Monday, August 8

Stray: meet the real cats that inspired the feline hero | Digital Trends Spanish

Since it was first announced in 2020, stray has been melting the hearts of gamers. That’s because of the unlikely hero of him, a stray orange cat who has turned a sci-fi city into his personal playground. Considering that video game developers generally tend to anthropomorphize their furry protagonists, the idea of ​​playing as a normal old cat that walks on all fours and scratches the couches seemed compelling and fresh.

The BlueTwelve Studio developers used their own cats as direct reference points for the project. In fact, the game’s furry hero is loosely inspired by a real-life stray (albeit much sleepier).

Meet Murtaugh.

the life of a stray

Visually speaking, the resemblance between Murtaugh and the fictional hero of stray it is noticeable at first sight. Murtaugh, now eight years old, is an orange cat with white whiskers and a black spot on his nose. However, the similarities between the two cats are not simply visual: Murtaugh was a stray cat who was rescued by producer Swann Martin-Raget.

“Actually, it was found by myself and my roommate at the time under a car,” Martin-Raget told Digital Trends in English to the reporter. . “He was very, very young and not injured, but quite dirty. He was a little sad to see ».

Murtaugh’s age at the time of his rescue was unknown, although Martin-Raget says he appeared to be only a few months old at the time. Shortly after that, both Murtaugh and another stray cat Martin-Raget was caring for at the time were adopted by BlueTwelve co-founders Viv and Koola. The timing just happened to coincide with the early stages of Stray’s creative timeline.

“That was the moment they started working on the project, so Murtaugh has been there working with them from the beginning,” says Martin-Raget. “When they were designing the main character for the game, they used him as a reference. It’s not an exact copy, it’s loosely based on Murtaugh, especially in terms of timing. Murtaugh spends much more time sleeping than the cat in the game.”

When Martin-Raget talks about the cats in the studio, he describes them as if they were co-workers, joking (or maybe dead serious) that they’re the ones running the show. When I ask if the team ever took them to any important meetings with publisher Annapurna Interactive, he points out that they had no choice in the matter. Although some cats were intended to be front and center, Murtaugh wasn’t that much of a pawn.

“Murtaugh is a CEO personality type: Sleeping every day and complaining about food not arriving on time,” he jokes.

office shenanigans

Murtaugh is strictly a house cat, so he didn’t spend much time in the BlueTwelve studio while the game was in development. However, the studio did have two office cats that were brought in regularly by employees. One of them is Jun, a black cat who Martin-Raget describes as more of an executive (“He walks from desk to desk looking at what you’re doing and trying to make sure you’re working properly,” says Martin-Raget).

A black cat is holding a cat toy.
Jun the office cat is holding a cat toy.

Having cats actively around the office every day would serve the team well in a number of ways. For one thing, it gave developers a quick reference point for behaviors and other details one might see when observing a cat in its natural, everyday state. For example, the game’s lead animator took reference videos of the office’s second cat, a sphynx named Oscar, jumping to help nail the animal’s detailed movements into the game.

Naturally, the cats in the office also brought a bit of feline mayhem to the development process. Although Martin-Raget explains that even those annoyances proved to be useful benchmarks during the development process.

“Having cats in the office is really a constant reminder of your personality,” says Martin-Raget. “You know, when they hit the power button right when you’re about to save your work on the computer, or when they start singing when you have an important call… I think it was a constant reminder of how playful they can be and how interesting they are.” would be to have the personality of the cats in the game and have some situations that make fun of the city dwellers.”

He’s not exaggerating. Martin-Raget notes that he lost a text he was translating between French and English because a cat turned off his computer (“he’s funny now”). As a cat-proof measure, the developers had to put cardboard locks over their power buttons to prevent a mess.

Feline Focus Group

Typical hijinks aside, the office cats made their keep around the studio. Martin-Raget notes that having them around provided developers with a surprisingly useful focus group that let them know if the game was on the right track.

Stray's protagonist cat standing in front of a neon lit city.

“A good moment we had in development is when the cats in the office started reacting to what was on our screens,” says Martin-Raget. “Having the sounds of the cats in the game making them raise their heads, and trying to interact with the cats in cutscenes… I think that was a good indication that we were on a good path.”

What is especially appropriate about dynamics is that stray itself is about the interaction between nature and machines. It stars a stray cat who wanders through a sci-fi city full of robots, interacting with them through a drone companion. That is reflected in the game’s actual development environment, as the cats were interacting and influencing a digital world, even if they were just trying to cause trouble.

An orange cat sits in a sunbeam.

The feline authenticity of stray it’s a testament to the studio’s compassion for animals and willingness to work alongside them. Hopefully, Murtaugh, Jun, and Oscar are being properly compensated for their candy work.

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