Tag: Cats in Games

Stray: A Lost, Lonely Cat Gets A Buddy

There’s been so much buzz about Stray, so many news stories, memes and people talking about it, that I’m probably not alone in feeling like I’m watching a TV series an episode at a time while most people binged it in a day or two.

But that’s not how I play, and it’s not how most game developers want players to experience their stories. Modern games, especially games like Stray with their bespoke environments and unique encounters, are built to immerse players in their worlds. The entire point of video games is the interactivity, the choices and agency of the players. They’re designed so when you choose to wander off the beaten path or take a few moments to linger over something visually impressive, the experience is rewarding.

Maybe you’ll find a rare item, a compelling vista, a secret passage or a funny sign. The point is, there’s incentive to look deeper. It gives games a feeling of possibility and the thrill of the undiscovered.

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Standing on a keyboard, just like the good old days!

These stories are not meant to be passive experiences, nor are they meant to be devoured. I won’t be speed running through this mysterious alternate future version of Hong Kong. The journey is the entire point.

Picking up where we left off, the Good Boy (that’s what I’m calling him, for now at least) must learn to navigate this new and potentially dangerous urban environment, and he must do so with a feline’s skill set.

There are no opposable thumbs here. If our hero needs to move an object, he’s got to carry it in his mouth like a mom cat does with her kittens. If he needs to move a barrel, he’s got to get inside and run like a hamster in a wheel to propel it forward. If he needs to stop a fan’s blades from spinning so he can get through a window, he’s got to drop or swipe something into the blades to jam them up.

Appropriately, one of the main mechanisms for making new routes is knocking things over. Knock over a piece of plywood and Good Boy has a bridge. Knock over a can or a box at just the right angle to flip a switch and so on.

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Protagonist cat can navigate the city in different ways and at different heights. Moving above street level means he’s less vulnerable and gives him a nice ambush angle should he encounter anyone who needs a good startling.

Good Boy meanders through a seemingly abandoned Kowloon City, padding through quiet streets and taking shortcuts through empty flats. There’s power, the city is illuminated by incandescent lights, neon and the glow of TV sets indoors, so someone must be around.

Our feline hero soon learns new tenants have moved in, and they’re not friendly. I’m not sure what they’re called, and the game doesn’t name them, but Kowloon is now home to swarming, artificial tribble-like creatures that attack Good Boy on sight and can take him down if he doesn’t run and shake off any enemies who manage to latch onto him. (Side note: I do not like dying in this game. What did Good Boy ever do to deserve being attacked?)

The first encounter with these enemies turns into a twisting chase through dimly-lit alleys, crumbling staircases and tight streets. Good Boy manages to evade the evil robot tribbles and finds sanctuary in a secure flat.

Once he attends to his needs, which include some carpet scratching and rehydrating, he’s contacted by a machine who uses TVs, computer monitors and other electronics in the apartment to communicate with the tabby.

The machine directs the cat through a few simple tasks necessary to free him, then meets Good Boy in the flesh.

The bot, a palm-size drone named B-12, is damaged and his memory is corrupted. He’s as lost and confused as Good Boy is, and he proposes a partnership. Good Boy, who sees the value in a drone who can open locks, translate signs and communicate with others, agrees. B-12 outfits his new feline friend with a harness that allows him to dock on the kitty’s back, then he saddles up and the new teammates venture forth.

For the first time, the protagonist is able to glean real information about his environment and has a sense of direction. He also gets to travel by makeshift ziplines, hopping into buckets hanging from the city’s ubiquitous wires.

Next episode: Our duo fights back! Same cat time, same cat channel.

Long-Anticipated Play-As-A-Cat Game ‘Stray’ Releases In July!

As a game that puts players in the paws of a feline protagonist, Stray is all about forgoing familiar video game tropes in favor of forcing players to think like a cat.

To do that, Stray’s developers spent a lot of time looking at vast amounts of reference material via the digital archive of feline images and videos known as the internet, and studying two of their co-workers — the office cats who play, lounge and provide inspiration for the development team.

“They are called Oscar and Jun,” producer Swann Martin-Raget wrote, “and even if they are not the most productive employees to be honest, they definitely add a lot of cheerful liveliness to the studio.”

Stray’s tight-knit team spent seven years bringing the heroic moggie and his world to life, and on July 19 players will finally get to explore the neon-drenched environs of a futuristic Hong Kong from a cat’s eye view.

