The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Catball Eats It All

Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We at Joystiq believe no one deserves to starve, and many indie developers are entitled to a fridge full of tasty, fulfilling media coverage, right here. This week, Tyson and Matt Anderson of Broken Compass Studios share the artistic influences of their Kickstarter-funded mobile title, Catball Eats It All. Yes, it stars a cat shaped like a ball. You know you're intrigued.

What's your game called and what's it about?

Tyson Anderson: Our game is Catball Eats It All. From a story standpoint, it's about a voracious little furball that eats everything in sight, and... that's it! Short and sweet. From a gameplay perspective, it's an action-puzzle game based around navigating and optimizing paths through levels and mastering responsive play controls.

As a graffiti artist, how did NoseGo get involved with Broken Compass?

Matt Anderson: We all met through a mutual friend Jeff, who is now our very talented producer. Yis Goodwin -- aka NoseGo -- had expressed a desire to make a game featuring his work, and Tyson and I have been working in games for a while. Jeff, in true producer-ly fashion, put the people together, and the magic was there. We clicked, and our visions, both as creators and as a business, quickly solidified.

How influential was NoseGo's artistic style on the mechanics of the game itself?

Matt: Enormously influential, in a variety of ways. Artistically, the wacky gameplay is of course inspired by the unrestrained imagination of the art. The painting that inspired the game featured a fat, round cat, which naturally led to rolling and eating as primary mechanics.

From a technical standpoint, creating levels from still paintings is a fun challenge. You don't have perfect creative freedom to design the level any way you like, because you want to preserve the pristine beauty of the original art as much as humanly possible. In most cases, you can't place a passage straight through the middle of character's face for example, even if it what makes most sense from a raw design standpoint, because it will ruin the quality of the work.

Over time I better learned to preserve that sense of flow through a level while staying truer to the art, and Yis began to paint works that lent themselves more naturally to our mechanics. This really shows in Course 2 of the game. It's been and continues to be an enormously rewarding collision of two different forms of work.

What inspired you to make Catball Eats It All?

Tyson: Raw imagination -- the thrill of taking a whimsical idea out of the blue and developing it, over time, slowly but surely, into a larger and larger project. It all started with some excellent Catball art by Yis and snowballed from there.

Why catballs and dogwalls, instead of, say, lizardladders and snakestairs?

Matt: When we were in the earliest stages of conception, I took a walk through Yis' artwork looking for a character that could act as a strong protagonist and plausibly move through a universe with minimal animation. A large, furry, round, catlike creature rapidly became a stand out. Making a dog the nemesis was a natural extension of that direction.

What's the coolest aspect of Catball?

Tyson: The visuals are hard to beat, of course. We have the privilege of having a uniquely talented and professional artist, Yis, on our team, and he's lent his inimitable style to everything we've done. Gameplay-wise, I'm really happy with how our game "ramps up" in difficulty. It's easy to learn and play casually, but also has a great deal of replayability if you invest the time to master the playstyle and seek out unlockables and high scores.

Anything you'd do differently?

Tyson: Yes -- I would have become very, very familiar with the app store market and monetization/exposure strategies earlier on. There's an unfathomable amount of content available today, and to stand out, you really need to plan, plan, plan and leverage every advantage as early as possible.

Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?

Tyson: Creative freedom. The pride that comes from seeing something we had complete controlof sell and succeed.

Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?

Tyson: Yes, I see myself sharing with all indies a spirit of individualism, entrepreneurism, andcreativity that leads us to take on big risks in order to do really satisfying work.

Matt: Certainly. The indie-games community is near and dear to me, and it's a space we areproud to count ourselves in. Beyond games, we very much believe in the ideal and value ofindividual expression. It's an ideal worth fighting into the late hours of the night for, especially in a medium that is increasingly becoming less expressive and more analytically determined.

Sell Catball in one sentence:

Catball eats it all.

What's next?

We're porting Catball to other platforms including Android. After that, just more and more bigger and better stuff. For Catball, we have many more stages and features slated for updates. Beyond Catball, more titles featuring our unique, off-beat style are on the way.

Catball Eats It All is available now for iOS devices via the App Store. Seriously, this is such a cool game, made by some seriously cool people. Check it out.

If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email jess [at] joystiq [dawt] com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.