Expect this to be a diary of a indie dev with splashes of IRL stuff.
Big Sky was launched in Dec 2010, but the poor viewing figures forced me to take another look at it. Looking back now I think it’s incredible I launched that game. I made pages worth of notes; things to change, things to drop, things to add. They weren’t enough though as the notes depict a minor update and not the evolutionary step taken from Big to Really Big.
In Jan I also finished watching Deathnote with Caroline and, as someone who doesn’t go for anime just for the sake of it being anime, I thought (and still do) it’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Over the course of 2011 I’ve watched it from start to finish 4 times.
In Feb I had a job interview at Team 17. Lovely place and people, it was so behaviourally up my street. In my nervousness I bumbled out that I made a game called Satan Sam, to which one of the panel said “Dirty sandwich?”. Inside I couldn’t stop laughing and inspiration for a bread based game was taking over too many of my processes to then dish out further witty answers. It was only a job for a testers role and I was talking too much about producing games and design theory – I didn’t get the job but this wasn’t the end of my connection to Team 17.
March. The shitty earthquake struck Japan. We did what we could. We offered all our sales to the Japanese Red Cross for a week. During this time we didn’t get a penny, we offered no options of giving us money. Some of our distributors also dropped their percentage and also price matched our sales on their respective platforms, which was really bloody heart warming.
April I wanted to take the biggest leap forward in the game yet. Narration. Alex (Piney) had bought a condenser microphone and was already singing at it, producing some brilliant music. My original plan was to have the narrator be a commander/army guy back on [your planet], it’s not something I expressed to Alex but the role of the talkative AI computer was born. For the better! I had some plans of fleshing out the narrators role turning him into a sly bad guy and completely flipping the game around but that was dropped for simplicity’s sake.
MAY! May was great. I upgraded from my low-end 17” 2006 iMac to the highest end 27” iMac. A period of great things was this month. I got to play the games I bought on Steam that I never could, and play the ones I used to on gorgeous maximum settings… and best of all I was able to really push Really Big Sky visually.
I had another job interview in June with a mobile game dev in Bristol. That wasn’t to be either! But each of these interviews did one thing – charged up my dedication to make Really Big Sky the best I could with the tools I had. I’m also not massively into this mobile gaming thing and for now I’d rather take a Vita or 3DS, should I be forced at gun point to only take one portable gaming system on the Orient Express.
June. I was putting the finishing touches into the release build of Really Big Sky. I’d stretched and pulled this scrolling, procedurally generated, twin-analogue stick shooter from something ultra basic to something quite fun. I’d gone way beyond the original design docs. There was no clear end in sight, I just continued to add new features, modes, enemies… all when needed. On the many play-throughs Alex, Caroline and I put in I’d fix all the bugs and tighten everything up – then add more to disrupt the balance.
Oh and at this point we submitted our little game to Steam.
Throughout all this the plan was to release Really Big Sky as our final commercial game and get on with our real lives. I had fun making Really Big Sky. We launched in late June and sales were, well, okay. We did everything expected of us and a little bit more. Those who bought the original Big Sky were treated to a free upgrade because we’re captains of mirth.
Then it all changed.
August. Can’t even talk about most of the things in August apart from one. Months back we submitted our game for the Eurogamer Expo not expecting to get in. Then we did. Really Big Sky was made in my bedroom over the course of 9 months and suddenly Caroline and I are booking train tickets and hotels in London.
At this point [a big dev+publisher] asked if they could get involved with the game and we had to turn them down! Mad or what.
September and Eurogamer. It wasn’t real. We picked up our ‘exhibitor’ passes from the expo, dropped our stuff off at the hotel and went on a night adventure through London. This is the first time since 2004 we travelled anywhere like this; hobbits in Mordor. But we survived and had some of the best, most interesting and friend-packed 6 days of our lives. Also I got to play Rayman Origins early which I consider one of the best 2D platformers ever! It’s top and cheap – so get it! We met some Valve guys, played lots of Street Fighter 4 and Bomberman, attended a charity auction, got lost in London, witnessed a fight involving a cross-dresser, felt like a king walking through waiting lines, met loads of great gamers and devs alike.
Just before setting off for Eurogamer we were invited to take part in Indie Royale. Mike, one of the organisers and all round captain of awesome, was rounding up great indie games to launch with. We mulled this over during our London trip and came back with an emphatic YES. We were to be the headline act of the Really Big Bundle and for such a game that we didn’t think much of in July was suddenly thrown into the spotlight. I think all the team members minds were blown! It was something we never expected.
November. We got the nod from Steam (personal dream come true!) and asked them if we could have some redeemable keys for the Really Big Bundle. And that was that! The sale happened and sold 30k packs. Again… we never expected this.
December. Those 30k players sure found some problems! Nothing we had ever heard of before too, so I’m currently planning an update to fix things and add some other things (like a pause screen, I KNOW!). But that’ll be out in Jan.
So now we’re not going to close shop. There are some massive things planned for 2012, for the Big Sky brand and other projects.
It’s been one hell of a year and next year is gonna be intense too. Happy 2011 all, let’s have a killer 2012 shall we?