I spoke with the Robotic Potato team about their latest project, SpaceCats in Space!…
How did you form such a diverse team?
Simple answer: Reddit. Almost all of our team is filled from the ranks of /r/gamedevclassifieds or other subreddits, with the few exceptions being Alex Britten, whom I met at NYC’s Playcrafting events. A few other people I know personally from NYU. Reddit is a great place to search for a team because everyone is on the same subreddit for the same reason – to make games.
What goes into planning your next project?
SpaceCats in Space! was inspired by a picture I saw of a cat in a Starcraft helmet. Instantly, I thought to myself, “this would be such a cool idea; having cats take part in epic space battles.”
I kept playing with the idea, and couldn’t stop chuckling to myself. My second eureka moment came when I came up with the idea to pit cats against dogs in a WWII themed setting. I mean, everybody knows that cats and dogs are each other’s worst enemies. I immediately began working on the story.
One of my biggest inspirations for the type of humor and style was SWAT CATS. The show was both incredibly funny and witty, as well as action packed. I began spending every night writing and re-writing the script to make sure that every line was certain to make you laugh, while telling you an exciting story. And boy did it pay off! Everybody we’ve shown the game can’t stop laughing and talking about how well written the dialogue is.
What made you decide to use modern project management techniques like SCRUM and AGILE and what have been the benefits?
The great thing with the agile philosophy and the SCRUM process is the ability to think long-term without sacrificing flexibility. It’s a fairly common method used in a lot of internet startup companies. SCRUM takes large projects and brakes them into manageable cases that can be handled in smaller time increments called sprints. Typically, sprints last for two weeks. For us, we create tiny projects based on milestones and use that to estimate how long tasks will take. Sprints usually include a standing meeting, but since our team is spread around the world, communication is key.
What has been the most memorable time your team has gone through during game development?
August was a really terrible month for us. We had halted work on SpaceCats to do work on another project for Floyd Mayweather. But we got completely screwed by his agent when they decided to back out after they got their hands on our one week prototype (see our blog post here, along with some advice for those new to the indie game space). They didn’t understand that a prototype wasn’t going to look like the final game, or the concept of placeholder art. It was an unmitigated disaster and I lost a lot of money. I thought it might have been the end of us. I learned a lot of hard lessons about not providing spec work and avoiding shady contract negotiations.
What has been the biggest lesson you or your team has learned in game development?
Openness to feedback has to be up there. Because we’re a small team, we’re always reaching out for feedback on current demos to pitches. While some comments can be taken with a grain of salt, others have proven to be very useful.
To give one example, the first level in our demo was recently revamped. Originally, the level put players right into the action with a brief introduction to the controls. We found this to be too much for casual players, which happens to be one of our target audiences. Not only did they find the controllers confusing, but they also never heard of twin-stick shooters! We went ahead and added a “mini-tutorial” section in the first level to let players familiarize themselves with the controllers before facing hordes of enemies.
What does the future of SpaceCats in Space! look like? I know it’s still in development so what are the main features it’s lacking or what needs to be fixed?
We recently added a co-op mode (also a result of feedback), where a second player controls the character Art Buckle to provide support to Princess Angel. While we didn’t originally intend to include this, requests came to include a second player. This can also expand the appeal of the game to casual and non-gamers alike.
We also released our latest demo last week. We encourage everyone to visit our subreddit page for more information and for the download link (builds are available for Mac and PC)!