The creator of The Oatmeal, Matthew Inman, launched a new cat-themed cellular phrase game known as Kitty Letter earlier this week that appears like taking part in one among his foolish comedian strips. That feeling was intentional, Inman instructed me.
“My comics have always been rhetorical,” he mentioned. “You don’t interact with the comic, you have no say in it, you’re just experiencing it. So, with [Kitty Letter], I got a chance to introduce some elements where people get to play the comic, and I thought that was a lot of fun.”
Kitty Letter has a construction that Inman described as “Scrabble combined with Clash Royale.” Your aim is to beat your opponent by spelling phrases from a mixture of letters at the backside of your cellphone’s display screen. When you spell a phrase, you’ll ship a small military of cats up an invisible “lane” towards your opponent. Meanwhile, your opponent is sending armies of cats to try to defeat you.
The game was truly going to be multiplayer-only at first, Inman instructed me. This may be shocking for individuals who’ve performed the game, because it has a sturdy story mode spanning 13 chapters. But that story mode was born from creating the game’s tutorial, mentioned Inman.
“I started drawing this tutorial on how to play, and then the tutorial became that single-player mode, where you have this neighbor that moves in and tells the whole story about him,” Inman mentioned. But then, he realized, “I got in too deep. I had written all this stuff, I was like, ‘I have to end this,’ and I ended up writing like 12 chapters. But it became my favorite part of the whole thing.”
Inman additionally mentioned the game’s free-to-play mannequin, which is very beneficiant. Unlike many free-to-play video games, Kitty Letter’s single-player story mode and multiplayer are utterly free, with no restrictions. The resolution to supply all of that got here from what Inman disliked about different free video games.
“I play free-to-play games, but I play them because I like the games,” Inman mentioned. “The actual mechanics involved, like grinding and unlocking chests and getting gems and coins, I hate them. I fucking hate them. If [developers] were like, ‘pay us $20 and we’ll give you everything,’ I would do that. I much prefer that model.”
The game does supply paid cosmetics for multiplayer, however they don’t present any gameplay profit and so they’re buried in a menu. And Inman says that income from them has been “pretty much non-existent.”
Inman acknowledged that he can supply the game largely totally free due to his different profitable ventures, which embrace The Oatmeal and the massively profitable card game Exploding Kittens. “I’m not just some altruistic guy that doesn’t want to make a living from his work,” he mentioned. “To be utterly candid, we make a nice residing from our card video games, and we make a nice residing from a few of the different issues that I do. With [Kitty Letter], it felt like we may simply get away with making it as fulfilling as doable.
“This app more generates that currency of — and this is so fucking corny — currency of love and joy, like you have a joyful experience with the game,” he mentioned. “So, in turn, you love Exploding Kittens more, and maybe one day, if you want to buy a card game from us, you can.” It’s a enterprise mannequin related to that of The Oatmeal. Inman presents the comics totally free on-line, however sells books and has supplied merch.
Inman has a lot of concepts for what’s subsequent for the game. He’d like to enhance the arcade mode, add extra single-player ranges, and squash bugs. He’d additionally like to port the game to Steam and the Nintendo Switch, however these may be a little additional away. “I would probably call it six months,” he mentioned.
And I had to ask: had been cats all the time the focus of the game?
“It was cats from day one,” Inman mentioned. “It was called Cats Royale, originally.”