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Releasing Five Games in a Year

Releasing Five Games in a Year
Today is my birthday! It's a good time for reflecting back upon my now 27 year long life. This time last year I was right in the middle of crunching on Offspring Fling for the Steam release. I was coding up the level and replay sharing website with some help from Matthew Wegner, and I was also polishing up more stuff in the game for the big day when the game would arrive on Steam. Stress levels were at an all time high, where as this birthday I think my stress levels are at an all time low.

Between my last birthday and this one I've released, or in part released, five new games into the world. This was part of a promise that I made to myself at Game Developers Conference in 2012. At that GDC, I was neck deep in working Snapshot still. Snapshot is a project that started originally in 2008 as a little Multimedia Fusion prototype. Eventually that prototype got into the Independent Games Festival in 2009, and from then on out it was a full fledged game being assembled by David Carrigg, Peter Jones, and myself. The game didn't come out until August 2012. That's a pretty long time to be working on a single game... although its not that long compared to the time spent on a number of really awesome indie games.


The main problem is that Snapshot is the longest term project that I've ever worked on. During the course of its development I felt very stagnant. This game was taking forever to make, and a lot of the time I just felt like we had nothing to show for it because usually the game was in a half broken unplayable state. The game didn't really start to take form until the final year of its development, but by the end of the project I felt like I was being suffocated by it.

The Five Game Promise

When I was at GDC 2012 I knew that Snapshot was going to come out that year. It had been shaping up to a pretty good point, and the game actually was starting to feel like a game instead of a giant mess of tech demos and random level ideas. At the same time I was also on the brink of releasing a side project of mine, Offspring Fling.


Knowing this, I decided that I could probably release five games between GDC 2012 and GDC 2013. This sounded pretty extreme to most people that I brought it up with, but I felt like it was the only way to break the feeling of stagnation that had developed during the course of Snapshot's life.

Another problem that I was trying to solve was being totally terrified of releasing things. I had released games before without any problems, but the longer I went without releasing anything the more scared I became of it. "What if this game actually sucks and everyone hates it?" was a thought that crossed my mind way too often, and Snapshot taking a long time to finish was making these thoughts intensify. Snapshot was actually the most terrifying release of my life just because it had the most time invested into it. What if all that time was a giant waste and the game just sucks? It's a horrible thought but I think a lot of developers out there can relate to it.

Right after GDC I got straight into my plan and released my first game of the GDC year.

Offspring Fling!

Offspring Fling started out as a simple game jam game, and it ended up developing into a full game in only a matter of months. Working on this game felt like an escape from working on a giant project like Snapshot (even though Snapshot was not that big of a project at all depending on what you compare it to.)


The game was released about 9 months after the original game jam that spawned it, and it took another 2 months to get it out on Steam. The Steam release was May 11th, so I can count it as being between my last birthday and this one!


Finally after a number of years of work, the Retro Affect team pulled off the impossible.... releasing Snapshot on PC. Mac and Linux versions followed soon after for the Humble Bundle, and work is still being done on the game for the Playstation 3 and PSVita versions, but my work as the environment artist and level designer is completed. The PC version launched right before PAX Prime 2012 at the end of August.



Jottobots had been stubbornly sitting on my hard drive since June 2009 when it was first created for the ARTxGAME collective. I can't believe how old that game is now that I look back at it.


In October 2010 I put in a week of work on it to add a bunch of stuff like online leaderboards and better UI, but it soon fell to the wayside once again. It wasn't until November of 2012 that I was able to dive back into it and finish it off entirely. I repolished a bunch of the work that I did years ago, and finally just kicked it out the door and onto the internet for the price of a dollar.

I've only sold 180 copies of the game, and most of those for just the base price of a dollar, but no matter how much it sells or doesn't sell it still feels good just to finally have it out.


In November 2011 I attended a game jam where the theme was "adaptation." I ended up making a relatively simple top down defense game where you played as this Namiko girl trying to defend her palace from a swarm of intruders. There are three main pillars in the room that are being attacked by three main different enemy types. The trick is that the player can absorb the powers of their enemies and use them to defend the pillars. After I finished the game at the jam, I put a few more days of work into it over the following weeks but then I never released it.


