Tag: stray

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.

Meet Starlin The Good Girl

Cat name: Starlin

Cat’s age: 10

Cat’s human servant: Barreleh from Cape May

Starlin’s origin story:

Starlin, aka The Star Baby, “began life in a friend’s backyard,” according to her human, Barreleh.

“At the time, I was a Philly PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society) volunteer, and I was pretty sure I could get that tiny gray kitten into one of the PAWS shelters,” Barreleh recalled. “[I] lent my friend a humane trap, and told her to call me when the kitten was in it.”

Barreleh had barely left before she got the call and turned around.

“I returned to pick up the kitten, and took her into the room in my home where all foundlings spend their time until they’re ready to either be adopted out, or join the furmily,” she said. “As soon as I got her out of the carrier, she WIGGED OUT, and spent the next few weeks under the furniture. Every time I came in the room to feed her and do litter duty, the second she heard the door open, under the furniture she went.”

Barreleh knew only a gentle approach was going to cut it with the skittish kitten, so she sat on the other side of the closed door and began talking to Starlin in calming tones: “Sweet nothings, mostly,” she said.

Giving the scared little one some space paid off, as did the soft-spoken reassurances.

“I could hear her purring on the other side of the door,” Barreleh said.

A week later, Barreleh was at home when her husband called her upstairs. The previously fearful kitten was sitting on his lap. That’s when the couple decided to keep her and named her Starlin.

The tiny kitten grew up to be a petite cat, living in Philadelphia with her humans and her four feline siblings, including “The Looney Toon Brothers,” Ivy Spivington and Lucinda.

Five years ago, the family packed up and was ready to move to Cape May, New Jersey. They awoke early to corral the cats, believing the easygoing Starlin would be the easiest to handle. Things were going smooth, with the cats — “even the outdoor stray/feral cat I had been feeding, and couldn’t bear to leave behind” — getting into their carriers generally without complaint.

Not Starlin.

The next hour played out like a slapstick comedy, with Starlin leading Barreleh and her husband on a chase up and down the stairs and around the house.

“Finally one of us was able to grab her, kicking and howling like a banshee, and somehow got her into the cat carrier,” Barreleh said. “From there, there was not a peep out of her for the whole 2-hour trip. When she finally exited the carrier, she morphed back to being her adorable self.”

Starlin’s favorite things are her beat-up old wand toy, catnip parties, chasing the infamous red dot, cuddling with her humans — and eating eggs.

“She loves, loves, loves eggs,” Barreleh said.

Little Starlin is about to turn 10, but she’s almost as active as a kitten when it comes to play time.

“She is sooooooooo sweet, and sooooooooooo cuddly, and still loves to chase the little red dot,” Barreleh said. “And when I sing out ‘Where’s my baby?’ she comes running.”

We profile our readers’ cats regularly. Would you like to see your cat featured here? Send us a message via our contact page and tell us all about your furball. Previous featured cats: Meet Tux (4/21/2021), Meet Bowie (4/12/2021)