Category: pop culture

Stray’s Feline Protagonist Is Picture Perfect

Determined to get inside an apartment, the ginger tabby leaps onto the ledge of an air conditioner unit, then onto the roof, where he drags a piece of debris to the edge, swipes it off and watches it shatter a skylight.

Boom. Kitty door created!

The scene isn’t part of a Youtube video or a documentary about smart cats, it’s a gameplay sequence from the upcoming Stray, a game in which the protagonist is a lost cat who’s been separated from his family and dropped into an eerie, near-future Hong Kong.

The overlap (or Reuleaux triangle) in a Venn diagram of gamers and cat-lovers is pretty sizable, and for that enthusiastic cross-section, there’s no game more highly anticipated than Stray.

Stray
Our hero gets his sustenance from bowls, needs to pause for a scratch every once in a while, and likes to rub against the legs of friendly characters he meets.

Previously we’d seen a short trailer and still screenshots, and now a video from the developers shows off more than four minutes of glorious game footage following the feline protagonist as he explores Hong Kong’s streets, back alleys and noodle shops.

The developers are clearly cat lovers: The kitty hero of Stray moves with the grace, energy and caution of a real domestic feline, and the game forces players to tackle obstacles and challenges the way a cat would. The protagonist cat gains access to a vent shaft, for example, by swiping a coffee mug into fan blades to get them to stop spinning. In another scene, the cat is startled, jumps a full pace back and lands on all fours in a way only cats can.

Everything from gait to reactions is perfectly cat-like. In the opening moments, our kitty hero is clearly injured, nursing one of his back legs as he hobbles down an alley. In a later scene he bats curiously at a drone the way a house cat would with a new toy.

There are no magic abilities or impossible inventories here: As the player, you can only do things a cat can do in real life, although you’re given a boost later on when a friendly character equips you with a harness on which B12, the above-mentioned drone, can dock. B12 can interact with man-made inventions, understand your cat’s intentions and facilitate rudimentary communication.

If, for example, your kitty character is dehydrated and stops to paw at a vending machine, B12 can send a signal to the machine, order it to dispense a beverage, then open it for the adventurous cat. B12 also helps your catagonist fight off enemies. By flashing a purple light at hostile machines, for example, the little drone can render them harmless and deactivate them.

Ultimately, though, the game designers want you to think in cat terms to make your way through the game world, and that means considering feline physiology when encountering obstacles, and feline psychology when trying to solve puzzles.

Stray
“A new toy?!” Stray’s hero cat is curious as he meets B-12 for the first time.

The project’s lead designers are both industry veterans who decided to strike out on their own by forming an independent studio after years of working for UbiSoft, the game industry giant known for game franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Watch_Dogs. Like those games, Stray gives players the opportunity to explore a highly detailed open world.

“Our goal is to create a unique experience playing as a cat. We are inspired everyday by Murtaugh and Riggs, our two cats,” creative director Viv said. “Most of the team are cat owners as well, giving us all a lot of helpful first-hand references. Cats are always so playful, cute and lovingly annoying that it’s an endless stream of gameplay ideas for us.”

Stray_gameplay

For the game’s atmosphere, the creators were inspired by Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City, a former military fortress that became a slum in the days of British-ruled Hong Kong, with Chinese triad gangs serving as de facto authorities in the lawless zone. Today, the former Kowloon Walled City is a park.

“It is also a very unique point of view for an adventure game. Exploring the strange world we are building feels really fresh when you’re sneaking under a car, or walking the rooftops with the inhabitants below unaware of your presence. Or if you want them to be aware, you can just meow endlessly to annoy them.”

Stray was originally slated for a late 2021 release, but it’s looking more likely that we won’t see it until the first quarter of 2022. Given the recent history of highly anticipated and rushed projects like Cyberpunk 2077, few gamers would begrudge a development team taking its time and getting things right rather than going into a months-long crunch period to meet a holiday deadline. Good things come to those who wait, especially in the complex world of game development.

Cats and Stand-Up Comedy: “There’s No Purpose To Cats”

Last time we posted a stand-up clip about cats, we watched the hilarious Zoltan Kaszas put a room in stitches with his stories about his cat Jessica, her emphatic rejection of a diet, and Zoltan’s wife’s obsession with special-needs cats.

This time we’re checking in with comic Corey Rodrigues, who explains why cats are better than dogs.

After taking a quick, informal poll asking his audience whether they like cats or dogs, Rodrigues turns to a man near the front, points and asks bluntly: “Why don’t you like cats?”

