The second we heard of Moonglow Bay, we knew we just had to know more. Perhaps it was the visual artstyle, or maybe it was the overall premise. In fact, it may just have been the chance to take in a little bit of fishing whilst getting on with life. Whatever it was though, Moonglow seemingly oozes quality. Thankfully the team at Bunnyhug Games were up for a bit of a chat, happily divulging more info prior to Moonglow Bay releasing on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC and Xbox Game Pass soon.
Please could you introduce yourself. What has been your role in the development of the superb looking Moonglow Bay?
Zach: Heya! I’m Zach, the Creative Director on Moonglow Bay, and general leading of the game’s design and direction is what I do. Though we’re a small studio, we tend to wear many hats. For instance, I also do the 3D Voxel art.
Lu: I’m Lu! Art Director on Moonglow Bay and co-founder of Bunnyhug (with Zach). I do everything 2D (visual development, concept art, illustrations, UI, etc).
So sell it to us – what is Moonglow Bay all about and why should gamers be interested in it?
Zach: Moonglow Bay is a fishing RPG set in a fictionalised 1980s Eastern Canada. You play as a rookie angler who’s lost their partner at sea and has instilled a deep fear of the ocean around town. With the help of your daughter, you’ll muster the courage to figure out your partner’s disappearance and help dispel the fear in town which is causing its progressive ruin.
What inspirations did you look at during the initial creation for the game?
Zach: Two of the early inspirations for the game were a combination of Harvest Moon and Legend of the River King. I liked the original River King for its approach to fishing and how it felt like a very laid back RPG. I know how fishing can tie to the larger aspect of an RPG and I wanted to bring some of that into Moonglow Bay. Harvest Moon captured the perfect balance of a day to day routine in a small town, learning about people and the linking story, leaving you to do your thing but uncovering secrets as you progress.
As development progressed we took inspiration from more games, like Animal Crossing, especially when it came out as our entire team just jumped on the game. We all played so much haha.
The voxel art style is really interesting. How did you arrive at it?
Lu: Zach and I have collaborated on many art pieces and game mockups together prior to making Moonglow Bay. Zach’s art medium of choice has always been Voxel Art and mine has always been 2D and Pixel Art, so it was a no-brainer that our workflow for the game would be me working on all things 2D (concept art, 2D VFX, UI) and Zach would then come in with everything 3D (squishy voxels and, earlier in the project, animating too).
The particular style of the game was a result of me obsessing over trying to make the game feel like the faded photo albums people had kept from the 80s, and how much warmth I felt leafing through those pages. I’d create concepts in my very rounded artstyle and Zach would bring his own interpretation to it as he created the Voxel Art. Very much a fun collaboration between the both of us!
And keeping to the art, which of the monsters has been your favourite to design?
Zach: By far my favourite are the fish that make you question how or why we designed that fish. Our process for designing tends to be a flow of describing a fish intended for a given area in the ocean. Using the characteristics of the environment we give a silly or sometimes serious description and Lu lays out concepts to choose from and we refine.
That said, my favourite is the Sugar Cube Guppy because wondering if a fish made of sugar could live in salt water is a fun exercise in futility, and it’s the most square fish.
Could you tell us more about the aquatic species found in-game? We understand there are more than 100 included?
Lu: For sure! Even though the game is set in Eastern Canada, it’s a fictional one. So we do have many fish that you’d find in that area of the Atlantic, but, if you ever stumbled upon the game on Twitter, you might have noticed we have revealed some unusual fish.
Zach: They definitely get unusual. Put simply, of the 100+ fish, only a fraction of them are real life fish. We took advantage of the setting to get especially quirky and make fish that’ll excite people and make them laugh as well. With the fish being the core to the game, we’ve given them a lot of variety in their looks and the player will need to use all the tools in their arsenal to find them.
We’re certainly up for the adventure that this promises. How much can we see and do away from the main narrative?
Zach: Finding all the fish, getting and cooking all the meals and learning more about the ocean/people are things you can do outside the main questline. You’ll also be able to invest into the town to help build up some pretty beat up locations. Characters will have some stories of their own you can follow for you to understand why and how they ended up in Moonglow Bay. Taking your time to get comfortable in town with the locals is how we’ve built the game. Relax at sea and upgrade your boat for longer voyages, learn to master the elements and be the best angler.
How have you been able to marry the fishing gameplay into an RPG? Could you possibly chat us through some examples of the fishing mini-games?
Zach: Great question! One of the best ways we found we can marry such mechanics is properly attributing where and how they’ll be used. The primary means of fishing should feel like a form of combat which we treat as an exchange between you and the fish. This can’t last too long but it also can’t be too quick off the bat otherwise you’ll lose interest. Balancing that was most important and we’ve given it multiple layers of complexity which scales with the tools you unlock. Multiple rod types, each with their own technical advantages for fishing, the player will likely have a preference for one over another. Almost like choosing a character class, but less weighted. This means rod fishing is not a mini-game compared to the rest.
You’ll have line fishing which will feel like a musical challenge for the player, letting out multiple lures and needing to execute a sequence of actions in order to catch the most fish. Net fishing will require precision placement when casting out the net as you’ll have a limited line to pull in while grabbing as many pockets of fish as possible.
The fishing mechanics that feel more like mini-games have a shorter duration but will challenge the player in different aptitudes. All in all the best way we found to make these work in an RPG is to give the player choice in how they use their tools.
In terms of recipes, how many are in the game?
Lu: Over 50 recipes! Going from a very simple Fish Pie with an entire fish just… in there… to fancier recipes like Angels on a Horseback.
Could you talk us through a bit of the audio – will the music be in keeping with the chillout feel to the game?
Zach: Most definitely! There’re various tracks in town and at sea which change with the time of day, all to maintain the chill nature of the game. You’ve got music that plays along to your fishing, so it’ll change sometimes to match the intensity of the moments.
And finally, on a scale of 1-10, just how chill is Moonglow Bay?
Lu: If 10 is the chillest, there’s certainly some 9-8 moments out there, but I’d say the game is a 10 most of the time!
Zach: 10 in my books, I often forget I’m testing the game and just sit in my boat listening to the ambient music with soft sounds.
It goes without saying that huge thanks must go out to Zach and Lu for giving us some of their time in what is no doubt a massively hectic period for them. Those same thanks need to be sent the way of Coatsink for setting up this opportunity too.
You’ll find Moonglow Bay delivering a slice of fishing life to Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC and Xbox Game Pass later in 2021. Keep an eye out for it – it promises to provide something absolutely outstanding.