In Whatta Monster Do, I analyzed playing with a Digimon 20th Anniversary VPet. I’ve put in the hours to get my little virtual pet up to RustTyrannamon
And I think I squeezed about all the fun and insight I can out of the toy. My remaining thoughts:
- It is difficult to stress enough how much the physicality of the toy matters. I was unable to get as engaged when playing a phone replication of the Digimon V Pet that had more and better features. Something about holding a little plastic box and knowing that it and it alone was the digimon, as opposed to the digimon being one app among many, makes a difference.
- Way back when I used a phone app that mimicked the virtual pets, my chief objective in designing my own was to do away with the inconveniences. People with jobs can’t stop what their doing every hour and sweep up virtual monster poop.
- Unfortunately, I’ve concluded the inconvenience is the point. Tending a virtual pet gives you similar feelings and experiences as tending an actual pet, and the fact that it has its own schedule that doesn’t care one whit about yours is part of that experience.
- I am uncertain if this is a good thing or not. It may be a very bad thing, grabbing a man by emotional handles God meant for the care and keeping of His creatures, and diverting it to a plastic box, potentially to the detriment of real responsibilities.
- I still want to make a virtual pet for my therians, and I still want to make it a phone app that is considerate of people’s lives, but I’m not entirely sure there’d be anything left to the game if I eliminate the parts I find questionable.
- There’s a strength stat, ranges from 1 to 4. Each point of “strength” adds 4 points to your monster’s base strength. You can gain strength by feeding your monster steroids, or by training him. If you feed him steroids, his weight goes up by 1, to a max of 99. If you train him, it goes down to a minimum of whatever his species weighs. If his weight reaches 99, the strength stat is no longer added to the underlying monster strength.
- That’s it. That’s the whole variability in monster power. Your care and keeping of your monster affects its strength by A) determining the evolution path, and B) adding a strength bonus of 0-16 to the monster’s species. Battles are just roll the dice to see who hits, favoring the guy with the bigger number.
- This does, however, create a pet-like dynamic where, as often as you feed your pet, you also (if you want to raise it right) play with your pet. Like taking a dog for a walk. Sometimes it’s a bit of fun, sometimes it’s an annoying chore.
That’s about all I have to say about Digimons. I’m kind of interested in getting a Pendulum 20th, and a modern Tamagotchi, in order to see what else Bandai did with the concept. But I’m not sure I have the patience to do the actual playtest, and one of the things the V-Pet has taught me is that while the game is very simple and basic, there are facets to what it is doing that are not apparent in a short test. I really did have to push the pet all the way to Super Ultimate to learn all the things it was doing.
I have other thoughts.
There are 40 unique frames in my test monster. This is keeping animations down to 2 frames except for combat animations. I want versatility of expression for the monster, to the point of I’d like to add still more behaviors. Keeping it as pixel art with tightly limited colors and resolutions as well makes it easy to toss off an animation fairly quickly. Even so, multiplied across the 60ish monsters I need to do for the base pet, I need to consider if there’s a way to compress the animations further (e.g. have several of them share frames).
I may want to keep them, though. If my goal is to give you the pet feeling by the cute antics rather than forcing you to neglect your day job, maximizing the animation (within reason) is playing to my strengths.
I have played a couple of phone pets at the same time, and there is a broad tendency for them to either slavish copies, or they innovate in non-harmonious ways. Phone pets with their own monster designs tend to be not as good as the Digimon designs by a long shot (a judgement, I suppose, I am ill positioned to deny my own pet). Battle systems either tend to be uninteresting and basic, or else so unrelated to the pet game it may as well be a different game.
There are a bazillion on the app store. What I want to make is in many ways better than anything I’ve seen on there. But yikes. That’s certainly a lot to overcome.