We talk Go-Go Town! and cosy chaos with Prideful Sloth

Posted on April 11, 2024

Brisbane-based studio Prideful Sloth is focused on their goal of making beautiful worlds for you to explore, traverse and experience. This is clear if you’ve played either of their previous titles, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles and Grow: Song of the Evertree. Both colourful experiences with elements of adventure, farming, crafting and more, they offered a cosy and enjoyable time, an easy way to unwind for a while and get lost in a gorgeous world. But their newest title, Go-Go Town!, could end up being their most interesting title yet.

In a more modern setting, you’re the mayor of a town, with quite a list of tasks to get on top of. You can build, terraform, decorate and manage a fully-fledged town and its inhabitants while gathering materials, building and maintaining farms, and much… much more.

We had the opportunity to have a chat with Joel Styles (Creative Director) and Cheryl Vance (Art/Audio Director) from Prideful Sloth ahead of Go-Go Town!’s launch, thanks to our mates at ID@Xbox

While Yonder and Grow both were delightful experiences in their own right, Prideful Sloth was ready for something different creatively, needing a break from fantastical universes. “Go-Go Town! is kind of the antithesis in a lot of ways of what we’ve done previously,” says Vance. “Being modern, silly and fun became a good palate cleanser for the team, keeping roughly the same mechanics but really taking it and giving us room to play and have fun.”

“Honestly it’s a natural evolution for us, but at the same time it’s a breath of fresh air ” adds Styles. “It’s given us the headspace to try something new; in all of our games, we try to always bring something new to a different audience that may not get those experiences. This time around it’s given us a bit of a fresh take even for ourselves.”

“Is it inviting? Is it comfortable? Is it squishable?”

The previous titles taught the team a lot of lessons, which they’re still bringing into Go-Go Town! despite the more grounded setting. “While Grow is a different IP, it was a more direct evolution from Yonder. Go-Go Town! has taken on the lessons we’ve learned, like the town-building mechanics from Grow. I think people enjoyed the town-building and the Sim side of that, so those are the core mechanics that we focus on taking into to Go=Go Town!, while also asking… what are the silliest ideas we can come up with?” says Vance, with a big smile on her face. “We can have fantastical still, we want to be able to play with elements. We have ghosts, we have mana… but the frame of reference is modern.”

Styles adds that when thinking about this genre, the audience mindset usually goes to cottagecore, very rural vibes, so they wanted to break away from that expectation. “This is urban. This is modern. Who chops down a tree with an axe, anyway? We’re giving you a chainsaw! Or better!”

When asked about the trademarks that make a Prideful Sloth adventure, they mention that from a visual and experiential perspective, they’ve always wanted to make family-friendly games. Not “games for kids”, but games that everybody can enjoy. Their other hallmark is “comfortable but different”. “It feels like something you know, it feels like a place you’ve been before, but we want to add our own spin to those things” adds Vance.

In a previous ID@Xbox Digital Showcase, Styles mentioned that the aesthetics of Go-Go Town! were its soft, marshmallow feel. I was curious whether there was some sort of “Would I eat that?” test involved in making sure the characters and environment matched that vibe. “It gets uncomfortable when working with humans and critters and whatnot!” laughs Styles. “Everything is squishy! There are definitely a lot of little rulesets for our art vibe, but it’s more than the visual, it’s the feeling it evokes. Is it inviting? Is it comfortable? Is it squishable?”. He’s quick to mention that it doesn’t just mean “cute”, and that you can achieve “cool” and “cute” in the same sort of style, and it’s equally as approachable and fun for different audiences. “It’s a marriage between simplifying forms so that they’re readable and approachable, but not overly simplified that it’s hyper-toony. It’s a fine line we try to tread!”

The life-sim/farming-sim genre has its pitfalls, and Go-Go Town! is certainly trying to do a lot. An early challenge that the team faced was making sure that each element – managing a town, crafting, gathering, building, keeping the city clean, maintaining farms, forestries and mines – was actually enjoyable to do. Prideful Sloth took their learned experience from Yonder and Grow, working through the gameplay loop to make sure it made sense.