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Stray’s feline hero must navigate a future Hong Kong.

The developers worked hard to get the approval of Oscar and Jun, who could not be bribed with snacks.

“Seeing them interact with objects around the office (even sometimes shutting down our computers at the worst possible moment!) gave us quite a lot of inspiration for the various cat interactions that are possible throughout the game,” Martin-Raget wrote.

We’ve been following the development of Stray for a few years now at PITB and can’t wait to give it a spin. Check out the launch trailer here:

 

Cats In Games: The Magnificent Jaguars Of ‘Shadow of the Tomb Raider’

Lara Croft has come a long way since the days when she was the polygonal, hyper-sexualized protagonist of the early Tomb Raider games.

Thanks to a reboot the new Lara is a smart, adventurous and brave young woman voiced and motion-capped by the talented Camilla Luddington, and she’s never felt more real. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara ventures to the Peruvian jungle to chase down Mayan artifacts, and among the many obstacles in her way are jaguars.

Gorgeous, magnificent, regal jaguars who seemingly manifest out of the mist and blend back into the green inferno at will.

Here’s our new Lara, now starring in her third game:

The new Lara Croft
The new Lara Croft is a fearless adventurer and archaeological expert who travels the world unearthing clues to humanity’s past.

Like previous games, her adventures revolve around archaeological digs, ancient tombs and uncovering the history of humanity one find at a time. What would a Tomb Raider adventure be without a bit of danger?

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Lara crosses an underground chasm in search of a Mayan relic.

After an opening sequence, Lara and her friend Jonah head deep into the Peruvian jungle. This being Tomb Raider, they can’t land like normal people — a powerful storm sweeps in, sending their plane crashing into uncharted territory.

Lara finds herself alone, lost in the jungle without her gear. The sounds of the jungle reach a fever peach, with birds fleeing branches and monkeys howling, heralding the arrival of the apex predator of the Americas: Panthera onca, the jaguar, a name that translates to “He who kills with one bound.”

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“Hey there, could you tell me how to get to Lima?”

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Okay, stay calm! Remember your training! You’re face to face with an apex predator with the strongest bite force of any animal, but you can do this!

Besides, it can’t get any worse at this point.

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Can it?

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Oh shit. Even the monkeys are like “Dayum! Grab the popcorn!”

Don’t panic! Maybe these jaguars are just saying hello!

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Or maybe not.

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What’s worth noting is that these are not cut scenes — what you see here are screenshots within the game engine. For people who aren’t familiar with video games, that means you’re looking at the game itself. This is what the gameplay looks like.

We have come a long, long way from this, haven’t we?

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The low-texture, low-polygon world of the original Tomb Raider games.

It’s a difference allowed by several generations’ worth of improved computer hardware and software, resulting in billions of additional polygons, millions of additional colors, improved lighting, physics, art assets, high definition textures, motion capture technology and all the little things that fuel progress from a world made from flat, blurry environments and cartoonish characters to a hyper-realistic, almost photo-quality world which makes incredible immersion possible.

Most of our readers may not be gamers, but for those who are, I’ll avoid spoilers here even though Shadow of the Tomb Raider was a 2018 release.

Suffice to say jaguars play a prominent role in the game and serve as the Big Bads, the game’s ultimate threat made even more terrifying by the knowledge that they can appear at any time and ambush our hero before she’s even aware of their presence.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider does a fantastic job of immersion, making all of the dangers of the jungle feel real through meticulously crafted visuals and sound, and a compelling story. And like everything else in life, it’s better with cats!

Cats In Games: Cyberpunk 2077

I’ve been playing Cyberpunk 2077 lately, as readers of this blog may have guessed by some of the references, and it is everything the hype said it would be: A dystopian story set in a grim, hyper-corporatized, ultra-capitalist future in which the masses worship the gods of consumption, virtually everything that humans come in contact with is synthetic, and nature is a forgotten dream that may or may not exist beyond the seemingly-infinite concrete and chrome of human sprawl.

It’s Bladerunner writ large and interactive, a retrofuturistic nightmare in which people voluntarily have their own eyes plucked out to replace them with brain-interfaced digital lenses and biomechanical grotesqueness is the societal norm. A future in which a person’s life amounts to the price their internal organs can fetch on the black market and the only civil liberties that exist do so by the forbearance of megacorporations.

