Developer Interview: Talking Peachleaf Pirates with Carl-Frederik Wibroe

Peachleaf Pirates

We recently discovered a neat-looking gaming called Peachleaf Pirates, which is said to be sort of a blend of RPG, point-and-click adventure game, and farming sim. We love all of those things, and we’re very excited to see how they’ll all come together in Peachleaf Pirates.

So we chased down Carl-Frederik Wibroe, who is developing the game under the moniker Dog Kiss Studio, so we could pick his brain about Peachleaf Pirates. We did this over email, of course, since Wibroe lives in Denmark and Half-Glass Gaming is based in the United States. Plus, we’re social distancing here.

Anyway, the entire interview is below.

Peachleaf Pirates

Peachleaf Pirates looks really great, and a lot of us at Half-Glass Gaming are looking forward to it. We put our heads together and came up with some questions as a group for this interview, because we’re hungry for more information.

I love all of you — thank you so much for the kind words and for these questions! Fair warning: I’ve never quite mastered the art of brevity, so answers might be quite lengthy, hehe!

We don’t mind! The more information, the better!

In the recent press release, we saw the phrase, “inspired by point-and-click classics,” and we want to know more about that. Which games specifically inspired you, and how did those inform the direction of Peachleaf Pirates?

Absolutely. So, Peachleaf Pirates is a genre-mash of an RPG with point-n’-click and farm-sim elements; with the storyline being progressed primarily through point-n’-click elements.

I grew up playing the classic LucasArts adventure games, with the Monkey Island series being my all-time favourite. The amazing writing, jokes, satire, and witty dialogue, combined with an all-around super chill atmosphere — plus an absolutely outstanding soundtrack — really just blew me away (fun-fact, during most of the development of Peachleaf, the Monkey Island OST has been running in the background, hehe).

I also absolutely LOVE Grim Fandango, and I think its world-building is some of the best around. On the other side of the point-n’-click spectrum, I also loved the entire Longest Journey saga — I mean, the lore alone for that series is freaking incredible!

And in regards to Peachleaf, it’s very much inspired by the Monkey Island series, and I really wanted to create an experience that was as relaxing as the Monkey Island series was for me growing up. I’ve always used video games as the ultimate form of escapism, and nothing says relaxation for me quite like the universe that Ron Gilbert et al. created for Monkey Island. It’s the tropical vibe combined with pop-culture references galore and super sharp, self-aware, tongue-in-cheek writing that gets me every time.

So I wanted to (try to) channel some of that for Peachleaf. Funnily enough, I’ve never been that good at point-n’-click games, but those “aha” moments — when you finally figure out what to do with a rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle — are absolutely amazing! So, the main storyline (and side quests as well) are progressed through a combination of farm-sim and point-n’-click elements, but primarily point-n’-click mechanics.

Peachleaf Pirates

Based on similar games in the genre, we assume there are dating and/or friendship mechanics in the game. Is this a safe assumption to make?

This is an unsafe assumption to make, hehe! It’s an interesting discussion, though, as I did go back and forth between adding dating/friendship mechanics in Peachleaf Pirates, but I could never quite get it to make sense for the kind of narrative experience I wanted to create.

I knew that I wanted The Peachleaf Experience(TM) to be a genre-mash between RPG, point-n’-click, and farm-sim, but I also knew that as a first-time game developer, I really needed to zone in on the mechanics of those genres that I myself love the most — otherwise I’d risk adding mechanics just for the sake of having them, without being able to execute on them.

And I think that one of the reasons those mechanics work so well in games like Stardew Valley and the Harvest Moon series is that the games are systemic in nature — you create your own character, and role-play as whoever you want to; so the narrative is very much your own to create. And don’t get me wrong, I love those elements, but for Peachleaf Pirates, the narrative is based around the point-n’-click elements, and is more linear than in classic farm-sims.

This is actually also the reason why the NPCs in Peachleaf don’t have the same kind of daily routines as you see in Stardew/Harvest Moon. At one point in development, they had, but I found myself getting frustrated at not being able to progress the story when the NPC I needed to interact with was at the beach that day. So I reeled it back to the more traditional point-n’-click idea of the NPCs being somewhat stationary, with a few exceptions.

