How Moon Beast plans to tap the well of player creators



Most game startups have a tough time marketing their games based on unknown intellectual properties. To deal with that, Moon Beast Productions is working closely with creator communities.

The Austin, Texas-based company is making a fantasy action role-playing game based on an original intellectual property.

Phil Shenk, CEO of Moon Beast, said in an interview with GamesBeat that he is thinking expansively around all types of creators in and around games. He announced the company’s plans last year, and now he’s talking more about Moon Beast’s big vision.

In a nutshell, he said, “We live in a creator age. Creator content touches every part of our lives, and the line between creator and audience is fluid, if it even exists.”

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“Our industry encompasses a wide range of creator roles, each contributing uniquely to the ecosystem. There are folks who make content about games, such as streamers and video creators, as well as ‘theory crafters’ who focus on guides, walkthroughs, character builds, wikis, item databases, and the like,” Shenk said. “And there are modders and developers who make content inside or for the game if it supports it.”

He added, “We consider players as creators as well. Even in a bog-standard ARPG, one of the main motivations is figuring out the best builds, the best tactics, and the best way to progress and beat the game’s challenges. There’s a lot of meta around ARPGs, and it all starts with creative players experimenting and sharing knowledge about the most effective ways to play.”

Sometimes that creativity and passion evolves into a more devoted hobby or business, he said. The
most relevant creators who do it seriously are primarily motivated by their love of playing the game.

“In this world today, the opportunity is where creators are,” Shenk said. “They are everywhere. It’s like an age of creators. You’re interacting with creators directly, and that makes us all complicit as creators. You have to think about building games differently. As developers, let’s just give them a platform to make better ARPG content. We are building a game that is like a hub of all kinds of creators.”

A unique gaming ecosystem

Phil Shenk 2024
Moon Beast CEO Phil Shenk

Shenk said the company is deeply integrating and engaging this ecosystem of creators into the game, as it is not making a “standard” ARPG. The team is leaning hard into creativity as an integral part of
play.

“We start with the bedrock, core mechanics of what makes a great ARPG successful,” Shenk said. “The
itemization, skill design, class roles, MOB design, combat interactions, and other systems we’re proven experts at building. Then we’re transposing all that into a very dynamic, fluid, open-ended world to play in.”

What’s the practical reality of this? To begin with, the team’s worlds are procedurally generated at a
very granular level. Everything about the geography and terrain is unique for every player — from the biomes and geographic features to the borders of the land to the type and placement of adventures to find, it’s all unique for every player.

“These worlds are also dynamic, living, breathing lands that are greatly affected by what players do. No two players will have the same experience in their games, and what you do in your world as you progress is just as important as how you kit out your character,” Shenk said. “Every battle leaves a lasting scar on the land, fires will burn, volcanoes will erupt, and towns will come and go. There are dungeons to uncover and ruins to unearth. Chasms might appear overnight, spewing forth horrors from the underworld. Rains might flood the valleys dividing the land by lakes. Winter may come down from the north mountains, bringing with it a hoard of frozen, ancient terrors.”

The benefit for creators

Parasite On Fire 9 5
A parasite on fire in Moon Beast’s ARPG.

Shenk’s team feels that this is great for gameplay and replayability, but it’s also a goldmine for creators of all types. Unique game worlds mean unique content for streams and videos, it means infinite unique content for walkthroughs and strategies. Any creator, from the biggest streamer to the most casual guide writer, can share their unique world, brand it however they like, and publish it on our portal for others to play, Shenk said.

“Creators aren’t just reacting to the game, they are actively sharing the game worlds they’ve discovered, their crazy unique experiences, and their strategies for how they tackled the world’s unique challenges. Even a player who doesn’t think of themselves as a ‘creator’ can find an awesome world with really weird or unique features and publish it for others to try. It’s taking a concept like boss-runs and blowing it up into ‘world-runs.’ Creators become co-authors, even at this most basic level.”

But beyond that, the game is also going to be highly moddable, enabling creators to take things much
further if they like. Creator-developers are able to make new classes, new bosses, new skills, and items. They can modify the map, build bespoke worlds, or change how worlds are generated.

“I’m a big fan of the Moon Beast team as a creator and, of course, a gamer. They’ve got some really powerful, unique, and innovative ideas that haven’t been fully realized in the genre, and I know they’ve got the pedigree and chops to make it happen. I can’t wait to jump in,” said Ben “Cohh Carnage” Cassel, an influential game streamer and ally for Moon Beast.

They can create new quests and adventures to add variety to anyone’s generated world. Or they can completely change the rules and logic to create new game modes or even new game genres. We expect somebody to create something completely revolutionary, analogous to what multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs, like League of Legends) were to real-time strategy (RTS) games.

CJ “Rhykker” Miozzi, another streamer, said in a statement, “The Moon Beast leaders were the architects of some of my favorite gaming experiences in my youth. This earned them a tremendous amount of goodwill in the ARPG community that remains to this day. I love the vision of their new project for deeply engaging with creators, and I’m excited to see it come together.”

Aligned interests

Sunset canyon 9 5
Sunset in a canyon in Moon Beast’s ARPG.

Moon Beast is directly partnering with creators and creator platforms. Everywhere it can, the company is aligning its success and interest with creators.

“It’s important to point out here our game is about creative ways to play so I’m not saying that we’re ‘catering’ to creators. Our players, all of them, are creators at some level because that’s what the game is
about,” he said. “Anyone who contributes to the awareness, the fun, and/or the engagement of the game should have a stake in that success. As I said, we consider creators to be co-authors, and we’re making sure that we all win together. We’re building many ways for all types of creators to pursue their passion in our game and fuel their hobby or business, and we’ll make sure it’s worth it for them.”

Shenk said this isn’t just about good business, this approach is good for the whole community. Everyone is aligned toward building and promoting entertaining experiences.

“We believe this will fundamentally transform the relationship between us as the developers, creators of all kinds, and the all-important players. It removes any potential conflict of interest because we all succeed in the same way,” Shenk said. “By creating and celebrating fun, entertaining, compelling, and
engaging content.”

One of the realities of game startups now is that many have to try to get to early access from a smaller seed round. Shenk is considering this and the impact on the game’s planning. With more funding, Moon Beast will be able to take control of its narrative, Shenk said. And if it can get creators excited about the content, then it becomes easier to raise funding.

“We talk to creators all the time. That’s very front and center, not just for marketing and distribution. Our game is built for all kinds of creators. We’re building the game to be very moddable,” Shenk said. “It’s not just moddable. Like with Unreal, you can develop inside of our game. You can make subgames. You can make game modes, you can make game types, you can make content for the game. That level of creator has been an underpinning has been a pillar of our game idea from the beginning.”

Demo time

Stranded Lava 9 5
Moon Beast is getting creators involved in its game.

The team is working on a demo now.

“We’re going to a lot on the tools, the creator tools,” Shenk said. “We can build stuff in the game. The content creator mode is not a separate tool. You just go into the mode in the game, and we’ll be showing that at GDC to people.”

Since it’s a sandbox world, each playthrough by a creator will be very different, and it makes for more interesting and replayable content for creators who stream the game.

“There’s a lot of extra depth, not just the world looking unique,” he said. “There are choices about your character build and the items that you find and how your combat will unfold. The other cool thing that comes layered on top of all of this is the worlds are unique. But they’re also shareable. And that’s really important for a really deep creator economy.”

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