Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 11.52.53 PM

A New Version of Catlandia: May 31

I guess I’m kind of a perfectionist. When we released a demo last year, I envisioned releasing a new build every couple of weeks, as new features were added, because it kinda felt like the game hit a functional milestone, and it would all be content and polish from there.

It was not all content and polish from there.

Part of the problem is quite simply, I got better at Unity. I felt more comfortable with its tools, with plugins, with animating, with coding. And looking back at what I’d already done, it didn’t seem adequate. I could do better, so I should do better.

And so began a long process that tore apart much of what made the game work. We had a playableish version working around July of last year that we showcased at Edmonton’s K-Days. Then I kind of didn’t do anything for a couple of months. It’s hard work, making yourself do something so complicated, after 8 hours of your day job or on your weekends, when no one pays attention to your fun, creative work and you accept you’ll just have to make a career out of what they do pay your for: selling print advertising.

(I don’t do this any more, phew)

I came back to the project around October with an aim of “finishing” Catlandia: Prologue within two months. It would be rough, it would probably not be good, but it would get you through a couple of quests, and I’d be able to say I completed something.

I looked at my UI. It was full of dull brown boxes that just slid in and out. They did the job, but, dammit, I played through Persona 5 twice last year, and that beautiful, stylish UI left a mark on me. I could obviously not hope to match the perfection on display in that game, but I could do things better.

Here’s the old battle (I don’t even have a high res version!):

And here’s how it looks after I redid the UI (and got new art, and animated the enemies, and and and:

But it was a month-plus long process of redoing the UI. I picked brighter colours that better matched the background art. It’s still all basic Unity UI boxes, because we have to stop somewhere, but I put them at weird angles. I had them spin and rotate and slide and bump and roll in and out. I’ll still probably add a few more animations to them later, but it got me looking at the game in a whole new way. It felt better. Like, compare this old version of the dialogue box:

To the new, redesigned one:

It’s a curse, though. I don’t regret making them better, but it also meant that, well, I couldn’t release a new version during this process, because UI that didn’t match would look gross. Then I couldn’t release a new version with hats that didn’t flip properly. Then I got new art for the enemies, and I couldn’t release a new version if they didn’t all have neat animations. Then I found a dialogue/quest system plugin that would solve all my problems, but I had to integrate it.

You might notice in the video above, the combat now happens seamlessly (okay, there’s technically a white flash where I cheat) on the field, without going to a separate area. That meant removing the random encounter code (which, quote, “bummed” someone out who played a version last year), making enemies walk around (they won’t target you, yet), trigger the battle upon hitting them, handle the player/sidekick/enemy objects, change control of the camera, and transition back out on win, loss, or run. Boy, it was a lot. But it sure is worth it to jump into and out of a battle.

Okay, yes, Chrono Trigger was a big influence on me.

The loose December “finish the Prologue” goal sauntered on by. It turned into “make a new demo for March, April, May.”

Eventually, I sat down, and I drew up a list of everything I felt I needed to do to have a new version of a demo feel good. There were long-standing confusing issues in the combat I knew had to be done, but I cut, for now, a combat tutorial. That sucks, but hey, the game’s unabashedly not finished. I had to complete the UI revamp, but I left the shop UI out. The shop itself works fine. But you know what, it can wait.

Anyway, I’m writing this, because that list? It’s done. And I feel the urge creeping in again. The urge to “just add this one other thing”.

Instead, I’m committing to a May 31 release of a new version of Catlandia: Prologue. Also, it’s now called Catlandia: Crisis at Fort Pawprint. I thought that would be a lot more interesting and less pretentious.

In these last two weeks, I’ll be focused on correcting a bunch of bugs. I should be able to get them all. But if not? Enjoy them! See you May 31.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email