No Moss Studios Interview

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Located in Sydney, No Moss Studios is a small development company founded in 2017 under the larger No Moss Co company umbrella. The small studio department is run by Reuben Moorhouse, who was named as one of MCV Pacific’s 30 under 30 in Aus/NZ Game Development back in 2019.

The developers have worked on a number of Australian Indie titles, including Techno Chicken, Duped, and DragonBear Studio’s Innchanted. No Moss Studio also consults for other companies, helping businesses better interact with their users.

As a company, the team focuses on making games for everyone. Their aim is to improve the local and national game development industry, participating in various local game events and groups.

Who are No Moss Studios and what’s your role in it?

Reuben: So No Moss is a company that’s been around for a while. Gosh, I wasn’t there at its founding, but something like 2014. I started as a tech consultant with the goal of giving people the ability to chase down the types of work that they want to do more of. I joined No Moss doing traditional software development in 2015, it would have been. And one of the things that I was doing at the time was working on a lot of my own games projects.

And so because one of the core goals is allowing people to pursue and build out the types of work that they enjoy, I started working on games consulting. Which eventually splintered off into No Moss Studios, which is its own part of No Moss that focuses on games and interactive media consulting and game development.

So basically, anything that might use Unity, that’s the kind of stuff that we do. Traditional game development, but also things like AR and VR, and those kinds of interactive technologies that are definitely in the same kind of sphere.

So No Moss Studios specialises in Unity over Unreal?

Reuben: Uh, not by choice, just by happenstance I suppose. But yes, mostly in Unity. I’ve worked in Unity for a long time. I’ve also done some other things like web development, and will sometimes do things like web based projects or some Unreal stuff.

We’ve got one Unreal project that we’re working on at the moment and a high majority of our work is in Unity, just because that’s what’s coming in.

So you said that No Moss Studios is a subsidiary of No Moss. Do you have any idea how the No Moss name originated?

Reuben: I do. “A rolling stone gathers no moss,” is where it comes from. Basically, under the idea that it is similar to always pushing towards the kind of work that we want to be doing. Part of the goal is to make sure that we’re constantly doing new things, keeping things fresh, staying on top of the curve, that kind of stuff. Always pushing forward to things that excite us so that we’re not stagnating and gathering moss, I suppose if we go back to the analogy, so therefore – ‘No Moss’ – we’re a company that gathers no moss, hopefully.

I think it’s great to have your mantra as part of your studio name.

Reuben: Yeah, it’s a funny one. I think often people will get confused by it be like, well, that’s a very weird name for a company. But once we explain it, it makes sense.

So, No Moss Studios works with a number of different developers on games in consultancy roles, as well as taking on different aspects of the games. What’s that creative process like?

Reuben: Yeah, so I guess the real driving factor is just that we like working on things that are interesting and exciting. So we will come across projects or companies will reach out to us for assistance with things. We have built up a number of skills just from the fact that we’ve worked on things that we like, including a lot of networking stuff recently.

But the process of working with these organisations is great. I really love the idea of just being able to meet a studio that has a project that they care about a lot of course and then we come in and we also fall very deeply in love with this project that they clearly love and get to add our kind of special stuff to it.

And then you know, after six months or however much time, is right around when you start to get naturally just a little bit exhausted from being so deeply involved with the project. You get to be like “I fell in love with this project. I gave a lot to it and I’m happy to move on to a different thing” and it naturally fits just the way of working.

Yeah, just like meeting a project, falling really deeply in love with it for a serious amount of time and then going, all right, and good luck. We’ve done all we can, what we set out to do and now we’re going to head off to a different project that we get to fall deeply in love with all over again.

I think that’s just really wonderful from a creative perspective, because I think that’s roughly around the amount of time that I will become really passionately invested in a thing after about six months. It’s usually, “Okay, I’m ready to do something else and fall in love with something else.”

No Moss Studios has also been creating a number of online resources recently. What was the drive behind this?

