Six Ideas Rejected from Octodad: Dadliest Catch
Hello octopus lovers, Kevin Zuhn here!
We’ve been in development of Octodad: Dadliest Catch for a while now, and while we make cephalopod fatherhood simulation look easy, it’s been a tumultuous process! A lot of work has gone into the content we’ve shown at PAX and on Greenlight. But I’d like to take a moment to consider content that hasn’t been shown. Moreover, the content that will never be shown.
I’ve come to realize over time that my role as creative director of this game is often about putting on my boots, hunting down rogue ideas, and stomping them into an early grave. Let us stand in silence before the mental cemetery, and examine that which might have been.
1. Church Plane
The church level (which you can see the entirety of in our gameplay video here) ends with wedding vows. Then suddenly the floor drops out beneath Octodad, and he falls, revealing that the church he was inside was actually a gigantic plane. Transition to opening credits.
I really have no idea, other than that we say silly things in group settings.
Because this isn’t Psychonauts, this is Octodad!
Listen, there are plenty of ideas that are silly and fun on their own, but which have no place in Octodad’s world. If we were making a game about church plane, I would be 100% team church plane, but we’re not, so I’m not. Teammates wave off the nonsensical nature of this scene, saying ‘it’s a dream sequence’, but dream or no it would be difficult to explain to the player, and for new players especially would give them a very wrong idea about what Octodad is about! I brought this idea up first because it won’t die. Members of the team still talk about it with a straight face, and I’m convinced by now that they are just doing it to rustle my manfeathers.
2. Ink Blasting
When Octodad is getting full on suspicion, he can ease his nerves by letting out a blast of ink, hurling him bodily across the room like a squishy missile.
Early on in development, we were trying to come up with new mechanics to make the sequel feel different from the first game. We zeroed in on things that an octopus can do, namely squirting ink and water jet propulsion. We got so far as to prototype this before the issues appeared.
It turns out that ink blast was a logistical nightmare.
If squirting ink reduced suspicion, but anybody saw Octodad do it, then he would gain suspicion again! Could he blast off indefinitely while in the middle of a large crowd? If we decoupled ink blast from suspicion, then we’d need a different meter, different feedback for the player, different controls to activate it, etc. It seemed that in practice it was an inelegant extra and not a core part of the gameplay. We instead focused on new mechanics that worked with the current controls, such as throwing.
3. Giant Robot Fish
In an undisclosed level, Octodad must cross a bridge to reach the exit. Suddenly, a massive mechanical angler fish bursts from the waters. The battle is on, and Octodad must throw lanterns into its mouth to short its circuitry and send it to a watery grave.
Sometimes we get stuck traveling in the wrong direction. We run into problems making a level fun, and we come up with solutions that are traditionally gamey. In this particular level, we wound up with cavernous dungeons, light-seeking plants, and the aforementioned robot fish.
Really it takes some stepping back before we see that we’re suddenly in the wrong genre of game, and have to detonate our hard work in favor of something more realistic and Dadly. I blame Zelda.
The robot fish was actually made and implemented before being scrapped. You can still see the model in the dining room as a children’s toy!
4. Two Arm Control
Octodad has two arm tentacles, so why restrict him to only his right arm tentacle? He can use either arm or both arms to manipulate objects, pull himself around, and otherwise act ambidextrous.
This idea also comes from early development, most notably after our popular GDC Kinect demo. It was always a bit strange that Octodad’s left arm hung limp, and maybe we could do something about that.
While it would be relatively simple to figure out two arm control on a Kinect, or a gamepad, any options we thought of for mouse control were convoluted beyond measure! Yes, we considered doing two mouses. Beyond just the control issue, there was also a problem with use. What would we DO with two arms? Pick things up? Hang from things? Anything we thought of worked equally well with one arm. We considered using the second arm as a sort of inventory space to store an extra item, but that would rarely be useful. However, the second arm does get a bit of use, as we have ways of automating what it grabs. It’s still visually appealing to have his left arm move around, but we save of lot of headache if we keep that out of the hands of the player.
5. Octodad’s Dog
Octodad takes the dog for a walk, but it’s more interested in Octodad as a meal than as an owner. You can see the idea in practice here!
Now here’s an idea that’s silly and right for our tone. Plus, it’s often requested by our fans. We know all about how Octodad interacts with humans, but it’s funny to think about how animals would treat him.
We have a large backlog of characters that need to be created, and our lead artist Chris is going to shoot blood from his ears like the fountain at Bellagio if we ever add a new one. We especially can’t afford characters that have a one-time limited use, and the physics system probably couldn’t handle a fully animated character attaching itself to Octodad anyway. This is one of those ideas that would be great if we had time. But we don’t have time, so it’s not great.
Besides, we already have Tommy as the little yappy thing that gives Octodad pain!
6. Fish Vomit Menu
Whenever you need to go to the pause menu, Octodad suddenly barfs up a whole fish from within his tentacles, and the pause menu is inscribed on the fish’s body. Once you exit the menu, now you have a physics fish in your hand.
Some of our members have a volatile hatred for the old journal menu from the first game, so we were trying to come up with alternate ways to present the pause menu.
Fish vomit menu proved divisive. It’s funny to have Octodad spit up fish, but players seldom like a menu that takes several seconds of animation to activate. Also, it’s hard to write all of your menu options on a fish! Well, hard to do without making something tremendously ugly and not at all user-friendly. I welcome games in the future to use only fish based menus, just to prove us wrong!