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Scope and scale and puppy dog tails: discussing photography game design with the devs of Pupperazzi

What's the best way to go about designing a photography game? Sundae Month shares their insight with us.

The past few years have been lucrative ones for the burgeoning genre of photography games. With the revival of the N64 classic Pokémon Snap, along with the growth of in-game photography modes and a second-wave of indie photography games like Toem, NUTS, or Shutter Stroll, the simple but mindful practice of taking snapshots is a well-loved form of appreciation for virtual environments.

But as anyone who has played a photography game can tell you, the act of taking and assessing a photo can be fraught with unpredictable factors compromising the player’s experience. And that is why we asked the experts. In our November 2021 interview with the team of Pupperazzi, we talked to developers Sundae Month all about the challenges that came up during the design and implementation process and what insight they have for others. And their biggest piece of advice? Simplify. Pupperazzi’s lead developer Isobel Shasha notes that most of the bugs they addressed at the end of production were related to the accuracy of the photo content recognition system.

“Slow down, and invest your time into making the underlying tech simple and strong and easy to work with.”

It’s also important to devote yourself to pre-production and flesh out the game’s core principles before investing too heavily into the systems that will later support them. As programmer Ben Sironko puts it:

“Figure out the surrounding game before most of the photo tech is spun up. Just get a simple image generation system working and use human evaluation of photos against whatever game design you're playtesting. This will give you a better idea of what kinds of photos players will take and what kinds you want them to take and you can build an extremely solid and reasonably flexible system around those elements.”

In the interview, we also covered the game’s simple but effective art direction, reducing scope and scale for the good of the project, and even which dog in the game is their favorite. Be sure to check it out for more insight on the photography game development process, on this, the day of Pupperazzi’s release on Steam and Xbox.

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