Substream Devlog Spring 2015

My last post on Substream was in October after the Kickstarter ended. Obviously development since then has not been full-time as I would have liked, but it’s continued. I see plenty of great games struggling on Kickstarter these days, so I’m not going to give up on my own game yet.

Over the last six months I’ve been lucky enough to land a part-time programming contract, and a small amount of university lecturing on DirectX games programming. These have taken up most of my time, but they mean I’ve been able to pay my bills and still leave some weekdays free to develop Substream. I’ve completed three levels environments which were partially developed, finished two playable levels, and done a lot of additional development like optimization, installers and interfaces. For fun I also developed a mode for 3D red-blue glasses (although I’ve subsequently broken it, but maybe it’ll become an unlockable or something).

Anaglyph Mode

Out of all this work, it’s those technical jobs which have taken up most of my time. I recently rebuilt the city level’s environment to get rid of some of the uglier sections and make it more varied. This came together in a couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to more level, graphics and gameplay code.


#procjam 2014

I took part in a nine day game jam earlier this month. #procjam was my second game jam, and the first one I took part in on the web, and where I worked solo. The theme was to “make something that makes something”. Making a game was optional though, so I made a ProcBreaks – a procedural breakbeat generator. It’s a Unity program that designs drum patterns, making a kind of dance music that mixes and evolves over time.

Drum Samples in Unity

I think I reached the goals I hoped to achieve with it. Since the jam I’ve found it actually quite listenable. Usually the first thirty seconds are a bit strange; I notice that yeah, it’s not the best or most natural music I’ve ever heard, and the timings seem to be a little off. But once it goes through a few changes I get the jist of it and as musical “background noise” it makes an acceptable infinite mixtape. I definitely had fun making this, I feel like I finally “get” game jams.

I met up with some of the local Southampton game devs in the uni library to work on this. Joe made this infinite island explorer, Rob and Greg made a pixellated procedural mine navigation game. I played a few more web-based procjam entries today. There are many cool things, but I’d say Forska, Do Not Believe the Robots, Khrushchyovka and Empty Museum are all worth a look.

Some progress on Substream this month also happened. I’ve been doing some work towards releasing a two level demo at some point. I’d like to release that demo early, probably while the game is in alpha as a means to get feedback and maybe gauge interest. The coding has all been about getting it playable on different PCs in the real world, so necessary but not too exciting.


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.


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!



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.