Button City

The upcoming Button City from Subliminal is a cheery, pastel-colored narrative adventure game about a group of talking animal friends whose arcade hangout spot is on the verge of closure. In the game, you’ll meet a diverse cast of characters, form bonds, and play some minigames as you attempt to save the arcade. In our look at the Steam demo, we were won over by the game’s character dialogue, arcade mini-games, chill vibes, and cake-like visuals.

We reached out to the Button City team to get some insight on the game’s influences — specifically regarding the arcade themes and ‘90s inspiration, as well as what the game means to the devs. Subliminal Co-Founder, Programmer, and Writer Ryan Woodward gave us a closer look at Button City, diving deep into the game’s narrative themes and design direction.

Button City

Button City is a bit reminiscent of Night in the Woods, albeit with a much cheerier vibe. Was there some inspiration there as both games are animal-themed narrative adventures?

A little bit. I started playing Night in the Woods when it came out and enjoyed my time but never finished the game. When we started on Button City, I didn’t want to take from their game so I didn’t go back to play it, but I want to once we’re finished. We do use the same narrative game tool called YarnSpinner, which was created for Night in the Woods.

Another game we were inspired by was Attack of the Friday Monsters.

The arcade minigames in Button City seem to add some nice variety to the conversation-based narrative gameplay. Was it a challenge to fit these arcade games into the game in a way that made sense in terms of the game’s story?

When we first started, we didn’t have any minigames and the entire premise was different, though there still was an arcade involved. When we changed Button City into what it is now, we wanted to have a central place where a community would be, and that was the arcade.

We took inspiration from our community and games we enjoyed and wove the narrative around it, focusing on things like friendships and rivalries rather than purely the mechanics. The games that are in Button City are derived from the communities that we’re part of at our arcade now. In terms of the minigames crossing into the narrative, we wanted the player to engage with the arcade alongside the characters in the story, so the event of the Button City arcade shutting down would have more impact.

Button City

In terms of themes, story, and characters, does Button City draw inspiration from any real-life experiences or people?

A lot of it was little adventures that would happen as a kid growing up with friends and getting in trouble. Pretending to be spies and sneaking around the neighborhood or trying to set up a lemonade stand as a kid. Some family dynamics, as well — like how I grew up with my grandparents and how that affected me. There are fun aspects of the game and being a kid, but also some sad stuff to where it’s beyond [the characters’] control.

Button City is described as being inspired by ’90s nostalgia. Can you elaborate on that? Were there any shows or movies that you took direct inspiration from while developing the game?

Our game started out super bright and when we looked at the visual language we wanted to use, a lot of it came from our childhoods in the ‘90s. Bright neon lime greens, see-through plastics — all of that came together to help create our look. Shandiin, our artist, took inspiration from ‘90s toys like Tamagotchi, robots, kid culture, and fashion. We were also inspired by things like Power Rangers, Pokemon, and other popular shows and games from the ‘90s. Honestly there are so many things we were inspired by that it’s hard to list them all.

Video games are important — and more often than not, they’re also special — to both the players and the developers behind those games. What does Button City mean to the development team?

It means so much — it was literally life-changing. We wanted to make games full-time and were trying for years. We would make games on the side and work jobs adjacent to what we wanted to do.

With Button City, people took notice immediately when Shandiin first posted art online of Fennel and his little house, and it just kept going. We were able to go full-time in 2019 and bring on some friends to help us make it. We’re so happy and excited with the reception we’ve had so far.

Button City expresses so much of what we appreciate with games. The way they can bring excitement and wonder, bring friends and communities together, and help create lasting memories. I hope that Button City will do that for players, as well.

Thanks to Ryan from Subliminal for taking the time to answer our questions about Button City. We look forward to seeing the rest of (protagonist) Fennel and company’s story unfold. Here’s hoping those pals can save the arcade!

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