BVW – Round 4

The Cat and Dolphin Playing Together

Assignment: The story round. The goal of this world is to tell an effective story—one with a dramatic arc where the audience understands what is going on and, most importantly, cares.

Team: John Baxa, Vijay Poduval, Chen Yang, Yue Zhu

My role: Producer, Writer, 2D Art, Sprite Animations

Overall, it is my favorite world from my BVW semester.


  1. For our brainstorm phase, every member of the team pitched different story concepts. My idea was about a cat and dolphin who become unlikely friends and the game would follow their friendship through the highs and lows. My inspiration came from them being my two favorite animals… But I also thought a story about the two could be interesting—as they both are united by one thing: love of fish… and divided by water.
  2. We presented my idea to our professor and the class and it was well received. We shifted into production. Nearly everything included in our storyboards made it into the final game.
  3. From there, I helped organize the team to make sure key assets were created first. We built the game focusing on the most important parts of the story first (e.g., rescuing the dolphin, the cat drowning). Yue created background textures, Chen made our boat, and I focused on all the other illustrations. Vijay started working on our gestures.
  4. The art direction of the game was inspired by Cory Godbey, Paper Mario, and Eric Carle. We wanted the world to feel warm, expressive, and speak directly to people’s hearts and imagination.
  5. Once key assets were created, I focused on animation sprites for the game and cutscenes. Chen began creating our animated cutscenes and Yue began composing and creating sounds for the game. Vijay finalized interactions and I helped him compile everything together.
  6. For our interactive sections of the game, the goal was to capture the essence of two parts of the friendship: joy and desperation.
    • For the playing scene, we wanted to the gameplay to focus on the cat exploring a world it hadn’t before. We decided to make it a music game—where eating fish in order would play tones. We placed the fish to guide the player through the water level (adding specific moments to add to the beauty of the moment: swimming amongst fish, a coral reef, jumping with seagulls).
    • For the rescue scene, I suggested including a breathing mechanic in order to make the situation even more tense—the cat wouldn’t be able to save the dolphin in one action. It was also to make it clear that the cat was risking his life to save his friend—the cat can drown.
  7. Our world was well received and was selected for the BVW Show. It was covered on CMU’s homepage (along with Last Stop on the H Line).

Lessons learned:

  1. How to do sprite animation (which I had never done before until this project)
  2. Moment design is key to structuring a story and emotional experience—and necessary to make something memorable.
  3. Structuring gameplay around a character’s fears and emotional state can be very powerful.
  4. Audiences want to see characters who are willing to risk everything for the things they want.
  5. Cats + Dolphins are insanely cute together. But I already knew this really.