UPDATE: TINC Magazine checked back in with the creators of Octodad, who just put together a teaser trailer for the new game Octodad: Dadliest Catch. The game is planned for release sometime in 2013 for PC/Mac/Linux.
The following interview was first posted on July 14, 2011.
(Octodad Team Pictured Left to Right: Philip Tibitoski – Gameplay Designer, Kevin Zuhn – Project Lead, Ben Canfield – Lead Visual Designer, John Murphy – Producer)
The Octodad game development team is made up of students, faculty, and alumni from the DePaul University Game Developing program. Octodad is free at Octodadgame.com for the PC and Macintosh platforms. The player is in the third person and the player is an octopus, husband, and father. No one in the family can know the player’s true animal identity. The objective is simple: be a husband and father, conceal your octopus identity and hold on for dear life!
Is this different from other games you’ve developed/created?
Kevin Zuhn (Project Lead): In all other games I’ve worked on, you had controls that were simple, intuitive and fun, and then you built a level that would complicate your movements and introduce challenges. For Octodad, it was pretty much the opposite; it’s a simple and intuitive level until you introduce Octodad’s complicated controls.
In Octodad, just learning the controls is a large part of becoming good at the game. How did this affect the process of creating the levels and tasks?
Zuhn: Mastering the tricky controls is supposed to create much of Octodad’s “frustrating fun”. Anything between you and your goal would be multiplied in difficulty due to the control scheme. Because of that, we tried to keep other elements of the game from frustrating the players for the wrong reason. We had to make feedback constant, so that players always knew what to do and where to go, and when they had done the right thing or the wrong thing. Because walking is arduous, we built the objectives to be close to each other, and left the floorspace mostly open. We made objects glow so that you knew when you were about to grab onto something. We also had to make sure that when Octodad was going to do something, it would be funny, because without the humor there is only frustration in making Octodad move.
Are there any other platforms you’re interested in exploring with Octodad?
Phil Tibitoski (Programmer): Recently, we have been interested in porting the original game to the iPad due to a few recent SDK (software development kit) updates that would allow us to do so with a little work.
Is it true you’ve used the Kinect to control this game too?
Tibitoski: We have configured the Kinect to work with Octodad using a free open source solution called NITE/PrimeSense. This version of the game isn’t currently available to the public due to how difficult it is to install the drivers, but we are definitely keeping the Kinect in mind for future releases once Microsoft releases their official SDK.
What other local independent video game companies and games inspire you?
Zuhn: I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’m a fan of every game and game developer. For inspiration, I like going to Indie City Games, a meet-up where Chicago-area developers talk about and present their latest developments. Every kind of project gets presented there, from Unreal ‘mods’ to Facebook games. I can’t help but be inspired by watching a game in-progress, and doubly so when I can talk directly to the developer.
Tibitoski: I’ve really enjoyed a lot of the games that Cardboard Computer have released because they always seem to create a sense of wonder. The worlds in their games always seem to be something I’m dying to explore.
At DePaul, you’re working with a diverse team of game developers, artists, and managers. Was it difficult to communicate ideas and work as a team?
Kevin: Octodad was meant from the start to be strange and experimental, and I believe that to cultivate that kind of strangeness, the team has to be allowed a lot of creative freedoms. More often than not, my teammates would come up with things I never could have dreamed up alone. Obviously I still have opinions, and I believe in thorough discussion when two parties have a conflict of vision, but aside from the formative stages of the project, I rarely felt the need to do that for Octodad.
John: As the producer, it was basically my job to detect and correct these situations where people were having trouble communicating. For the most part, as silly as it sounds, the solution to this was to put the people who need to be communicating next to each other. The way I see it, if you put two people who speak different languages in a room together they’ll eventually come up with a way to communicate. Especially if you give them pens, paper, and the Internet.
You’re independent game developers. Are there any hopes that you’ll be picked up by a major company?
Murphy: About half of the team will use Octodad as a portfolio piece that will help them get jobs working at big studios. About seven of us have learned over the past year that we would rather maintain the creative freedom and camaraderie that we’ve experienced working together. Rather than try to get picked up by a major studio, we’re starting a little studio of our own. We’re calling ourselves “Young Horses” and making a commercial sequel to Octodad before continuing on to make other innovative games. Wish us luck!