Indie Developer Interview: Spry Fox

Cozy Grove, a mellow life sim set on a charming island, was published by Spry Fox on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, and iOS in 2021. The studio recently joined me via email to discuss the game for The Avocado.

Please tell us about your studio’s history in the game industry.

We started around twelve years ago as a bootstrapped 2-man studio hoping to make little, original games. We’re probably best known for our games Triple Town, Alphabear and Cozy Grove, if I had to guess, but we’ve made many more than that. 

For those unfamiliar with it, could you please give a brief description of Cozy Grove?

In Cozy Grove you are a Spirit Scout stranded on an island haunted by ghost bears. Your purpose is to help them remember their stories and come to terms with their deaths. The game works in real time and you progress by developing your relationship with every bear day by day and completing quests to help them. Cozy Grove is inspired by Animal Crossing and has a similar vibe (gameplay-wise, less so narrative-wise) to that. Players of Cozy Grove enjoy decorating their island, filling up their various collections, taking care of their pets… that sort of thing.

How long did it take to develop the game and what were the greatest or most surprising hurdles?

It took approximately two years to develop, which was longer than we expected. We faced some very unexpected technical challenges with the game that resulted from our unusual approach to generating/regenerating the island procedurally on a daily basis.

What inspired Cozy Grove‘s pleasantly spooky aesthetic and setting?

Daniel Cook, the lead designer, wanted the island to be reminiscent of where he grew up in Maine, so that explains the pleasant aesthetic in part. Noemi Gomez, the lead artist, has a wonderfully sweet and whimsical art style which is of course very much responsible for the feeling as well. The spookiness is of course driven by the narrative, but as you know, it’s not particularly spooky all things considered.

One of my favorite elements of the game is that – unlike the mechanically-similar Animal Crossing – characters don’t give you a hard time when you log back in after an absence. Was this an intentional decision? If so, does it reflect an overall philosophy that you are applying to the life-sim genre?

It was definitely an intentional decision on our part. We believe that your time has value, and we don’t want this game to punish you in any way when your life gets in the way of playing. You can make Cozy Grove a part of your daily routine for a few minutes or a few hours a day if you like, and you can take breaks from the game without losing anything.

You have been making frequent updates over the last six months or so; do these tend to be inspired by behind-the-scenes playtesting/brainstorming, or are they more often related to player feedback?

I would say it’s both. There are features we wanted to do from the start, for example we knew we wanted to add tent interiors which is part of our latest big update, but we also like to respond to player feedback as often as possible. Most of our QoL changes are based on player feedback. There’s a lot of value in their response to the game; we happen to have an awesome community of players who are generally very sweet and very constructive with their feedback. 

Who is your favorite character in Cozy Grove?

We can’t possibly answer that, it’s like picking your favorite kid! One of the nicer things we’ve seen so far is people relating to different bears as they progress through the game and learn more about their stories. There are some fan favorites for sure, Allison, Patrice and Ted for example. We have to admit we have a soft spot for Ted, he rocks.

Are there any gameplay mechanics or story sequences that didn’t make it into the finished product? If so, what caused them to be cut?

No, at this point everything we’d hoped to add to the game has been added via updates. I remember feeling a profound sense of relief when the Autumn Update went live — that was the moment when Cozy Grove became the game that I’d always hoped it would be.

What are your plans for the near future?

There will be a Winter and a Spring update! We hope players will love those. After that, we’re not yet sure. Perhaps it will be time to start thinking about a sequel then.

Cozy Grove is available now on Apple Arcade, Steam, the Epic Games Store, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch.

Follow Spry Fox on Twitter to keep up with all the latest on this game and future projects. If you’d like to see more from me, you can find me on Twitter under the handle @Brakeman90. Thanks for reading, and be sure to let everyone know what you think about Cozy Grove in the discussion below.