A long time

It’s been a while, but thank you again for the all of the support over the last year. HiWOS has done better than I thought, and it’s funding a new venture: The First Tree. It’s a third-person adventure game about a fox and a young couple both dealing with individual tragedies that intersect in unexpected ways. In a lot of ways, this game is a spiritual successor to my first, but it’s also influenced by titles like Journey, Firewatch, and Gone Home. Please pay a visit to the site if you’re interested. Thanks again for all of the love and comments, hope to see you again soon.

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Rest

I stayed up nights imagining what my game’s release would be like. I did what many indie developers do and counted the sales I hadn’t made yet. I just could not wait to see what would happen… and it did happen! My game launched, and things went extraordinarily well all things considered. I put myself out there for everybody to critique, and I have just been floored with most of the reviews in a positive way. Sales are lukewarm, but I have a lot to be grateful for considering the niche this title fills. The fact that anybody would pay money for this short story and like it is still a small miracle to me. Thank you everybody for your thoughts and words.

Engadget published an interview with me where I go into my intentions in creating Home is Where One Starts…. I thought some of you might be interested in that. There have also been tons of well-thought-out and positive reviews that I will have to post here shortly. I think I will make a new trailer soon highlighting what the press has said. I will probably update the game soon with some small additions like Steam Trading Cards and bug fixes. Luckily there only a handful of small performance issues with certain people, so I am proof that you can release a game commercially without having a hundred people beta test it! I only had a dozen of my friends try it out and that was sufficient for such a small game.

I may write a postmortem on Gamasutra about what this game dev experience has been like, but I’ll say one thing I learned: I should’ve made the game longer! I thought the world wanted short-film like experiences that were self-contained and could be finished in less than 30 minutes. As I’ve gotten older and more disinterested in repetitive, grinding action titles, I’ve found myself with less time and more of a desire to play shorter self-contained games with meaningful stories. Almost everyone that’s talked about this game wanted it to be longer, which honestly is a huge compliment and something I’ve thought about at length.

Thank you again to the people who’ve contacted me or taken the time to write or post about my game in some form. I think I’ve read everything review or comment out there, and it just makes me excited for the storytelling possibilities in this medium. Until next time.

Preparation

I’m uploading the final builds now to Steam and itch.io. It’s funny… I have no idea how this is going to turn out or how it will be received. I sneaked a peek at a live stream on Twitch a couple hours ago, and I got so nervous I closed out of it. A few people have said I’m being excessively humble (heh) about the quality of my game, but I honest-to-goodness don’t know if people will like it. It’s hard to tell if something is good or not when it’s been two inches away from your face for two years. I hope people like it. This is exactly the kind of game I wanted to play… it’s short, self-contained, and has a story I can connect with emotionally.

I’m sorry if I come across as melodramatic. I’m actually super excited for launch, and I’ve already received some positive reviews. The reviewer at Shoddy Pixels said he was “holding back tears and my heart was being pulled apart” by the end. Wow! That’s one of the big reasons I made this game, for reactions like that.

I’ll be sharing reviews during the week if all goes well. Thank you so much for reading my blog and taking an interest in a small, hobbyist’s game. Please send me an email and let me know what you thought of Home is Where One Starts….

Greenlight Postmortem

This may interest my fellow game developers more than others, but I wrote an article for Gamasutra about how much the Steam Greenlight process has changed even in the past year. There are some stats and ideas for developers who are thinking about pursuing a Greenlight submission. I will probably write a new blog post tomorrow on the eve of the launch, so please take care until then!

Release Date

I’ll be releasing Home is Where One Starts… on Steam and Itch.io on May 13th. It’s weird to choose a day to say my project is “complete”, because there’s so much I could hypothetically add. Determining when any artwork is finished is an art in and of itself, but I’m ready to share my short story with the world. The beta testers who’ve helped me have been incredibly invaluable. By far the most common request was to add more interactivity, so now important objects can be picked up and rotated (which can provide more story insight).

GIF_Pickup

I was at odds with this feedback at first, because I recalled how the developer of Dear Esther found that the game felt more right the more they eliminated interactive “distractions”. Why do you need a flashlight button? Why do you need a crouch button? Minimalism can be a very powerful tool, and I didn’t want my game to get caught up in not feeling game-y enough. Home is Where One Starts… is a slow, methodical experience, and I designed it that way. However, there is value in feeling like you’re a part of the world you inhabit, so I feel picking up certain important objects will help accentuate the environmental storytelling. I want the player to ask “why can I pick up this certain object, but not that piece of trash on the ground?”. Those kinds of questions will help unlock the mystery of this little girl’s story.

Recording

Recording

Writing scares me a lot, but I’ve done lots of thinking and rewrites, and I’m happy to report that recording is finished. It was the last, big part of development, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with how it turned out. My lovely wife is a great actress, and it’s awesome seeing the world I helped create come to life with her voice. I’m hoping to launch the game next month, so stay tuned for many updates, and thanks for reading.

Progress II

Being Greenlit is something I never expected, and it’s given me a huge boost in productivity and motivation. It’s amazing looking around the Steamworks interface and feeling like a real partner with Valve, which is a company I’ve always admired (and hope to work for one day). By some miracle, I have Steam Achievements working which is pretty fun (all thanks to the talented developers at Steamworks.NET who release their wrapper for free). The Oculus Rift integration is proving to be a challenge, but I’m confident it will be available in beta form on release day. I’m also thinking of pushing the Mac release until after the initial Windows launch, mostly because it’s such a small niche and it will be difficult to get Steam Achievements working on the Mac build.

Most important for a game like this, the first draft of writing is almost done, and I’ll be recording the dialogue in the next couple weeks. Writing really scares me, but if I can leave most of the storytelling work to the environment, I think it will accentuate the world the player explores, and won’t make it too sentimental or pretentious. Much like the film The Tree of Life, Home is Where One Starts… won’t focus on plot progression as much as a feeling the story world exudes. It will be non-linear, and much of the plot progression will have to be inferred (especially through secret areas of interest and the environment).

Another small thing… to better capture the spirit of the title, I decided to add an ellipsis to the end of Home is Where One Starts…. It’s an unfinished sentence anyway, and I always liked the idea of games being about choice. Home is where one starts… doing what? That is up to the player to decide, and I think this addition helps that idea.

After copious testing and rewriting, the game should be available early summer (probably before June 1st). Thanks again for your support and for caring.