Garden Paws: Bitten Toast’s Pawsome Project

     Garden Paws is a very ambitious game that recently surpassed its Kickstarter goal. It is a life simulator with countless elements such as fishing, dungeons, natural disasters, shopkeeping, etc., and only developed by three people! Daniel Nascimento, Kristina Vandale, and Thiago Adamo created Bitten Toast Games, an indie studio from Vancouver, Canada. Together, they created Garden Paws which gained 1,361 backers and raised a total of CA$ 57,048 on Kickstarter. I spoke with Kristina Vandale about Garden Paws, and her replies were representing Bitten Toast as a whole.

     The original idea of Garden Paws was much different than its current state. When the studio came up with the idea, it was simply a game where you collect flowers. “The vision of game has been the same from day one, but with only three of us developing the game we had to start small. At first in the game, we were simply collecting flowers, and slowly we’ve been adding more and more features,” Vandale said. All of the new elements of the game have been influenced by the games that the members of Bitten Toast love.

     With Garden Paws being full of different activities, considerations took place to make sure players will never feel overwhelmed or lost. “Our goal with all these various features is so the player can make the game tailored to their unique playstyle. Whether you enjoy fishing, farming, doing quests, exploring dungeons, there’s always something to keep you busy,” Vandale said. Due to the variety of activities found in Garden Paws, players will be able to check all of them out and determine what they want to spend the most time doing.

    Other considerations implemented in the multi-layered game design is the laid-back approach to introducing new mechanics. “We introduce features slowly through mail and quests, as to not overwhelm the player. Our quest system is very open, so depending on your playstyle, you may have a very different experience in Garden Paws,” Vandale said, while also stating how other elements of the game were created to take away the potential to overwhelm the player, “Certain features, like the weather, is meant to do the opposite of overwhelm the player. Each season will hopefully add excitement with new items, quests, and smooth environment transitions. This is meant to ease the passage of time, and make the game feel more serene.”

    Through the well-balanced mechanics, Bitten Toast has created an experience that keeps the player at a state of constant enjoyment and adaption. The player has full control over which mechanics they want to explore, and are offered new opportunities as they progress through the game. The unknown is frightening, but Bitten Toast has tried their best to make Garden Paws a very calm game. When you stumble across a new mechanic, you have the choice of learning it and putting that activity into your daily routine, or passing it up and continuing your virtual life doing the activities you love.

    Bitten Toast takes a similar approach with quests. Quests are designed in a way where they are only come across occasionally, making every quest exciting. With most quests only consisting of fetch quests, it had the potential to be detrimental to Garden Paws’ carefree gameplay by making the quests tedious. Fetch quests are often criticized by players, but Bitten Toast has fixed many issues with them. “We focus on making it as open as possible, leaving even finding the quests up to the player,” Vandale said. Bitten Toast takes an approach that when “you see someone with a quest that you get excited and want to help them. We don’t want the player to feel like this is a quest driven game, but rather, an open game with quests being one of the many things you can do. By not telling a player that there is even a quest available, we leave the player free to explore the world.” With Garden Paws not having quests that seem mandatory, players will feel relaxed while progressing through the game.

    This is what Garden Paws is all about; feeling relaxed and comfortable in the world full of many mechanics, quests, and townsfolk. This sense of comfortability comes from the way the mechanics are implemented, as well as the art direction and sound design. When asked about the inspirations behind the art and music, Vandale stated, “We wanted to create a relaxing world that would feel good to explore and lose yourselves in. We hope to achieve this through the bright colours, unique landscapes and, of course, cute animals,” while also saying that Bitten Toast’s composer, Thiago Adamo, was “influenced by the works of Brian Eno and especially by Lifeformed, composer of Dustforce and Tunic. We wanted very relaxing, chill music for the game.”

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    Garden Paws is currently progressing towards an Alpha version, and Bitten Toast has more ideas that they want to implement. One of these ideas is relationships with townsfolk, though the team is uncertain about this idea, Vandale states, “While the relationship feature is something we want to implement. Implementing relationships is a huge endeavor, we can’t say for sure that we will be able to, and if we do it won’t be for a while.”

    With this possible addition, along with many more, Garden Paws continues to grow, and as the game gets new features, the community grows. With over a thousand backers and over two hundred players in their Discord server, Bitten Toast continues to get feedback from its community as well engages with them at a personal level. This engagement assures that as Garden Paws evolves, it will never reach a point where it goes against the community’s wants. Vandale states that the team’s favorite part of the design process is, “Talking to the community through the development process, and seeing the excitement when we introduce new items, features, and more.”

    Garden Paws created its community by starting a successful Kickstarter campaign and giving their backers resources needed to connect to them such as links to their Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Discord, and assuring them that their opinions matter, as they state, “We’re hoping to have the support of a community of players to give feedback and help this game reach its full potential,” on their Kickstarter page. With such great success, I asked Vandale what advice she would give to other studios thinking about setting up a Kickstarter, and Vandale stated, “Make sure to have a demo ready with enough gameplay to gather some interest. Start building a community around your game long before you start your Kickstarter to get a good start to the campaign. Make sure your project is something people want and would pay for,” while also encouraging indie studios to, “set a realistic and achievable goal for your project.”

    Bitten Toast is still working hard to make Garden Paws a full and enriched game, and their timeline predicts a December 2019 release for Windows/OSX and Nintendo Switch. Until then, Bitten Toast has planned to release an Alpha for their backers, as well as an early access for Steam for December 2018. Bitten Toast is extremely excited for the future and immeasurably proud of how well their campaign went. Vandale states, “We’re just over the moon with how positive the community has reacted to our little game.”

Download Garden Paws here!

Read my review here!