Tag: PC

Sunday Cats: Brave Woman Rescues Kitten From Sewer Pipe, Fortnite Copies Buddy

When volunteers in Elkhart, Indiana, went to trap a mom and her kittens near an industrial site, one of the babies panicked and ran straight into a hole, taking a tumble into a drainage pipe beneath.

The rescuers from a non-profit TNR group called Catsnip didn’t give up on the four-week-old baby even after finding her proved to be much more difficult than they imagined. They called off the search in Elkhart — about 160 miles north of Indianapolis — the first night when it was too dark to keep working. They dropped food for the scared fluffball, whom they could hear but still could not locate in the dark, tight subterranean space.

The next morning they were back at it, trying to literally flush the kitten out before a volunteer named Ashley descended via a manhole 75 feet from the spot where the kitten had fallen in.

The entire saga took about 48 hours and hinged on Ashley who, because of her small size, was able to squeeze into a pipe and crawl 30 feet to the terrified baby cat — then had to crawl out backwards the way she came while cradling the little one.

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Piper was reunited with her mom and littermates after the rescue. Credit: Catsnip

It was worth it for the volunteers, who named the kitten Piper in honor of her adventure, gave her fluids and formula from a dropper, then reunited her with her mom. Read about the whole encounter at The Dodo. (And serious props to Ashley! Just thinking about what she had to do makes me shudder. Cats may love tight spaces, but most humans do not.)

Hey! That’s Buddy’s MO!

As gamers who generally prefer more depth, the Buddies never got on the Fortnite bandwagon, so we weren’t aware that Fortnite has a character named Meowscles until encountering this article from Cracked.

Fortnite's Meowscles
Meowscles has a Buddesian physique. Credit: Epic Games

As you can see, Meowscles was clearly inspired by Bud, who is known for his incredibly ripped physique and totally isn’t a bit chubby. (“That’s all muscle, not fat!” Buddy insists.)

Fortnite is a battle royale-style game in which up to 100 players compete against each other in live matches. The game is free-to-play, with developer Epic Games making its money by selling cosmetic items as microtransactions. Meowscles is one of about 1,400 different “outfits” players can purchase to customize their characters.

The game has been a monumental success for Epic, earning billions and leading the company to launch the Epic Games Store, the first serious competitor to Steam, which has been the dominant platform for PC gamers for years. Epic has been so flush with cash that’s it’s been giving away free games every week to lure customers away from Steam, even upping the freebies to a new game every day during the holidays.

Cat and Owner Costume Contest?!?

In Massachusetts, the Cat Fancier’s Association held its ninth annual cat and owner costume contest on Sunday. Unfortunately, the only story we can find about the event comes from the local public radio affiliate, so there’s not much in terms of photos.

If you were going to enter such a contest with your cat, what costumes would you and your fluffy overlord wear?

I’m thinking maybe I’d be a Targaryen with Bud as a baby dragon perched on my shoulder in honor of Game of Thrones/House of the Dragon. But that might offend little dude, who tends to think of himself as a hulking tiger. Perhaps the easier and more realistic “costume” would be Bud dressed as a king, snug in his own little carrier designed to look like a royal palanquin, with me carrying the palanquin as his dutiful servant. Thus, art imitates life.

Cat and Owner Costume Contest
“I put on my wizard hat and robe…” Credit: WBZ

You Can Now Play Stray As Your Own Cat And As Garfield Thanks To Mods

More news in the world of Stray, the play-as-a-cat video game that’s taken the world by storm with rave reviews, plenty of memes and hilarious videos of real cats reacting to their humans playing the game.

Thanks to players who create custom game mods, short for modifications, Stray players can now replace the game’s ginger tabby protagonist with cats of their choosing. Currently there are mods that make the title cat a Siamese, a black cat with yellow eyes, a white cat with heterochromia (different color eyes), a tuxedo and a Calico, among others.

The most popular mod, dubbed Pick of the Litter, features many different coat colors and patterns that users can select and switch between.

There are currently at least two gray tabby mods, but neither of them match Buddy’s chubby incredibly muscular physique.

One modder is taking commissions from gamers and creating custom cat avatars based on photographs, so if a player’s cat has a unique color or pattern — or you just want something more accurate — they have that option. Perhaps we’ll inquire if it’s possible to add huge meowscles as well as edit coat patterns and colors.

