With games like Triple Town, Leap Day, and the upcoming Road Not Taken, Spry Fox are known for high-quality games. But how do they get to this point? Well, Andrew Fray of Spry Fox gave a talk at Falmouth University recently discussing just what goes into a Spry Fox game, and it involves building fast, building often, and being merciless with ideas that don’t work.
Spry Fox is an advocate of coming up with lots of ideas, but killing off those ideas whenever possible. They start with simple design documents, coming up with many of them, only advancing the ones whose ideas have promise, and sidelining ones that aren’t a good idea for now. Once in the prototyping phase, they avoid putting in art for as long as possible, such that they don’t want to have a game’s style obscure key issues with a game.
If a prototype isn’t up to snuff after it’s been worked on and playtested both internally and externally, then they’ll kill it. It’s not easy – they’ve had games prototyped for up to three months before killing them because there wasn’t enough fun or because it wouldn’t monetize well.
And Spry Fox keeps this in mind. If a game might require designing hundreds of levels but only sell for a few dollars on Steam, it might not be worth making. Or if a game fits as free-to-play on mobile but wouldn’t appear to monetize well, they’ll pass it up. And if the game is a poor fit for what they make, such as if it’s too complex to learn, even if it provides lots of fun, they’ll kill it too. Leap Day might never make it to full release because of its steep learning curve.
Their size allows them some advantages that a much smaller team might not have, such as being able to balance many designs and prototypes at once, even ‘siloing’ prototypes within groups of the team so that they can get fresh eyes within their own ranks. And some studios can’t afford to kill off a three-month old prototype. Still, given Spry Fox’s track record of quality games, Andrew Fray’s talk is worth the watch (and slides worth the read) for the lessons that can be gleaned from it.