Critter Cove is an open-world RPG set in a world of fantastical islands, crazy critters, and high sea adventures. You’re a captain of your own ship and you get to recruit unique crew members that will help you along your journey of foraging for goods, salvaging shipwrecks, and finding buried treasure! Customize your character, several ports, your ship, and the homes of many townspeople you will get to meet and befriend. You can get caught up with all of the main features of Critter Cove with our previous article here.
Below is an interview with the creators of Gentleman Rat, a three person indie game studio. Eli is the designer, writer and wearer of many hats, Jason is Eli’s brother and programmer of the game, and Christine is Eli’s girlfriend and artist of Critter Cove. It’s really great to see a family working together on a videogame and they were all very pleasant to speak with!
Continue reading for some exclusive screenshots and a deeper dive (get it) into all of the things we can do as a great seafarer. We here at myPotatoGames can’t wait to help these ports thrive, chat up the locals, and find rare items!
We’d like to thank Jason, Christine, and Eli for taking the time to answer all of our questions in astonishing detail and we wish them all the best on this endeavor!
Q&A with Gentleman Rat – Creators of Critter Cove
About Critter Cove: Your character is a ship captain who has been hired by the citizens of Critter Cove to help put their town on the map. You see the potential in this quirky little town to become a tropical paradise, but it’s up to you! You must convince new shops and critters to move in through fixing up the existing town, but also by sailing the world to explore other exotic islands, find trade routes, collecting lost relics, and meet new and interesting critters who might be interested in doing business with, or moving to, Critter Cove; all while looking absolutely smashing in your fancy new captain’s coat.
[su_service title=”What was your inspiration in creating this game and your interest in pirates?” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
The team: We started a few years back making mobile games but we’re not completely happy with the market or the types of games that were doing well on that platform. We’re all by nature more console or PC players so it seemed a natural fit to switch platforms. The life sim genre was always a genre that we had a lot of fondness and passion towards and we always knew that it was something we wanted to take a swing at. So when we switched platforms we felt it was also the right time to try our hand at something a little bigger.
Our original title was a game that was far more similar to Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon called Seeds of Magic. Over time, we noticed that it was naturally leaning towards something more akin to Animal Crossing and we felt it was missing a sense of exploration and discovery. Therefore, we decided to shift to 3D and the game morphed into its final form of Critter Cove.
The desire to add more exploration and discovery into the game led us to the island and sea-faring theme which we felt was just a natural fit. Honestly, Critter Cove isn’t really a true “pirate” game. We don’t have any plans on raiding other ships or towns. The theme is really more about capturing the sense of adventure, exploration, and discovery that comes along with the high seas and sailing between points unknown.
[su_service title=”What are features are you going to be working on?” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
The team: Our two big long term tasks are the development of a good trailer and demo. Something that we can start to show off to really give people a good sense of what Critter Cove is all about. For the demo, we are trying to put together a vertical slice of the game so people can get a good feel for it. Hopefully those two things will get people as excited…or at least close to as excited…about Critter Cove as we are.
[su_service title=”I would love to know more about some of the characters we will meet on the islands and examples of some of the things we can do for them.” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
The team: There will be a wide variety of characters basically split into 2 different categories: Vendors and Citizens. Vendors run the various shops, like the general store or the shipwright, which you will be able to build in your town. These characters have jobs they have to do and often times will make requests of the player to help them grow their business. Requests can range from simple; make a cargo run, to more complex; building a shop upgrade.
Citizens are the different characters who move into the town to live and be part of your crew. Every citizen has its own personality, likes, and dislikes. They also have wants and needs and will often recruit the player to help them fulfill those needs. Some are immediate, like if a citizen gets left a treasure map in their late uncle’s will. Some are more long term; a character is trying to decorate their house entirely purple. Citizens can also be taken on as part of your crew when you leave the island. Vendors usually cannot, since they are busy with their businesses.
Our relationship system is a bit more complex than in many games of this genre. We decided to avoid the linear like/dislike system, where certain actions increased the relationship’s overall score while others decreased the score. Instead we wanted NPCs to “remember” how the player treated them in a more nuanced manner and react appropriately. NPC relationships are represented by a radar chart with the points being the NPCs’ reactions (friendly, mean, helpful, silly, etc). The deeper into the chart the relationship is, the more likely they are to react in that manner.
Meaning, if a player is consistently mean to an NPC, they are more likely to be wary of the player, less likely to ask for help, and have a higher chance of leaving. If the player is helpful to an NPC, they will look to the player for even more help. If the NPCs’ reaction leans towards silly, they might play pranks on the player. These reactions combined with the different personalities of the NPCs lead to some interesting behaviors. In this manner, depending on how the player treats different NPCs, 2 different players can have very different experiences with the same character.
