Nine Noir Lives is an adorable, family friendly, detective adventure filled with humor, mystery, puzzles, cats, and crime. It’s also a love letter to point and click games from the 2-man team at Silvernode Studios.
We recently spoke to the title’s co-developer, William Kruger, about this furrily, fun new title, that’s due out next year.
Here’s what Mr. Kruger had to say.
Tell us about yourself and Silvernode Studios.
Silvernode Studios is a two-person team from South Africa, working on Nine Noir Lives in collaboration with contractors from across the globe.
We’re basically the definition of indie…we both have day jobs and work on this game (our first) in evenings and on weekends.
It’s taken four years so far and it’ll be five when we release next year.
In-house, we do the writing, programming, and design. Animations, art and audio are outsourced, and we also then integrate it all.
Tell us about Nine Noir Lives.
Nine Noir Lives is a comedy-noir “point-and-lick” adventure, set in a city called Meow Meow Furrington, on the world of Furth. Furth is a planet populated by many talking animals, but this game is set solely within MMF, the so-called “capital city of cats”.
You’ll encounter a couple of non-feline characters here and there, but it’s largely all cats.
You play as Cuddles Nutterbutter, the second-best P.I. in the city, who gets a late-night call from the Chief of Police to investigate something suspicious at the Knitty Kitty Club.
Eager to prove you can handle a large case and outdo your rival, Alfonso Gibraltar, you accept.
From there, playing as both Cuddles and his capable assistant, Tabby Marshmallow, you’ll explore the city, interrogate suspects, solve puzzles, and try to figure out just what’s happened (hopefully before tensions between the crime families boil over into a messy mob war).
As the name suggests, NNL is a noir adventure. What elements have you included in the game to give it a “noir” feel?
The original concept for the game was actually a classic noir experience, with all the expected elements: hard-boiled narration against dark city skylines, a lot of grim characters, and not much comedy (if any).
The setting is extremely noir; a night-time city dotted with lights, outlined against a bulbous moon as mysterious figures go about their dangerous business below.
The core mystery to solve is a violent murder, and the parties you have to face off against are big, dangerous crime families.
But it very quickly became apparent that full noir wasn’t working for us. We weren’t having fun with it, and the thought of pushing on with it was depressing.
It didn’t take long to agree that a much more comedic angle was the better approach.
Apart from being a more typical tone for an adventure game, it was also a much better fit for a world of talking cats. Thus, we became a “comedy-noir”.
We definitely still have a noir story, and the topics and characters you’ll interact with along the main storyline thread will be instantly recognizable as being noir-inspired, as is the main plot.
But the supporting characters, the situations you find them in, and your interactions with the world will be less intense. Balancing those two has been an interesting challenge, and hopefully we’ve pulled it off well.
Players will be able to experience the game from the perspective of Cuddles Nutterbutter or Tabby Marshmallow. Can you tell us a bit about these characters and how each affects/changes the player’s experience?
Cuddles started off as the only playable character, but as we developed Tabby more, we realized there was a rich opportunity to give her more depth and agency.
Inevitably, that led to her becoming a playable character at certain points in the game.
Cuddles is a classic noir detective, who’s a little less sure of himself than he perhaps should be, and little more obsessed with licking things. He can get distracted, and relies on Tabby to keep him in line in that respect.
Tabby, by contrast, is very organized and tolerates Cuddles’ disorganization only as long as he tries to improve.
The two work well together, and their interactions with one another throughout the game are, in my opinion, one of the game’s best features.
Fun fact: The respective voice actors (for Cuddles & Tabby) are actually married in real life, so they know just how to play off one another.
Differences in the Player Experience:
Cuddles and Tabby have different approaches to the world and the characters in it. This will be highlighted when you deal (as each) with some of the NPCs.
A character that might consider Cuddles an annoyance may see Tabby as more helpful, and their behavior will change appropriately.
Their approach to solving puzzles will also differ. Cuddles is willing to do things that Tabby probably isn’t.
The character names are hugely fun. What was the process you went through to create the character names? Was it a group collaboration?
Yes, it was absolutely a group collaboration.
The initial names were chosen because the idea of cats, in this very grounded talking-cat world, naming their children things like “Cuddles” was very amusing to us.
Throughout the development of the game, we would go to one another with new name ideas and tried to find a home for them.
Comedy can come from the smallest things, and something as simple as an amusing name can be enough to make someone smirk. And, of course, we just had to name one of the characters after one of our own cats.
The second half of the game is where I’d say the names really take off, but I won’t spoil those now. I’ll just say that my personal favorite surname in the entire game is “Snoutbargle”.
