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’.