To the Rescue game developer shares more about mission and design process

To the Rescue game screenshots. Photos courtesy of Little Rock Games.
To the Rescue game screenshots. Photos courtesy of Little Rock Games. /
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To the Rescue game screenshots. Photos courtesy of Little Rock Games.
To the Rescue game screenshots. Photos courtesy of Little Rock Games. /

Olivia Dunlap, To the Rescue game developer, talked with Dog O’Day via Zoom about the design process of the project.

Dog O’Day – I was really impressed with how detailed it looks. How did you guys decide to embrace the – I mean, there’s obviously the warm and fuzzy adoption side, but sometimes they do get sick, sometimes you do have to put animals down, that kind of thing. How did you guys decide to include those elements as well?

Yeah, that was definitely – exactly like you just said, THAT was one of the core ideas at the forefront of our minds was to make sure that was what this game was about. Because it’s about a dog shelter, there’s this expectation like “oh, it’s a pet game, it’s gonna be cute” – and it is still cute, there needs to be some relief and be able to appeal to that audience too –

Animal shelters, they’re a real place and they have real needs, and we really wanted to convey part of the experience of what that experience was like. We tend to think a lot here on our team about where to balance that – cause on the one hand you do want to simulate reality as best you can, but on the other you need to make a fun game, so try to find a middle ground there. And in a way it’s sort of a chance for us to put our money where our mouth is, because we really care about shelters and so we want to convey that with the game.

Right, and so that’s why you included elements like how the dogs may not be perfect little fuzzy angels, and you need to fundraise, and all that kind of thing.

Absolutely! So fundraising is really important, but so is positioning the shelter in the broader community. In addition to managing your funds, you also have to manage your reputation, and that’s really important because if you just neglect all the dogs, as a player, if you never feed them and let them just sit around, hope somebody takes one of these poor things home, you can get shut down just from the community deciding that there’s a problem with the shelter. So that’s a really important element as well.

And then if you do manage your resources well, then you upgrade your shelter, right?

Mm-hmm! There’s gonna be some progression there, you start off with a really small shelter, but if you get extra resources – you might accrue donations, do adoptions successfully, and there’s other fundraising things you can do in the game – you can end up with enough money to expand your space so you can hold more dogs, or you could hire help, so there are a lot of different ways you can grow and expand.

From the preview trailer, it was an interesting contrast from the realism of the gameplay with the cute Game Boy Advance style of animation.

We’re really happy with the art style that we have for the game. It’s gone through a couple different variations because it’s been a learning process for us as programmers, working with this specific art style, and also with our artist, Bryon Buslig as he was trying to learn how to pin down the art style and how to make artwork for games, but we found a nice middle ground of cute hand-animated artwork and being able to use that simplistic style to be able to capture movements of lots of different types of dogs, with relatively limited resources.

Is there a technical term for that style of animation?

For the animation in particular…I would just call it “hand animated,” as opposed to programmatically animated things, because each and every single animation is hand-drawn by our animator, Kat Higgins, so that would be how I would describe the animation style.

And how did you decide on the music that was in the trailer, that light bouncy piano music?

It really just suited the tone of the game. We want the game to be that sort of high energy, exciting atmosphere, without ignoring the fact that it does have its share of downer moments as well. But in general we want it to be a positive experience, we want people to be excited about connecting dogs with their owners, cause that’s really important to the gameplay.

So the music in the game itself will be similar in tone?

In tone, yes, probably. I don’t know that that track in particular is going to be in there. I’m not a music person, one of our other team members, Joe Williams, handles that, and I’m just over here like, “Sure, that sounds great!” That’s basically my level of involvement in that aspect of the project.