Virtual pets and digital toys…

I’ve been talking about this a bit on Twitter. I’m making a collection of virtual pets. The project is called “Cyberpet Graveyard”.
This is under development and will be released eventually.

The premise is that sometime during the early 00’s there was a critical malfunction at the cyberpet factory. The meltdown led to the miss-creation of several unlikeable and unwanted cyberpets.
Nobody knew what to do with them, and they never made it past quality assurance. Therefore the CD project was canceled.
They were eventually banned, and buried, never to be seen or heard from again.
Thanks to the efforts of digital archeologists the project becomes unearthed and available…

I might actually post this on archive because that would be such a cool way to release something… but I have no idea what their rules are so that might be a very rude idea. Will look into it.

So as you explore this series of folders you discover what led up to cyberpet graveyard’s creation, and the true secret behind it. It uses a lot of horror movie tropes.
By interacting with the pets too, they hand you clues about what is really going on.
It’s very cute.
This is my treat-myself-project… You know, a project that you promise yourself if you do good by finishing your last big thing… So this is that project.
It’s kinda growing up fast. I like it. I suppose it has a good mystery and horror angle to it too, that you could really run with if you where to make something more serious. Right now it’s leaning in the more humorous direction.

Also, and interesting thing about making virtual pets…

They are fun because essentially you’re building a toy. It’s not really a game. There are no goals, other than the interaction you allow the person to have with the pet.
I find it cute when someone says “can’t wait to play it!” because… that will be a difficult thing to do. You’ll run it, it’s build as software, “play” is obscure here. I like the panic it sends me in when I start to wonder if it will be fun at all under that expectation.
Can just running something and seeing what it does be fun enough? Can interacting with a strange digital artifact, and figuring out its purpose, be entertaining enough?

I’ve been kind of enjoying calling these “toys” because the shift in mindset gets interesting when you build them.
I really like the above two questions. I’ve been thinking about them a lot while building this.

Your desktop is an environment, and that’s the play area.
The series of pets you have are the toys.
You can have them open while you work, so they provide a moderate amount of distraction. (you can even run them all at once, and it will turn your screen into a chaotic zoo).
If you figure out how they work, basically just clicking around, they give you files (images, text…) that are like story fragments related to the graveyard.
I’d be interested to see if people have the willingness to look deeper than just running them, and if they’ll find any of that stuff at all.

Virtual pets are charming because their existence kind of makes the desktop less of a serious/grim space. I find this interesting because desktops have become kind of this really bland functional environment.
Older programs, like the ones that allowed a talking moose head, or bugs on your desktop… always fascinated me because it’s some attempt to bring life to this otherwise sterile environment.
A bit like themes, and themed software was, it’s a small effort to personalize, or “humanize”, a virtual space.
It’s partly what I miss about downloading desktop themes, customizing your cursor, and finding fun screensavers… or changing your bootup screen to something dumb. If you think of it, computers are very branded environments. Whatever system you’re using has a strong corporate brand hovering over this virtual space.
Software like this breaks that up.
…At least, that can be the goal when you make it.
I find it super charming when you find stuff that is not exactly a game, and functions as a joke or toy.
Software as a toy, and software as a joke, is this endlessly fascinating concept to explore.

Another interesting thing I’m exploring with this project is treating the folder structure as part of that game.
I mentioned that if you package your game along with folders that contain extras, which kind of work like characters live in those folders, or they go off on story tangents… It’s really fun for people to explore.
With this one the “game” part is just mulling around in these folders and uncovering whatever mystery by talking to the folder inhabitants (separate programs), or looking at images and other digital artifacts.
Lol, I called this “folder spelunking”… it’s kind of cute because you build these folders as a maze…
I’ve been wanting to explore this folder idea for a while. Like make an adventure game that’s built entirely on exploring folders… I’m not exactly doing that with this project (it’s not an adventure game), but It’s something that I’ve had on my mind for a long time.

Bringing this up because it’s worth doing. It’s a lot of fun to build.
It’s also an interesting concept to turn the desktop itself into a game… Not a simulated desktop, but design something that functions within the real actual desktop.
I did this vaguely with my last game. It was still a fake desktop, and the line gets blurred between whatever is fake or real because it still uses system functionality to do stuff… But it would be so cool to blur that line even more and see what happens.

In other news…
I forgot to mention these things here…

I updated the desktop version of Tetrageddon (ARMAGAD) a while ago. I also wrote an enthusiastic devlog after I played it and fell in love with it again.
I forgot how much there was to that game. It’s really good.

I also finished (tied up all loose ends) and released F2OGGY on itch. It’s a local multiplayer game.
It was a Juegos Rancheros game a few years ago. It’s free now if you want to check it out. Requires 2 players.

…Oh lol… I keep forgetting that I’m trying to get “Everything is going to be OK” on Steam. Yes. That is still coming. I’m working on a few things at once, but that is going to happen too.