My name is Katie De Sousa. I’m a Creative Director here at Phoenix Labs. It feels delightfully surreal to be able to write this letter to you all, and introduce a game that is very dear to me and my colleagues at Phoenix Labs, Fae Farm, a multiplayer farming adventure RPG set in a charming fairytale fantasy world.
Fae Farm started as a pet project for myself and a couple other developers at Phoenix Labs who felt drawn to work on a project that might bring people not just connection and fun, but comfort and relaxation too.
My friends and I have always been fans of cosy titles, from the original Harvest Moon to the latest Animal Crossing, as well as delightful adventures such as Link’s Awakening. We do, however, often find ourselves wishing these experiences were more open to collaborative multiplayer, or, sometimes any multiplayer.
My group of friends is spread out over all of North America, and games are how we stay connected. Sharing adventures and collaborative goals in games like Valheim and V Rising has brought us hundreds of hours of quality time, however, when I want a cosy and comforting multiplayer experience I find my options are incredibly limited compared to challenging or competition-oriented multiplayer. We love both, and at Phoenix we do both - example Dauntless - but we’re hoping to address that gap with Fae Farm, and create a magical place for players to escape to with their friends, to spend countless hours decorating their houses, or chasing critters, or casting spells. To have fun, play, relax, and be cosy.
This passion project quickly became the most important creative endeavour for me, I was eager to spend more time on it, and make it my full time focus. I actually put in my resignation letter, which was incredibly difficult because I really enjoy working at Phoenix Labs, but couldn’t imagine they were interested in incubating a small little farm sim - I was wrong! Jesse Houston, the CEO of Phoenix Labs, actually texted me the day before what was supposed to be my last day and was like, “So what if you actually just made the game here?” In a very whirlwind series of events, one of which was me sending a retraction of my resignation letter saying something like “Hello! I would like to officially un-resign!”, we arranged for a very small incubation team to work on Fae Farm full time.
For almost all of 2021 we stayed around three people in size, with a few people popping in to help occasionally. For the most part I was in charge of game direction, high level design, and concept art, Ian Holowka was our resident engineer and technical designer, and Jen Morgan was in charge of level design, world art, and some character art too. The three of us wore a lot of hats and stretched beyond those descriptions in order to build the bones of Fae Farm’s basic systems together in that first year. We adopted a much more indie mentality and way of working than we had previously been used to. If we didn’t know how to do something in Blender or Unreal, we’d go find a YouTube tutorial, or a GDC talk, and figure it out instead of looking for someone who was an expert - this has its strengths and weaknesses, but for Fae Farm it allowed us to get to a good enough and playable stage very rapidly.
Those early playtests are some of my fondest memories on the project, all we had was crop growing, a day-night cycle, and very basic mining - but seeing our friends at the studio having fun running around in-game, planting tomatoes, selling goods at the market, smashing crystals in the caves together, it felt like we were on the right path. When they didn’t notice how much time passed in the playtest, that was a very good sign.
As we wrapped up the first year of development, it became clear that the game had quite a bit of potential, and we scaled up our team as we moved from incubation into pre-production, growing from three people to over fifteen in only a few months. Over the following year, the team continued to grow and we’re well over thirty today, and growing still!
We’ve been so grateful to have so many wonderful folks join us on the project, everyone has brought something new to help grow Fae Farm into what it is today, a game that is very much the shape of everyone who has had a hand in making it, which seems incredibly fitting for a game about growing wonderful things and making magic with your friends.
It’s been a delight to read everyone’s positive reactions after seeing the announcement trailer, and I’m excited for the day when folks can actually play the game! I hope you love it as much as I do!