I toyed around with the idea of getting it sponsored, since it was a small flash game, but I couldn't drum up any interest from the few web game portals that I contacted. I didn't feel like being an aggressive sales person so the game fell into the abyss of apathy. (That's a pretty good band name... Abyss of Apathy.)

Much later down the road when Offspring Fling was going to be in an Indie Royale bundle, I decided to finish up Namiko and toss it in as a bonus game. I had given up any hope of getting it sponsored at this point and I just wanted the game to be done, and it would be a good game to count toward my five releases of the year. I later released it to the public just before GDC.

Super Ninja Slash

The fifth and final release of the GDC year just before GDC 2013 was Super Ninja Slash. This was yet another game jam game that I had done but had never released, which seems to be the trend with me. I went to a game jam in July 2012 where the theme was "stealth." Instead of trying to come up with a clever use of the theme I just went for the completely obvious route and made a game about a ninja trying to stealth his or her way through a corporate complex.


A few weekends before GDC I went to my friend Brad's house for an event known as "Brad Jam." A bunch of people went to his house for the weekend and worked on their projects, and worked on brand new stuff. It was super fun and it ended up feeling a lot like a LAN party except substitute in making games instead of playing games.

I ended up using Brad Jam as an excuse to finish off Super Ninja Slash. This mostly just meant adding leaderboards and making a quick website for the game. The version of Super Ninja Slash that you can play today is pretty much the game that I made at the game jam, except for the leaderboards and the music.


So just before GDC 2013 I had completed by goal of releasing five games in a year when I released Super Ninja Slash literally a week before GDC. I think that I definitely accomplished my goal of ridding myself of the feeling of stagnation and the feeling of not wanting to release things. One of the side effects of this is that I started to post on my blog a lot more, and I'm feeling way more comfortable just sharing my thoughts and whatever I'm working on.

Moving forward I don't think I'll have another year where I release five games. This was building up from a number of years of hardly releasing any games, and I had a lot of half finished games on reserve that I polished up and released. Super Ninja Slash was actually the only game that was started and finished for the sake of this goal. I actually did start one game during the year that I thought would be my 5th game, but it ended up not working out (it was a short lived sports game for the TIGSource Sports Compo, but it just wasn't turning out well.)


I also feel like I should clarify that I was still releasing some small games here and there during Snapshot's development. Early on I released a prototype called Viper Girl, and another jam game named depict1. I also did the prototype for Gaiadi really early on in Snapshot's development. I think the last game I managed to squeeze out during Snapshot's development was a little game jam game called Space Sushi, and that was for Global Game Jam 2011. (By the way, all those games are listed here.)

One of the major things I've learned is the value of a single game that has a lot of time and energy put into it. A lot of the games I released as part of this goal are very small, short form games that end up being somewhat disposable to players. Once Super Ninja Slash or Jottobots are finished, they're probably not picked up and played again too often, and they are quickly forgotten... or at least it feels that way.

A game with a lot of time and love put into it, and a game that has been well crafted over a number of years is going to have way more of an impact on players, and will hopefully resonate for many years after its release. People still regard Braid as one of the best games, indie or not, in recent times, and I think games like Fez and Antichamber will be regarded highly for many years to come. Monaco is another great example of a game that has just been released after its creator spent three and a half years working on it, and so far it looks like it's going to be incredibly successful. These are all games that took many years to complete, and sometimes also the sanity of their creators, but so far it seems like it's well worth it by the end.

Now what?

I'm not really sure what I'm going to do now. I have a number of projects started that I'm just playing around with, and I'm also trying to learn new programming languages and frameworks to help me make better games in the future... but I think my next goal is to get another project like Offspring Fling going. A game that will maybe take around a year to finish, wont be too massive, but something that I can have fun with. I'm not really that good at planning things, and I'm mostly figuring out things as I go, so it's really hard to say what's in store for the future. Right now all I can do is hope that this next year of my life is as awesome as my last!


You are so inspiring!
Posted April 26th 2013 7:30 AM
i think you got the brains in this fam ;)
Posted April 26th 2013 7:52 AM
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