I caught up with Young Horses Inc's Philip Tibitoski to discuss Octodad, ID@Xbox, future projects, and much more!
Q 1) For those that are new to the game, how would you sum up Octodad?
Octodad: Dadliest Catch is a game about destruction, deception, and fatherhood. The player controls Octodad, a dapper octopus masquerading as a human, as he goes about his life. Octodad's existence is a constant struggle, as he must master mundane tasks with his unwieldy boneless tentacles while simultaneously keeping his cephalopodan nature a secret from his human family.
Q 2) I saw on your website that Octodad started as a university project. The themes reminded me of Disney's Ratatouille and similar cartoons where an animal is masquerading in a human role. Did you draw on inspiration from any particular movies/media/other games when coming up with the concept?
The initial concept for the game was born out of the ideas in the film Being John Malkovich which deals with living within another person's mind, sometimes controlling them. We also drew influence from the game Jurassic Park Trespasser for the mechanics of micro-managing the movement of Octodad.
Things like Animaniacs, Rocko's Modern Life, and Ren & Stimpy also influenced the visual aesthetics of the game.
Q 3) Will Octodad make use of any of the unique Xbox One features? I envisage some sort of insane body contorting controls using Kinect (that would probably cause injuries however...)
We are looking into Kinect controls, but as cool as you might think they'd be for Octodad it's very difficult to figure out an intuitive way to control him using your body. Otherwise one thing setting it apart from the PS4/PC versions is that it will come with the extra 'Shorts' levels from the start.
Q 4) Have you guys approached/been approached by big publishers for Octodad? Would you consider joining them if so? If not, could you explain your reasoning?
We've talked to a few publishers in the past, but have yet to see a deal that would actually be in our best interests. At this point the game has sold well enough that we're all full-time at Young Horses. We're getting to work on our next game which is something different from what we've done in the past, and self-funding it is our first choice. Starting our studio has always been about maintaining all control over what we do to create weird/delightful games, and we're just where we want to be.
Q 5) Would you agree that independent studios have a stronger voice than ever in the console gaming space? or do you guys think there's more work to do to on the part of Xbox/PS4 to level the playing field so to speak?
It's easier than ever to publish your own game on a console. Many of the platform-holders will also help you out anywhere they can and that's doing good for the community. As far as leveling the playing field goes everything still comes down to having a good game that stands out because of its own merits.
Q 6) The wider gaming media have frequently criticised ID@Xbox's 'parity clause', but Octodad seems to contravene that to a fairly large degree - is the policy as rigid as some worry? How have you found dealing with ID@Xbox in general?
I think we're in a unique position with Octodad because we started working with Sony and PS4 about 3 months before the ID@Xbox program was announced. This gave us some leeway when it comes to the parity stuff since we didn't know it existed until we'd already made plans for other platforms.
Another thing is that when speaking with platform-holders almost everything is negotiable if you've got some sort of leverage. Whether you've got exclusive content per platform or previous accolades to lean on it seems there are multiple ways to get around or bend policy in general. I think the best advice I can give for independents looking to put their game on consoles, if it's their first go 'round, is to build the reputation of their game and studio through showing it at public events like PAX.
It comes down to the fact that if a lot of people want your game on their platform of choice then the platform-holders will be more motivated to make that happen. This is a business after all.
Q 7) I noted that Octodad can be played using touch screens via Windows 8. It's probably early days yet, but have you guys heard much about ID@Xbox for Windows 10? If so - would you consider publishing the game through the app store there to maybe target smartphones as well as Windows tablets?
Tablets are a possibility in general, but we haven't looked into Windows 10 just yet. We're working on multiple SKUs of Octodad right now, as well as working on our new game. We're busy!
Q 8) What general advice would you give to students trying to break into the gaming industry? Should students be targeting any specific engines or programming languages? It seems like you guys have become successful quite quickly!
This is a broad question which makes it hard to hit any and all situations a person might be in coming out of school. General advice would be to focus on being the best you can in what you do whether it's programming, art, business, Music/SFX, writing, design, etc. The next thing is that you should be working on games as often as possible. By the time you're out of school you should have a few small/quality games under your belt.
Having made a game from start to finish both on your own and with different sized teams is something I know most employer's are looking for more so than good grades. Whether you want to go independent or work for a larger studio these are good things to focus on. Also be sure to tune into and join any communities you can whether they're online or local to you. Showing your work publicly and learning how to properly take feedback is essential in bettering your own work.
Q 9) Game pitch! Octodad on HoloLens crashing around my apartment in augmented reality. Could that be a thing some day? Have you guys been looking at HoloLens / Oculus Rift / Project Morpheus? if so, what do you make of them in terms of gaming from a dev perspective?
We know of HoloLens, though we don't have any inside information on it so we're in the same position as consumers at this point. The videos and prototypes that have been showcased for it look great, but who knows how something like that would work out in an actual home that isn't a space designed for a demo. If it really is what it's been touted as then I'm sure we'd be interested in using it.
VR on the other hand is something we've seen first hand, and I can say we're actively looking into using it with our next project. We were particularly impressed with Project Morpheus and the HTC Vive/Steam VR.
Q 10) Finally, can you tell us when gamers can expect to get their tentacles on Octodad for Xbox One?
I can't get into specific dates yet, but Summer 2015 is our current release window for Xbox One.
And that's a wrap! Big thanks to Young Horses Inc for taking the time to talk to us.
Have you tried Octodad on PS4 or PC? Looking forward to the Xbox One version? Ink your comments below!
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!