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Gray tabby mod: Clearly not meowscular enough to be Buddy.

Other mods allow players to substitute a dog as the protagonist (come on, now…), add snazzy spectacles to the kitty, and tweak graphics settings for greater photorealism.

Finally, if you’re a fan of a certain lasagna-loving cartoon cat, you’re in luck: He’s now in the game thanks to the efforts of one dedicated fan, and he’s as lazy and heavy-lidded as he’s always been.

It should be noted that mods are unique to the PC, which is an open platform. If you’re playing the game on a Playstation 4 or 5, you’re out of luck.

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Garfield in Stray: Maybe you can feed him lasagna to restore his health?

Stray: Early Impressions, Plus Real World Cats Benefit From The Game’s Launch!

Stray is the real deal. The game is beautifully atmospheric and slipping into its world feels effortless.

The adventure begins amid beautiful urban decay, with the titular feline and his family of three other moggies waking from a nap on the ledge of a concrete reservoir in the process of being reclaimed by Mother Nature. Tangles of branches and leaves push through the crumbling man-made structure everywhere, creating canopies, waterfalls and pools, and our hero and his buddies navigate their idyllic home in perfectly cat-like manner, leaping up, dropping down and pausing to lap water from reservoirs of running water.

The game gets you started with a few classics from the feline repertoire. You can walk, run, leap, hop up and, perhaps most importantly, meow by pressing the Alt key. A general interactive key allows you to sidle up to your feline friends for some head bunting and allogrooming, and the furry family members purr at each other in appreciation.

But things don’t remain idyllic, of course, because this is an adventure.

Our cat, an adorable ginger tabby, is separated from his tribe when he follows them across a chasm via a rusty pipe and the metal gives way.

It’s an enormous credit to the animators that they’re able to convincingly convey the panic and fear on kitty’s face as he tries to stop his fall, clawing at the edge futilely until he takes a nasty tumble onto hard concrete a few hundred feet below. Conveying authentic emotion on the faces of human characters is challenging, but doing it with a non-anthropomorphized animal is another thing entirely.

When you land, you can hear the distressed cries of your fur friends far above but can no longer see them, and your cat is injured: He limps along on three legs through a dimly lit sewer before passing out from his injuries.

An indeterminate time later he awakes, sniffs out a cat-size path of egress from the sewer and finds himself in the neon-tinted Walled City of Kowloon in an alternate future. (The real Kowloon Walled City, infamous for its urban density and its status as a hub for Hong Kong’s triad gangs, was demolished in 1994. It’s now a park.)

There’s so much that could go wrong with a game like this. It features a radical shift in perspective, putting players closer to the ground than they’re accustomed to and in the paws of an animal who isn’t particularly well-represented among game protagonists. Animating a feline is an enormous challenge, and cats have their own version of the uncanny valley: The slightest mistake in the rhythm of a moggie’s gait, for example, can throw the whole thing off, rendering the character unnatural. (See the wacky gallops of Assassin’s Creed’s horses, for example, or pretty much any third-person game in which a human character can run. More than two decades into making modern third-person games, developers still have trouble animating human running sequences that don’t look broken or comical.)

The care that went into animating kitty is evident, as is the work that went into controlling him feel effortless and instinctive. There’s no adjustment period here. From the first moment moving like a cat feels like second nature.

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We’ll have more on the gameplay and story as we spend more time in Stray’s world. So far, the game gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from Buddy the Cat and me, his humble human servant.

In the meantime, as Stray sets sales records for an indie game and continues to generate incredible buzz on social media, publisher Annapurna Interactive is using the opportunity to help real life kitties, including a game code giveaway with the Nebraska Humane Society that netted more than $7,000 in donations.

Stray is blowing up online as well, with users publishing more than half a million tweets about the game within a day of its release, per CBS Marketwatch.

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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:

 

PITB Reviews: Ghostwire Tokyo: Cats Play A Central Role In This Japanese Horror Game

The premise of Ghostwire: Tokyo is simple: The entire human population of the city has vanished in some mysterious, cataclysmic supernatural event, leaving the heart of Tokyo silent, vacant and draped in an ethereal fog.