Even if you’re not a gamer, unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve probably heard of the game. It is, after all, one of the most highly-anticipated pieces of consumable media in modern history, and familiar actors have lent their voices and likenesses to the production.

One of the most depressing aspects of 2017’s Bladerunner 2049, the long-awaited sequel to the 1982 Ridley Scott classic, is the utter disconnect from anything natural.

Future Los Angeles is so choked with smog that the city exists in a perpetual twilight gloom. Animals have been purged from the Earth, and humanity has turned to farming insect larvae for protein in processed foods. Vegetation is so rare that the sight of a single sprout near the dusty carcass of an old oak tree fascinates Ryan Gosling’s antagonist character, K.

Drawing heavily on Bladerunner — as well as the seminal 1988 Japanese film Akira, William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer, Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element (1997), and even the 1979 action thriller Warriors (which is itself based on Xenophon’s Anabasis from 370 BC) — Cyberpunk 2077 is about violence, hedonism and human greed.

There is no room for the beauty of animals or nature in a future like this.

That’s why it’s surprising to find cats stalking the dim alleys of Cyberpunk 2077’s Night City.

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Keanu Reeves’ character, Johnny Silverhand, is quite enamored with Nibbles the Cat.

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A Sphinx cat in Cyberpunk 2077.

The player’s character, V, can stop and pet stray cats he encounters throughout the game.

There’s even a hidden opportunity to adopt your own stray and take it back to your apartment in the game. Johnny Silverhand, the wise-ass character played by Keanu Reeves, is particularly fond of Nibbles the stray, who can be found amid piles of trash in the hallway outside V’s apartment.

Nibbles “doesn’t really do much besides lay around and take up space,” Screenrant notes. “Basically exactly what a cat does in real life. What an immersive experience.”

In another scene, V is conducting recon on a corporate target with Takemura, a Japanese ally, when a cat slinks by and lays down about 20 feet away.

Takemura says the cat is the first animal he’s seen in Night City, “except for the cockroaches, of course.” Then he wonders if the cat is a bakeneko, a Japanese spirit.

Night City is a technological achievement so impressive that it takes many hours just to get your head wrapped around how big and detailed it is. It’s easily the largest virtual city ever created, but it’s not just about sprawl — the city is truly vertical, from hidden subterranean depths and accessible street-level locales to highways, apartments and offices that claw at the sky, their peaks towering over ubiquitous flying car traffic.

The game is a form of entertainment, but it’s also a warning: This could be our future. Some would say it’s even likely to be our future.

Most of us are disconnected from nature. We’ve forgotten the stars and the night sky, which have been blotted out by smog and light pollution. We have wiped out more than two thirds of all the wildlife on the Earth and innumerable species teeter on the edge of extinction, including almost every example of iconic megafauna, from tigers and jaguars to orangutans, chimpanzees and elephants.

The interregnum caused by the global pandemic has reminded us that we share this planet with billions of other minds, with animals cautiously poking their heads out at the edges of civilization, wondering where all the humans have gone.

It’s fun to play in a dystopian future, but I don’t want to live in it.

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Real Life Cats Are The Villains of Nintendo’s Newest Game

Nintendo’s newest game has been out for all of one day and already cats are like “Nuh-uh.”

The idea behind Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is clever yet simple and seemingly tailored for the pandemic era: Using a Nintendo Switch, players control a tiny Mario Kart equipped with a camera and race it around courses they design in their homes. Because players are controlling the kart through a screen and seeing things from the kart’s point of view, the game augments the race course by generating obstacles to dodge, coins to collect and opponents to race against.

It’s called augmented reality, because it adds layers of computer-generated imagery over things we can see with our own eyes. It’s the same concept behind smart glasses and floating heads-up displays.

But there’s one wild card Nintendo’s designers may not have anticipated: Felis catus.

Nothing grabs a cat’s attention quicker than a small, fast-moving object, and the little karts have been triggering the predatory instincts of countless cats.

Some cats go all “You shall not pass!” Gandalf-style on the karts:

Others aren’t sugar coating what they think of the invasive little cartoon racers:


Finally, some cats just don’t know what to make of it:

The best part about this is that, from the kart’s eye view, house cats look like furry kaiju — giant, lumbering beasts hell bent on sending the racers careening off course.

It also begs the question: Is there anything in existence that cannot be improved by adding cats?