The Epic Journey of One Cat’s Search for a Home and a Purpose
Cat Quest is a 2D RPG catventure from the Gentlebros that is presently nominated for GooglePlay’s 2017 Indie Game of the Year award. (You can read our review here.)
Recently, Lead Programmer Leon Ho sat down to answer some questions. What follows is a part interview, part narrative adaptation of the history behind Cat Quest’s development.
The Cat Dances
The year is 2015. A cat is born from nothingness, from the minds of its Creators. More idea than reality, the cat exists without purpose or shape. It isn’t long, however, before it is given a purpose: dance. Soon, it is also given shape: a three-dimensional form. And the world, too, begins to take shape around this three-dimensional cat form.
The cat’s universe has been dark, an endless sea of nameless, formless ideas. But the purpose of dance is a catalyst, a theme by which the Creators give form to the formless. The cat is given a world in which it is the sole occupant.
Soon, the cat is no longer alone. There are more cats, iterations of his own form. Always, he must fulfill the purr-pose of dance with one other cat. Never in tandem; always against. This is the will of the Creators. Sometimes, he leads the dance. Other times, he follows, doing his best to mimic the movements of his cat competitors.
It is not known whether the cat enjoys the purpose of dance, this sole function of its existence. He simply goes on, always smiling, never refusing.
But in time, the Creators grow discontent with the purpose. They begin to strip this world of shape and dance. The Creators love the cat, though, and so he is allowed to retain his form. Soon, the cat is alone again, back in the inscrutable void.
He understands he has lost his purpose. This loss of purpose has destroyed the world, yet he remains. He ponders.
Geron: Your blog tells a fantastic story about the journey of this game. It started as a prototype of a sort of competitive cat-themed dancing game, then went through many different genre iterations before finally becoming the 2D RPG that is presently nominated for the GooglePlay Game of the Year award. This seems like quite the epic journey. When did the quest begin for you all?
Leon: Our quest began around the end of 2015, when one day, Desmond (Lead Designer/Artist) walked into the office with the dancing game idea called Copycat. With that, we started to think about how to use cats in our game. They’re just so cute and also really pawpular with people on the internet!
The Cat Explores
Some indeterminable amount of time later, a new purpose arises: exploration. He is given a name by his Creators. He is called Sir Catcelot.
A new world begins to coalesce. This world is one of adventure, of sojourning. Dance is no longer the order of the day. Now, there is a need to explore.
Equal measurements of excitement and fear course through him at the prospect of this new function. His fur stands on end. He stretches, casting out stiffness. He wonders how long he has been in the void since his calling was dance.
Once again, he is not alone. But these others are different. Not cats, like him, but vicious things that seek to harm him and impede his purpose.
This world teems with excitement, with the love of the Creators. He grows accustomed to his role, to his weapons and armor, his endless travels and battles.
But then a slow-creeping, infectious doubt begins to surface. Soon…again…he finds himself in the void of formless idea.
‘What is the purpose of a purpose?’ he wonders. ‘Why does the world continue to shift, to be torn asunder and rebuilt, while I remain whole?’
Sir Catcelot supposes the worlds are for him. He supposes that the Creators divine to build the pur-fect world so that he can achieve purr-fect purpose. So his shape must be the best shape. His purpose the only true purpose. ‘I am the Chosen One,’ he thinks.
And so he smiles into the void, rests his chin upon his front paws, and waits contentedly for a new universe to take shape.
Geron: Not counting its current, final iteration, which version of Cat Quest was your favorite?
Leon: Excluding the current version, I’d say that my favorite version was the one that looked like this (see image below). This version was focused on exploration. You’d draw a line on the map and lead your kitty around the world, unveiling new areas to explore, and uncover the stories of the land. While walking around the world, monsters would occasionally appear and put a momentary halt to your journey, and you’d need to use your skills to beat them and move on.
The Cat Drifts
Many worlds come and go in the passing months; many purposes fill his heart and then wane. Most are only slightly different from the ones they follow. Still, Sir Catcelot does not fret. He understands now that it is his Creators’ will to see this through. They will find the one true home for him, the place built to serve his purpose. He is the center of their vision; all else is temporary.
The Cat Grows Troubled
Then, one day, a new world arrives that is starkly different from the others. Aesthetically, it is similar to precursor worlds, but this one is more…complete. It has the love of his Creators, yet it also has something else: a name. This world is Felingrad.