What is the Knitty Kitty Club?
The Knitty Kitty is the first big location you come across in the game. It is the home base of the Montameeuw crime family, run by Bartholomew Montameeuw. Something’s happened there, and you need to get in to find out what.
It is filled with characters, some who work there, and some who don’t. You’ll spend a lot of time finding out what they know and trying to figure out what might have happened.
Tell us about the unique “lick” feature in the game. How does it work? Is anything in the environment lickable?
Licking has been in since the very beginning.
It seemed like a natural thing to do when working with cats, and the options for comedy were rife.
It works like any other verb. . . you can lick things, and the character will comment. But it’s not limited to just a few items. Nearly every single item, character and interactable in the world can be licked (for good or ill).
While we also have the classic Look and Use verbs, licking lets us give a completely different view of the world. In some cases, it’s even necessary to solve puzzles.
Mostly, though, it’s a vehicle for entertainment, so make sure to try it out on everything.
The game’s graphics are quite amazing. How did you decide what the graphic style would be for NNL?
We knew from the beginning we wanted to do full-resolution art rather than opting for pixel art. We wanted a clear style that would be pleasant to look at, and basically ended up with a somewhat comic/cartoon style which we enhanced by using comic-style panels for speech text.
NNL has a terrific sense of humor. How did you approach inserting humor into the game’s dialogue/story?
A lodestone for us throughout development as been “making a game that we would want to play”.
We can’t compete on budget, scope or team size, but we can definitely compete on passion.
The comedy is an intrinsic part of that. We have added in things that make us laugh and have just trusted that it would make others laugh as well. From what we’ve seen, that bet is paying off, so that is very gratifying.
The approach we’ve followed for inserting it has been primarily informed by the character of Cuddles (who is not above using comedy as a tool to defuse situations) and the idea of this as a grounded, non-supernatural world (talking cats notwithstanding).
There’s an intrinsic comedy to absurdity in ordinary things, and one that I think anyone can appreciate. Taking a seemingly normal thing and giving it the touch of insanity needed to make you roll your eyes, but laugh at the same time.
It’s hard to say exactly what our comedy is like, but people who have played further into the game have variously compared it to “Grim Fandango with cats”, Taika Waititi and Sam & Max. How accurate they are, and whether you agree, you can decide when you play the demo.
We also decided early on to eschew reference humor as far as possible, which has meant we’ve had to create fresh situations that are funny, rather than simply echoing past ones.
This is something we feel will really make the game both more accessible to people who are not clued up with the latest in popular culture (ourselves included), and ensure the game remains accessible long after its time.
When there are references (and I can only think of maybe five across the entire game), they are light and funny even without the knowledge of what’s being lampooned.
Nine Noir Lives will release in 2021 on Steam. Do you have plans to release NNL on any other platforms? Any chance of a physical release?
We would love to release on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PS4, but because we are funding the development ourselves, cost is always a factor. Our hope is to port to those consoles sometime after the release of Nine Noir Lives on PC. And, if the fans demand a physical release, we’ll definitely consider it!
NNL will be a part of the Steam Game Festival (June 16th-22nd). What do you have planned for this special event?
We will be doing a live playthrough of the demo during the Festival, joined by some of our artists and voice actors. It’s going to be a blast. Tune in to our YouTube channel on Sunday, June 21st at 12pm EST.
What’s next for NNL? What’s next for Silvernode Studios?
Nine Noir Lives is just one story in the world of Furth. If the game does well enough, we absolutely hope to explore more of them. It may take a while, but there’s no rush on our side to dive directly into a sequel after this. A delayed game is eventually good, and all that.
In the short term, if it makes sense, we’d love to do some free DLC for the game. For example, additional mini-cases for Cuddles or Tabby to go out and solve.
There’s no limit to how many of those we could do without impacting the main game. We think it’d be a great idea to show people more of Meow Meow Furrington after they conclude the game.
What’s your best piece of advice to fellow indie developers creating their own point and click game?
Always stay true to yourself in the project you are creating. Never compromise on what you think the market dictates. Instead, make the game you would love to play. Put every drop of passion in the game and it’ll show.
What point and click games would you recommend to our readers?
Ah! So many. But, the greats are Grim Fandango, Monkey Island 3 and the Broken Sword series. One of the more obscure games I love is called Sanitarium. If you’ve not played it, give it a go!
Thanks so much to Mr. Kruger for taking the time to answer our questions! We’ll look forward to the release of Nine Noir Lives on PC next year!
Be sure to check out the game’s demo, available June 16th-22nd, as part of the Steam Game Festival.
Wishlist the game on Steam.