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Avoiding cat-astrophe with Cat Sorter VR
 
 

If you’ve never sorted cats, well clearly, your VR life is incomplete.

Don’t despair! Cat Sorter VR from Pawmigo is here to help. With Cat Sorter VR debuting in Viveport Subscription, we dangled a toy in front of Spencer Stuard to attract his attention, then asked him some questions.

 

Hello Spencer! Introduce yourself to our eager-to-sort-audience. 

Hello! My name is Spencer Stuard, and I am the founder of Pawmigo Games, maker of Cat Sorter VR. I founded this company late last year because of my passion for games and creating them. With Cat Sorter VR, I had a main goal in mind, to create a game that is fun and engaging for everyone. I was the project lead on Cat Sorter VR and had my hands in everything from art and design to programming and cat R&D (I have two terrible, lovely cats). Please check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or www.pawmigo.us. We love to hear about and to share in our players’ experiences there.

Our first question has to be… uh… Cat… Sorter… VR?

Yeah, right? Doesn’t it just roll off the tongue. Okay, so the story there is, during development it was called Almighty Cosmeowlogy. So if you still think Cat Sorter VR is a mouthful… We had way too much fun initially coming up with the world and characters that could exist when dealing with a broken down heavenly cat conveyor belt. We had aPAWminations, super hero mewtations, and even started some concept art for fun.

After going off the rails it dawned on me that I was trying to make a game that people would just get and I was muddying the waters by adding all this context and backstory, when we as the game makers were the only ones that needed that kind of detail. Not to mention that ‘Cosmeowlogy’ is hard to say and even harder to spell… so I shortened it to something that a 1st grader and myself could find and understand. Ta-da, CAT SORTER VR. 

Cat Sorter VR

Now we’ve figured that out, tell us about Cat Sorter VR!

We built Cat Sorter VR for everyone! It’s fun, easy to pick up and play, and it surprises you and makes you laugh. I loved my first VR experiences with Holopoint, Tilt Brush, and Fantastic Contraption. I really appreciated the simplicity of those games because they didn’t get in the way of the technology, so we brought that philosophy to Cat Sorter VR. 

Where did the initial ins-purr-ation (ahem) come from for Cat Sorter VR? Was it… cats? Sorting? VR? 

Funny enough it actually started with sorting. I had two key goals I wanted to hit with a VR game. I wanted to make something surprising, and I wanted to start with a mechanic that was simple, fun, and intuitive. We drew from some unexpected places like Papers Please, hidden object games, and a few other indie games, because we wanted to make a space that was infinitely fun to look at, with hidden messages and stories you’d never expect to find.

I feel like I will get scolded by the hardcore gamer crowd for saying this but I think a lot of mobile games’ pacing and styles actually translate very well to VR. Personally, I am dying to see triple A experiences find their place on VR, but I also am very aware of what my own play sessions look like. The games that work for me are bite-sized, room-scale, party games. It still brings me so much joy to share this amazing technology with newcomers, and I cannot wait for people to do that with Cat Sorter VR.

Cat Sorter VR

Were any (real) cats involved in the initial brainstorming and concept creation of Cat Sorter VR? Did they have strong opinions on their portrayal?

I have two cats, Furfur and Icky. Furfur never shuts up about his opinions and Icky just destroys everything, including VR masks. They were pretty tough negotiators but so is my agent. We had rights to their likeness in no time. That being said, they were pretty decent talent to work with.

One of our super talented artists, Sydney Hanson (sydwiki.tumblr.com) got a brand-new kitten during the concept phase that would play all over the table while we had meetings. Needless to say, I tried to set up meetings over at her place as often as I could. It was very common for her initial concept sketches to have some chew marks on the corner.

Another of our artists, Heather Gross (heathersketcheroos.tumblr.com) is a huge fan of all things animals. Sydney and Heather are always working on amazing projects, and I would highly recommend you keep an eye on them.

Now you’ve mentioned team cats, we must see photos.

Furcifer Mephistopheles (aka Furfur): A wizened old majestic beast. Half Bengal, half walrus. 9 years old. Instagram: le_furfur

Cat Sorter VR - Furfur

Icarus (aka Icky): The longest cat in the world. Half Savanah, half destroyer of worlds. 5 years old. Instagram: icky_kitty

Cat Sorter VR - Icarus

Pico: Syd’s kitten. Chewer of concept art. 3 years old ish.

