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Balthazar’s Dream Devs Talk About Shaping The World Through A Dog’s Eyes

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Balthazar’s Dream explores a dog’s dream as he rests beside his owner, a young boy who’s in a coma after being struck by a car. It’s a sad, yet uplifting and silly story as an animal tries to comprehend the awful events that have happened to the person who loved him most of all.

 

Siliconera spoke with Piotr Lipert, one of the developers of Balthazar’s Dream, to talk about how they created a world through a dog’s viewpoint, and just what it is that draws players to games about our furry four-legged friends. 

 

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What made you want to explore the strange world of a dog’s dream?

 

Piotr Lipert, developer of Balthazar’s Dream: We were inspired by nature. We watched our dog run in his sleep. At first, we wanted to make a book for our future kid about it, but together with my wife we figured out it would be a really cool theme for an interactive piece of art – a video game. Creating a world set in a canine dream is a great creative opportunity, as a dog’s perception of the world and its emotions are very much different then ours. We were drawn to that and to the innate positive energy of dogs which would permeate through the dream.

 

What thoughts go into designing gameplay around a dog’s life and dreams?


It’s really about showing the story from a canine angle. In order to do so, we needed to incorporate elements of dog psyche into gameplay. Consider you are born into a world you do not fully understand, filled with mysterious creatures with strange powers that love and protect you. Ordinary objects for us might have profound meaning for dogs. We tried to explore common ideas (vacuum cleaner terror) as well as figure out new ones using our imagination. Then, we would take those ideas to our gaming community and try to forge them into gameplay elements. 

 

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How did you use a dog’s likes and dislikes to create platforming elements?


There is an endless sea of possible mechanics here. Movement speed, jump height and inertia can all be influenced by proximity of objects. We tried to create simple interactions that will have multiple uses for the player. For example, a vacuum cleaner is both an obstacle that can mess with your controls and an aid when you want to jump further. A stick can be thrown by Balthazar to create temporary platforms, but it will also provide cover from falling hazards if set properly. We want the player to toy with these dog-themed rules and objects, discovering new ways to use them constantly. 

 

Giving hazards a dual purpose as helpful platforming elements is a neat feature. what prompted you to give these elements uses as both dangers and puzzle-solving tools?


Two things. First is pragmatic – we’re making a really small game on a tight budget so we need to reuse existing components. Second – I love out-of-the-box puzzles and there is nothing more exhilarating then discovering a new use for an already-known mechanic. There is a brilliant game that does that, Karoshiit’s my inspiration and you should check it out.

 

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What prompted the Smarts bar? Why feature something that will take away the player’s control?


Smarts bar is what brings dynamism to our platforming elements. You have a limited amount of time to do certain things. For example, you fall of a rope if you run out of smarts. And it does not take away the player’s control completely. It simply modifies the controls. The player will need to adapt and think – that’s why we labelled our game a ‘puzzle’ platformer. 

 

Balthazar’s Dream takes place in a playful, somewhat silly world born of a dark story. what challenges do you face in balancing those contrasting tones?


This contrast is the emotional axis of our story. We don’t want to balance those tones – this is simply how we would like this story to be told. This is how we think a naive and loving creature deals with tragic events.  

 

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What do you feel draws players to games involving dogs?


We love dogs. They are the ultimately likable heroes wherever they appear. Even dog villains invoke sympathy. When it comes to Balthazar’s Dream, we want to stop people for a moment and make them think and appreciate how much they love and are loved by their pets. We all crave positive feelings. Dogs and stories are a great source of these and our game has them both. 


As developers, you seem to like creating games about animals. What draws you to put players in an animal’s shoes?


We love animals! When you think about it they are the only true aliens (like E.T) we know. Totally different psyche, physiology – it’s really interesting to explore their world. To be frank, we also have an environmental agenda. We don’t want to live in a world where all animals have gone extinct. 

Alistair Wong
Very avid gamer with writing tendencies. Fan of Rockman and Pokémon and lots more!