Confession: I very nearly slept on Ryan Carag’s Cat Bird! (out now, free). I’m so glad I didn’t, though, because this charming, challenging retro platformer ended up being one of my favorite games of the year so far. I loved playing through it so much, in fact, that the moment I beat its final boss, I got straight in touch with Ryan to pick his brains about the game, its development, and what the future holds for it.
Here’s what he had to say…
Thanks so much for joining me for this interview, Ryan. Can I start by asking you to tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got into indie game development?
My name is Ryan and I’m the guy behind Raiyumi. I got my first glimpse in game development when I was small using Gamemaker. I hardly went anywhere with it, but it was quite fun making incredibly buggy small games.
I got serious in game development around 2-3 years ago. I had a ton of prototypes and did a few game jams, but never finished anything substantial until Cat Bird.
I think I’m correct in saying that Cat Bird! is your first full game release. How long were you working on it for, and was it a solo or collaborative venture?
Yep. It took me around 4 months to complete. I did all the graphics, design, and programming. I’ve worked with Julien Mier to help bring the game alive with the music and sound.
If you had to describe Cat Bird! to someone who hasn’t played it, what would you say?
It’s an adorable retro-style platformer where you fight bosses and venture through multiple levels to get home.
Cat Bird! looks, feels and plays like a true throwback to classic platformers of old. Were there any specific games you looked to for inspiration when creating and designing it?
Hmm… Super Cat Bros was a pretty big inspiration as well as Knytt Stories, Super DD, and a few others. I really like the simple environments and boss battles which make the game more readable and exciting.
Retro-style games like Cat Bird! are incredibly and enduringly popular on iOS. Why do you think this is?
I think it’s partly due to nostalgia and that the visual style itself has a lot of character. But it probably has more to do with the game itself (polish, gameplay, uniqueness, etc), rather than style which makes a game popular.
The game’s titular character is such a quirky and cute creation. How did you come up with the idea for this crazy cat/bird hybrid?
It sort of just came up while figuring out the game mechanics. At first it started with a jump mechanic where the player would need to ‘recharge’ each jump, but level design was quite tricky. It was much easier with a hover mechanic.
I also tend to feature a cat in everything I do… and I think birds are cute… so I mashed them together to make ‘Cat Bird’.
Are you happy with the critical and commercial response to Cat Bird! so far?
Yeah, it’s quite amazing, especially as my first release.
I believe you have some new levels in the works! What can you tell me about them? And when will they be available?
Yep. This new world will have a space theme featuring portals, new boss, and cutscenes. There will also be 2 bonus levels (requiring crowns) that will unlock new skins for Cat Bird.
I’m hoping to get this out sometime mid-October.
What’s next for you beyond Cat Bird! — any upcoming projects in the works that you can tell me about?
I have quite a few ideas, but I might continue work on a previous game I was working on called Punch Kings, which is an arena based brawler with bears.
Everything’s still up in the air.
Given your success, is there any advice you’d offer to others looking to break into the industry?
I’m still learning and I’ve gotten help from a lot of people… but if anything, I’d say not to slack in marketing (emails, forums, social media) and promote yourself early. I didn’t do a lot for Cat Bird, but I think the little marketing I did really gave it that push to get it out there.
I’ve also made a lot of mistakes where I didn’t capitalize after the game’s release, but that’s ok. Everything’s a learning experience. 🙂
And that’s a wrap! Thanks for providing such interesting answers to all my questions, Ryan.
Cat Bird! is available now as a free download on both the iOS App Store and Google Play. To stay updated on what Ryan’s currently working on — such as new Cat Bird! content and the upcoming Punch Kings — be sure to follow @Raiyum on Twitter.