Taking a Breather

Hi internet!  It’s been a while – let’s catch up again.

Let’s see.  A while ago I launched my first commercial game on Steam.  The game was in development for far longer than originally intended, and its release was much overdue.

Unfortunately, though I say I “launched” it, I don’t know if that’s really the fitting word, as most of the traffic the game received (maybe 90%?) is purely due to its place on the Steam storefront, meaning I did not succeed at publicizing the game or getting it the exposure I think it deserves.  And overall, it has garnered a small fraction of the views that its much smaller and cruder prequel had (not talking about sales here, just hits), which is pretty discouraging.  After all, the main reason I decided to work on this sequel was because of the apparent interest that was shown in the original.

But now the game is out there, and I can say that I finished and shipped a product with a pretty substantial play-length, considering the game consists 100% of scripted content.  There has been a lot of positive response from the people who have played it, and some really glowing user reviews that have just been a joy to read through.

I haven’t been as productive after release as I thought I would be.  I had all sorts of ideas for projects that were crowding my head, which I thought I would just speed through after being caught up on such a large undertaking.  Nope, turns out I was completely burned out from development and all of the stress leading up to release.  I have been working on several projects and have participated in local game jams, but so far haven’t been as possessed to publish something else with my name on it as I had been with At Sea.

get it?  possessed?

Partially I feel like I’ve proven to myself that I can see a project through to its end, so I don’t feel the pressure or need to finish every little idea that I come up with if it turns out that it isn’t really as interesting as it seemed at first.  Which is usually the case.  The fickle developer who can’t complete anything is a cliche, but in truth I think it’s important to also know when to leave a project.  Yes, you can learn a lot by completing a project, and it is an important skill to be able to “finish” something.

“Art is never finished, only abandoned” – some dude

There are definitely diminishing returns however.  The skill of “finishing” is only one of many, many skills that are required in game development, and it may not even be the most important one in this era of early access and open betas and development live-streaming and twitter GIFs and oh man, things change really fast don’t they?

But one thing I have definitely noticed is that my productivity and general ability to make stuff is so much greater than before I had originally set out to ship a premium game.

When working on other things, it kinda feels like the training weights have come off.  I’ve just spent some time catching my breath.

2 thoughts on “Taking a Breather

  1. Please don’t let anything discourage you! I’ve been following the “Why Am I Dead?” games since the first one came out, and it really feels like there’s a good story going on! I really think this game is one of the gems of the current era, bringing back the pixelated type of game is really nice. For people like me, who grew up with those kind of games, and having no other options with “good graphics”, these 8-bit/16-bit games bring back a nice sense of nostalgia. Another thing that is a major positive is that these games are heavy with text, investigation, and exploration. These games hit the spot on exactly the type of game I search for. Don’t think that it’s unappreciated, you might just be crafting for a yet undiscovered group/genre.

    1. Hi Lauren, thanks for all the kind words and I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the Why Am I Dead series 😀

      I agree that the nostalgia-based graphics and story-heavy nature of the game have an audience, and I’ve seen a few games with these qualities, like To the Moon or Lisa (which I definitely need to play more of!) really shine. Overall, the response to the Why Am I Dead games has been more positive than I could’ve ever originally imagined, and I’m really happy about that.

      The discouraging part is that when you start charging money for something it becomes several orders of magnitude harder to get people to play it, or even know it exists. For the original free game, I didn’t have to lift a finger to find an audience, because all the flash portals did the real work for me and I got front-page exposure without ever asking. But transitioning to premium games feels like moving from the local pond to the pacific ocean – there’s a lot more fish and you have to handle all of the publicity yourself. It’s an amount of work I was unprepared and ill-suited for.

      As a wise man (Rami Ismail) said, “You’re making something that you really care about, but you’re also trying to earn money. There’s tension there, and it sucks.”

      Sorry to bring it back to a low-note, but I’m just trying to be honest about my experiences. It may be discouraging, but it’s also something I can learn from. In the future I’ll be thinking about how I can be more vocal about my work. Thanks again for your comment and encouragement!

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