Wandering Cat Interview – A Solo Developer’s Journey

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We delved into Wandering Cat with solo developer Davide Marcucci, learning about the game's background and development.

Story Highlight
  • Wandering Cat is the latest indie game to offer a charming cat adventure.
  • We recently spoke to solo developer David Marcucci to discuss the upcoming release.
  • In the interview, we touched upon David Marcucci’s inspirations, solo development journey, and more.

Who doesn’t love cats? These adorable creatures have become significant parts of our lives today, whether through random sightings when strolling the streets or as pets living alongside us.

Cats are universally beloved and have slowly become more popular in the world of games. Stray introduced millions to the unique charm of a cat, but it won’t be the last to do so.

Indie developer Davide Marcucci is currently channeling his love for games to create Wandering Cat, an adventure title centered around a cat’s quest for the finest dishes in a mysterious kingdom.

We sat down with Davide Marcucci for an interview, discussing the many inspirations, challenges, and plans for Wandering Cat.

Wandering Cat
Wandering Cat Takes Players On A Culinary Journey
Can you introduce yourself and share your solo game development journey?

Davide Marcucci: Nice to meet you. I’m Davide Marcucci, a 37-year-old Italian with a lifelong passion for video games and programming and father of two wonderful children. I have been working in the IT field since I was 19, and I have always had a passion for developing games,

I have tried various engines and languages, developing small amateur prototypes that I kept for myself or a close circle of friends. In the last 4 years, I have decided to dedicate myself full-time to video game development, founding a team (“Black Mastiff Studio”) with my brother and a best friend.

We released our first game on Steam, Hexia, in June 2023. During Christmas 2023, my younger son asked if we could get a cat, but due to my wife’s severe allergy, we could not. So, just for fun, I decided to make a small video game prototype featuring a kitten. That’s how my solo journey began.

I chose to create “Wandering Cat” as “Daevis” to give a gift to my children and show them what can be created by engaging in what you love.

When considering cat games, Stray immediately comes to mind. Did you take inspiration from Stray in any way?

Davide Marcucci: I’m very familiar with Stray, and I think it’s one of the most beautiful games in which you play as a cat. However, to be honest, I haven’t played it.

My inspiration for having the player embody a cat came from it, but the rest of my references are actually related to games like Zelda, Spyro, Baldur’s Gate, and everything else that has marked my gaming experience in terms of narrative and immersion.

Considering indie developers can spend several years on each project, how long have you worked on Wandering Cat?

Davide Marcucci: I created the official project for Wandering Cat on Unreal Engine 5.3 at the beginning of January 2024. As of today, I have been working on it regularly for 2 months.

Wandering Cat is planned for launch in Q3 2024. Are you confident about meeting this release window?

Davide Marcucci: Yes, I initially planned for an early access release so that I could work on it with more feedback from users and aim for a clean and complete release within 1 to 2 years. Moreover, the date of the early access will coincide with my older son’s birthday. It will be the first part of his present.

Is your main character based on a real-world cat?

Davide Marcucci: No, it’s entirely fictional.

What unexpected challenges did you face in your journey of solo development? Any specific moments you would like to share?

Davide Marcucci: Initially, everything started as a game; I was working on various internal projects and consulting on the side without any kind of problem. Then, when I began sharing some clips on social media, I noticed a growing interest, but I didn’t pay much attention to it.

However, my children started to enjoy seeing the project evolve more and more, so I dedicated more nighttime hours to it. Eventually, I found myself programming almost full-time, and there were days when I slept only 2 or 3 hours a night.

Realizing that I couldn’t handle things that way, I decided to set limits for myself and properly divide up the work blocks.

Considering the different types of skills needed to develop a game, did you learn everything from soundtracks to visuals? Were certain parts outsourced?

Davide Marcucci: My main skill is as a developer, so I handle everything related to Blueprints and C++ on Unreal Engine. Additionally, all the narrative part is entirely my creation. I have learned to develop an eye for some things in 3D and 2D, but it’s not my main field.

For this reason, I used Epic’s marketplace for 3D assets and created a list of contacts to outsource work for music, 2D, VFX, and all those parts that would be unthinkable for me to do on my own.

In this initial phase, I also used AI to generate promotional images for the game, with the idea of using them as a base to have them redrawn by a human hand before the start of early access.

Your Steam description states AI was used to generate the artwork for Wandering Cat. Can you share some details on AI assistance in development?

Davide Marcucci: As mentioned in the previous question, I used AI for the game’s promotional images without delving into internal details like code, models, music, story, and more.

I utilized tools offered by Microsoft and also experimented with DALL-E. I consider them excellent tools for optimizing work procedures, but they certainly cannot replace human creativity. That’s why I plan to use those bases and then have the images redone by real artists.

Beyond the initial Early Access period, what are your long-term plans for Wandering Cat?

Davide Marcucci: I want to create a game that is as satisfying as possible, immersing players in an adventurous, ironic, and “tasty” world. As I mentioned initially, the project was born as a gift for my children, as a memory and a tale that I hope can always bring a smile to their faces in the next 5 or 10 years.

I have no intention of releasing DLCs, expansions, or anything else that might “distort” the concept of the story I have in mind to create: see it this way for me, it’s like an old Zelda (to take the game I love as an example): you started it, enjoyed it as much as you wanted, and then the story ended. The same will be true for Wandering Cat.

Are there any specific inspirations or influences that have shaped the game's visual style?

Davide Marcucci: I’ve always loved the stylized and colorful fantasy style, spending years on World of Warcraft precisely for that reason (visually, it remains a very strong source of inspiration for me).

In Wandering Cat, I wanted to experiment and search for the right assets, creating custom ad-hoc post-process effects that recreate an immersive and fairy-tale fantasy world with a stylized style that can always remain beautiful to look at.

What have been some of the most memorable moments for you during the development of Wandering Cat?

Davide Marcucci: When my younger son, who is 3 years old, comes to me in the room where I develop, watches while I’m working on Wandering Cat, and asks to sit on my lap. He starts asking questions like, “What’s that? Why does it do that? Where are the other cats?”

I decided to give him the gamepad and let him have some fun: he was happy, excitedly saying, “Did you make this for me?” I replied, “Yes, this is Wandering Cat, the game I’m creating for you.”

He said, “Thank you, Daddy,” and for me, his sincere and genuine happiness was worth more than a million sales or any review out there.

Wandering Cat
Wandering Cat caters To All Cat Lovers

As mentioned earlier, Wandering Cat purrs its way to Steam this year in Early Access. Offering a mix of exploration, puzzles, and more from the perspective of a cat, the game is sure to delight audiences.

We thank Davide Marcucci for sharing his heartfelt journey with us and wish him the best of luck for the upcoming launch.

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