Even the places within Felingrad have names. He stands on the shores of the south Pawcific, at a place called Founder’s Island. There are strange people, here. They seem important in some undefinable way, like they know more than him.
Sir Catcelot is troubled by this world, beautiful though it may be. It makes sense on its own, irrespective of his new purpose of adventure. There are citizens, dragons, a villain called Drakoth. There is even a sister, briefly, though he does not understand what that means. The world seems alive, cohesive.
His Creators’ do not give him a voice. Rather, they give him a side-kick—some kind of cat fairy—that speaks on his behalf. He resents this fairy. It always seems to say just the right thing, the kind of thing he would say if he could talk.
‘What is this?’ he wonders. ‘Why is this world here if not to serve my purpose?’
The Cat Sacrifices
He waits and waits for the Creators’ doubt to creep in, to strip this world apart and return him to the void. There is no indication that this world will meet such a fate.
The cat continues to adventure. He masters magic, delves in dungeons and defeats dragons. He works tirelessly alongside his sidekick to uncover the mystery surrounding Drakoth. He encounters dozens of citizens of Felingrad, nearly every one in need of some form of help.
Sir Catcelot finds, over time, that he quite enjoys this world. He still ponders how the Creators’ doubt never came to wash this one away. But now, perhaps, he is beginning to understand why the Creators love Felingrad. Perhaps he, too, loves Felingrad.
Then one day, the Creators’ doubt does return. This time, however, it is not the world cast into doubt; it is Sir Catcelot.
He spends much time pondering this amid the endless conflict against dragons and monsters. Felingrad is strong. His purpose is sound. What then, is this doubt? It is pervasive to the point of being consuming. Is he going to be torn apart?
‘Was not this world designed for me and my purpose?’ he thinks. ‘Were not all worlds built by the Creators to strike the purr-fect balance?’
‘Wait! That’s it!’ he realizes. ‘It’s about purr-fect balance!’
The Creators’ will is not to find him a home. Maybe it was, once, but not now. Now it is about balancing cat and purpose and world. This world is different from the others. It is complete. This purpose of adventure, of being savior to Felingrad, is just and powerful. But what is he? What part does his 3D-self play in this 2D world? He is okay at the job, certainly, but is he right for the job? Could a different cat—purr-haps one more suited for this role—take his place the way one world follows another?
Sir Catcelot does not know. Doubt—both his and the Creators’—has crept into his polygons. He does not belong.
Briefly, he considers fighting, maybe hiding, as though there were anywhere he might hide from his Creators. But among the growing doubt, there is a kind of resolute love: love for the world, for his Creators, for his talkative side-kick and missing sister, for the purpose of saving Felingrad. The cat understands. He must depart this world.
He returns to Founder’s Island and sits, quietly, awaiting his demise.
The Cat is Reborn
Of course, Sir Catcelot does not really die in this story. He is returned to the void, his shape stripped back into idea and passion. Soon he is reborn, different in form but similar in idea. His new form is 2D, aesthetically aligned with Felingrad. It feels good to be part of the world, though he struggles to recall most of what he once knew about this place or any other.
Once again, he stands on the shores of Founder’s Island. The strange people are still here.
Their knowing gazes still lingering.
His sister awaits on a ship at the docks. She and Sir Catcelot are heading north to Felingrad’s mainland. He feels trouble brewing, the kind of trouble that requires a great deal of work to undo. It will be an adventure. A quest. A Cat Quest.
Geron: The puns in Cat Quest are abundant, to say the least, and deeply woven into the game-world both through location names and dialogue. Quite a few of them made me laugh out loud. I’m curious, were you committed to this type of humor since Copycat or did you decide to pursue that later in the journey? Any good puns that got left behind?
Leon: Copycat was a wordplay, since it was a dancing game that involved cats copying other cats’ dance moves. I thought that that was really interesting, and as we started to do more of it, we also came up with many puns. Eventually, wordplay and puns got ingrained in our development. For example, when I was placing placeholder texts on the overworld, I wrote names like Pawcific Ocean, and Pussy Plains as they came to mind. Haha 😛
Geron: Is there anything you guys are working on now that you’d like to talk about? Perhaps a dog-themed sequel to Cat Quest?
Leon: The team has been working on a story that would be set in the Cat Quest universe, and will likely involve dogs!
We’re not ready to talk about it yet though.
Cat Quest is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, iOS, Android, and Steam.