PlayStation 4’s Octodad: Dadliest Catch Q&A with Philip Tibitoski
PlayStation 4 is an exciting topic and I think it’s the perfect time to start talking about some of the games we’re looking forward to, beginning with the hilariously entertaining indie game entitled Octodad: Dadliest Catch from developer Young Horses. Who would have thought controlling a bilaterally symmetrical sea creature with no internal or external skeleton could so much fun?
I recently hit up Philip Tibitoski, CEO and Community Manager at Young Horses based out of Chicago, to talk about Octodad: Dadliest Catch and his experiences working with Sony’s upcoming PS4. It’s clear to me now that Octodad is funny because it’s creators are funny. If you’ve never heard of Octodad and are thinking about getting a PS4, then please read on. I’ll let this quote from the description for the game tickle your tentacles.
“Are you dad enough to control the titular octopus father as he strives to hide his nautical nature from his family while keeping his tangled tentacles intact?”
Q: Octodad: Dadliest Catch is such a quirky game and immensely fun, sometimes painful, to watch. Tell us about the origins of the idea for Octodad and how it came to become the highlight indie game of E3 2013.
The first Octodad has humble origins as a student game we created back when we attended DePaul University in Chicago about 3 years ago. That team was 18 persons and the idea was to enter the Independent Games Festival (IGF) at the Game Developers Conference (GDC). After being in the student showcase at IGF as a finalist and having released the game upon the world for free through our website, which it’s still available at, we decided there was enough momentum behind the game to warrant a sequel. That’s when we started work on Octodad: Dadliest Catch and formed our independent studio, Young Horses.
The first Octodad was a great start and a good example of the concept, but it never really exemplified what we knew the world of Octodad could be. Enter Dadliest Catch.
The game gained popularity and as the apple of our eye became known by a lot of game enthusiasts and YouTube Let’s Players alike. Originally the game was being developed for PC/Mac/Linux and we’d gone through the Steam Greenlight process as well. Then at PAX East 2013 our account manager at Sony began asking us if we were interested in doing anything with the PS4. We’d been talking with Sony on and off since the first Octodad, but until then hadn’t really had much to offer. We knew this was the time to go big and take a chance.
Sony sent us a PS4 devkit around late April, and by the end of May we had the game up and running on the hardware thanks to one of our programmers Kevin Geisler, who at the time was only working on the game part-time. Did I mention that during all of this a majority of the team had full-time jobs to support themselves while working on Octodad: Dadliest Catch in their off-hours? We dedicated our nights and weekends to creating the game which left us with little free time. All of this came to a head when we presented the game on stage on the PS4 at E3 during Sony’s press conference. That was an opportunity I never expected us to come across, but you can be sure as hell we held onto it for dear life once we did.
Now we’re going to be shipping on four platforms. PC/Mac/Linux on Steam hopefully in January, and then shortly after those on PS4.
Q: What’s the objective of Octodad? What’s the player’s motivation?
The objective of Octodad: Dadliest Catch is to be the best father and husband you can be. Of course it’s difficult to be a dad in the first place, but when you add the fact that you’re an octopus in a suit trying to keep his identity a secret it becomes even more rousing of a feat. Your family and the outside world have no idea that you’re an octopus and you want to keep it that way. Octodad is afraid that if anyone finds out his true nature they’ll reject him and cast his wiggly body into the sea, or worse an aquarium tank.
Octodad loves his family and wants to stay with them. This is why the player has to navigate the world a tentacle at a time to go about his daily routine as best he can. Mow the lawn, take care of your kids, go grocery shopping. These are only some of the seemingly mundane things you’ll be asked to conquer in Octodad: Dadliest Catch. However they’re made challenging by the fact that you control each of Octodad’s limbs independently from one another, not unlike a marionette. The puzzle of the game is more so learning how to move his body to accomplish what you want it to, rather than solving some sort of ancient mystery like you might in other games.
Q: The name suggests you play as a father, which seems to be an arena explored more often in recent games (Heavy Rain, that Silent Hill game, etc.). Why did you choose to go in this direction? Do you think the average age of gamers had anything to do with your decision?
Our decision to make him a dad was based on fleeting thoughts and the fact that we thought it was funny. A lot of the ideas that float around Young Horses are based on jokes. It just so happens that we got caught on this idea and decided to flesh it out.
We also liked the idea because being something other, or at least feeling like you have something to hide allows people to relate to Octodad. They understand his struggle because many of us have things about ourselves or secrets that we don’t feel comfortable with the world knowing.
Q: Music is more important to a game’s experience than people often think. Who worked on the sound design and the soundtrack for Octodad: Dadliest Catch?
Seth Parker is our audio guru at Young Horses and he’s the one who composes all of the music for the game as well as creates all the sound effects that you hear throughout. The only exception to this is the theme song from the trailer and opening credits “Nobody Suspects a Thing,” which was written and performed by Ian McKinney, a friend of ours from Austin, TX.
Q: The controls are so unique, so much so that the compelling point to playing the game is to experience them for yourself. How do you describe Octodad’s controls to someone new to the game? Did you have any control issues in working with a cephalopod as your protagonist?
The easiest analog for the controls in Octodad: Dadliest Catch is the movement and control of a marionette. The DualShock 4 lends itself well to the control of Octodad’s body as you move each of his limbs independent of one another.
For instance, to walk in ‘Legs Mode’ you first have to raise one of the feet up into the air with either L2 or R2 that correlate to the left and right feet respectively. Then you use one of the corresponding thumbsticks to move the raised foot in whichever direction you want to walk, and release the trigger to drop that foot in place. You repeat this for the other leg and switch back and forth between the two to hobble about.
The other half of Octodad comes from controlling his right arm in ‘Arms Mode’. To switch between this mode and legs you use L1 as a toggle. When in arms mode you can move Octodad’s right arm on a horizontal plane using the left thumbstick and you can also move it vertically with the right thumbstick by pressing up or down.
By combining these two forms of movement you have complete 3D spatial control of Octodad. It may sound difficult in text form, but we promise that as soon as you go through the 20-30 second tutorial you’ll be flopping around and accomplishing great things in no time.
Q: Did you find the need to do research on what octopi are like? Are you worried that the octopus experts of the world will criticize your game for potential inaccuracies?
We did actually spend time researching what octopi are like. Our creative director Kevin Zuhn has spent many hours scouring Wikipedia, scientific journals, and the like for details on how octopedes go on living the way they do. We’ve done our best to incorporate things like this into the game where we feel they fit well.
In the end it’s a video game and something we hope others can enjoy. Really Octodad’s world is one we’ve created, and if we wanted to we could break all the rules in it to better serve us as story-tellers. We aren’t too worried.
Q: What was the learning curve like when bringing Octodad to PS4? Have there been any ‘woohoo’ moments during development?
We really haven’t had that many problems bringing the game to PS4. The port was smooth and we had one programmer on the job, Kevin Geisler. He got the game up and running in about four weeks working part-time. We spent a lot of time testing its stability, and so it was nice that it didn’t crash or break a single time while at E3. It was nice to be able to step back and watch people play without having to interfere at all.
Having the game on stage at E3 was a huge WOOHOO moment. Other than that it’s just been great seeing the game come together. Just adding in a new sound or piece of art can completely change your outlook on things. The recent addition of new UI elements and menus make the game feel so much more like a real professional piece of work. We’re all super proud of what we’re doing.
Q: Where did the ‘Dadliest Catch’ pun come from? Are you a fan of the show?
I don’t think any of us are huge fans, but we’re all a bit obsessed with punmanship. We had a giant list of possible subtitles for the game when we first started out and we slimmed that down to only a few. Then we took those to the games facebook page to let fans vote for what would eventually be the final name, Octodad: Dadliest Catch. Some other titles that didn’t make the cut were ‘There And Dad Again’ and ‘ Armed and Dadgerous’.
Q: What’s next for the creators of Octodad after Dadliest Catch releases on PS4?
I’m sure we’ll be supporting Octodad: Dadliest Catch for a while after its release. It’s actually coming out in 2014 after our initial Steam PC/Mac/Linux launch which we hope to have in January. We won’t be able to finish in time to be a launch title, but we are shooting to be in the launch window.
After Octodad I feel like we could create just about anything.
I must thank Philip for the awesome answers, and the entire team at Young Horses for tirelessly devoting their free time to such an original game. There is a sudden demand to know about the names that didn’t make the cut for things these days. If Young Horses ever does another Octodad game with a western cowboy theme, my title suggestion would be Octodad: Dad Ranch. I am looking forward to splitting my sides when Octodad: Dadliest Catch releases on PS4 in early 2014, and I hope you are too.