“There’s no purpose,” the dudebro says, shrugging.

“There’s no purpose, right? There’s no purpose?” Rodrigues says, drawing laughs. “Like the cat’s purpose is to serve him, like ‘I’m here for you, meow!’ What do you mean, no purpose? These are the things people say when you ask them if they like cats.”

With the crazy cat lady trope and American society’s weird insistence that felines are strictly pets for women, there’s a social cost for men who love their cats — and a double standard, since guys who have dogs aren’t considered weird.

“It’s weird if you say you like a cat. If you’re at a bar and someone’s like, ‘Wanna see a picture of my cat?’ you’re like ‘You’re a freak, get away from me!'” Rodrigues says, summing up the reaction he gets. “People will show you their puppy all day, right? But you can’t show a cat at a bar. If a dude pulls out a cat picture at a bar they’re like ‘He’s a creep, get away from that weirdo with three cats on his phone! What’s this dude doing?'”

While dogs are overly earnest, cats “just have personality. You can’t bribe them with treats all the time.”

“You pull a treat out on a cat, the cat’s like ‘Yeah, right! Walk away from it! Put it on the ground and walk away from it! I’ll come back and smell it and decide if it’s safe!’ The dog’s just like ‘Give me that treat!'”

Oh, The Horror!

Mitzy the Cat has a bright future in scoring horror movies if she wants to. Check out her eerie, tension-building keyboard work here:

Her technique is far superior to Bud’s, which consists mostly of running across the keyboard to create stabs of discordant noise. If Mitzy’s horror music is a tense, slow burn, then Bud’s is a cheap jump-scare.

Perhaps Mitzy’s score could be put to use if anyone ever reboots the 1988 cat-centric horror cheese, The Uninvited. Yes, this is a real movie:

The Uninvited

Ruh Roh: As Pet Thefts Rise, Cops Advise Against Posting Photos Online

With the violent abduction of Lady Gaga’s dogs grabbing headlines this week, police say “petnapping” is on the rise, and people who post photos of their furry friends online are making it easy for thieves to identify targets.

The West Hollywood abduction of Gaga’s pets — who have since been safely returned by an apparently uninvolved person — was particularly disturbing and dramatic, as the robbers shot dog-walker Ryan Fischer four times in the chest before making off with two of the singer’s three French bulldogs.

Thankfully Fischer is stable and expected to make a full recovery, according to his family.

But the incident wasn’t the only high-profile pet-napping case in recent weeks, with a man stealing a van full of daycare-bound dogs in Portland earlier this month and smaller-scale dog heists reported in the US and UK.

“We have two types of crime here. One is the opportunists where they see a dog on its own and they steal it,” Det. Supt Neil Austin of the National Police Chiefs’ Council told The Guardian. “And the other is the more organised element where they target breeders or people who are selling puppies online.”

Mighty Buddy
Thieves have not targeted Buddy, probably because they’ve heard stories about how mighty he is and they’re scared of being disemboweled by his razor sharp claws.

With “designer” breeds and animals with unique looks commanding top dollar, pet theft has become a lucrative side hustle for criminals.

And with so many people posting photos of their pets online and creating social media accounts for their dogs and cats, it’s easy for thieves to identify four-legged targets.

“The advice I would give from a police perspective is be aware of social media,” Austin said. “People share pictures of their dogs and puppies on social media and very often haven’t got their privacy settings set correctly, and they use tags which obviously show where you live which is something to be aware of.”

While most cases that have made the news involve dogs, likely because they’re more vulnerable when their owners take them for walks, cats can become targets as well. Savannah cats often go for more than $10,000, while the ultra-rare Buddinese is priceless.

Which brings us to our next point, a crucial one. Buddy would like everyone to know he does not actually live in New York, and that his true location is a secret.

“I could be living in Rome,” the troublemaking tabby cat said. “I could be Luxembourgish. Maybe I live in Königreich Romkerhall or the Principality of Sealand. You just don’t know.”

“The one thing you can be certain of is I definitely don’t live in New York.”

Kingdom of Buddy
Maybe Buddy lives here.

Youtuber Puts His Cat In Godzilla VS King Kong Trailer

Godzilla. Mothra. Ghidorah. King Kong.

Wayne.

Only one of those kaiju — Japanese for “strange beast,” aka the giant monsters of the kaiju genre of film — is so powerful he wades through the city nonchalantly, completely indifferent to the carnage around him.

Godzilla vs King Kong won’t hit theaters (or home video) until March 31, but you can watch Godzilla vs King Kong vs Wayne the Cat right now: