Spry Fox is still building a cozy non-violent MMO – and Epic is publishing it

    
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Since last winter, we’ve been covering the encouraging news that Spry Fox, the studio best known for games like Road Not Taken and more recently Cozy Grove, has been working on an MMO – a non-violent game with “awe-inspiring outdoor spaces and intimate village life” that hoped to “improve people’s lives and reduce toxicity and loneliness in the world.” Information on the game was limited to a couple of sneak-peek images, a few lines of teaser, and a stack of job postings that hint at an anti-toxicity stance and crossplatforminess.

Well, we’re getting a tiny bit more info this week, as Spry Fox announced that it’s going with Epic Games as its publishing partner for the game. Here’s the quote from Epic’s side:

“With the mission statement of making ‘the world a happier place’ through games, the award-winning Spry Fox is best known for creating titles with unique mechanics and approachable and unforgettable worlds. Earlier this year, the studio released Cozy Grove, a life-sim game that combined crafting, collection, discovery, and a memorable narrative. The team is now partnering with Epic Games and using Unreal Engine, Epic Online Services, and Epic Account Services to build its most ambitious title to date, a multiplatform, non-violent, persistent multiplayer game designed to encourage friendship and reduce loneliness in the world. The title will support crossplay and cross-progression.”

We do note here that the game is being called a “persistent multiplayer” game in this excerpt, contrary to the posts from January and April, which explicitly used the word MMO. But don’t panic just yet; Spry Fox’s own job posting from one month ago is still calling it a “3rd person, non-violent MMO.” Yay!

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Stormwaltz

Daniel Cook at Spry Fox has done very insightful GDC presentations on multiplayer social design. I’m quite interested to see what they can do with a bigger budget.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

Well, since many, many millions of people don’t have any problem at all with Epic and the Epic Store I’m honestly sure that they’ll probably do pretty well.

I’m being serious. My own personal dislike of Epic is at best “Oldman yells at Cloud” level pointless, and the deal Epic offers to publishers (sign with Epic as a timed or permanent exclusive and get a GIANT PILE OF MONEY) is probably too good for most of them to risk passing it up. Especially when Epic’s counter proposal is “and if you don’t, you can’t list on our store *at all.*” Or at least that’s what it allegedly is for smaller devs, rather than for other major publishers like EA or Activision.

So… giant pile of money and space on a relatively uncrowded launcher that can at least guarantee that millions of pairs of eyeballs can at least have a chance to notice it. Or roll the dice on Steam and risk betting buried by the latest wave of negative-effort asset flips and bargain basement anime porn visual novels.

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Ken from Chicago

I am so sick and tired of companies who keep mimicking Apple or JJ Abrams and think their project has to be a cipher, a cipher wrapped in an enigma smothered in secret sauce. Not when it was unnamed Jean Luc Picard show, or an unnamed MCU movie with an announced released date, or MMOs with an unannounced title.

The title should be about the 2nd or 3rd thing you come up when creating an mmo (aside from setting and/or gameplay style). I’m not even sure which worse, not having a title for a project that’s been announced for months or simply hiding it.

— Grumpy Old Ken from Chicago climbing down from his soapbox

P.S. Back in my day, the title would be announced first, then the cast, crew, setting, story, platform, etc.

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Stormwaltz

I’ll politely disagree with this. A good name has always been hard, and often in flux until the last possible minute. Every time I’ve been involved in the process, it’s taken dozens of meetings and multiple lengthy email chains at minimum. For big-budget major releases it involves negotiation with the publisher and extensive focus testing to ensure it’s marketable.

The process gets harder as time goes on, as copyright becomes tighter, more names get used, and major publishers grow more legally aggressive. Case in point: Homeworld Cataclysm (released in 2000) had to be re-released as “Homeworld Emergence” because Blizzard trademarked “Cataclysm” for a WoW expansion in 2010.

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Ken from Chicago

With all due respect, you’re right. A good name can be difficult.

Making a good MMO is also difficult. You are making a ton of decisions, what’s the setting, how many zones will there be, how many races, how many professions, how many skills, will there be crafting, housing, mounts, pets, a cash shop, lock boxes, will it be a theme park, a sand box, a theme box, a sand park, etc. If by the time the devs are ready to announce they are developing an MMO but they haven’t even settled on a name?

I’m sorry, it undermines my confidence in them just a wee bit. If they have decided on a name but are simply holding back on revealing the name as a way to stretch out news coverage? That seems dumb. An MMO by its very nature is an ongoing thing so naturally news coverage would be ongoing. We only knew the name TITAN but it was a recurring news story.

Yes, I realize flying around the Sun more than 50 times tends to make one settle in ones ways, osify one’s viewpoint. I’ll buy that. I’ll own that. I’m just saying, if you have a baby and don’t have a name for that child, something’s wrong. MMOs are a studio’s baby. Pick out a name.

Yes, I know, the obvious retort is that couples announce they are expecting (no, you are not both pregnant, one is pregnant, one gets the weight gain, morning sickness, hot flashes, weird food cravings, etc.) long before they have picked out a name.

Hmm, I may have sabotaged my point. Picking metaphors can be hard. Wow, that’s not helping my argument either. Wait, I do have a point. Think, think, think.

Ah, got it. Development of a child, and the goodwill toward same is not dependent on a name. Family, friends, loved ones, their feelings toward said child, with rare exception, dependent on a name. The name of an MMO can have a great influence on how people view said MMO–increasing its importance. You don’t want to put all this work into an MMO only to sabotage it with a bad name.

Boom. Nailed it. Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. As the kids used to say … last century. Yeah. 👍🤣