Stray: Meet the real cats that inspired the feline hero

Since its first announcement in 2020, Wander melted the hearts of players. It’s because of its unlikely hero, a stray orange cat who has made a sci-fi town his personal playground. Considering video game developers generally tend to anthropomorphize their furry protagonists, the idea of ​​playing as a normal old cat who crawls and scratches couches seemed compelling and fresh.

BlueTwelve Studio developers used their own cats as direct reference points for the project. In fact, the game’s furry hero is loosely modeled after a real (albeit much sleepier) wanderer.

Design a Murtaugh.

the life of a lost

Visually speaking, the resemblance between Murtaugh and the fictional hero of Wander it is noticeable at first sight. Murtaugh, now eight, is an orange cat with white whiskers and a black patch on his nose. However, the similarities between the two cats aren’t just visual: Murtaugh was a stray who was rescued by producer Swann Martin-Raget.

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

Murtaugh’s age at the time of his rescue was unknown, although Martin-Raget claims he appeared to be only a few months old at the time. Shortly after, 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 coincided with the early stages of Stray’s creative timeline.

“That’s when they started working on the project, so Murtaugh has been working with them from the beginning,” says Martin-Raget. “When they designed the main character of 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 a lot more time sleeping than the in-game cat.”

When Martin-Raget talks about the cats in the studio, he describes them as co-workers, joking (or maybe dead serious) that they’re the ones who run the show. When I ask if the team ever took them to important meetings with publisher Annapurna Interactive, he points out that they had no choice in the matter. Although some cats were destined to be front and center, Murtaugh was hardly a pawn.

“Murtaugh is a CEO personality type: he sleeps every day and complains that food doesn’t arrive on time,” he jokes.

office shenanigans

Murtaugh is strictly a house cat, so he didn’t spend much time in the BlueTwelve studio during the game’s development. However, the studio had two office cats that were brought in by employees on a regular basis. One of them is Jun, a black cat whom Martin-Raget describes more as an executive (“He walks from office to office watching what you’re doing and trying to make sure you’re doing the right thing,” says Martin. -Raget. ).

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

Having chats actively around the office every day would serve the team well in many 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 around to help nail the animal’s detailed movements into the game.

Naturally, the office cats also brought a bit of feline mayhem to the development process. Although Martin-Raget explains that even these 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 just 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 are and how interesting they are.” would be to have the personality of the cats in the game and to have situations that make fun of the townspeople.”

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

feline focus group

Aside from the typical diversions, the office cats did their housework in the studio. Martin-Raget notes that their presence provided the developers with a surprisingly helpful group chat 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 great moment we had in development was when the office cats started reacting to what was on our screens,” says Martin-Raget. “Having the sounds of the cats in the game making them look up and try to interact with the cats in the cutscenes…I think that was a good indication that we were on the right track.”

What is particularly relevant about dynamics is that Wander itself deals with the interaction between nature and machines. It features a stray cat who roams a sci-fi town full of robots, interacting with them through a drone companion. This is reflected in the game’s actual development environment, as the cats interacted with and influenced a digital world, even if they were just trying to cause trouble.

An orange cat sits in a ray of sunshine.

The feline authenticity of Wander it’s a testament to the studio’s compassion for animals and its willingness to work alongside them. Let’s hope Murtaugh, Jun, and Oscar get paid decently for their confectionery work.

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