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October 17, 2014

Substream Devlog, Oct 2014 /

The Kickstarter for Substream has ended. I could have let it draw to a close naturally, but I decided to cancel it in advance. There are a few related reasons for this.

I have recently been offered some work. This conflicts with the goal of the Kickstarter: to work full-time on Substream. I had to make a call to take this work, or to see the campaign through to the end. It’s seemed unlikely to me that the campaign would be successful, so my decision was made. The campaign reached 15% funding. Backers included names of people I recognize as having followed the game through it’s unusually long development process, family and friends, and those who discovered the game for the first time at Kickstarter.

The challenge with this particular Kickstarter has been getting the pitch & link in front of enough people. I read many many articles and postmortems before this campaign, but there is nothing quite like the real thing. However, those who did respond to the campaign and pledged did so generously and enthusiastically, and this has been extremely encouraging.

And so to plan B.

My current target is to aim to release the game with five or six levels instead of eight. I also intend to release demo builds of the game to help promote and gather feedback on the game play style. The work I mentioned taking on may be part-time or full-time with demand. Right now it’s part-time, and that’s allowing me to make some progress on Substream. I will work towards this new goal and see how it goes.

This week I’ve finished working on the environment for what will probably be level two of Substream, “Messi’s”. The final quarter of this level came quite quickly as most of the end sequence was a reworking of former melodies, which meant animations could be copied and tweaked which speeds up the process nicely.

September 27, 2014

Substream Kickstarter /

Substream on Kickstarter

September 6, 2014

Substream Devlog, August 2014 /

I’ve been pretty busy so I’m going to keep this one short. If everything continues to go to plan, I’m less than two weeks from launching a Kickstarter campaign for Substream. Crowd funding needs a lot of prep work. I knew this from reading a ton of advice articles and Kickstarter postmortems earlier in the year which gave me a good idea of what works, what to expect and why.

I’ve only done a little coding this month – polishing up sections of the game that will be in the trailer and fixing compatibility issues. Making a trailer has taken me a surprisingly long time; I’m letting the gameplay speak for itself for my main Kickstarter video, although I might still make a separate talky video. I’ve written about the mistakes I initially made with the trailer and the thought processes that lead to the final version but I figure it’ll make more sense to post that when the trailer is live.

Organising rewards so that they’re good value for backers, profitable for me, relevant to the project and interesting was a challenge, but actually kinda fun. I’m happy that I have a few unusual ones though; including Lego and handmade jewellery…



I still have much work to do. Images, press distribution planning, descriptions to write, and a few bugs I’d prefer to have fixed. But the day is definitely coming. See you on Kickstarter soon!


July 29, 2014

Substream Devlog, July 2014 /

Hey! Well, I’ve been back working full-time on Substream now for three weeks. Actually for one of those I was ill, which wasn’t ideal. But that’s all the bad news I have for you. Development is going well. Every day I’m doing something different at the moment; game design, website design, adding new game features and improving others. I’ve been building on the demo I took to PlayBlackpool, fixing the bugs that were revealed there and adapting to feedback and lessons learnt from players. What can I share with you?

A Video

I uploaded this new gameplay video this month. This is actually the same section of the game that was shown in the announcement trailer from 2010 so I didn’t release it with any kind of fanfare, I mainly created it because I wanted a header video for the new website design. It makes for a good comparison though; you can see this is the same level, just slicker.

More Videos

C’mon, I’ve released three YouTube videos of Substream in five years, do you really think there’s going to be more videos this month? Well okay, yes. I joined Vine recently so I’ve been uploading some little video clips of the game there. Have a look or subscribe if you’re on Vine!

More More Videos

I’m working towards a larger trailer now. If I go ahead with a crowd funding campaign it’ll be an important part of that. There’s a few things in the game I want to improve before I’ll be ready, but I’m excited about this one. I want to show off some elements of the game which have only been seen in images. And others I haven’t mentioned yet.

All The Lists

Game development is fun, but sometimes it’s tedious in really strange ways. Over the last few years while I’ve been working a day job or chilling out at home I often think about Substream and have an idea which I want to remember. So I’ve been keeping text files on my laptop, in my phone, on my PC and on paper with notes and thoughts in no order whatsoever. This is good practice because I get to hold on to those good ideas that come at strange times.

But I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent over the last month merging these notes, deleting duplicates, reconsidering crazy ideas, trying to decipher them, categorising and prioritising them. I couldn’t work with multiple random lists because there was no way to access information from them. So I’ve now organised them into a text file that’s 500 lines long. That’s been directing my work lately, and the items have been removed at a decent pace. If that continues I’ll have the new trailer ready around the end of August.

June 4, 2014

Substream Devlog, Revival /

It’s been twenty months since I wrote a proper devlog for Substream. (I’ve just had to count that up and it was quite a shock). Back when I worked on the game full-time, devlogs appeared monthly. I self-funded the first two years of Substream’s development with my savings, but when me and my wife needed to move to the south of England so she could secure a teaching job this dried up. Living in the south is much more expensive.

So I’ve been working a day job and dabbling with Substream a little in my spare time. Calling progress slow is an understatement. Substream is not a game to be made in someone’s spare time. It’s full of details and incidentals, polish and carefully crafted moments. This is it’s main strength I think, so there’s no shortcuts to be taken. Doing my job for eight hours a day and driving for two is enough concentration for me. I’ve had to push myself to add new things to Substream, and it leaves me exhausted and depressed. This is no way to go on. I need to find a way back to working on it full time, or allow myself a decade to finish it (not an exaggeration).

Things may be starting to turn around.

I got invited to exhibit the game at PlayBlackpool at the start of May. I was feeling like I wanted to get some motivation back and the timing was perfect for this. I knew from my past experience at GameCity that a small game convention is a great place to see genuine reactions to a game, get valuable feedback, and remind myself what making a video game is for.  So I pulled the various fragments of the game I’d been developing together, and made my way up to Blackpool with a playable demo of the first half of four of the game’s levels.

The feedback was lovely. After GameCity I felt like I was on to something; after PlayBlackpool I felt like I’d found it. Sure, I wrote down three pages of bugs and todos. And I know that the same people who would say “it looks like crap” in a forum would not be so impolite to my face at a convention, which skews things a lot. But I also had people dancing in the chair to the music, wanting to shake my hand and congratulate me, and offering to buy a copy of the very demo version which had just crashed on them.

After the convention this felt quite heavy. Having people tell me “you must finish this game dude!!” is great except that I already really want to, but see no way to do it soon without help…

I have thought about doing a crowd funding campaign for a while. Honestly, I would feel happier putting all the game development risk on my own wallet, if I could. But this is the best option I have right now, so it’s my intention to run a campaign in September. My current job’s contract states that I can’t have any other employment while I work there. If a crowd funding campaign is successful I “get paid” and pay taxes on the income, so the reason I haven’t already run one is because I’ve been saving up enough money to be able to quit my job, run a campaign, and look for another job if necessary. This took a long time.

I’m excited about crowd funding, although I have no expectations. I am making two plans for my life beyond September with equal weight. I started making Substream in 2010, it’s been a long road and I’m mostly looking forward to having some kind of an answer about whether people want this game or I’ve wasted my time. Loads of indies are crowd funding now. Some are successful, many are not. I’ve read all the advice about running a campaign, but it seems after all that is taken on board the most important thing is the work that’s already been done: the game idea and how its implementation is shaping up. I’m ready to have that judged.

I’ve been relatively quiet for the last two years but I’ll need to be more forthcoming now. I added some new screens and a teaser video to the Substream website recently. From July expect more videos, blogs, social media, etc.