Key staff Tanya X Short (co-founder, captain); Xin Ran Liu (co-founder, art director)
Selected softography Boyfriend Dungeon, Lucifer Within Us, Moon Hunters, The Shrouded Isle
Current projects TBA
Portfolios don’t come much more adventurous than that of Kitfox Games. The Montreal studio’s latest is Boyfriend Dungeon – a saucy rendezvous between visual novel and action-RPG in which weapons transform into hotties who are levelled up through dating. The game follows cyber-theocratic whodunnit Lucifer Within Us, cult-horror village manager The Shrouded Isle, and fantasy adventure Moon Hunters, in which your deeds form a constellation in the sky for the guidance of future generations.
If Kitfox has formed quite the constellation itself, what really makes the studio worth watching right now is its thoughtful reconsideration of its own working practices as it expands into publishing other studios’ games. Consider the recent decision to trial a four-day week. “We don’t know if it’s going to be a permanent change or just an experiment,” co-founder and ‘captain’ Tanya X Short says. “You can find studies that supposedly prove you get as much done in four days as five, but I personally don’t believe it – I’m sure you lose something. But if it dramatically increases everybody’s quality of life, and increases their feeling of engagement and joy in working, and we can afford it as an employer, then I feel like we are almost ethically compelled.” There has been occasional overtime worked at Kitfox, she admits, but the studio is otherwise “very disciplined” in terms of the nine-to-five. “We believe in slow and steady.”
Founded in 2013, Kitfox was a chance meeting between a couple of kindred spirits at very different stages in their careers. Short (whose unconventional title sees her acting as designer, producer, writer, marketing strategist and more besides) had spent years at Funcom working on Age of Conan and The Secret World, with side projects including Pixelles, an advocacy programme for women game-makers. Xin Ran Liu, by contrast, barely had a credit to his name at that point. “I had worked very briefly at Behaviour Interactive on mobile games [as a concept artist], but I felt that I wanted something a bit more creative. And so around that time that I watched Indie Game: The Movie, and I was like, wow, this is great – I want to make my own games.”
There was a funding opportunity in the shape of incubator Execution Labs, founded the year before. “It was this rare moment where someone would give us some money and business training to make a studio,” Short says. “And for me, I’d been working in a bigger studio, and it sounded fun to try something new.” Liu first bumped into Short via Montreal’s game-jamming scene. “That actually didn’t work out, but I guess she kept my portfolio [because] when she was looking for someone to start a studio with, she contacted me,” he recalls. “I only had six months of actual professional experience, and someone was asking me to become art director. I was a bit scared, but I like a challenge!” Joined by Fathom Interactive alumnus Jongwoo Kim and programmer Mike Ditchburn, Short and Liu decided to try working together for half a year. The rest, as they say, is history.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
THE MAKING OF... CHICORY: A COLORFUL TALE
From broad strokes to tiny details, how a team of five crafted an adventure-game ode to creativity
How 1047 Games went from dorm-room Halo to 13m players and a valuation of $1.5bn
Pearl Abyss on the inspirations behind the unexpected hit of Gamescom
An open-world adventure embracing its time in the sun
Jett: The Far Shore
PC, PS4, PS5
Sin & Punishment: Successor Of The Skies
How Treasure came out all guns blazing for its last big game
The Montreal indie on boyfriends, Dwarf Fortress, and avoiding overwork
THE SECOND COMING
In 1999, Sony launched what would become the best-selling game console of all time. These are the stories of the people on the ground
Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy
Can Eidos Montreal get the best out of the MCU’s misfits?
CHINA CRACKDOWN ON APPLE STORE HITS HOLY BOOK APPS, AUDIBLE
Amazon’s audiobook service Audible and phone apps for reading the holy books of Islam and Christianity have disappeared from the Apple store in mainland China, the latest examples of the impact of the country’s tightened rules for internet firms.
LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
Simone Biles leads Team USA to Tokyo—finally—for the Summer Olympics. Here’s your guide to the most compelling competitors going for gold in your favorite sports
YOU WANTED LOTS OF BLOOD? ‘MORTAL KOMBAT' LISTENED
The first death in the “Mortal Kombat” reboot occurs less than three minutes in, which is actually pretty coy. This is a movie, after all, based on a video game where the point is bloody violence.
Not-So-Great Green Jobs
Clean energy isn’t a wellspring of the better-paying union jobs Biden has been touting
Girl Power, Inc.
Disney’s live-action Mulan loses the songs but amps up the corporate nationalism.
TOTAL PEACE PART III
The definition of peace gets stretched to its limit as we continue our pacification of Ancient China.
Insta360 One X
Capturing panoramic images has never been this easy
ROBOPONY: CHINESE ROBOT MAKER SEES DEMAND SURGE AMID VIRUS
While other industries struggle, Liu Zhiyong says China’s virus outbreak is boosting demand for his knee-high, bright yellow robots to deliver groceries and patrol malls looking for shoppers who fail to wear masks.
THE RISE OF A WORLD CHAMP
An Olympic reserve months ago, Wang beats Sun to win title and seeks to improve further
Expo a key channel for global trade collaboration
International imports show in Shanghai a premier platform for companies worldwide to showcase their latest products and services. China Daily reports