By Josh Speer / September 10th, 2019
While at PAX West 2019, I got the opportunity to demo Cat Lady again. Since I absolutely loved it when I played it at E3, I knew I had to stop on by. Even though most of what I experienced mostly felt the same, that’s hardly a bad thing. I got a chance to talk with one of the team members, Will Lewis, and he pointed out the many little modifications and rough edges that had been smoothed over. Thankfully, I also went to the Cat Lady booth with the intent of doing an interview, and here are Rose City Games’ answers to my many questions!
You can check out Rose City Games on their official website or tweet at them on Twitter. You can also visit the official Cat Lady website, see their latest tweets on Twitter, or like their latest Instagram posts.
Finally, there is a private beta going for those who couldn’t make it out to PAX West this year from September 20th to 22nd, and you can check out all the latest details (and how to sign up for it) via the official Rose City Games blog.
This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Operation Rainfall: Could you please introduce yourself?
Will Lewis: Will Lewis, Cat Lady Director and Rose City Games Co-Founder
OR: Rose City Games’ latest title is Cat Lady, with Viz partnering with you to publish it. What is Cat Lady about?
WL: Cat Lady is a twin-stick roguelike where you throw cats at ghosts! You play as Ally, who must team up with her Grandma’s many magical cats to pound and paw perilous poltergeists in Granny’s newly-haunted mansion! Explore enchanted areas, rescue cats, and upgrade your kitty companions to save the day.
OR: How did that relationship with Viz develop?
WL: Rose City Games first started working with VIZ Media after partnering to make three original titles together starting in 2018 with The World Next Door! [OR Note: You can check out our review for The World Next Door here.]
OR: Where did the inspiration for Cat Lady come from?
WL: In our original concepting for Cat Lady in 2017, we started with the idea of “Pikmin meets 2D roguelike.” The setting of “de-haunting the mansion with cats” just came from aesthetic inspirations from myself and our artist, Jake Fleming.
As we pieced together the story and leaned more into the spooky & cute characterizations of cats and enemies, we switched gears more into the direction of a roguelike to make everything more clear and readable, allow the player to upgrade & unlock their cats to experience spookier & cuter scenarios, and share the progression of the game in tighter beats. Thus, we transitioned into the game we’re working with today!
Cats as weapons just kind of came with the territory at that point! We definitely didn’t want cats getting hurt, so we decided to make them more powerful than the human player, who instead acts more like a commander!
“One of our goals with making original games with VIZ Media is to create characters and stories that people can identify with and grow to love, while also making games that we’re excited to play ourselves.“
OR: What came first: the aesthetics, the storyline, or the gameplay? How did that influence the rest?
WL: The very basics of the storyline came about first, where the initial base concept was to rescue cats from ghosts in your grandmother’s basement. We then began to work with Jake to flesh this out, and the few-color aesthetic came from a place of wanting to show a dark place, lean into scariness, but keep the cute that comes with Jake’s style. From there, we thought the idea of darkness might make for more exploration than combat, but couldn’t resist the idea of your cute companions beating down on your evil opponents.
Since then, aesthetics, storyline, and gameplay have definitely evolved alongside each other, always informing each other on the next big step and being revised appropriately. It’s been interesting to see that development, and we’re happy about the cohesion we’re aiming for!
OR: Cat Lady is a shift in gameplay, genre, and style from the visual novel/turn based-genre game The World Next Door, which was Rose City Games’ first partnered title with Viz. Why go in a different direction with Cat Lady instead of creating another similar title to [The World Next Door]?
WL: One of our goals with making original games with VIZ Media is to create characters and stories that people can identify with and grow to love, while also making games that we’re excited to play ourselves. Many of our team members at Rose City Games are huge fans of roguelikes and games with explorative & collectible elements, so working in that direction while maintaining an identifiable cast of characters made sense for us.
“I think Cat Lady is lightly a horror game.”
OR: What did Rose City Games learn from The World Next Door that they implemented, or avoided from doing again, in this title?
WL: We definitely learned a lot about clearly communicating mechanics and features when working with The World Next Door. Because TWND’s action-puzzle gameplay is something that we’ve never seen before, we received a lot of feedback that it was hard to understand how to play the game at first glance. Cat Lady is leaning into a much more striking and parsable art style, and with that we want to make sure the player knows what is happening at all times. If you die in the game, we want you to learn why and understand how to do better, feel empowered by upgrades, and feel rewarded by progressing.
OR: What games inspired the art direction for Cat Lady?
WL: Limited palettes in NES games were definitely a huge inspiration for Jake, including games like Kirby’s Adventure, Stinger, and even River City Ransom. The “weird, cute, creepy” vibe of things, like Boo in [Super] Mario Bros. 3, is a unique blend of adorable and terrifying, which we’re definitely seeing a lot of in our character designs!
OR: Do you consider Cat Lady a horror game?
WL: I think Cat Lady is lightly a horror game. There are no jump scares, and the player is never necessarily in any sort of hopeless, impending situation, but I’ve always really loved general horror or even Halloween-type aesthetics, and it’s so fun to incorporate them into this game. I think people who enjoy horror will definitely be interested in some of the character designs, environments, and gameplay elements that are unique to the game!
OR: How long do you expect a single run of the game to last? Is there an incentive for a gamer to play through it more than once?
WL: We’re going through a lot of balancing right now that will help answer that question more! There are tons of incentives to play multiple times, including the ability to unlock new cats, abilities, environments, and combinations of all of these. The game is designed to reward players for trying new combinations, flowing back into play after dying, and move closer & closer towards dominating difficult situations!
Because this is a roguelike, a “single run” will only cover a portion of your time with Cat Lady. Moving through branching paths, working with new cats, and taking on challenges will reveal more about the story and the path to final areas of the mansion. Multiple runs, and even dying, can influence your progression through the main path of the game!
OR: This may be a silly question, but is anybody in the dev team a dog fan?
WL: I am, actually! I’ve always had a lot of dogs and very few cats. Some of the cats in the game are named after my dogs, as is the game’s only dog, Morticia!
OR: Is Cat Lady just coming out for PC? Or might it make its way to consoles? Are there any DLC plans?
WL: We absolutely love consoles and are working hard to find the right path for the game! We’re starting with our Private Beta weekend on PC at first, you can sign up until Sept 17th, and will have more announcements in the near future!
We’re also designing and building the game to work very well with DLC and content updates, but we aren’t able to talk about that quite yet!
OR: Shortly before PAX West, Garden Story was announced as a social simulator and adventure RPG being developed by Picogram and co-published by Rose City Games and Viz in Spring 2020. Will the release of Cat Lady be impacted by resources being shifted over to assist in co-publishing this new title?
WL: We essentially have a “Team A, Team B” scenario at the studio that allows us to keep it all going smoothly! Cat Lady actually started production quite a few months before The World Next Door’s release, so we’ve got some familiarity with balancing the moving parts that come with working on a few projects at once.
OR: If the team at Rose City Games could tell fans one thing about themselves, what would it be?
WL: We love games so much we…
Have a 6ft Snorlax in our office, play Smash in the office every Friday, make goofy gifs from video game trailers and try to spread them around the internet, collect lanyards from all of our favorite games events, [and] play each others’ games when we take breaks at work.
My thanks to Will and Rose City Games for answering all my questions! I can tell the game is shaping up nicely, and can’t wait for more news.
To get a better idea of what to expect from Cat Lady, check out this official trailer and stay tuned to oprainfall for more news as it hits!
What do you think of Cat Lady? Are you excited for the upcoming beta? Let us know in the comments below!
Cat LadyInterviewoprainfallPAX West 2019Rose City GamesWill Lewis