Old School Gamer Magazine chats with Rick Salter, co-founder of Hojo Studios, to find out all about the GTA-inspired pigeon roguelike, The Godfeather!
About The Godfeather:
The Godfeather’s fast-paced “swoop & poop” gameplay takes place across dynamically generated levels, each filled with unique targets and hazards that need to be “taken out” the only way pigeons know how. Your character, a rising associate in the pigeon underworld must fulfill missions from HQ and face brutal boss encounters to progress through the story.
From The Suburbs to The Boidwalk to The Town, players must avoid enemy “Anti-Pigeon Drones”, cats, lifeguards, lawn-Karens, owls and much more using stealth tactics (and poop) to their advantage. Along the way, players can loot dumpsters to reload your poop ammo, upgrade their pigeon abilities to get the edge in combat or customise their pigeon’s whole look for maximum glow-up.
The Godfeather has also been invited to be a part of the inaugural SXSW Sydney Game Fest, taking place from October 18-22.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Why do pigeons and mafia go so well together?
Rick Salter: Pigeons are adorable, kinda clueless creatures – but they also mob together. So the idea of a Pigeon Mafia was impossible to get out of our heads once we thought about it. Wouldn’t it be amazing if these derpy birds actually believed they were part of a major crime organization, and were on a mission to take back their territory from rival families (other birds) and humans? If we’d chosen more aggressive birds like crows or eagles or magpies, it wouldn’t have been nearly as funny. It’s the delusion that makes it funny. Of course there’s a pigeon mafia!
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was this game born?
Salter: Jola and I wanted to get back to basics and create a game that spoke to our core Hojo values – taking the most unlikely protagonist we can imagine, then pushing the idea into the craziest territory possible. Once we fall in love with a character, the game gets built around them. So for us it was a mafia pigeon – then the rest of the game just started suggesting itself as we went. The idea to do a sort of “GTA but with poop” seemed like the next illogical step.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What is your role in the game?
Salter: Jola and I both share the overall game design. I handle coding, animation, music and sound. Jola is in charge of all the 2D artwork and most of the 3D modelling.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What has development been like?
Salter: The development itself has been a real joy – getting back to basics with a development team of two allows you to be super flexible and throw ideas around at the same time as you’re bringing it to life. We’re very lucky to have been joined by Stephanie Salter as executive producer and Shoshana Lewis as our community manager. They’re deeply involved every step of the way – and the assistance and support from Screen Australia has been a life saver.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes this game special?
Salter: It’s the world’s first mafia pigeon roguelike! We believe in something we call the “Hojo Smile” – there’s a blend of sweetness, satire, Australian humor and general absurdity we try to put into every game we make, and we think it’s pretty unique.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What games influenced this one the most?
Salter: It’s clearly influenced by the early GTA games with the idea of doing crimes while hiding from the five-o from a top-down perspective, but there are loads of little influences in there. You can see Spelunky, you can even see parts inspired by Returnal. Returnal absolutely needs a pigeon mode.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Salter: There’s a “bratty kid” character that keeps returning in the game as a target. The kid is voiced by my 11 year old son. Because of our strict focus of realism, it was necessary to capture the audio authentically by chasing after him with a field mic in our backyard as he cackled and made angry kid noises. This really happened. The neighbors had questions.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What were the major lessons learned?
Salter: Involving your children in game development is the greatest joy imaginable. Here are some other lessons – procedural generation is hard. It’s easy to think players want pure random, but that’s not really what gives you the best result. Testing things that are designed to give you different results every time is very challenging. Also, whenever you need to learn some new skill or technology in game development, some absolute legend with a strong accent is always ready to explain it to you on YouTube.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Salter: The DNA of older gameplay mechanics never fade. All new games still use them. Roguelikes trace their structure back to arcade games that were designed to ensure you session never lasted more than a few minutes. Even if the old coin-op arcades are gone, we’re still using these mechanics – because there’s something about how the human brain likes to experience challenge and reward that never changes.
Old School Gamer Magazine: The marketplace is crowded. How do you think you stand out?
Salter: I think the personality of the games we make are unique. If you’re an indie developer, you often need to recalibrate your definition of success. Whether the game is long or short or serious or comical, it’s art – and the fact you’ve brought something unique into the world should be your baseline for success. The rest is just gravy.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How have your previous experiences in industry helped this game?
Salter: You certainly learn more every time, especially when you’re self-taught. Visibility is very tough for indies so the best way to approach it is to remember not to take things personally. The more games you make, the more you realize the best joy is in the making itself. Even when everything’s broken and crashing. You have to find a way to love it even then! Otherwise, there’s a whole lot of easier ways to make a living.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want this game to ultimately be remembered?
Salter: We’d love our game to be remembered as a unique character with a unique story, and an irresistible little slice of indie gaming. All ages can enjoy it for different reasons.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s next?
Salter: We have at least three new projects in pre-production, which we’re not quite ready to announce yet. But The Godfeather will be flying to Switch in 2024 – which is an upcoming release we’re very excited about.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Anything else you’d like to add?
Salter: Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk about our game! It’s been a long road, but we couldn’t be prouder of it. Watch the skies!