That did mean that I had to use other techniques to make the world feel alive and immersive, though, as I did want to build a world with memorable characters. So, instead of friendship/dating mechanics, there are character specific side-quests, which expands on the lore, and offers unique rewards like a second player home, discounts in shops, etc.

Peachleaf Pirates

There’s a little bit of combat shown in the trailer. Can we get a little more information about this? Is combat sort of a side element, or is it fundamental to the Peachleaf Pirates experience?

Sure! So, I’m a sucker for skill-trees. I think (when done well) they offer a great tangible sense of progression, and I love deciding on which skills to spend my hard-earned skill-points on in RPGs. And this actually formed the basis of combat.

So I started out designing the five combat skill-trees (three for voodoo, one for melee, and one for ranged combat), with the idea that it would be fun if you could use them to play off each other. For instance, you can cast a fire trap, and then use a wind pull (think Force pull from Jedi Knight) to pull enemies into that trap. Or you could cast a spell to trap the enemies in place, and then go ballistic on them with a sword or your gun!

The most important part of Peachleaf Pirates is that it’s a relaxing experience, so combat is limited to the Temple inside the jungle. This Temple is also where you’ll find some of the more advanced resources required for crafting, so if you want to build an advanced automated farm, you’ll probably have to do a bit of combat. The entire main storyline does not require engaging in combat, though, as I didn’t want to alienate players who don’t like that aspect of it all.

For the first year or so of development, combat just wasn’t fun, though. I wasn’t able to make it a relaxing-but-still-balanced experience, and it’s probably the gameplay element that was the hardest for me to get to “feel” right. It all made sense in my spreadsheets, but it just wasn’t satisfying. So I spent a huge amount of time adjusting and tweaking combat to get it to feel satisfying. And these days, I’ll often jump into the game and just slay some monsters for a few hours, and actually have fun doing so!

So it’s not necessarily fundamental to the overall experience, but I think it does add a lot to the game. All the levels in the Temple are randomly generated as well, so sometimes you’ll find yourself getting swarmed from every direction, or cornered by some of the more devious enemies, while hacking and slashing and hurling fireballs at everything that moves — which does add a fun contrast to the super-chill island vibe of the rest of the game.

Peachleaf Pirates

You’ve lived a very interesting life. Could you tell us more about your time doing conservation work in Africa?

Thanks! My philosophy in life has always been that if in doubt, go with what feels right, not what the expected thing to do is. And I’ve always loved animals. So when I found myself deciding on what to do after high school, moving to Africa to work at a conservation project seemed like a good idea. And it was. It was hard work — I worked 13 days on, and then 1 day off, for about a year. Turns out that lions and tigers don’t really care if it’s the weekend — they still need to get fed. But it was also extremely rewarding; especially when we’d get rescues from parks that didn’t or couldn’t properly care for them, and then seeing them in an environment where we could actually give them the care they needed.

Unfortunately, though, when you have endangered animals, you also have people wanting to put profits over the wellbeing of animals — and, as amazing as it is to see these majestic animals thrive, it’s just as heartbreaking to see humans using them as commodities. So while my time in Africa was a fantastic experience, it was also a massive wakeup call.

You also worked as a professional DJ. This seems to imply that you have an ear for music. Does this mean you’ll be making the music for Peachleaf Pirates (like ConcernedApe did for Stardew Valley), or will you be bringing in a composer (like SquareHusky recently did with Everafter Falls)?

I’ve actually been writing and making music all my life, and with the exception of two tracks that my little brother has co-written, I’ve created the entire soundtrack myself. I’m primarily a guitarist, so all the tracks on the Peachleaf Pirates OST are written on the guitar, and then given the marimba-based orchestral treatment, to give the right tropical vibes.

It’s funny, though, I can always force myself to draw, animate, write, or code but I can’t force myself to write music. There has to be some form of inspiration, and oftentimes I’ll be doing something completely unrelated, and if I feel a tune coming, I’ll drop everything else to grab a guitar and record a demo!

