You would think that with all the sites I run, the podcast, and my day job as a web developer that I wouldn’t get worked up about things like game releases, but… yeah.
So first, the deets. We’ve been working on remastering Greg’s 2008 Flash game “(I Fell in Love With) The Majesty of Colors” for a while now—since 2016. (See our post “Crashing and Burning on Multiple Projects” for the gist of why a 450 hr project can take two people over a year.)
…I kinda like it. ^_^ I won’t forget the first time I played it on my Surface and used my finger to drag down a balloon. It felt tangible in a way that using a mouse to play the Flash game didn’t. Regardless of anything else about this effort, I’m convinced we did right by the game and by players in what we developed.
I’m also very stressed about it. In my 44-hours-after-launch bourbon-fueled relaxation, you’re going to learn a bit of why.
Greg gives their take on this on their blog, but charging money for a short game requires some… internal fortitude. It was something we decided early on, then kinda forgot about, then were faced with stating to the world (at times person by person by person…) “Yes, we’re charging money for a game you will finish in less than an hour. And it’s more than $0.99.”
It’s been a while since I’ve written on this blog at length about my current thoughts and philosophies, but if you follow me on social media or chill with me in meatspace, this will probably not be a surprising sentiment to hear from me: fuck capitalism and fuck the dissonance and internal churn one suffers when asking for money for a service or a good.
It arises from a godawful tangle of ethical fantasizing and economic ignorance (“Well, geez, what would an ethical economy even be?”) and performative guilt (“Hey, sorry folks, I know it’s just a game haha… ha. “) and actual guilt (“Well, if I have a day job, do I really need…?”).
So there’s the money aspect. I don’t have any damn answers. I’ve considered getting an MBA both for the very practical knowledge of how running a business in a capitalist society works and for the knowledge of the systems of economics, which I know aren’t simple, even as I chant “fuck capitalism”. But MBAs are so entrenched in that system that I’m not sure schools can even be bothered to teach it with a critical eye.
The second thing that’s very stressful about releasing this game into the wild is how truly released it is. In the last ~8 years of web development, I rarely actually deploy a site manually, and I rarely can’t fix a mistake within a couple of hours. A website is right at my fingertips, on a server I or my company controls. I might have to wait for an automated build to run or for a manager to approve it, but those are 10-30 minutes at most.
It’s funny to think of my panic about a AWS SSL issue on Granny Squares that took me a couple of hours to work through a few weeks ago when it literally takes a minimum of 12+ hours to build, deploy, and get a new iOS build approved and out into the hands of players… hoping they upgrade promptly.
Y’all. We launched with a silent (to the user) error. A little null reference happening on every frame in some scenarios that we missed due to reasons that have already been thoroughly captured and analyzed in a retrospective, thank you, but were causing Sentry to log about 1,000 errors per player on a given playthrough. (I’m so, so, sorry, Sentry folks. We love you.)
We launched with it because we didn’t have time to make it through another review cycle with Steam or Apple when we found it. Users weren’t impacted. We’d announced the date. It was over a year later than we thought it would be. This thing had to go.
The next night—after I’d spent 4 hours on a deployment at work, mind you—we regression tested the hell of out the fix (lesson learned) and went live.
…Which meant that Steam went live. …And then Android. But iOS wasn’t done building/deploying, so that finished overnight and was then sent for review. itch.io was delayed because we wanted to sign our Mac code properly. By about midday (so over 12 hours later), all platforms had the update available.
This isn’t (only) to whine about mobile platforms, but about the fact that even 12 hours after that I can’t guarantee that everyone is running 1.2.1-59.
That’s stressful. Turns out that even someone who can let a web app languish for years without updates still wants an iron grip on release processes. Damn.
There’s a lot of joy out there about this game, and it’s heartwarming to experience it. I actually teared up when I saw that we were the final game Konstantinos posted on Warp Door today before moving on from games journalism entirely. Like… damn.
As a relative newbie to the game dev industry (especially among the Flash game crowd), it feels like everyone around me has already mastered the practice of having thick skin regarding player feedback. I don’t mean criticism like “Maybe the time for games like this has passed. Let’s have a discussion about eras and shit.”
I mean, for example, “Your game is ugly”. Like… well. Hrm. Okay.
The way we’re taught to process feedback like that is to find a way to not respect the person’s opinion in general so that we don’t need to care about that feedback. “Well, you don’t understand aesthetics.” or “What do you know about game design anyway?” or “You’re a right-winger, so I question your general taste.”
That flies in the face of a lot of things I believe in, both as an advocate for user experiences and as an advocate for being actively compassionate. (I say that, but I do engage in that behavior in some arenas! It’s not cool.)
Maybe I’ll end up being our March topic for Audacious Compassion, but I will find a way to not feel like the happy responses need to comfort me about the displeased responses.
It just might take a few days… and I might forget it all before we next release a game.
(Tonight’s bourbons were Evan Williams 1783 and Knob Creek Rye. In sequence, not mixed—I’m not a monster.)