I remember feeling the project was stagnating for some time, so we met with some other devs to talk about our experiences making Shallow Space and compare notes.
We even hooked up with one of the designers from the amazing classic 'Nexus: The Jupiter Incident'. Instead of walking away feeling charged we started to realise that we’d begun something we had no real hope of completing without sizeable investment.
Single-player was turning out to be an insurmountable ordeal.
Fast forward 4 years.
We have lots of assets, lots of story, what we have it is ripe for a game with a narrower focus; something light on the expensive elements but something still fun and engaging that could actually be completed with just a small team.
But we still need a team.
Alex our VFX guy spent the last three years on his successful business creating and selling assets for both Unreal and Unity3D. He is currently working on another space-based 4X. He mentioned that it also is a long running project having gone on for 6 years now.
Maybe that’s just a thing for space games.
Alex and I pushed aside all the crap and are back to chatting regularly, it reminds me of old times where we used to spend hours on Skype getting excited about ideas for the game.
John Harper, the resident scribe, drifted away from the project having lovingly crafted all the lore for Shallow Space. I get the feeling he was pissed, but he understood the sort of pressure I was under and we’re talking again. I’m sure I can entice him back into the fold once he’s finished his latest novel ‘The Bezerker’.
Eventually we’ll need more ships, I’m struggling to get in touch with the 3D artists (if you’re out there Mariusz Skype me!) But it's OK, we have enough ready to work with for now.
Keeping the 3D artists on point was paramount to keep the ships and assets rolling in, I didn’t see it before but that was a full-time job on it’s own.
Having ideas, planning and dev is best done in a dark room with no distractions and that is impossible if you need constantly deliver stuff publicly and manage people. It was too many hats. Artists requirements aside, the main reason for my burnout was that we hit early access too soon and it was a seemingly fatal mistake that couldn’t be undone.
It was a rush though, I feel the urge to get back on Steam even now.
But whatever the reason for all the stress, I’d ditched my career to be a game designer and it was shit. I was working all the time, I wasn’t having fun, I was broke, my friends had abandoned me because all I talked about was the game and managing the community was draining.
So to make it work this time around, I need to incentivise myself properly.
I'm not talking about money, it’s likely never going to make money, that ship has sailed. In fact, the only thing I’m sure of is it will be a drain on my personal resources for a long time to come.
So why would I bother coming back to it?
Well i’m interested in the server side, I do DevOps for a living so building and supporting scalable apps is what I do, multiplayer and coding is fun for me. Plus digging around on Steam, i'm still not seeing the sort of game we’re trying to make.
The project is basically a part-finished jigsaw puzzle. I’m an engineer, I just can’t resist the itch to put the pieces together.
COVID, as annoying as it is, has given me a ton of extra time to finish this thing so I don’t need to trash my career trying to deliver a computer game. I can make the game and sharpen my professional skills at the same time, bingo.
I also feel like you deserve to see this thing finished in some shape or form.
It’s crazy looking through the Steam forums, every one of those comments is a person that took 5 or 10 minutes from their day to write something - it doesn’t matter if it’s support or hate, they cared enough to write something.
That matters to me, enough to throw me off kilter.
It's a weapon of mass distraction.
But people will pull us in different directions and ultimately knock us off course. So this time we have to be strong, stick to the plan, have faith in the revised idea and actually turn up a game before listening to and incorporating feedback.
We found the old source for the overhaul (one on Steam) in a recycle bin on an external drive, how’s that for lucky!
Finding the overhaul project source will help us along, certain parts we can copy straight across but the game in its previous form, it just couldn’t be tamed.
It was a wild beast.
The latest edition is quite different yet similar in a lot of ways, much more predictable and, well, more game-like.
The whole Shallow Space project is nothing but contentious, will we snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?
Worth a shot.