Overall, the OST is probably my favourite aspect of Peachleaf Pirates. It’s a bit superfluous to cover in great detail right now, but hit me up after the OST comes out and I’ll talk about it for hours and hours haha!

Peachleaf Pirates

In what ways would you say your various life experiences informed the development decisions you’re making with Peachleaf Pirates?

That’s a really good question!

Throughout my life, no matter what I’ve been doing, I’ve always had video games as my go-to strategy for when things got tough, so it was paramount to me that Peachleaf Pirates could offer a chilled-out experience that respects players even if they only have time for a few hours of playtime after work, yet still feel rewarding and fun for a marathon weekend play session.

As mentioned, my philosophy in life is to focus more on what feels right than what everyone else expects you to do. And I truly believe that anything is possible, as long as you’re willing to give it your 100%. And for Peachleaf Pirates — with no game-dev experience — I really did have to give it 100% and then some. Initially, I was super constrained by literally having to look up YouTube tutorials for everything to do with programming, as I learned how to code as I went along. But then I realized that I was looking at it the wrong way — I was too focused on doing it the “normal” or “traditional” way, which wasn’t congruent with my general outlook on life.

So, very early in the process, I took a step back, and reconsidered how I was approaching the whole thing. And when I stopped worrying about what a “normal” game should be, and instead focused my energy on making a game that I would actually have fun playing myself — I found the tone of Peachleaf.

And I could have never done that without having gone through a similar process myself. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression throughout my own life, and it wasn’t until I started shifting my focus from worrying about what I thought I should be doing to instead just doing what I actually wanted to do and what felt right to me, that I started finding my own fun in life.

So Peachleaf is very much the sum of my life-experience so far; when you start just letting yourself be yourself, and focus more on the journey and present moment than whatever end-goal is expected of you — that’s when the fun happens. And the same thing would appear to hold true for designing video games.

Can you tell us anything about the characters we’ll meet in Peachleaf Pirates?

One of the first things I learned when writing Peachleaf Pirates was that the thing holding everything together would be the characters. So much like my preference for real-life people, I wanted an eccentric cast of likeable weirdos. I think they’re best experienced without me talking too much about them, though, so you’ll have to wait for the beta to meet all of them.

With the word “Pirates” in the title, we’re wondering how truly swashbuckling this game will be. Are there any pirate activities to enjoy in the game?

The game was very nearly called Peachleaf Island, but that just sounded too much like a mobile game to me, and I also thought it was too close to Monkey Island. There’s actually also a narrative reason for the title — but I won’t spoil that.

Gameplay-wise, nope, no swashbuckling. At one point it was going to have pirate ships and ship combat as well, but the game is already well past 160.000+ lines of code, and I was getting myself way deep into scope-creep territory (especially considering it’s my first game), so I actually cut that out of the game. I do have a demo somewhere that has ship combat in it, but it didn’t really feed into the relaxing island experience I wanted, and it actually felt really out of place — despite the title!

So the “Pirates” part is moreso setting than it is gameplay.

Can you tell us anything about your long-term goals for the game?

As mentioned, the goal with the game has been to create an experience that players can relax in for a few hours after a long day, and ideally have a chuckle here and there. However, storyline-wise, Peachleaf Pirates is written as the beginning of a larger narrative — but I won’t go into too much detail about that right now.

I don’t think Peachleaf is ever going to be completely done, and knowing myself, I think it’s safe to say that I’ll be continuing updating it well past launch. So I hope that the long-term goals of the game will be defined not just by me, but by the community of players as well.

Peachleaf Pirates

Any shoutouts you want to give before we let you go?

Yeah — to you and your readers! Thanks for these awesome questions! This was super fun!

I honestly can’t believe that two years ago I was working in a hotel, and now I’m doing interviews about my first video game! I can’t wait to hear what you think about the game, and I hope you’ll be trying out the beta!

The beta for Peachleaf Pirates will be available via the game’s official website.

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