Reuben: I think it comes back to just wanting to do different things. And as we dive into different areas, you know, we think it’s the right thing to do to just kind of leave a little marker of some of the things that we’ve learned along the way. We want to be part of this industry in Australia and globally as a whole, just kind of contributing as much as we can.

So whenever we kind of hack our way through something that’s complex that doesn’t have documentation, very good documentation, or is new to us, or that we think there aren’t that many good guides written to help people through it. You know, I guess, it’s just kind of the right thing to do.

And to leave a little bit behind us as we go, just so there’s like, bits and pieces that we can use for other people who might come across it, or even if you know, other team members that are at the studio, working on something with a different client, we have resources that you can send to them. So it’s both practical for us, but also our way of just making sure that we’re giving back when we have struggled through something that we think could have been easier if there are more resources online.

Those kinds of online guides and online resources are everything to newly budding developers.

Reuben: Yeah, I agree. And a lot of the stuff that we’ve come across has been self taught, because often we’ll find a project that we want to work on or a project that we work on internally, and we think, okay, we really want to dive into this technology. And often that’s things that are somewhat new and somewhat, you know, emerging, and there’s just often not good documentation for that kind of stuff, right? I remember a while ago, we worked on a project for feature phones.

So like, you know what phones used to be like before smartphones, which are kind of prohibitively expensive to have in places such as developing nations. Having a phone is basically the way you will access the internet. People can’t always afford smartphones, so we have feature phones. Feature phones are still a huge market there and we were in talks with a company that’s producing the operating systems for those phones that want to build a kind of ecosystem of games and stuff like that.

So we’re kind of exploring some of these. So we might want to use these different types of technologies. You know these are the types of things that are really new or different. And we didn’t have any idea what that was like. And this was an operating system that they were building out as we were talking to them. So it’s not like there was great documentation around it.

So it’s those exact kinds of things, where leaving just a bit of breadcrumbs behind us is good in case we ever want to dive down that route again, or just to add to the knowledge that exists around these kinds of weird and emerging things in the world.

It sounds like you’re doing amazing things across a lot of different fronts. Which leads me to ask what made you decide to join Game Plus?

Reuben: I think I touched on the idea before, I feel like because we have a slightly unique story where we’ve come basically as a splintering off from a different organisation. I’ve never felt like we were especially connected to the local industry that much.

We’ve tried to do things to strengthen that; we’ve done events, we’ve done some jams, we obviously will go to local events, like Beer & Pixels here. But even so, I feel like the industry in Sydney is so small that it really is important to band together with the rest of the industry in some way.

And so one of the steps towards doing that it’s just making sure that we’re in more spaces where people are making games and obviously Game Plus is one of those. One of very few in Sydney, so it’s definitely a good one to chase down.

And just in talking about that, how do you feel about the state of the games industry in Australia?

Reuben: Ah, optimistic I think, you know, I mean I really do love the spirit of games that are produced here in Australia. There’s a real soul to them, I guess I would say. I’m talking about the bigger successes, like Untitled Goose Game or Hollow Knight, you can really strongly feel the soul coming out of those games.

But that’s not just true of the bigger games, even for smaller teams, you know, you’ll find smaller, soulful projects all over the place in Australia. Such as Frog Detective which is an example that I like to point to, because obviously, that’s a fairly small team, but it oozes creativity and passion and quirkiness in a very kind of Australian way. Necrobarista is another example.

Like there’s so many games that are so iconically Australian, I don’t even know what to call it, I wouldn’t call it a sense of humour, I just call it like an atmosphere. And so I think the soul of creativity and passion in the Australian games industry is great. I think historically, we haven’t had a lot of support to take those projects and make them as big and as wide reaching as they could be.

Obviously, that is starting to change. It is better in Melbourne than it is in Sydney officially, but it’s starting to change on a kind of Australia-wide scale with things like tax incentives and stuff. Those are mainly targeted at big businesses, it is definitely the kind of thing where as bigger organisations are able to come in and set up shop here it can just kind of breathe more life and funds into the industry, I suppose.

