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Controversial game developer Phil Fish returns with Polytron Partners

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Phil Fish, the founder of the Montreal-based indie game studio Polytron and developer behind celebrated puzzle game Fezannounced a new direction for the studio on Thursday. 

Under the label Polytron Partners, Polytron with be teaming up with Finji, an indie game collaborative based in Austin, Texas, to assist Fernando Ramallo and David Kanaga with the production and promotion of their new game, Panoramical

By assisting with promotion specifically, Fish can put his notoriety to good use. His struggle to release Fez, owing mostly to conflicts with a former financial partner, was chronicled in Indie Game: The Movie. The story was told with dramatic flair and portrayed Fish as an angst-written, struggling artist fighting against the odds so that his game could see the light of day.

During a Q&A session after a showing of Indie Game: The Movie at the 2012 Game Developers Conference, Fish famously insulted the whole of Japanese game development. Fish faced controversy on another front at GDC that year, when Fez won the grand prize at the 14th Annual Independent Games Festival. Fez had previously won the IGF’s Excellence In Visual Art award in 2008, and some indie developers protested the game should not have been eligible for another award. 

These two events undoubtedly magnified fan reaction when, in July of 2012, Fish stated that Polytron would not be publishing a patch to fix a bug on the Xbox Live Arcade release of Fez. The bug resulted in the corruption of saved game files. Fish cited the prohibitive cost involved in fixing a bug that was affecting less than a percent of players. For some, this was not a satisfactory answer.

Fish canceled development of Fez II on July 27, 2013. He also declared on Twitter that he was leaving the video game industry, period, as he was tired of constant abuse. The launch of Polytron Partners, therefore, is big news in the video game world.

On the one hand, it’s unfortunate that Fish’s story is undoubtedly going to overshadow the development of Panoramical, at least in the short term. On the other, there couldn’t be a better use for Fish’s reputation. Panoramical is now on everyone’s radar owing to Fish’s involvement, and discoverability is one of the biggest hurdles faced by independent game developers.

H/T Polygon | Screengrab via Polytron/Vimeo