Instead of the bustle of humanity, the city is now populated by demons and yōkai, which are roughly equivalent to ghosts in Japanese folklore.

Only one human survives: Akito, our protagonist. He remains alive due to pure luck after a spirit named KK inhabits his body, intending to use it to fight the supernatural forces that have emptied Tokyo of its human inhabitants.

Akito and KK come to an uneasy truce sharing one body due to their aligned goals. KK’s presence not only allows Akito to survive the malevolent forces at work, but also imbues him with fantastic elemental powers to wield against the yōkai prowling the otherwise empty streets: He can summon wind, fire and water, and cleanse spirits and locations with Shinto prayer rituals.

Akito is set on rescuing his sister from sharing the same fate as hundreds of thousands of others, while KK spent his human life — and now his afterlife — trying to stop the mysterious figure behind the spirit invasion from harvesting human souls. For Akito to do the former, he and KK must do the latter.

Oh, and there are animals — lots of scared, confused cats and dogs who don’t know what to make of the city’s supernatural new inhabitants and don’t understand why the humans have gone missing. KK’s powers allow Akito to read animals’ thoughts.

“I can’t smell my buddy anywhere,” a confused dog tells me early in the game, whimpering as he wanders near the Shibuya scramble crossing.

It’s worth paying attention to Ghostwire’s lost pets. Feed a dog and the good boy could lead you to a cache of cash or a Jizo statue where you can say a prayer and augment your powers. Stop to pet and talk to a cat, and she might tell you a yokai is hiding nearby, disguising itself as an every day object.

True to a country obsessed with felines going back centuries, a cat isn’t always just a cat in the world of Ghostwire: Tokyo.

There are your regular domestic pets and strays, which are simply called neko, the Japanese word for cat. Akito encounters them often, comforts them and can read their thoughts with KK’s powers. Like the dogs, they’re confused, scared and hungry.

Then there are nekomata, which are the spirits of domestic cats who have become yōkai. Nekomata have made themselves at home in the absence of humans, showing their entrepreneurial spirit. The ghost cats have taken over every convenience store and kiosk in the city, urging Akito and KK to buy their snacks and supernatural wares to “be purrpared” for what awaits them.

“You’ve gotta spend money to make money,” one nekomata tells me, “so why not spend it here with meow?”

Nekomata are not to be confused with bakeneko, who are also yōkai but differ from their spirit cat cousins in subtle ways. Bakeneko can be friendly, mischievous or ambivalent, they can move without making a sound, and like nekomata they can speak and understand human language. Unlike nekomata, which have two tails, bakeneko only have one.

Finally, there are maneki neko. You’ve seen maneki neko even if you don’t realize it, probably on the counter of your local Japanese grocery, sushi house or Chinese restaurant. They’re the smiling, beckoning cats who are said to bring good fortune, health and other benefits. They’re based on the legend of a friendly cat who led a road-weary Japanese feudal lord and his men to a sanctuary just before a violent thunderstorm centuries ago, and have become ubiquitous in Japan and wider Asian culture.

For a game with a grim premise set in an empty but lived-in city, there’s plenty of bizarre humor as well. One mission has you delivering toilet paper to a human spirit who really, really needs to wipe after an epic bowel movement before he can move on and rest easy in the afterlife.

On another occasion I stopped to admire the detail and near-photorealistic beauty of a street bordering a shrine when I heard a nekomata hilariously meowing a cheerful song out of tune. When I turned toward the little cat, I saw him floating in the air and bouncing to his happy song.

As Akito, the player is tasked with lifting the fog from neighborhoods of central Tokyo, rescuing the spirits of deceased humans before they can be harvested by the demons and yōkai, and investigating the what, why and how of Tokyo’s takeover by malevolent spirits.

Akito and KK accomplish the former by “cleansing” Tokyo’s many shrines using a ritual performed at the shrine torii gates. Once a torii gate is cleansed, the fog around it subsides and more of Tokyo opens up for exploration and investigation. Meanwhile, Akito and KK must fight off yōkai to reach the floating spirits of Tokyo’s citizens, using a talisman to secure them. The duo can then “wire” the spirits to an ally outside the city, who helps return them to their bodies. The game keeps track of how many souls are saved, with the count rising to the hundreds of thousands for adept players.

The game remains true to Japanese folklore in the way it presents enemies, who are usually corruptions of human souls who have deep regrets about their lives. The spirits represent anxieties unique to, or prevalent in, Japanese society.

There are Rain Walkers, unnaturally thin salarymen toting umbrellas who advance on you inexorably, representing the angry spirits of men who spent their entire lives in service to a corporation, hardly spending time with their families or raising their kids because they work so much.

There are the Students of Pain and Misery, headless schoolgirls and schoolboys representing the spirits of teenagers whose grades couldn’t carry them into good universities, damning them to a life of tedious, low-paying jobs. Those are real concerns in a country where students spend in excess of 10 hours a day, six days a week in school. Teenagers are under enormous pressure to get top grades, and teen suicide is a major contributor to the country’s unusually high suicide rates.

Spirits of Lamentation are dangerous and move in sickeningly unnatural ways as spirits of people who were estranged from loved ones, while the small, raincoat-clad Forsaken are the spirits of abused children.

These malevolent spirits and others wander the streets, linger in alleys and leap across rooftops, but they also form groups called Hyakki Yagyo, which are parades of oni and yōkai who march through the streets of Japanese cities on summer nights, according to folklore.

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You’ll hear the Hyakki Yagyo before you see it, tipped off by the booming taiko drums that accompany the ghostly parade.

The arrival of Hyakki Yagyo in Ghostwire is impressively atmospheric: Lights and neon signs flicker and die out, while taiko drums boom from the mists. Then you see the spirits — yōkai with their umbrellas, massive demons, bizarre apparitions.

The first time I encountered a Hyakki Yagyo, I was so engrossed in watching the procession that I didn’t realize I was in its path until it was too late. I learned that if you get too close, the spirits yank you into an ethereal plane and surround you in numbers, determined to end your physical existence and make you one of them. Those encounters are among the most difficult in the game, but they’re also a fun test of skill.

Ghostwire gives us the most complete recreation of Tokyo in any game to date, and it’s magnificent. The metropolis extends seemingly forever in every direction, with 36 million people living a metro area that sprawls for almost 1,000 square miles. (That’s three times the size of New York with all its boroughs.)

Because of that, no game studio can handle the challenge of recreating the entire city on a 1:1 scale, and Ghostwire doesn’t attempt it. Instead the game world encompasses the famous Shibuya district and part of Minato City, two of the most bustling and famous districts in the heart of Tokyo. It’s a massive playground stretching from west of the scramble crossing, through Roppongi and all the way to Tokyo Tower.

Ghostwire is beautiful, polished and a hell of a lot of fun to play. You’re not going to find the gloriously intuitive combat of a game like Control, or even an experience like the fluid melee action of Shadow Warrior 2. Ghostwire’s combat is pedestrian compared to those games, but it becomes more fun and interesting as the game progresses and you’re given different powers and options to deal with a growing variety of ghastly enemies.

The lure of a game like this is its moody atmosphere, magnificent visuals, tense sound design and a plot that weaves hundreds of years of Japanese folklore into the mix, creating a world unlike anything else in gaming.

The writing deftly transitions between serious and funny, tense and lighthearded, and the partnership between Akito and KK allows for a running dialogue throughout the game, with the two of them asking each other questions, arguing over tasks and reacting to the craziness around them. What starts out as an uneasy alliance held together by necessity becomes grudging mutual respect and eventually friendship.

Rounding out the cast of characters are Mari, Rinko, KK’s friend Ed, and the masked protagonist. Rinko is the spirit of a woman who worked with KK in their human lives. Rinko and KK were killed for their determination, and in death they continue the fight against the malevolent spirits. Ed is a weirdo: He’s KK’s man on the outside, helping to reunite the severed souls of Tokyo with their human bodies when Akito and KK rescue them, but the only way to talk to Ed is by payphone — and even then, he only answers in recordings.

Mari is Akito’s sister, who was unconscious and helpless in a hospital when everyone vanished. More than anything, Akito wants to protect her.

Finally, there’s the man in a oni mask, the mysterious mastermind behind the supernatural takeover of Tokyo. Who is he? What does he want? Can he be defeated?

To answer those questions requires an adventure very much worth having.

Title: Ghostwire: Tokyo
Release date: March 25, 2022
Platforms: PC, Playstation 5
Audience: Mature
Cats: Many