I’ve been attending PGF for a few years now, and every year it gets better. I’m referring to the quality of its presentation, of course, but also the range of games on display and the ideas put forward. While there are certainly wholly unique ideas floating around on the floor each year, there are also those titles that look to try their hand at classic genres. Turn-based RPGs are a tried and true genre for new developers, using familiar systems to support their ideas and stories, and developer Richard Gaynor seems to have taken a number of different ideas from across the RPG genre to make Scaredy Catchers stand out.
For those who aren’t familiar with your game, can you give us an elevator pitch?
Scaredy Catchers is a cute and cuddly RPG that follows Winston, proud owner of the Scaredy Catchers! They deal with any and all paranormal activity that may be bothering you. The only problem, however, is that it’s a sham. Ghosts don’t exist! Or that is until a gate to the netherworld opens up in town. With everyone turning to him to fix it, Winston braves the depths to find out what’s going on while meeting a cast of crazy critters along the way.
How did you get started with Scaredy Catchers?
I worked as an audio developer for Stirfire, which was a fantastic experience. It sewed the seed of game development in me, and that grew into a desire to make something. However, with a day job and music business on the side, I scoped out something I could work on for however long it took with no worry about deadlines.
The concept itself was simply because I love absurd and imaginative humour. Things like Alice in Wonderland that thrive on how weird they are. I guess cute characters fighting buff sausages and bats with bacon wings is weird enough.
Are you working on the project on your own?
I am indeed! This is purely a hobby at the moment, something I pick at after work every now and again. With the exception of one or two plugins and a few 3d models, everything else I’ve written/drawn/coded/composed myself. It’s not something I’d really recommend though. It’s a tiring process!
What was the inspiration for picking woodland animals over humans as your protagonists?
Art is not my strong point, so I work with what I can do. Humans are hard to draw! Animals are easy. That’s also why they’re 2D: I’m not good at 3D models. Thankfully, my weakness ended up being my strength.
I think the animal motif also plays into the weird and wonderful vibe I’m trying to create. Humans aren’t strange enough for me.
Can you describe the process you use for illustration and animation in the game?
A lot of people really liked the art style, so here’s my secret! I start by drawing out concepts, then take my favourite and draw each segment of the character. I end up with dozens of folders named things like ‘ArmR’, ‘LegL’, ‘Face’, until I have all body parts. Beau (the ghost cat) ended up with 27 folders, and that will probably grow as I add more emotion and animations to her.
After that’s done, I export each individual folder as an image (a tedious process!). These images are then imported into a program called Spine, which I build and rig the character. It works a bit like a puppet. Pull this lever, it moves their arms, and so on. Spine has a great community, and a free runtime to use in Unity, so importing into the game engine is very easy. Then I’m done, and my custom animation system handles the rest.
How did you decide on making the game a turn-based RPG? Was it important to you, or was it a practical choice for development?
The battle system has been my biggest pain as I can’t decide what to do with it. It’s gone through multiple iterations, incorporating boardgame-like gameplay, arena gameplay, and so on. I stuck with the quick-time, turn-based system as it’s easy to get the hang of, and something that can get quite deep when the player does a little digging.
That being said, whether I’ll keep that is still up in the air right now. The next time I show the game off, the battles may have completely changed!
What’s been the biggest challenge for development so far?
Deciding what to do! Daydreaming is my worst enemy, and I have to remind myself I am but one person, and could probably never achieve some of my ideas on my own. This will probably be superseded by marketing when I actually get around to doing that.
How was the feedback from PGF this year?
You people are all too nice! I got some decent feedback from people, but the most useful was observing people play. It revealed some areas that could be improved and affirmed my dislike of some aspects of the game. But when I asked the players, they had nothing but positive vibes to give.
A lot of children flocked to the game too, which was a nice surprise. Strangely enough, it hadn’t occurred to me that a game with cuddly critters might attract the younger generations.
Had you had much interaction with the Perth scene before then?
I was the audio developer for Stirfire’s Symphony of the Machine, so have mingled with the best of them. I’ve also been to a handful of Game Jams, which I absolutely recommend to people on the fence about trying their hand at game development. Game Jams are a great place to make friends and have fun.
What are your plans for the game going forward?
At the moment, it’ll remain a hobby project. I don’t have the time or money to hire more people and start developing it into a fully-fledged studio effort. But you never know for the future!
In the meantime, I will continue to occasionally post bits and pieces on Twitter, so look forward to that. Perhaps build up to a future public viewing. I guess just follow me on Twitter to find out!
If you’d like to keep up with Richard and the development of Scaredy Catchers, check out the following resources: