Features

Positivity in Gaming – Desmond Wong

In a change of pace for the series of interviews I've been conducting over the last couple of months, I've decided to bring similar topics to a wider range of gamers including developers, writers, streamers and more. In my latest interview I speak to The Gentlebros’ very own Desmond Wong!

Desmond has had an amazing career to date, working on big games for big companies including some of Koei Tecmo’s best franchises in Fatal Frame and Dead or Alive. Fast-forward to 2018 and Desmond’s current award-winning studio, The Gentlebros, are coming up with some stellar ideas and working hard on the the follow-up to 2017’s excellent, Cat Quest (reviewed by our very own, Reggie, who incidentally, loved it).

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Paws for Thought

Mike: What steered you towards a career in the video game industry? Did games play a bit part in your childhood?

Desmond: “A massive part actually. When my dad bought me my first home console (it was the Sega Saturn), I knew I wanted to be something in the games industry. At first, it was a game journalist, because I thought I could just play games all day! Fast forward to September 1998, and a little game called Metal Gear Solid was released. That game changed my life, and I knew all I wanted to do was make video games from then on.”

Mike: What are the top three highlights of your career in terms of personal satisfaction?

Desmond: “Number three was when a character I designed for Fatal Frame V got featured on Kotaku. Number two was when we got nominated for the DICE awards and got to mix around with so many game dev legends. And number one was when we saw Cat Quest in an actual game shop.”

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Mike: What’s the working environment like at The Gentlebros? How important is staff motivation to the creative process?

Desmond: “We work mostly from home, so that’s a huge plus! We want to always try to get everyone involved in the designing process, from the characters, to the story and the gameplay.”

Mike: Do you find any of your creative decisions are influenced by the feedback of the gaming community?

Desmond: “Absolutely, we are firm believers that in the end we’re making a game for others to like. It’s important to still put a bit of yourselves in your work, but we want to still make something people will enjoy. We have a discord where we occasionally throw ideas to our fans to see what sticks and what doesn’t”

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Mike: At Reggie Reviews we strongly believe gaming has a lot to offer society, be that socially, for family or for helping deal with mental health issues. Have you any personal experience of using games as a positive force in your life?

Desmond: “I have a niece and she loves games, so I’m the cool uncle to her! But on a more serious note, games have helped me forge lasting relationships, made me a better person and have taught me lessons in life I won’t soon forget.”

Mike: Cat Quest was a runaway success and a game I played alongside my son and daughter, racking up hours upon hours. We really bonded over the game and it helped make some great memories for me. The simple pick up and play style mixed with the unique aesthetic and the action RPG mechanics made for something that was easy to enjoy for everyone, while feeling different to its genre counterparts. What can my family expect from Cat Quest 2 in terms of new features, to help us enjoy the game together?

Desmond: “Well, now you’ll actually be able to play the game with a friend in local cooperative play! It’s a seamless drop in and out co-op too, so at any moment, a friend can jump in to have some great catventure fun!”

Mike: Cat Quest managed to strike a balance between hard-core completionism gameplay and a causally-friendly, but compelling take on the open-world-meets-traditional-action-RPG. In your view, what’s the secret to appealing to both sides of the gaming world?

Desmond: “For us, we always try to make the controls and gameplay mechanics really easy to understand. It has to be something you’d be comfortable with even if it was your first RPG. Once we have that, you’re pretty much free to add as much cool stuff as you can think of!”

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Mike: For me, a big part of Cat Quest’s appeal, aside from the excellent choices with the bright colour palette, was the unique perspective in terms of scale, proportions. Did the game have many different takes on this style within the design process or was this one of the core ideas that drove the art direction from the beginning?

Desmond: “Cat Quest was just one of the prototypes in a long line of other failed ones, but the idea was always an overworld you could have real time battles in. You wouldn’t need to get transported to a battle arena to fight the enemies, you would fight them on the overworld seamlessly.

Once we had that, it was just a case of finding what worked and what didn’t. We realised anything the player had to interact with had to be proportionate to the character, so buildings etc were ‘life sized’, but everything else was miniatures (mountains, trees etc). I think everything coming together like that gave the game it’s unique style.”

Mike: How closely have your team stuck to your original roadmap for Cat Quest 2? Were any of the new features based on ideas formed mid-development or was everything locked in from the start?

Desmond: “Being co-op was one of the first decisions we made. Adding dogs to the mix was also always the plan. However, initially Cat Quest 2 was supposed to be two stories; you would play the game once from the cat’s perspective, and then again from the dog’s perspective. Eventually, the two characters would meet, and they’d team up for the last half of the game.
It was a really cool idea, but it felt like we had to make three games at once, and co-op wouldn’t really make sense if the characters couldn’t work together till the end. Eventually, we decided it would be best to have the cat and dog start off together (unwillingly of course), but slowly grow closer as the game progresses.”

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Mike: I have a feline my final question will be important to fans… Will Cat Quest 2 have more cat puns than the first?

Desmond: “That is a huge pawsibility. You’d also have a ruff time seeing the dog puns we’d be adding too…”

Feel free to plug any of your work or anything your colleagues are working on.

Desmond: “Cat Quest plush toys are now available!”

Reggie Reviews recommends you follow The Gentlebros on Twitter and keep an eye out for 2019’s Cat Quest 2!

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