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This game will be deleted from Steam unless players can beat the developers at it

Heroic last flop

A fish peruses a selection of magical spells in Fishards
Image credit: Rivernotch Game Studio

Back in 2020, fresh out of high school and feeling unstoppable, Charles Maddock and a few friends “decided to code a game about Fish Wizards.” The result was Fishards, Magicka-inspired PVP arena action that has you out-squirt, out-splash, and out-spellcast your mates. It’s a charmer, but after two years of dev, release saw it suffer the same sad fate as many multiplayer-only indies. People would play for half hour, says Maddock, then refund the game because they couldn’t find others to play with.

Maddock was 22 at the time - “10% of my life on the project!’ - and while the “devastating” failure of Fishards had set the devs on the different paths, they decided to give it another shot. They made the game free-to-play, and spent all the money they’d earned from sales on marketing. “It brought a few new players into the game but not as many as we'd hoped. Man, marketing is hard.”

Now, following a “long and difficult indie game dev journey,” the team behind Fishards are making one last ditch effort to show their game off to the world:

“Defeat us developers in a team deathmatch tournament 29th June 19:00 CET and we'll make Fishards open source, meaning that the community can fix bugs, implement features and balancing patches...or say good bye to Fishards forever if you lose!!”

“But Nic, this is clearly just a marketing stunt!” Well, obviously. But it’s a cool one, and it deserves just as much coverage as anything else, lest we forget that this is what most of commercial game making is: talented people with cool ideas working hard and failing spectacularly behind the scenes.

If you fancy getting involved, you can find all the details you need on the game's Discord and the game itself on Steam. The game features a nifty elemental-gobbling system where you can create your own spells on the fly, and there’s something incredibly charming about the dead-eyed fish you’ll be playing as. Also, I just wrote the sentence “A fish peruses a selection of magical spells” for an image caption, so the game has already made my day significantly better.

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