an indie group? Or has KickStarter helped with that?
You are actually the first media outlet to discover us through Kickstarter. The others we've spoken with have all been because of my own personal outreach to them either in person or online.
The majority of our support for this project has come from direct contact- and that isn't just with the media. Believe me when I say there are a lot of people we've personally shown this game to. As far as we know, very few of our supporters stumbled upon us like you did, and were instead those who have seen our intense media plan in action, with updates on multiple social media sites at least three times a week, or those who met us in person. A handful of people were given the chance to actually play the game's pre-alpha build at Otronicon. Those who did were very openly impressed, and that ranged from a child as young as three to a handful of elders who found our simple controls to be something that even they could master.
TR: Is there a playable demo for our readers to test drive.
So far there is not a demo available for press and the public to download independently, but I put together an early gameplay demo of the sailing experience. You can watch it with or without audio. I provide some commentary to explain what is happening in the build but for the most part it was a quick video thrown together just to put something out there if people really needed gameplay footage.
We're currently working on a new build that will hopefully be up to the standard we are acceptable leaving in people's hands without us to support it with explanations while they play.
TR: Do you think as an indie developer it is hard to break into the gaming industry? Or has social media really helped with that in recent years?
I think right now is one of the greatest times to be a game developer. Big players over the last few years have paved the way for new people to follow in their footsteps and self-publish while also being able to actually succeed. Social media definitely has a lot to do with it (So much so that I was able to get my job). Admittedly it's a bit harder with past games that promised things like alpha and beta versions and then stopped developing before going gold. Because of this, a lot of players have become jaded and lose faith in crowd-funding. It's made the Kickstarter platform lose some of its reputation which, frankly, I don't think is fair when so many great titles have come from it.
The struggle for us as indies has been getting people who don't know who we are or anything about our game to support it based on a trailer and Kickstarter page. We've done our best to show the spirit and content of our game in that Kickstarter trailer and to then supplement that with the facts in our story section, but even then this has been a very daunting challenge that leaves me anxious. So many variables are at work and there's no way for us to be able to say we're in the clear until we officially are funded and the deadline has passed. We have an incredible game on our hands that has never existed before. That said, if we fail to get funded I personally think that would be a loss for not only us as developers, but the people who want to play this game and have already shown tremendous support.
TR: What kind of player are you envisioning will play this game?
Everyone. Veteran players who love exploration found in games like Wind Waker, children who love the freedom and design (and based on their feedback, minecraft), older people who enjoy unique gameplay experiences and/or a comfy game-feel, the Animal Crossing and Little Big Planet fans who love to customize their characters, collectathoners who need to catch all of the fish... To be completely honest, people of all kinds will play this game, and that's why we're committed to making the base level of gameplay very accessible.
To sum it up, everyone will play CatFish if we accomplish what we're set out to do.
TR: With the total cuteness of your game would you say you are appealing to those who are calling out for more PC comfort simulators?
For us, CatFish is a game in which comfort is something that we care a lot about. In many ways, it is a "comfort simulator" because we want being in the world to be just that: comfy. This is a game where people can pop in, set sail and just enjoy the sea. That's not all it is, though.
When players are ready to leave their comfort zone, be it from the start or after hours of play, there are whole new levels of depth in the world itself, from the fishing mechanics, to the dynamic ecosystem that can shift the tone from comforting open world to challenging quest with a lot of interesting mechanics to keep things fresh.
Players can relax in a boat gently rocking back and forth or they can become the alpha predator that reshapes the ocean populations to their choosing. They can go out and collect their favorite costumes, or they can hunt down the most elusive fish in the sea. The game is something that everyone can enjoy in a way that they want to enjoy it.
CatFish really is a game for everyone. Not because it lacks focus, but because it doesn't need to be limited to still be something enjoyable for players of all kinds.
Techraptor would like to thank Stanley for taking the time to talk to us and if you are interested please check out their KickStarter.
What do you think of CatFish? Are you interested in this comfort simulator?