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13 Sep 2018
For Wellington independent game development studio Little Lost Fox, creating an award-winning studio and game wasn’t the plan.
But after the unexpected success of their first mini-game, Grow, doors began to open and quickly led to their newly released game Valleys Between.
Little Lost Fox began during a week of game prototype creation based on the theme of environmental awareness. The team of six (three artists; three engineers) concocted a game that allowed the player to grow and influence a tiny world.
In 2017, the team submitted Grow to New Zealand’s game development conference Play by Play hoping to win the Student Award. To their surprise, they took home not one but four awards including the Excellence in Design, Overall Outstanding, Student and People’s Choice awards.
Fast forward nine months and Grow has bloomed into the eye-catching puzzle game Valleys Between. Little Lost Fox celebrated the release of Valleys Between on iOS, Apple’s mobile operating platform, at the end of August 2018.
The small studio received an incredible amount of support from the wider Wellington game development community. Niamh Fitzgerald, the studio’s frontwoman, said it was thanks to their funding partners and mentors, Wellington-based game development studios Dinosaur Polo Club and Dry Cactus, that they made it to the release date.
“The technical development is one side of creating a game, but the business side is a whole other story. The mentorship we’ve received has been invaluable,” says Niamh.
Little Lost Fox works out of the Dinosaur Polo Club studio (developers of game Mini Metro) and have witnessed the close-knit and supportive culture of Wellington’s game development scene first hand.
“In the game development world, we’re not really “competing” with each other. One game is never going to meet every player’s wants and needs, so everyone is very open to supporting each other. So many companies, small and large, reached out to us to offer their support and mentorship.”
Many larger Wellington-based game studios offered advice and support, including Pikpok. For Niamh and the team, it was less about whether their game could be made in Wellington and more about how they would make it. Wellington is a city that supports small companies to the fullest, especially those that are innovative.
Niamh says iteration was the key to developing Valleys Between - the team created over fifty iterations of the game, chopping and changing components to create the best gameplay possible. It was important to the team that changes made didn’t impact their core values: environmentalism, mindfulness and inclusion.
Valleys Between is designed to strike a balance between being relaxing, but also intentional and engaging. The game can be played with one hand – needing swipes up and down only – meaning people with temporary or permanent accessibility issues aren’t excluded.
Language barriers are avoided for international players with the game being text-light, as well as being translated into 11 languages.
“We wanted to make a game that people could play for five minutes – while waiting for the bus or before a meeting to get into the right headspace,” says Niamh.
Twitter plays a large role in the game’s communication and marketing. Niamh prefers the platform as it connects game developer and gamers worldwide.
Niamh often addresses issues players have through Twitter.
“Twitter is more like having a casual chat with people, compared to a formal email.”
Valleys Between is available now through the App Store.
Haritina Mogoșanu got hooked on space when she was six. Now her job is to get us hooked, too.