So, yeah, definitely optimistic in the sense that I think we’ll have some big industries and big organisations coming in and setting up shop here more in the future, and then that will hopefully raise the tide for everybody, basically.

No Moss Studios has a game coming out into early access soon. Is there anything you could tell us about this?

Reuben: Yeah, I think we’re at that point where I think we can talk about it, which is very exciting. Gosh, this is one of the first times that I’ve talked about it publicly so I apologise, haven’t got all the wording 100 percent yet. How do I lead into this?

The short answer is we reached out to the company that produces Sea-Monkeys and asked if we could work on a project with them basically, because I love Sea-Monkeys conceptually. So we will soon have the official Sea-Monkeys mobile game coming out so you can grow your own little Sea-Monkeys and pet them and form very deep connections with these kinds of virtual aquatic friends.

So yeah, it’s pretty exciting! I’ve loved Sea-Monkeys for a long time, as just like a weird, quirky thing that exists. So on the drive down to Canberra for a convention for Gamma Con, I was talking to some of the other students and members just about, you know, if we were able to work on any project, what would it be? And I raised the idea of Sea-Monkeys and we sent an email to the IP holder just being like, “Hey, do you want to chat?” And about six months later, we actually were able to set up working on the project, which is kind of a weird story, but it’s fine, it just works out like that sometimes.

Who has the IP for Sea-Monkeys?

Reuben: Well, here’s the thing. It’s a complex and troubled story because… well… I guess I won’t get into it too much but basically it was a complicated legal matter for a while but the original family of the original inventor has now reclaimed the IP to Sea-Monkeys as of semi-recently.

And now they are able to kind of keep building it as a brand and we are luckily enough to be a part of the wave of new Sea-Monkeys products that you’ll see starting to come out. Things like Sea-Monkeys again, but obviously also physical products and stuff like that. So yeah, we were really fortunate to come along right when they were starting to look into some of this stuff anyway. So we just lucked into chatting to them at the right time and started talking to the CEO of this company and yeah, it all just kind of happened from there, I guess.

So are Sea-Monkeys coming back in fashion?

Reuben: So because of this legal battle that seemed to be kind of embroiled in, they really fell off from like 2005 to 2015 or so. But now they are finally back with the original IP holders. So they’re starting to come back into the limelight a bit, I suppose. And we’re very fortunate to be a part of that.

I think it’s due in part to COVID – maybe it’s just that I’ve been looking for Sea-Monkeys stuff more – but I’ve been noticing people getting more into Sea-Monkeys as a COVID, hobby kind of vibe. They’re very low maintenance. They don’t require a huge amount of energy to put into them to kind of keep them fun and exciting. So they’re a perfect COVID hobby, I think.

So I’ve been seeing more and more people doing Sea-Monkey stuff on my Twitter and all that jazz. If you go looking for the Sea-Monkey Subreddit, you’ll find people who have really complex setups and stuff. I actually didn’t realise how complex of a world it was until it started to dip my toe into it. But it is. It is very interesting, that’s for sure.

Do you have any kind of timeframe or anything you can tell us about this Sea-Monkeys: Zen Aquarium?

Reuben: Yeah, I mean we’re polishing up the final parts of the first early access build at the moment. So I would anticipate that within a few weeks, towards the end of March, it will be publicly available. People can publicly join the early access version and try it out.

And let us know what you think. There’s a link in there to give us some feedback and obviously we are going to be building it out with the community that plays it as we go and kind of continuing to support it. The goal is for this to be a project that evolves with the community over the next however long years, months, etc. So people if interested, check it out. Let us know what you’d like to see. And we’ll keep building it out and making it the perfect Sea-Monkeys collection and kind of nurturing experience, I suppose.

I know, it still seems very weird to me to say that from, you know, a toy that I had when I was eight or nine. But it’s fun that this is basically what being in the games industry can be like sometimes, you just get to work on really cool things that you wouldn’t expect.

You can stay informed on No Moss Studio’s latest developments on their website and social media accounts.

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