Monday, October 18, 2021

The Future Fancy Fish Games

After the launch and final post-launch updates of Aground, we floundered (hah) for a bit deciding what to do next. We made many prototypes - several of which were put on hold, before finally settling on two games. Yes, that’s right, we’re working on two big games right now, and if that wasn’t wild enough, we also just finished a third game in a month-long game jam that you can play right now for free!

Stardander School for Witches

After finishing </reality>, the Visual Novel we made right before starting Aground, we had many ideas for better story-based games. But, at the time, we decided to hold off on them because of how challenging the visual novel market is. However, we both really like the magical school setting and kept trying to think of ways to make our witchy game idea better. We had loads of ideas before, during and after Aground’s development - from a tower-defense based game, to a multiplayer-only game. But, eventually we settled on a management/simulation style game where you can recruit, train, and battle with your witches - sort of like Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

This game is Stardander School for Witches, a narrative-heavy RPG rich in lore and worldbuilding, focusing on Dare (the fae cat you play as) and the witches she recruits. You can view the trailer for Stardander School for Witches below:

Stardander School for Witches will release Fall 2022, and you can wishlist it right now on Steam!

Aground Zero

We also wanted to do something directly related to Aground, but I always want to try something new, and making DLC for the base game just didn’t excite me. I wanted to change the art style, as a lot of people didn’t like the pixel art. The idea for Aground Zero came to me when I was reminiscing about one of our first commercial projects, I Can’t Escape: Darkness (ICED), which was a 3D game. I really liked a lot of the things I did for ICED, especially the lighting system (and I even had plans for a sequel), and I thought - why not make a 3D Aground spinoff? This idea was shortly before April, and prompted the April Fool’s joke of Aground: Minecraft Edition - a farcical but also partially true joke.

Aground Zero takes place during the events of the main game - but deep underground on Earth where you are one of the few survivors of the bombardment. You have to build up a bunker and rescue other survivors and eventually make your way to the surface. While it’ll have the mining and crafting of Aground, it’ll focus more on the base building aspects - taking the ideas from my scrapped colony update for Aground. You can view a short teaser for Aground Zero below:

You can wishlist Aground Zero on Steam now:

Stardander Revenant

As if making two games at the same time wasn’t enough, when the Spooktober visual novel jam came around, we couldn’t resist making a halloween-themed spinoff of Stardander. The core mechanics are the same as Stardander School for Witches, but the story, characters and enemies were all made in the month of September for the jam.

Stardander Revenant is short (1-2 hours) and story-focused, but I definitely like the interactions between the two main characters (fun fact: they are based on our cats). You’ll also have some interesting battles (especially on hard mode) that require you to utilize the spells that your two older witches have learned (and you get to teach them some more spells along the way). You can view the trailer for Stardander Revenant below:

And you can play Stardander Revenant now, for free, in your browser or as a downloadable!

Wrapping Up

That’s a lot of announcements to go through, and it looks like 2022 is going to be a busy year for us at Fancy Fish Games! Which game are you most excited for? Did you give Stardander Revenant a try?

And, after having made many prototypes, I have plenty of ideas for what to make next! My game ideas document continues to grow (now at 61 entries), so Stardander and Aground Zero are only the beginning! Look forward to a lot more from Fancy Fish Games!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Year in Review: 2020

It's hard to believe that my last real Year in Review was for 2016. I haven't been keeping up with this blog as much as I'd like, but this time it's been because of how busy we were with Aground between 2017 and 2020.


In April 2020, we finally released the full version of Aground, and over the summer we released our final major content update - the Hybrid Path. As difficult as 2020 was for everyone in the world - us included - Aground's launch was by far the biggest success we've ever had. We are so proud of how far the game and its community has come. Achieving an "overwhelmingly positive" review score was one of my long-standing goals as a game developer, and even though it is just a number, it was really special when we finally reached it.

The console ports for Aground are nearly ready to launch - so look forward to that early this year on the PS4, Switch and XBox One. Beyond that, while we've considered expansions/sequels/DLC for Aground, we kind of feel like it is done, and has a strong, complete story, and we are ready for something new. We may come back to Aground at some point, but it will not be our next project.

The big question is: what comes next?


So, what DOES come next for Fancy Fish Games? When in doubt, I do what I've done in the past (and what actually gave rise to Aground) - rapid prototypes to find out what works, and what to focus on. We now have several prototypes, and while we aren't fully decided, it's likely we'll be working on Stardander School for Witches (previously called Witch Academy) next. Which is funny, as in my 2016 year in review, one of our goals was to push this project forward after </reality>.

Ideas have been circulating for this game for a long while, and Natalie has already done a lot of art for it (as you can see above), but only recently have we put together a strong prototype for it. I'm also very proud of the battle system, which is one thing I've struggled with in other game designs.