[su_service title=”Wow so there really is a lot of player choice in terms of interacting with NPCs! I like how they can also all be very helpful. Do you have a set number of vendors, citizens, and crew members in mind? ” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
Eli: We don’t have a set number. Our intention is to keep building shops and new NPCs for as long as we are able. Even after launch we would like to constantly add new things for the players to build and NPCs for them to meet. Yes, NPCs both vendors and crew/citizens will be very helpful and in fact be necessary to progress. Vendors own shops and those shops are how the player can get new items crafted, recipes discovered, etc. This allows the player to explore the world further and as those shops are created, the town increases in desirability which causes new citizens/crew members to move in.
[su_service title=”I love how much life you have already given some characters. I think the neurotic and nervous Lamps is my spirit animal. Do any of you have favorite characters so far? ” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
Jason: I am an engineer at heart so I love Copperbottom. Plus I have a fascination with The Wizard of Oz and he reminds me of Tik-Tok.
Eli: I would probably go with Pokee myself. She has a fairly sassy sort of personality and she can give the player a bit of gruff at times which is something I really like. One thing that we are trying to do with all of our characters is to give them unique personalities that hopefully people will be able to connect with.
Christine: Pokee is my favorite she’s based on my sassy but sadly now late bearded dragon Nacho.
[su_service title=”Yes I think all of the characters with their distinct personalities are very interesting! Is Copperbottom a robot? ” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
Jason: Yep. He is the engineer in town and helps with the construction of buildings. You also work with him to craft various mechanical devices. We really are focused on building strong relationships in the game between you, the player, and the Critters. Another way we are doing that is crafting which involves other NPCs. Think of them as extended crafting stations that you have to keep happy and healthy.
Relationships also opens up fun little side-tasks for the player, for instance, Copperbottom will occasionally breakdown and you have to help fix him, or go find him some oil. This might require you to go exploring, develop new tech, etc. All Critters have wants, needs, desires, that you will, over time, learn about through interaction and gameplay.
Eli: We wanted to break out a little bit from the standard pure animal or human type characters and leave ourselves open to create whatever whim we might have. For example, we also plan on doing some fantasy style critters (griffins, dragons, etc) or alien type critters.
[su_service title=”I really love the fantasy/magical elements you guys are bringing into the game with the characters. Do you plan on carrying that over to other parts of the game such as designs or certain quests? ” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
Eli: Fantasy style creatures will have fantasy style wants and needs. We are also planning on doing differing island environments, some of which could be consider alien or fantasy. An example of that is an island covered with giant mushrooms that is in the works. Different and unique islands are an important part of the exploration aspects of the game we really want to come through.
Jason: I personally would like to see a underwater city inhabited by various sea going creatures. We’ll see if I get outvoted.
Christine: We’ll see if I have time to make that!
[su_service title=”It’s really great that you get to befriend absolutely everyone. What are some of the benefits to being best buds? ” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
Jason: Potential benefits would be them joining your crew for an adventure, unlocking new items to craft, and quests. Other things would be allowing you into their home, requesting decorative items, allowing you to help them decorate their houses and outfits.
[su_service title=”Speaking of underwater, you recently showed that the player can swim to the depths of the seas but will need gear the deeper they go. Are there limits to how long we can be there or can we explore at our leisure? ” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
Eli: There will be a limit as far as time goes. So the player will only be able to hold their breath for a certain period of time before having to find a new source of air. If they have a re-breather, they can stay under even longer. With the diving suit they can go deeper and stay under even longer. But while it is not an indefinite period of time, it will be long enough so no one feels rushed. However, there will be a slight bit of pressure to get the job done before air runs out. We want Critter Cove to have a relaxed play style but with a few ‘gamey’ elements mixed in.
Jason: We want to instill that desire to go deeper and stay longer, which in turn gives you goals and challenges you need to overcome. It all ties back into relationships. Perhaps now you have to find some Critter who knows about diving, befriend them, and then they can help you design and build a diving bell, teach you how to hold your breath longer, or give you a snorkel.
[su_service title=”That makes a lot of sense. So we’ll be going underwater and digging in the sand as well to find treasure? What kind of treasure can we find? Are there other areas of the islands we’ll get to explore? ” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
Eli: There is going to be wide variety of different island biomes that will help drive the exploration aspects of the game. We really want players to have a desire to hop on their ship and sail in a direction to see what they might find out there. Not only will they find new islands but also treasure and resources that are not available on their home port. Some of those islands will have mines and caves which lead the player underground.
On the port island, players will be able to build the Royal Museum of Natural Science and Stuff, who will enlist the player in helping them build out their collection with all sorts of flora, fauna, fossils, and, of course, relics. These will be found in a wide variety of ways. For example, everything from digging them up, solving puzzles, having your critter pals gift them to you, etc.
What we are really looking forward to doing is treasure maps and sunken treasure. Treasure maps come in a couple of forms, either the “X” marks the spot where the player has to figure out the location of the treasure based on a simple “X” on a map, or a riddle where the player will need to follow the clues in order to find the location of the treasure. Sunken treasure will be especially fun because it will involve swimming down to explore wreckage and sometimes to depths that require a bell suit to go all the way to the sea floor.
