NetEase launches Cross- Genre Single Player Sci Fi Game For PC

Miaozi launched its first title globally on Steam last Friday. Called Cygnus Enterprises, the game, in the studio’s own words, is a “cross-genre single-player sci-fi game for PC.

NetEase launches Cross- Genre Single Player Sci Fi Game For PC

Miaozi, led by lead producer Oscar Lopez and creative director Eva Jobse, released its first title on Steam last Friday. The game, dubbed Cygnus Enterprises, is a “cross-genre single-player sci-fi game for PC that puts the player in charge of an outpost on an alien planet” that “alternates between small-scale city management and action RPG gameplay.”

Foreigners have been fleeing China in droves since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid the country’s strict “zero-COVID” restrictions, which had limited people’s domestic and international travel for nearly three years until rules were recently relaxed. So I was surprised when NetEase, China’s second-largest gaming company, said it had an expat-led studio in Shanghai working on a game for the last three years.

Both NetEase and its rival Tencent have shifted their focus to international expansion as regulatory restrictions impede their domestic success. Apart from acquiring small Western studios, the two Chinese behemoths have been actively recruiting international talent.

Tencent’s most profitable studio, TiMi, launched its North American operation in early 2020, and its internal rival (the company is known for encouraging in-house competition), Lightspeed, did the same this year. This May, NetEase also opened its first US studio in Austin.

While many foreigners fled China during the months-long lockdown in Shanghai this spring, Miaozi’s international employees stayed and found the situation had little impact on their work.

“It worked really well for us,” Lopez said in an interview. “We did not leave China during the COVID period. China was a very safe place to be, and we basically concentrated on our development. The company and our team had all the infrastructure needed to develop from home in case it was needed at some point.”

“You can grow anywhere in the world,” he added. “Of course, it’s better if you’re face-to-face; it’s always easier to engage in communication and solve problems. But the truth is that the pandemic had little impact on us.”

The studio’s name alludes to the team’s fondness for China. Miaozi is an abbreviation for the sound of cats, “meow,” and “baozi,” a soft, fluffy, filled bun popular in China — two things that the team of 50 employees adores.

“Downstairs around the office, there’s a convenience store called FamilyMart, and what people frequently get during lunchtime are these baozi, and everyone loves these baozi,” Jobse explained affectionately of Shanghai workers’ daily routine. “However, they also adore cats. There’re a lot of street cats there outside and people pat them and feed them food.”

“We wanted to have something that is cross-cultural and loved by everyone, as well as something that the Chinese and the rest of the team would understand,” Jobse explained.

The creative director of the game was inspired by Chinese science fiction, which generally conveys a more uplifting message than their Western counterparts; in recent years, the government has encouraged “positive energy” in news, arts, and culture rather than cynical, negative sentiments.

“We were able to create a sci-fi game for PC that is both innovative and positive,” Jobse said. “Right now, science fiction IPs are very, very focused on the negative and the dangers of space or alien creatures.”

She went on to reference the influence of The Wandering Earth, a blockbuster Chinese sci-fi film loosely based on a short story by Liu Cixin, the author of “The Three-Body Problem”.

“There are actually a lot of inspiring little details that we could use.”The Wandering Earth, for example, embodies the spirit of collaboration and working together to overcome this obstacle. They want to work together to achieve a common goal, even if they come from different cultures or backgrounds.”

Foreign investments and partnerships shape the development of China’s gaming sector, as they do in many other industries. International gaming publishers coveted China’s rapidly expanding internet population, and Chinese gaming companies were eager to learn from their more established Western counterparts.

NetEase has a long history of collaborating with foreign publishers, having recently completed a 14-year licencing agreement with Blizzard Activision to operate the latter’s game in China.

Due to fierce competition in the Chinese market, a new generation of internet companies has emerged that prioritise short-term profits over long-term innovation. It’s a fine line to walk. Lopez believes his team has a lot of creative freedom as long as certain expectations are met.

“Within our game development studio, we are goal-oriented. We are expected to complete a game within the time and budget constraints. “Our freedom exists within those boundaries,” he explained.