Four years ago, in 2019, cozy games were on the rise but not yet quite as saturated as they are today. It was the year the original concept for Paleo Pines, and Lucky the Parasaurolophus, was created by Jordan Bradley as part of a game jam. And when this concept was shared on Twitter it clearly struck a chord with many people at the time. A game about cute dinos? Sign us up! The whole Italic Pig team loved it, so we took the concept into production.
Paleo Pines has evolved a lot since then, but cute dinosaurs in a harmonious countryside remained at the heart of it. The game as we know it now, a mixture of farming sim and creature collector, has gone through many iterations, but in fact didn’t always have farming as a mechanic.
For example, one of the earliest ideas we tried was harvesting dino eggs and trading them. Only that didn’t work. In the wholesome world of Paleo, there was no place for stealing dino babies and selling them. Our dinos are free beings – they live on our ranch of their own free will because they’re our friends. Taking their eggs just felt… wrong.
As the team prototyped and pitched various ideas, Paleo still hadn’t found its feet. Then, in summer 2020, we nailed down the core vision: a love-letter to childhood, and those long breezy summers we all remember. This helped tie everything together – mechanically, visually, and in the audio too. Paleo Pines as we know it now was born.
In our high level vision, we locked down our core pillars: finding and befriending Dinosaurs, a sense of whimsical Discovery, and being part of a harmonious and safe Community by contributing as a Settler running a farm. And we stayed true to these pillars from then on, though not without challenges along the way.
And the dinos were absolutely at the heart of the experience and what would set our game apart. Here is a quote directly from the document we made in 2020.
“The most important part of the Paleo Pines experience are the dinosaurs. Without them, the game would not be Paleo Pines. Interacting with your dinosaurs should feel like they are your friend, your lifelong pet, and your helper. Players build a connection with their dinosaurs gradually, and form a genuine bond. Dinosaurs are a joy to watch, and a joy to interact with. They evoke feelings of childhood nostalgia, of warmth, and of friendship. While riding a dinosaur, the player should feel a sense of empowerment and fun, regardless of the steed.”
Let’s face it, these prehistoric creatures are endlessly fascinating, with new discoveries continually unearthed. While not every game has to be educational or scientifically informed, part of the childhood obsession with dinosaurs is the facts about them. That’s why we worked with a consultant palaeontologist. For example, based on footprints, it’s believed that Parasaurolophus and other hadrosaurids were both bipedal and quadrupedal – that’s why Lucky runs on twos and walks on all fours. And did you know that velociraptors were feathered? This was discovered years after Jurassic Park first aired, so the velociraptor of popular imagination looks quite different to the real thing.
It was fascinating to learn so much about dinosaurs and other creatures as we developed the game further. We had to solve a number of creative challenges where realism wasn’t possible, but still put a lot of thought into. Such as which dinosaurs were best suited to which skills. For example, the Therizinosaurs is a theropod with unusually long claws. It made sense for this dinosaur to become one of our harvesters. Some of our dinos smash rocks. We had long debates whether the Pachycephalosaurus, which has a boney head, would be a suitable smasher. (The answer, in case you’re curious, was yes in the end. But it could have easily gone the other way.)
The Future of Paleo PinesWe have huge dreams for Paleo Pines including expanding the world, introducing more dinos, bringing the game to other entertainment formats – but all of this will be decisions to be made in the future because right now our focus is on ensuring the the current players of the game are well taken care of through support for bug patches and introducing new players to our welcoming Discord community. It’s also crucially important to us that any further development is fan-led because now that it’s out into the world, this game doesn’t belong to us any more and we owe it to those that have supported us to listen and respond to what they want to see next.
Paleo Pines released on PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch on September 26th!
You can get the game or play the demo on Steam here
You can grab a copy of the game on consoles through the Paleo Pines website here