If you didn’t know, PlayStation Vita Pets launches next week, and we were keen to know a little more ahead of the launch, so we sent Sony XDev a few questions about it. If this game has been on your radar, hopefully these questions will explain the game a little.
There are going to be obvious comparisons to Nintendogs with Vita Pets, is there anything that sets this apart from Nintendo’s title? Are you keen to separate yourselves from that comparison, or are you comfortable with it? PlayStation All-Stars was never able to break free from the “Smash Bros clone” tag and despite it being a different style of game, kept a lot of people from giving it a fair shot.
Nintendogs is a great game and it’s flattering to be compared to but it’s really not accurate once you get past the fact that we both have dogs. PS Vita Pets is just as much of an adventure game as it is a pet sim, we think that’s one of our key differentiators from other games out there. We’ve built a pet game where you train and nurture a dog but rather than just unlocking new mini games you unlock new areas of an adventure as well. Teach your dog to pull, crawl, jump, etc and it’ll be able to use those skills to solve puzzles and move forward, we’ve worked to mix traditional adventure mechanics in with traditional pet sim gameplay to create something new. So yeah, we feel it stands on it’s own, it’s a solid pet game and a solid adventure game all wrapped in one. We also are pretty happy to be seen as a game rather than a standard pet sim, our dogs are characters, they talk, they go on adventures… it’s a very different breed.
Not too long ago you released a mobile companion app for Vita Pets. Are there any plans for the game and the app to converge or work together? Or are they just going to remain two separate things?
The app and game already converge, by playing the app and unlocking content within it you can gain access to costumes only available within the app. You can then gift those costumes to yourself or other PSN friends and they will be unlocked in the Vita game.
One of the biggest problems that children can have with Nintendogs is that it relies heavily on vocal commands, but smaller children (especially the ones who really enjoy these pet sims) don’t have the best pronunciation and diction. The game can become frustrating because it won’t recognize them saying “sit” no matter how carefully it is pronounced and it won’t move on. Does Vita Pets rely on vocal commands, and if so, how will the game handle situations where it can’t recognize the speech?
We were very aware of this problem actually so we build these areas of the game to accommodate everyone. Whenever you teach your dog a trick you must repeat the command, if however you don’t use the correct command, say it’s ‘roll over’ for example, if you are unable to pronounce that the game will still recognise what you say and remember your command to the dog. All tricks can also be performed via touch gestures as well so this should never stop someone from progressing and bonding with their pet.
The name of the game is “Vita Pets” but seems to feature only dogs. Are there other pets in the game, or plans to bring different kinds of pets? How many different breeds are available?
With this we made a conscious choice to focus on a smaller number of animals and dogs specifically. We wanted adventure gameplay so we needed a pet that was able to do all the things we needed them to do, pull large objects, crawl, roll, jump, etc. Dogs just fit best for this particular game. Also with the dogs being characters they have their own voice and thousands of lines of dialogue, we decided it was better to offer 4 breeds of dog, each with a polished experience rather than many different ones where we couldn’t have supported and developed them as well. Each of our 4 dogs can be customised with different fur patterns and colours as well as hundreds of costume items so players can make them their own.
Vita Pets looks like a game focused on young children and is coming out on a device that so far has few games for that demographic. There really isn’t going to be much of a built in audience right now. It would seem to us that there has to be a balancing act in creating something that is accessible and fun for the younger ones but also interesting enough for an older audience. Do you think that you have struck that balance? Or are you skewing it solely for a younger audience and hoping this game brings more of that market to the Vita?
Ultimately without games for a younger audience on Vita, that audience will never exist, so with games like Invizimals and PlayStation Vita Pets we are hopefully helping to create a place where people of all ages can enjoy themselves. Also, PlayStation Vita Pets was designed to be accessible to children but that really just means that it was made to be accessible to all, we hope that older people will give it a go and enjoy it, there’s a lot to offer everyone and it’s a unique experience on the platform.
Do you have any plans to include additional pets via DLC?
This isn’t something we are talking about right now. We hope that people enjoy the game as it is and let us know their feedback before we think about things like that.
We would like to thank Sarah, Neil and the XDev Europe team for taking the time to answer our questions. Hopefully this will give you an idea of the type of game PlayStation Vita Pets is and we hope to bring you a review very soon. Are you thinking about picking it up?