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The daunting aftermath of releasing your dream game

August 13, 2018 ・ Blog

Screenshot of the pixel platformer Owlboy with a character saying “That was a close call, huh guys”.

Release day for an indie developer sounds like it’d be a celebration. Years of work have finally reached a successful conclusion. They can sit back, relax, and wait for the adulation and money to roll in. But it’s not really like that. “I heard a lot of people speculate what this would feel like and I was never really sure what would happen when we finally hit launch,” says Simon Stafsnes Andersen, head of Owlboy maker D-Pad Studio. “The reality was … conflicting.”

The truth is that launch is not an end. It’s the start of something else, and with that fresh start come many struggles that are born in the intensity of game development. This is true for almost all modern game developers, but it’s especially dramatic for indies who have spent half a decade or more quietly working on their dream project. After you’ve put all of yourself into a game, what comes next?

For PC Gamer I talked to Simon Stafsnes Andersen, who led development of Owlboy for nine years, Eric Barone, who made Stardew Valley for four and a half years, Ben Porter (Moonquest, six years), Joakim ‘Konjak’ Sandberg about Iconoclasts (eight years) and Jens Andersson about Yoku’s Island Express (five years). I was honoured to get some tender and candid insights into what it meant for these developers to let their games go out into the world.

It seemed to strike a nerve among developers, which was good (albeit maybe a bit bittersweet) to see, but my main concern was actually to send a message to gamer readers about how releasing games is hard, and that developers are people. There was some criticism that I’d focused on these successful games, and while I agree that it’s not good (but maybe unavoidable) that we tend only to hear the stories of the winners, the point here was that success doesn’t dull these experiences.

Anyway, I was pretty pleased with it, and you can read it here.