In Dog Sled Saga, a Kickstarted game for desktop and mobile devices, there are two things you should remember. A well-fed dog is a fast dog. A fast dog is a happy dog.
The pixilated brainchild of Dan FitzGerald and Lisa Bromiel, Dog Sled Saga is a mix of racing, reputation building and pet management. Players step into the boots of a musher climbing the racing ranks with the help of his or her dog sled team. But the concept behind the game is less about the sport itself, FitzGerald said, and more about the interaction with your pets.
"I would boil it down to the non-verbal pet relationship," FitzGerald said. "It is absolutely about getting familiar with an animal that can't talk to you. There won't be a lot of pop-ups that tell you about your dog, but there will be signs — [this dog] is clearly running slower, so he is struggling and I need to feed him. In the race, it takes the form of your run animation and their breathing."
Outside of competition, players will be able to check on the status of their dogs through the animal's behavior. The idea is to read your pets' signals and figure out how to properly address their needs.
Dog Sled Saga got its start as a pet project. The idea was to create top-down game with a mechanic that includes players casually lobbing food — in this case, treats to a team of dogs. Neither FitzGerald nor Bromiel consider themselves sledding buffs, but the idea intrigued them. Bromiel followed the sport as a child and even wrote to a musher as a child for a school assignment.
The game will include a career element as well as a team management aspect to supplement its races. Players will earn money for each race they win and climb league ladders. As they gain more fame and fortune, they'll unlock additional pets and skill sets. But as the weight of your wallet increases, so too do the stakes.
"The difficulty goes up so you have to perform better," FitzGerald said. "If you are out of your depth, you are going to fail and have to drop down a league."
The couple is currently working on several factioned quests that will include different challenges for players to tailor their taste to. Those choosing to pursue fame, for example, will want to do action-packed tricks to catch the eyes of potential sponsors. Players will be able to check their progress on their chosen track between each race. Additionally, the player will have a rival they'll need to best in the leagues.
Dog Sled Saga will include real-life references from both backers and its creators. Bromiel's own inclusions extend to buildings from the couple's neighborhood or familiar natural landmarks.
"I have always admired artists who will take things from their life," Bromiel said. "Whether it is a major part of their life, or just peripherally [there]."
Those who've donated $300 or more can get a pixilated version of their dog or even themselves into the game. Involving the community is a large part of the reason the couple turned to Kickstarter in the first place, Bromiel said.
"We like the idea of the community building that happens with Kickstarter," Bromiel said. "Before your game is released there are all of these people who already know about it, who spread the word. People are watching your progress, cheering you on."
Dog Sled Saga is currently being developed for Windows PC, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS. The game surpassed its modest goal of $6,000 shortly after its Kickstarter launch. Funding will end May 25.