Pakka Pets and Tamogotchi, yes yes, the comparisons have been made. You have the life of an adorable creature in your hands, take care and love your Pakka Pet and they’ll thrive; don’t and you’ll have their digital blood on your hands.
Last time we talked about Pakka Pets we explained how there’s no use in comparing it to Tamogotchi by comparing them to one another. Our lesson learned, it’s time time to move on and talk to the people behind the game. What’s the game mean to them? Where’d the idea come from? Is it really just a clone with prettier graphics? Thomas Uster, the 7ft 8inch power forward programmer for Pakka Pets took some time to answer these questions and more. He even goes rogue at the end and starts making up his own rules. This friggin guy.
Cliqist : Tell us a little about yourself. Work history, motivation for game development, your power animal; that sort of thing.
Thomas Uster : Hey I’m Thomas Uster and I’m the programmer on Pakka Pets. After being inspired by Nintendo games like Zelda, Ghouls and Ghosts, and believe it or not Command & Conquer Red Alert I began my journey of making video games. I did mostly online flash games for IGT(International Game Technology) and Kabam in San Francisco before working on Pakka Pets.
My power animal huh? I think the dopest possible thing would be a War Elephant.
Cliqist : Where did the idea for Pakka Pets come from?
Thomas Uster : Willem, the game designer and artist, had been working on the idea for sometime before we met. On a coffee break one day I told him that I wanted to build something that I had a lot of influence over. He pestered me for a month to sign an Non Disclosure Agreement so he could tell me his game idea.
I’m not going to lie, when he first uttered the words virtual pet I shuttered. The last games I had been into were Company of Heroes, Battlefield, and World of Warcraft. A virtual pet game was the last thing I’d think of developing. But when Willem opened his big blue designer notebook and began explaining all of the mechanics and how each one fed into each other I started to realize how cool his idea, Pakka Pets, was going to be. If I teamed up with Willem on Pakka Pets, we’d be able to make something unique for a genre that’s lacked something special for years.
Cliqist : Pakka Pets isn’t a gritty side scrolling Mega Man clone with procedurally generated environments. Aren’t you going against the Kickstarter grain a little?
Thomas Uster : Hahaha. We totally are! I think that’s part of the reason why we’re not getting much traffic from people browsing on Kickstarter. Most people are hearing about Pakka Pets from awesome sources like Cliqist.
I think a lot of people are hesitant to take an indie pet game seriously, but thankfully the indie gamers that check out the video seem to really like it.
Cliqist : How would you describe Pakka Pets to a little old lady on the street that’s never heard of Tamogotchi or Creatures and thinks that you kids with your cellular phones should get off her lawn?
Thomas Uster : I would smile, pull out my iPad and place it in her hands. I’d point to the little pet on the screen and say, this is your new pet, her names Chika.
Cliqist : What’s your favorite part of the game so far?
Thomas Uster : The pets! They’re freaking adorable to play with. I know I’m a guy and saying words like adorable is weird to some dudes, but I’m telling you guys and girls, the pets are freakin adorable. (Launches Pakka Pets build) See look at this, my diseased little pet is a sleeping. Adorable.
Cliqist : The Free to Play model isn’t exactly popular amongst certain groups of gamers, what made you go that way for Pakka Pets?
Thomas Uster : There’s a lot of terrible ways to do free to play and a lot of good ways to do free to play. People will like how we’re doing it.
Pakka Pets is a game you play only a few times a day over a long period of time. So a player won’t really get a sense of the long term mechanics until they’ve played with it for 4-5 days. We want people to be able to play the game for free so that they can decided if they like it or not before spending any cash.
Here’s a metaphor for how it should feel. Every weekday I grab a coffee at my local cafe. It’s my afternoon ritual where I can zone out, sip a hot latte, and get outside. Every now and then I treat myself, I get my usual coffee and I buy a melty chocolate-chip cookie. Mmmmmm… So Pakka Pets should kinda feel like my afternoon coffee, except the coffee will be free! And hopefully, just like me, you’ll sometimes treat yourself with a cookie.
Cliqist : Your campaign has started out really strong, and you guys aren’t big name industry vets working on the next Mega Man. What’s made your campaign so successful so far? Did you do a lot of pre-work?
Thomas Uster : The reason why we were able to do so well so early is because of our awesome friends and family. They’re all familiar with our hard work, good nature, and like the things we make. Our biggest problem is that we’ve been to in love with working on the game and not spending enough time telling people about it.
We did a ton of pre-work. We’re both perfectionists so we put a lot of thought into the Kickstarter page and video.
Cliqist : Not to be a downer, but a third of your funding so far is from one person. Any worries about what will happen if their funding falls through? It’s something that happened to the Super Roman Conquest guys. What are you strategies for a strong second half of your campaign?
Thomas Uster : You’re mostly right, we had someone back us for $10,000 (over 50% of funding so far). Whoever that amazing Hero is, he’s totally awesome!
We’re really mostly ridding on the amazing support of people we know. We’ve been working very hard since launch mailing out press kits, sending guerilla tweets (Thank you Reggie Watts!), and doing other weird things. I debated dancing with a sign on the corner.
Cliqist : Why should someone back Pakka Pets?
Thomas Uster :
- Rewards! We have a bunch of backer exclusive items including an entire Pet family! If you like Pakka Pets, don’t wait until release, there will be no other way to get the Kickstarter exclusive Pakka Pet egg! Plus we have a ton of other awesome rewards including treasure, phone cases, and even a time machine!
- Hot Coco… Fill that void in your gaming portfolio you never knew you had. Play a game that pulls you in but plays at the pace you want. Play a game that feels like a nice cup of hot coco.
- Because you believe in us. We’re both pretty cool dudes that love making games. If you back Pakka Pets you’ll really be helping us out and be giving us a chance to make a game in the future that tickles your fancy.
Cliqist : Can you wrap things up with a Pakka Pets inspired haiku for us?
Thomas Uster : I’m terrible at Haikus, so here’s some rhymes.
We’re creating something special just for you.
A void it will fill like a special coffee brew.
So back Pakka Pets now, be sure to recommend it
It’ll be the cool game that you knew before your friend did.
Cliqist : Thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions!
Thomas Uster : No problem. We <3 Cliqist!