Cat Sorter VR - Pico

 

Soooo much cuteness! Ahem. Cat Sorter VR has some similarities to other VR games – were any particular inspirations?

Any game that intertwines the new room-scale tech with their core design is just an immediate winner for me. That right there is the magic of VR in my opinion. Right from the beginning we realized how important and yet challenging creating the set and space in VR would be. Even little things like the size of the room-scale, and therefore the length of the conveyor belt could dictate difficulty. We looked to Job Simulator and Fantastic Contraption for inspiration when solving these types of problems. Short of putting in a step by step tutorial there are some pretty creative things you can do with sound, color, and lighting to help guide the player’s attention.

Myself and my wife are avid gamers so I’m always thinking about aspects of our favorite games when I’m trying to solve problems. We play everything from mobile to PC/Console to VR. I mentioned there were a few indie games we looked at when we were creating the ‘vibe’ of the game, like Papers, Please.

Cat Sorter VR

You debuted at CatCon recently. What did real life cat owners think of Cat Sorter VR? 

We had so much fun at CatCon! I don’t think I could have asked for a better venue to debut our game. We had long lines consistently both days, and had the pleasure of watching about 300 cat lovers hop right in and sort some cats. One thing I wasn’t expecting was just how much of a show stopper it was. Nearly everyone who walked by and saw it was hooked and needed to try it out. It solidified for me just how much fun this game can be for just about anyone. We had crazy cat people, hardcore gamers, YouTubers, streamers, cat litter salespeople and a group of kids dead set on getting the high score for the day.

It was also a blast to let so many newcomers try out VR and have Cat Sorter VR be their first experience. I loved watching our dazed players pull of the headset with huge smiles. As one kid put it best: “Ugh, back to reality.”

Cat Sorter VR concept art

Click to enlarge

Any tips for potential Cat Sorters? How many parts can you change on your virtual cats? 

Pro tip – check butts! Everyone misses the butts. There are 13 different areas to check. Overwhelming, I know. We spent a lot of time getting the pacing right. We even let you control it with a belt speed button. I have already seen some pretty insane players just crank up that belt speed and basically juggle cats until they have nearly maxed out the high score.

Were other parts discussed early in design, but rejected?

Cat Sorter VR concept art

Click to enlarge

We had a lot of ideas we thought would have been fun early on but proved too complicated or overwhelming. (At one point we had a weigh station and an X-ray, so if they weighed 10,000 pounds chances were the cats had some kind internal demon-monster anatomy going on.) The tech is so cool, and so immersive it’s better to err on the side of simplicity. It was already so much fun to just solve the visual parts, so we decided, why keep tacking more on.

There was also the meow-lting pot, but surprisingly people did not like tossing kitties into a boiling pot of lava. Who knew?

If you had your way, what combo of parts (either in-game or imaginary…) would create your purr-fect cat for – wait for it –the following purposes:

  • Ultimate snuggling cat?

Panda-sized, with a prehensile tail, mammoth trunk and hawk wings.

  • Stealth infiltration cat?

Bat snoot for echo-location, owl wings, shark fin, trash panda paws, eye butt and aye-aye long fingers (look it up and you’ll know why).

  • Breakdancing cat?

Unicorn Horn, marmoset hands, hamster cheek pouches and goat back legs.

(I used to breakdance as a wee child so this actually just comes from experience.)

Cat Sorter VR concept art

Click to enlarge

Finally, do you have any future plans for Cat Sorter VR? 

We would love to keep supporting Cat Sorter VR and building some of the features we didn’t have time for at launch. We built this to please our players and make people laugh so a lot of what we add in the future will be informed by what players enjoy and want more of.

Aside from that Cat Sorter VR is already lined up for some cool events that we will be announcing soon, so please join us at www.pawmigo.us or tune into any of our social channels to hear about all things VR and Cat Sorter VR! We cannot wait to see how you sort.

Thank you, Spencer – and happy sorting!


Cat Sorter VR is available as part of Viveport Subscription.