Category Archives: Dev Diary

Kitty Disastrous Development Update #1

It’s time for our very first Kitty Disastrous game development update! We’ve been crazy-busy working on Kitty Disastrous and a few other things since we showed Kitty at PAX Prime. We had a long crunch leading up to PAX and went through a bunch of gameplay prototypes, testing various art styles (including a 2D version of the game) before we finally hit on a look that we loved.

Kitty Disastrous

We finished the PAX demo the night before we flew out to Seattle and I (Tim) didn’t even have a final build until after we arrived. In fact, I was fixing bugs and making adjustments to areas where people were getting stuck right on the show floor. This was the first time that anyone (including us) had played the game with puzzles and cinematics and art and everything all together so naturally there were some issues.

In the end, the response was positive and we came out of the show feeling like we were on the right track. Turns out people like games about cats! Who knew?

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We saw a lot of people struggling with the first puzzle and not really understanding the relationship between the main characters, Kitty and Ferris. After returning home to Toronto, I started to rework the layout and puzzles in the opening act. We took a short break to bring The Phantom PI to Apple TV (yay!) and returned to Kitty with a lot of fresh ideas about how we wanted the game to work.

In one of the new puzzles, the old “miser” dude who lives in the town has kidnapped Ferris and so Kitty gets to have a bit of fun tricking him in order to get into his house.

Kitty Disastrous

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In re-configuring the level layout, we added a bunch of new exterior buildings and interior spaces. The game starts at night instead of day time, and we really are enjoying playing with night lighting for the environments.

Kitty Disastrous

Kitty needs to be pretty clever if she’s going to avoid getting in trouble with the law.

Kitty Disastrous

That’s all for this update. We’re hoping to do more frequent updates as we continue to work on Kitty in 2016. Keep and eye on our twitter feeds @rocket5studios and @kittydisastrous for lots more!

Rocket 5 Tim and Cathy

Happy holidays!
Tim, Cathy & Rocket

The Rocket 5 GDC Play 2014 Recap

Those of you who develop games know that there’s nothing quite as terrifying as putting your game into the hands of gamers and watching them play it for the first time. Months and sometimes years of hard work can either be validated by cheerful squeals of happy players or dashed to bits on the rocks of harsh criticism by those who don’t “get it”. Last week we took The Phantom PI Mission Apparition on the road to the 2014 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and to our relief, the response was amazing!

The Phantom PI GDC 2014

We estimate that 500+ people played the game over the course of the 3 day event and I’m happy to report that the reception for The Phantom PI was overwhelmingly positive! Nearly everyone who played took the time to tell us their thoughts on the experience. Most people felt that the controls were intuitive, that the puzzles where easy to understand yet challenging and that the game “looks beautiful” (blush)! We also got a good bit of criticism that will help us tune the game as we get closer to release – thankfully there were no real surprises, all of the critiques were totally things that we can fix and many were things that were already on our todo list.

Rocket 5 GDC Play 2014

Cathy and Christine having a little fun at our GDC Play booth

The GDC Play space was easily the most exciting and active area in the whole event, with a constant rumble of games and gamers hanging out, talking and playing with stuff they’d probably never heard of before the event. Compared to the South Hall which housed all of the big name companies in video games (plus the IGF nominated games) with their flashy booths and super-soft carpeting, the GDC Play space in the North Hall was noisy, casual and alive with excitement.

Rocket 5 GDC Play 2014

Cathy and Christine look over an artist’s portfolio while Adam from Asteroid Base plays The Phantom PI

We were surrounded by amazing micro developers from all around the world including a few of our friends like the awesome folks at Phantom Compass and the OMDC booth which allowed a bunch of Ontario developers to show off their games. We also made a few new friends at Schell Games, Shark Punch, Right Pedal Studios and Xibalba Studios.

The next stop for The Phantom PI before we release will be at PAX East in April so if you’re going to PAX, be sure to keep a lookout for us (we’ll have more info on our booth location in a few days)!

