In an interview with Replay author Tristan Donovan which Gamasutra has now published in full for the first time, 32-year game industry veteran Rob Fulop describes how virtual pet genre progenitor Petz was indirectly and surprisingly inspired by his previous work on controversial Sega CD game Night Trap.
In the interview, Fulop recalls the embarrassment he felt when 1992's Night Trap -- which featured scenes of scantily clad women being attacked by monsters -- was held up by Congress and others as evidence of the harmful effects games were having on minors.
"Friends of mine, my parents and my girlfriend, didn't really get games," he said. "All they knew was that a game that I had made was on TV, being talked about as being bad for kids. And, you know, Captain Kangaroo came on TV and said, 'This is bad for kids.' It was horrible."
After that experience, Fulop said he was eager to make a game that "was going to be so cute and so adorable that no one could ever, ever, ever say that. ... What's the cutest thing I could make? What's the most, you know, sissy game that I could come out with?"
To find out what kind of family-friendly game ideas would appeal to kids, Fulop actually picked the brains of a mall Santa, who fielded children's gift requests all day long. The Santa at Macy's couldn't have been clearer, Fulop recalls:
"'It's still the same, the most popular thing that kids ask for every year is a puppy. For the last 50 years.' So the two just came together. It was make a puppy. That was really how the idea came out."
Fulop also admits that he wasn't above appealing to players' emotions to sell his game. He recalled giving the game away with five days worth of virtual pet food, then using the virtual pets themselves as bargaining chips in asking $20 for a lifetime supply.
"It's not little puppies that don't cry, you know," he said. "They'd whimper and cry and then you have to delete it and it asks, 'Do you want to delete me?' I mean who can say yes? No, you sit there with it whimpering and your little puppy would say, 'Do you want to delete me?" And who can delete it?"
The full interview also includes Fulop's thoughts on his time at Atari, trying to get funding at Imagic in the '80s, and his experience working on Hasbro's odd VHS-based NEMO console.