[Interview] Octodad: Dadliest Catch

Octodad: Dadliest Catch follows the story of a suburban dad doing stuff with his wife and children. What makes this game unique is that the protagonist, the dad, is an octopus. You move through the game by controlling his legs and arms individually to complete tasks that are menial to an ordinary person like making coffee. It’s a pretty silly game that you may find is a lot of fun.

I wanted to learn a little more about how Octodad came to be, and why the developers Young Horses, Inc., decided to port the game to Android TV. I got the chance to talk to COO and programmer at Young Horses, Inc., Kevin Geisler.

On the Idea Behind Octodad

I look so dapper
An octopus in a tuxedo marries a person.

Is Octodad: Dadliest Catch based on a true story? Where did this idea come from?

The idea came from a few people on the team being inspired by the game ‘Trespasser’ and pitching a game where you were an octopus robotically trying to control a human body. The pitch snowballed from there, deciding maybe it was just an octopus in a suit. Quickly after that, it was suggested that he should just have a normal wife and kids that have no idea he’s an octopus.

You mention that your company formed after a group of university students release the original Octodad. What made this group decide to release this game to the world?

We were originally in an extracurricular summer project with the intent of submitting to the Independent Games Festival Student Showcase, which we ended up being one of the 8 final showcase selections. Part of that project also had us releasing the project for free, since it was also meant to showcase work from the university.

The homepage mentions that game content is free to use in let’s play, reviews, and other online videos. Why have you decided to make this so explicit?

To avoid having to answer support questions! But also, some outlets require it in writing, so we just have it available online for people to reference.

There’s a lot of crazy dialog in this game? How did you come up with all of those one-liners?

There were a lot of brainstorming sessions between a couple of the designers, Kevin Zuhn and Majdi Badri. They would then pitch us their best lines at weekly meetings and the whole team would discuss whether we liked them or not. And of course, it took our talented voice actors to actually deliver those lines properly.

On Supporting Android TV

Watch out for banana peels

What made you decide to support Android TV?

There was a form online by Google to request free Android TV hardware for developers, so we submitted to that and got some in the mail. We put even more work into it after working with NVIDIA and their Shield line, since Shield TV turned out to be a very powerful device capable of running the full game’s lighting and levels.

How much time went into developing specifically for Android TV?

Maybe a few days total spread throughout the project. It was up and working pretty much from the day we received the hardware. We had already released on consoles, so having controller support and properly placed UI was already done. I think the biggest requirement was that we had to make sure that players could exit out of the game using the standard remote in addition to our gamepad support.

How does the experience differ on a TV compared to a phone or tablet?

Playing with a controller is the preferred method of playing. I think most people can play the game longer and more comfortably playing it on their TV, but I could be wrong. Also, there is no switching between arms and legs mode, which certainly makes the controls feel more natural.

Have you noticed a difference in how the game is played on a TV compared to a tablet?

People tend to all play the game the same way when using a controller. With tablet/phones, we run into the issue of people playing the game in different ways, depending on how they hold the device.

Has support for Android TV affected the number of users buying the game?

Not really.

What advice would you give to game developers who are on the fence about supporting Android TV?

If you have the hardware and already support controllers, then there is little reason not to support it.

On the Android TV Platform

That honeymoon was too short

What is your least favorite thing about Android TV?

I don’t think it’s necessarily marketed well to people. There’s not enough push behind it to be a console competitor, even though some devices could actually do that (like Shield TV).

What is the biggest thing you’re hoping to see added to the next version of Android TV?

For Android in general, I would love to be able to target devices based on performance or amount of RAM. It can be frustrating as a developer to have to deal with troubleshooting for thousands of devices, many of which we weren’t intending to support.

What led to your decision to have support for Google Play Games in terms of achievements and cloud saves?

The backend for Google Play is extremely easy and possibly the nicest system we’ve used. It just made sense to do since it’s come to be expected for a lot of higher profile games.

What’s the next step for Young Horses, Inc. Are you planning on expanding the DLC (Octodad Shorts) to more platforms, or are you looking at entirely new projects?

We’ve begun work on our next project, which is pretty early in development. The team has been working on Octodad for over five years now, so we’re ready to move onto something new. It shares a lot of similar humor, so I think Octodad fans will enjoy it!

Conclusion

Supporting controllers seems to be a popular theme among many larger indie games. It’s handled easily in the operating system, and made even easier by game engines like Unity. Once you support game controllers, there’s not really any reason not to add Android TV to the list of platforms. All the APIs are the same, even Google Play Games.

If you’re interesting in purchasing the game, it’s $5 on Google Play.

Nick Felker

Nick Felker

Nick Felker is a student Electrical & Computer Engineering student at Rowan University (C/O 2017) and the student IEEE webmaster. When he's not studying, he is a software developer for the web and Android (Felker Tech). He has several open source projects on GitHub (http://github.com/fleker)Devices: Moto G-2013 Moto G-2015, Moto 360, Google ADT-1, Nexus 7-2013 (x2), Lenovo Laptop, Custom Desktop.Although he was an intern at Google, the content of this blog is entirely independent and his own thoughts.

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