Press Round-Up
Autodesk Warpzone: GDC 2014 For the Love of indie game makers

Alchemic Dream GDC14 Interview Rocket 5 Studios presents Phantom PI Mission Apparition

Haunted Toronto: The R5 Team Walks with the Ghosts (again)

To celebrate the week of Halloween, Rocket 5 went on another ghost tour- this time through our home-base, Toronto. Muddy York Walking Tours leads ghost walks through the city, and we chose one called ‘The Ghosts of the University of Toronto.’ Being a current student at U of T, I was pretty excited to hear more about the ghost stories I already knew and also to learn more of the university’s creepy secrets. It was exciting to be taking a tour of a place we were familiar with, too. While my usual inclination would be to seek out new places for research and inspiration, it was fun to play the tourist and hear about the cool stories lurking within our own city.

Cathy, creepin' outside the ROM.

Cathy, creepin’ outside the ROM.

In the early stages of the Phantom PI, we took a lot of inspiration from famous hauntings all around the world, but were especially eager to track down local stories. Now that we’ve come so far with the game, it was really cool to go back and re-live some of that research by getting up close and personal with Toronto’s ghosts.

I’ve been asked by our tour guide not to give away too many details about the walk, so it’s still a surprise for any new tour-goers. Instead, here are a few teasers…

Scaaary     

The campus (which has always reminded me of Hogwarts) really is the perfect place for a haunted walk, especially at night. Our caped tour guide led us by some familiar buildings and shared some not-so-familiar scary tales- I was surprised by all the campus ghost stories I’d never heard of. I definitely have my favourites of the night, but I don’t want to give too much away.

The creepy laughing face at UC. Take the tour to learn why he's laughing.

The creepy laughing face at UC. Take the tour to learn why he’s laughing.

Trinity and University College both have their own ghosts (see, more and more like Hogwarts), though perhaps the more famous is UC’s Reznikoff. A disastrous love-triangle led to his murder, and his bones were discovered in the tower years later, though many students claimed the ghost came to them to explain his tragic circumstances before his remains were found. I’ve had classes in UC for nearly five years now and I’ve yet to see anything ghostly, but the building definitely has a creepy atmosphere and I wouldn’t want to be there all alone at night.

That's an AXE mark in the door. Seriously. "Heeere's Johnny!"

That’s an AXE mark in the door. Seriously. “Heeere’s Johnny!”

We learned a few new things about the city, including that there was once a women’s mental hospital (then called the University Lunatic Asylum) where the Ontario Legislative Building now sits. Stories of the ghosts of former patients are terrifying (with creepy names like The Maiden and The Hanging Woman), but nothing makes your skin crawl like imagining the actual conditions those women faced in the hospital.

We also talked about the Christie Mansion, which was of particular interest to me because I’d researched the ghost stories associated with the Christies quite a bit. An early character idea for the Phantom PI came out of that research, and it was very exciting to revisit those stories and hear some things that hadn’t been covered by my voracious Google searches. The internet is an awesome resource for any storyteller, but nothing compares to hearing the story in person and peeking through the windows of a supposedly haunted house, looking for ghostly activity.

Learning about Torontonian ghosts was fantastic. Visiting new places and hearing totally unfamiliar stories is great, but there’s something special about learning new secrets about a place you visit every day. The city is always a great inspiration to us, especially its lovely old buildings and sometimes creepy history, and it was cool to re-live our earlier research and learn a few new things. The Muddy York Walking Tours Company gets a Rocket 5 stamp of approval, and we hope to go on another of their many (and I mean MANY) ghost tours.

Once again, I invite you to share some creepy ghost stories in the comments, especially if they take place in Toronto or on Halloween (extra points if it happened both in Toronto AND on Halloween). I hope everyone had a terrifying Halloween, and as a bonus, here’s a picture of OUR Halloween costumes:

Happy Halloween from Marshall, Famke and Cecil!

Happy Halloween from Marshall, Famke and Cecil!