You might think you know Ooblets, but apparently we don't. There is so much of this creature collecting Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley and Pokemon hybrid that feels wholesome and familiar that you'd be forgiven for thinking you should know exactly what to expect.
"It'll be helpful if people are familiar with the concepts of farming and town life stuff, but from what we've seen, everyone has wildly different expectations and imaginations about what Ooblets will be. Hopefully, we can provide something people will like that will also have some surprises to it," explains developers Rebecca Cordingley and Ben Wasser.
"I think we started out following more well-trodden paths but quickly ended up going in our own unique directions. A lot of that is just us figuring things out for ourselves and dealing with all the complexities of trying to tie a bunch of disparate gameplay mechanics together. We take influences from a lot of other games but I think people would be hard-pressed to see Ooblets as derivative of any specific thing once they get their hands on it."
Boogie to the boogie
One thing we can be sure of is though is that there's going to be a lot of dancing involved, but it turns out even that was a happy accident For a game that features dance battles as a core mechanic, it's strange to think that at one point Ooblets didn't feature any type of boogying at all.
Google anything about Ooblets and you'll probably be greeted with a GIF of a dancing magic creature - the titular ooblets - which incorporates a growing collection of odd, adorable little creatures with names like Bristlebud, Chickadingding, Gloopylonglegs and Pantsabear. Ooblets like getting their groove on, there's no doubt about it. And yet, it wasn't always a deliberate choice.
"The dancing happened by accident, mostly," admits Cordingley and Wasser. "In the early GIFs and videos we posted, we'd often set the characters to dance just to make things feel more lively. Eventually, people started associating the game with dancing but we didn't actually have any dancing or gameplay-related to dancing in the game."
Now, years down the line from that first boogying ooblet, dancing has become a core part of the game and every character can be seen wiggling around in the latest collection of trailers and gameplay footage. Instead of traditional battling, you'll be participating in dance battles to help train and grow your little creatures, and eventually, collect more by dance battling in the wild.
"We were feeling generally weird about traditional fighting with respect to the cute creatures you grow and befriend, so we figured we could kill two birds with one stone by switching the battles over to dancing. Now it's a core aspect of the game and you're not leading your adorable pals into dog fights."
Let's rock, you don't stop
In a very similar fashion to Pokemon, completing these dance-offs unlocks more of the world too, allowing you to access more of the isle of Oob. Each location offers unique habitats for ooblets, with specific plants, characters and biomes to explore, so it'll be worth your while to get your groove on.
"Characters will block your access to things and want to settle scores through dance battles, so it sometimes presents some narrative challenges, but there's a lot of stuff that doesn't make perfect sense in games (and especially Ooblets)," explains the development team.
With the look and feel of Ooblet's world, it feels like a happy accident that the dancing Ooblets became such an integral part of the game - and quite the social media phenomenon. It all ties together the various themes that will be present in Ooblets though, which all revolve around friendship and kindness, along with the world of farming and creature collecting.
"There are a bunch of townsfolk in Badgetown you can interact with, find out more about, and become friends with. There's a friendship system that we keep fiddling with that's based on things like how often you talk to people, gift-giving, and a few other things. It's tied into standard stuff like achievements and unlocks, but we're hoping people will also want to explore the characters for the sake of getting to know them since they add a lot of flavor to the lore and world."
Ooblets is set to hit early access on Epic Games Store on July 15th, 2020 and is expected to land on Xbox One later in the year.