Falcon Development Soars Down to Discuss Cattails and Being a Forest Cat
A small snap of a twig alerts you to something nearby and you crouch low to the ground, ears pinned back. Digging your claws into the dirt beneath you, you catch the scent of something nearby, something that hasn’t quite seen you yet.
Creeping up behind it, the scent hits you full force and your tail swishes back and forth in anticipation of the kill. The creature steps on another twig, but just as it turns around to see if anyone had seen it you pounce, taking care of the creature in one swift bite.
This is Cattails an open world cat and wildlife simulation game, where you get to play as a young cat in a forest cat colony where you build your own story. Meet friends, gain enemies, have a mate and some kittens, then one day train them to be just as great as you are.
I had the chance to sit down and talk with Falcon Development about Cattails and their ongoing Kickstarter which, at the time of writing this article, is already well beyond its initial goal, adding new stretch goals every day. They had some interesting things to say about their game’s future mechanics and development process.
GameSkinny (Angelina Bonilla): Are there any particular cat-specific mechanics you're planning to implement, in the vein of Dog's Life’s scent-based Smellovision? We already have pouncing and scratching, but is there anything specific to cats you’re planning on putting in the game?
Falcon Development (Rebekah and Tyler Thompson): Yeah, definitely! We actually have a scent-based mechanic as well. As a player ranks up their hunting skill, they unlock a “scent compass” that will guide them towards nearby prey while they are sneaking around. The compass changes color based on what type of prey it’s pointing towards, so a skillful player can learn to discern between various scents, just like how cats in the wild can figure out what they’re tracking if they’re familiar with a particular smell. We also have some cat-specific items that the cats in our world place great value in, like Catnip.
GS:When it comes to building the cats’ relationships, will there be any reward, like unique quests or cutscenes?
Thompson: We’re investigating different ways to reward the player for building relationships with other cats. At the moment, if a player becomes really good friends with any of the cats of their colony, they might receive a gifts from them to show their appreciation.
GS: As it stands right now, it looks like Cattails is a choose your own adventure sort of game, having you build up skills as you journey around the world. Is there going to be any sort of core narrative you can take part in, like with characters and warring factions? We’ve seen glimpses of it in the demo with the goings on in the world itself, but what role is that story going to play in the game overall?
Thompson: Absolutely! We’re aiming to add a “main storyline” of sorts, but it’s important to us that we don’t restrict the player from playing how they want while doing so. The “main story” will be focused on something other than the colony politics. There will definitely be territorial wars and things like that, but they will occur randomly and dynamically as the game progresses!
GS: Many who are familiar with this project know of a certain developer named “Falconstar” from Warrior Cats: Untold Tales, the Warrior Cats fan game that can be viewed as the distant cousin of this game. What are you planning on bringing to the table in this game that can’t be found in Warrior Cats: Untold Tales and what would you tell the fans of that game to look forward to in Cattails?
Thompson: Cattails is a completely new experience, differing greatly from the fan-game Warrior Cats: Untold Tales. I (Tyler) created the game Warrior Cats: Untold Tales a few years ago for my younger sister. Cattails takes some inspiration from the game, but is set in a new and unique world. If you were a fan of the mechanics of Untold Tales, you’ll be happy to hear that a number of them make an appearance in Cattails with a brand new layer of polish.
GS: Will there be more ways to travel and explore in the finished game? At the moment we are just limited to the ground and the water, but these are cats after all, will we be able to climb trees and jump long distances in the future?
Thompson: Tree climbing is unlikely but not off the table. As for jumping long distances, you can certainly do that while pouncing on critters at the moment! In the future, we’re hoping to add an “active skill” system that will include some travel-based abilities like sprinting or “fast-travel” to specific places.
GS: Do you have any sort of endgame planned? At the moment, most of the incentives to keep playing are unlocking all the coats and leveling up, but will there be anything to motivate players to keep playing after they’ve done that?
Thompson: In the Pre-Alpha we give players the opportunity to unlock coats and spend experience on the passive skill system. In the future, the coats will be unlocked in different ways and there will be many more skills to unlock. We will also be implementing a main story which will add a great ongoing incentive. We also think that a lot of players will be investing a lot of time into creating their own colony now that we unlocked that stretch goal. On top of those endgame objectives, we are also investigating ways for the player to interact with and train their children if they choose to have them, providing an additional way to progress.
GS: There seems to be a large variety of creatures we can meet and talk to throughout Cattails, will the player have a way of keeping track of their personalities, their likes and dislikes etc.?
Thompson: We think a lot of that will boil down to memorization or wikis in the future. When we were kids, we loved games like Harvest Moon because they had so much hidden information that you had to figure out for yourself firsthand, and we really want that to be a core element of Cattails as well.
GS: Are you planning on implementing a multiplayer mode? Cattails seems to have a great concept for players to build their own colonies and families together.
Thompson: At this time, we have no plans to implement multiplayer in Cattails.
GS: How will the player be able to develop their cat? Is there going to something like a skill tree, or do you have another way for them to get better at hunting and fighting?
Thompson: The player’s primary skills are divided into four categories; hunting, fighting, swimming, and foraging. The player has the ability to progress any of these four primary skills with XP earned through gameplay in any order they wish. In addition, we’re planning to implement an active skills system that will allow the player to purchase new, exciting abilities with their hard-earned XP.
GS: Are you planning on giving the player cat dialogue options when they talk to the other cats, including a customizable portrait based on the players chosen pelt colors, in order to help immerse the player more in their own personal story as a cat?
Thompson: We’d hate to limit the imagination of the players, so for now the main character is speechless, in the strong tradition of the games we both grew up playing.
GS: What inspired you to design an entire game around surviving in a forest as a cat, with cat colonies, relationships and things like that?
Thompson: When I (Tyler) was a kid, we had a cat named Coco. I loved that cat, even if she didn’t love me back, and it sparked a lifelong adoration for kitties of all kinds. We recently moved to a new home, and to our surprise, a great number of community cats hang out in the neighborhood and visit us on our front porch. After a long history of making games that revolve around cats, I decided it was time to use some newly-acquired skills to make a more polished experience. And thus, Cattails was born!
I would like to thank Falcon Development’s Rebekah and Tyler Thompson for taking the time to answer my questions. Cattails looks like a fascinating experience where you get the chance to explore the world through the eyes of a wild cat, something that hasn’t been explored that often in games.