[su_service title=”What can more crew members in particular help with and how do we keep them happy? ” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
The team: When you take on a crew member, they each have different skills that help in the operations of a ship. Some make the ship travel faster, others help with any loading and unloading of cargo, some help get better prices from trade outposts, etc. Some NPCs can even be taught to drive the ship so the player can do something else while traveling.
Crew are also very useful when on shore of different islands. They can be issued orders to help collect resources or carry heavy cargo boxes back to the ship. But be careful, overworking crew members will make them mad at you.
[su_service title=”We’re really looking forward to seeing what kind of shops the vendors will run. What can we expect in terms of other items we can buy or equip? ” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
Eli: At the beginning of the game the town is very humble with only a few shops and production facilities available. This means that the player starts off with only a few choices of items available for purchase. These being wearables to customize your appearance or give to the NPCs to customize theirs. There will also be tools that help in resource gathering or unlocking new areas. There will be a wide variety of furniture sets to help decorate living spaces and there will also be decoration items to spruce up the town as it grows. As more shops are built, more of these items and in a wider variety will open up.
Jason: Shops and facilities will include General Store, Lumberyard, Mechanic, Shipyard, Quarry, Farm(s), to name a few. Also Tavern(s), Carpenter, Restaurants.
Items and equipment are varied as well which include lots of decorative items like clothing and furniture. Equipment is like shovels, picks, metal detectors, diving bell, engines for your ship, wallpaper, I could go on and on. One thing to note, our items are highly customizable many of them letting you change their color(s) and patterns.
[su_service title=”What parts of the ship can we decorate or customize? ” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
The team: There are the active parts: engines, rudders, cargo space, etc that can be upgraded. This will allow the ship to function better. There is also all the cosmetic upgrades. Rails, sides, window, wheel, etc. This is to make your ship look the way you want it to. These are all ship-related items that increase the performance and custom appearance of your ship. Once the shipwright has been built, new ship types can be built.
There is also the captain’s quarters, where the player lives. This space can be fully decorated and furnished to the player’s liking. And if you run out of room, it can be expanded to add more rooms.
[su_service title=”What kind of furnishings can we expect? Are they themed? ” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
The team: There are going to be a number of furnishings available. They will come in sets that include 1 bed, chair, sofa, end table, wardrobe, dresser, and table. There will also be a number of one-offs that include light fixtures, lamps, pictures, and other knickknacks. We are going to allow interiors to be customizable as well in the forms of different wallpapers, flooring, ceilings, and doors. This way the player will be able to create their own unique space.
Critters will also decorate their own spaces according to what they like and will often rope the player into helping them find different things they are looking for. It is possible that they will become dissatisfied with how their decorating is going or if the player is considered to be good at it, they will ask the player for help in decorating their home. They will give the player some guidelines as to what they are looking for and then the player will have so many days to try to accomplish that using the items the NPC has available or by finding new ones for them.
[su_service title=”There’s so much to do and it all sounds so fun! It sounds like we’ll have control of the ship and you mentioned we can build new types? What will these different kinds of ships do? ” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
Eli: Yes. You will be able to drive the ship manually. We want driving the ship to fun fast paced experience so the ship is fairly responsive. You will be able to upgrade the parts of the ship which changes how the ship behaves. Upgrading the engine for example makes it go faster, while upgrading the keel increases acceleration.The different ship types come with different base functions. For example, each ship only has a limited number of berths and cargo space. Getting a new ship will change those values. That way by upgrading the ship, the player will be able to take more crew along when they leave port. Increased cargo storage allows the ship to hold more cargo.Also the ship types will look vastly different so players might like one look over the other.
NPCs also will occasionally ask the player to take them somewhere like a cruise-line. This requires the ship to have space to take on passengers. Ships that are good at hauling passengers are not necessarily the best at hauling cargo or diving from. Different types of ships will be optimal for different jobs.
Jason: We would also like to be able to modify the cargo hold to allow for upgrades so that you can transport different type of goods. So a refrigeration unit to transport perishable goods, perhaps a lead lined container for radioactive material or toxic waste.
That world will contain points of interests, like waterfalls, ruins, sea turtle habitat, places that are interesting that Critters will want to go to and see.
[su_service title=”The ship really can do many things! I’m looking forward to snapping pictures of those locations. Tell me, can we interact with the sea turtles?! ” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
Christine: Maybe to pet or even be able to feed the turtles, that would be cool! We will have the Museum, so you’ll need to photograph or capture animals and plants to place there.
[su_service title=”That’s awesome! Collecting things for displaying purposes is always great! Well I for one am very excited to try out your upcoming demo. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we conclude this interview? ” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#8300ff” size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
Eli: One thing that we do want to mention is that we are currently working an extremely robust character customization system which we are extremely excited about. The system gives players the freedom to make and create almost any character they wish, including not having to be human at all. If you want to be a cat, dog, lizard, or whatever and we have it in the game you’ll be able to create it. We are even going to allow for mixing and matching so dog head with horns or cat tail…sure, why not? We really want players to be able to be whatever they want to be in the world and will do our best to give them as many options as we are able.
Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us. This is actually our very first interview. So this is pretty cool.