A Story of My Talking Dog - Virtual Pet Coming into Being
Conceptually, we didn't really start from scratch; however, it was all a long process of trial and error, reaching cohesion and building a team. As a company which specializes in casual games and, most of all, games for kids, we decided to dive into the world of animal games. Yet, on our journey from talking animals to virtual pets, we learned that kids give you the most honest feedback: the one you need to hear but, more often than not, don't want to hear. However, we managed and My Talking Dog was born.
We started simple. Our first talking games were good, but we knew there was something missing in many aspects: the character needed to be cuter, we needed more animations and options. Yet, the games were successful and that kept us going. Before making My Talking Dog (named Charlie), we had created a Talking Dog (called Max). Although Max was nice, he was an adult dog which could repeat what was said to him, do several moves and players could dress him up. Cute, but not cute enough. So, we decided to go for a puppy and Charlie came into being.
“All of the characters have been inspired by something I watched when I was a little girl. You know, the good old memories of playtime and cartoon watching,” said Milica, a game designer. After going through many cartoons to get a feel of what kids watch and like today, we started working on Charlie. A draft of the character sketch was sent to the wide community of users for comments and suggestions and Charlie passed it with flying colors. It was then that the real work started. We figured kids like music, so why not add some music to the game; thus, we introduced the piano feature. All our previous games had sounds to them, but none had an option of creating your own music. “I talked to one of my musician friends and got a music sheet with all the tones and sounds. Not every programmer is gifted in music,” said Dusan, a lead developer. With the piano installed into the game, the team got together for a brainstorm on potential additional features. “We could have him walk over the screen with notifications,” added Milena, our translator, and so the widget button was installed.
Then came the best part: playing with sounds and animations. “I love making the model 'come to life' by dividing animations and seeing how the character transforms,” said Dusan. “At times, it felt like I was making our own Frankenstein, but 100 times cuter,” he added. It goes without saying that with a cute puppy go cute sounds. “It wasn't easy to make the sounds fit the character. I spent hours matching voices to Charlie and sounds to many of his moves. I just wanted him to sound just like my real puppy would if it could talk,” added Nikola, our sound designer.
In addition to new features, we decided to expand the existing ones. For example, we added more dress up combinations and an option of changing the room décor. We also added levels and with each of them players got new gifts, boosters and improved features. Before sending the game out to our community of testers, we sent it to our marketing department and they loved it. As we have worked on it for several months, Charlie became the pet of the office. It was then that we realized why kids, well people in general, like virtual pets so much. You take care of it as if it was real, but there's less mess to clean. We fed Charlie, put him to sleep, played with him as we waited for users' feedback. Once we thought we mended everything our testers and the team could think of, we let the game off into the world. And the world loved Charlie, just like our team did.
Charlie was our breakthrough and the basis for several virtual pets that came after him; each being more complex and advanced than Charlie. The feedback we got from players all over the world helped us improve the game and add features to the games which came afterwards. Yet, Charlie remained the puppy of the office and with every new virtual pet, we try to improve Charlie as well.