YEAR OF THE DOG is a slice-of-life game / dog ownership simulator about living with a Shiba Inu in San Francisco.
You are placed in the role of a reluctant rookie dog owner, tasked with taking care of a Shiba while his real owner (your partner) is abroad for a year. Each chapter of the game recounts a snapshot from a month of that year, as your bond with the dog grows as you learn how and what it means to care for another living being.
- 12 game vignettes about dog ownership: Meet a furry friend, learn how to take care of him, and learn something about yourself
- Camera mode and photo album to capture and store all your memories
- Explore recreations of sections of San Francisco's Outer Richmond district with your pal: locales like Sutro Baths, Land's End, and more
- Encounter and get to know a neighborhood's local characters: other dogs, other dog owners, and the local weirdos
- Collect dog toys and treats to use to play with your pup and build your bond
- Play, pet and groom: You'll need to learn and master all the skills necessary to keep this pup comfortable and happy
- Minigame interludes between chapters provide fun asides and may even put you in the shoes (paws?) of the dog himself
- Exchange emails with your partner overseas, who's very concerned about how well you're taking care of their dog
- Leave a unique record for each playthrough recounting details both banal (like where you let the dog pee or poop) and meaningful
- Learn what it's like to own one of these bratdogs - those interested in getting a Shiba may consider this game's contents as a warning
When is the game coming out?
My goal is end of year, though when exactly is something I can’t commit to.
What platforms will it be on?
PC / Mac / Linux, for now.
Can you give a bit more of an idea of the gameplay and story?
The core of the gameplay is performing everyday tasks of dog ownership (training, walking, picking up after, grooming, and more) while advancing each chapter’s story and exploring the neighborhood / place you’re in with the dog at your side. That may mean learning about local landmarks, or having conversations with or helping out your neighbors, all while you tend to a dog's typical whims and needs. As you go through the game and depending on how good you are as a caretaker, you'll see your bond with the dog grow and blossom into something I hope players feel is very real.
Each chapter is a snippet of the life of the player and dog, capturing everyday moments that are sort of boring but also poignant and quirky: stuff like your first walk in the rain together, the anxiety of an unexpected trip to the vet, or the peace of exploring the local park with your little pal. The framing narrative that bookends each chapter is about how you become a better dog owner, but also about how your relationship with your dog changes you as a person and helps resolve some serious personal conflicts you have in your life.
NPCs play a large part in the world as well - most of them have character arcs that will span the length of the game that the player will have a hand in influencing or simply witnessing. It'll always be worth stopping by to say hello to the people you meet (and let the dog get some pets and maybe a treat).
The other part of the game, which is more game-like and weird, are the minigame interludes for each chapter. These minigames have unique mechanics that will let you control the Shiba and challenge you with solving the kinds of problems dogs have: How to get every piece of peanut butter out of your Kong (you’ll control his tongue), playing fetch, finding buried trash, butt maintenance, etc. One of the minigames is my answer to the age-old question: What do dogs actually dream about?
That's a lot of words. Can you just sum it up in a [the game is like these other games] style blurb?
Yeah, I guess? It's like Lieve Oma meets Nintendogs meets Animal Crossing! Yeah, that'll do.
Will there be other dogs? Will there be [insert my favorite breed]?
The Shiba is the focus of the story and there's no option to change him to another breed. There will be other dog breeds in the game that you encounter (NPDs: non-playable dogs), and I might solicit suggestions at some point for those :)
Should I get a Shiba?
Only if you want a dog that ignores you. Just kidding, they're great - they just take work. But yeah.