“The big question for us was, how do we make it fun, how do we make it engaging,” notes Vance. “It’s the first thing we started grey-boxing: how does the resource collection work? How does it feel nice? What’s the speed and the snappiness and the pacing of that to make it feel satisfying? It took us about a month to figure it out.”

“It was surprisingly quick,” Styles chimes in. “Making something that’s tactile is what it boiled down to. In this game early on, we discovered it’s kind of the intersection between a life sim game, where you’re running around this little world, and a Sim game, which is usually a Gods perspective like Railroad Tycoon. Doing stuff with tangible, tactile feedback, is just inherently fun. There’s a manic fun that comes out of having to juggle different tasks, spinning lots of plates, and get that frenetic churn and burn action going.”

A new feature for Prideful Sloth is the inclusion of multiplayer, something the team notes was built in from the start as a key feature they wanted. Online multiplayer is on the roadmap, but the game will launch with couch co-op for up to four players. Couch co-op is still under-served when it comes to gaming today, so I asked how the game translates with players working together in this way. “It is chaotic.” says Vance with a big grin. “Even when we’re trying to do video capturing as a team and be serious, there are parts where we have to stop and redo it because I’m yelling at somebody because they threw something in my zone. I made it nice and tidy and you’ve messed it up!”

Styles is equally amused, taking the blame for getting in Vance’s way in-game many times. “There’s a very good vibe of that cozy chaos, like the feeling of an Overcooked session. It’s co-op, but in that frenzied sort of way. At the same time, you can choose to go and divide and conquer, directly contribute to the same tasks. It’s different but still familiar.”

They also note that modding is on their list, as they feel like that’s another way to help Go-Go Town! grow its user base and have players create their own way of playing.

Go-Go Town! has you playing as the mayor, which is different again for the genre, where a relative normally gifts you a farm. I asked if it was a coincidence that becoming a Mayor in Go-Go Town! is curiously similar to how quickly leadership changes in Australian politics, but they assured me that it’s a coincidence.

“There’s an upswing in state bodies [like Screen Queensland] becoming a hub of local development activity”

“The backstory that we haven’t shown is that effectively it’s like a scam, like those ‘be your own boss, work your own hours’ scam jobs you see around, and then you’re abducted, and you’re dumped into this town with a duffel bag,” explains Vance. “It’s a nice starting point because you’re in the same place as your character. It’s this scorched wasteland of nothing, and you don’t know what you’re doing, so you’re both in the same boat and have no idea what’s going on.”

Of course, the development of Go-Go Town! has been bolstered by the support from Screen Queensland, one of the state bodies that’s invested in local game development in Australia. “Screen Queensland has been fantastic for us,” says Vance. “For the funding, yes, but for other general support. We talk to them about what we’re doing, and why things change, and they’ve been supportive throughout the entire process. It’s great to have them understand what’s going on and have the ability to talk through things.”

“We have a close relationship with them,” adds Styles. “It’s been an interesting journey seeing all the state bodies mature over the years. There’s an upswing in them becoming a hub of local development activity. Everybody needs a champion, everyone needs someone to organise the local drinks night for all the developers in the region to get together and chat. Around Australia in particular, they’ve filled those shoes and become that centralised hub for the community of developers. We’re lucky to be a part of that.”

In addition, the support from ID@Xbox has given them even more confidence heading towards the game’s eventual launch. Vance just came back from GDC, where they were part of ID@Xbox over there, noting it was an amazing event. “It was really curated this time around, and we had time to really sit down with people and talk through the game. It was nice to connect with so many of the Xbox team and do the digital event to show Go-Go Town! to more people.”

Styles echoes the sentiment. “They have a genuine love and interest in indies, that’s very obvious.”

What’s clear from my time chatting with both Vance and Styles is that the whole team at Prideful Sloth is putting a lot of time and love into the experience to ensure it’s an engaging, entertaining title with a thriving community to boot. Having seen the improvements even from Yonder to Grow, I can’t wait to see how Go-Go Town! turns out.

Go-Go Town! still has no firm release date, and the team wants to figure out the next steps, take the feedback from the playtest, and go from there. They’re aiming for sometime in 2024.

Go-Go Town! will be coming to PC and Consoles. You can check out the demo (and wishlist!) on Steam here.