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TIGSource ForumsCommunityTownhallDown the Drain, a 2D Roguelite Shooter about plumbing is now available on Steam
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Author Topic: Down the Drain, a 2D Roguelite Shooter about plumbing is now available on Steam  (Read 116 times)
CubicornGames
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« on: June 10, 2022, 06:19:07 PM »

After years and years (and years) of development, out first game is finally available on Steam!

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1981370/Down_the_Drain/



The last few months have been a blur getting this game out the door. Its release is our first big milestone for getting back into consistently working on games. Within the next week or two I'm planning to write up some kind of post-mortem-ish thing to try to help other people learn from our various successes and stumbles.

As far as I'm concerned, every completed game is an achievable miracle. Whatever you're working on now, in whatever state it might be in, don't give up on it. If we can ship a thing, you can do it too!
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CubicornGames
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« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2022, 10:13:25 AM »

There didn't look like anywhere else on the forum would be a great place to put this, so I figured I'd Just reply to my launch thread. This is a little postmortem write up about our first project. Hopefully it will help other developers avoid our mistakes and finish their games.

How Two People Made a Small Game in Eight Years

With the release of Down the Drain, my wife and I have finally launched an indie project after years of successes, setbacks, iteration and frustration.

While talking to other developers I learned that our experience is way more common than I initially realized. I wanted to write this to share our experience with even more indie devs at different points in their game dev journeys so they can learn from what we did right and try to avoid what we did wrong.   

I also want to preface this whole thing by saying that these are my experiences. Making games comes with a series of similar challenges, but no two projects are identical. After learning how many other people have had a lot of the same problems, I’m hoping this will be some generally good advice for a lot of developers.

What we did right:

Scope your project relative to your team’s size and skillset

When we decided to try making games together, we set out to work on projects that could reasonably be achieved with the resources we had on hand. In our case, we sought to make 2D games that could reasonably be achieved with the effort of two developers.

We had been doing most of our game dev work part time (more on that later) and didn’t have the budget to contract out additional work, so everything we needed to build would have to be something we knew how to do or could learn how to do. My wife already had a background in making 2D art, and we are both have backgrounds programming, which gave us a solid skillset to build from. I learned how to make digital music as we went, and we shared every other responsibility as issues came up and we tackled them together.

We dismissed out of hand game concepts that included additional complexities like online play, microtransactions or other non-gameplay relevant engineering to keep things as simple as possible. Despite taking a lot of time to get up to speed on some of this stuff, I think we did a great job scoping our first game. We were ultimately able to execute on everything we initially set out to build and more. As far as gameplay design goals go, we did an awesome job outlining a project that we were eventually able to complete.

Show your game early and often

If you have at least a core concept up and running, an alpha or pre-alpha that has a small chunk of the gameplay you eventually want to build out in the final product, start sharing it with people as soon as you can. Once we had an early playable version of the game up, we would show it to friends for feedback and try to find places locally where we could show our game to the general public.

We’ve done demos in game and hobby shops, at local anime and game conventions, and even shown our games at GDC. If you know of an event or location where there might be a small chance that they’d let you show your game, go ahead and ask. If they say no, you’re no worse off than before you inquired, and if they say yes, you can get some valuable playtime in for the game you’re working on. I have never regretted showing our game while we were working on it. Even if the build is a little rough, that’s ok. It’s a work in progress. You’ll learn about the bugs you know are there, find new ones you hadn’t yet identified, and you’ll start to get a clearer sense about what people do or don’t like about your game.

Plan to quit your job (at least for a while)

This one might be less applicable to other people depending on their circumstances, but it has been true for me. My wife and I had been saving up and planning for years to have at least one of us take some significant time off to finally finish a game. After putting it off a few times, we finally pulled the trigger near the start of this year, and I began to work full time on game dev around February 2022.

This was the biggest recent choice that helped us get the game done and released. There was so much we had to accomplish over the last few months, and we simply never would have been able to ship a thing without at least one of us putting literally all of our effort into completing it. I currently plan on dedicating most of my time to game dev for the next year or two, and we’ll reevaluate how things are going after that. For now, I have no regrets about taking this plunge. I don’t know how the game will do, and I have no idea if I’ll be able to keep working on games full time in the long term, but it was worth it for us to try for a while. We’ve release something we’re proud of, and we’ll go on from there. 

What we did wrong:

Trying to release on multiple platforms at once

After we decided on what we were going to make, I was so confident that we had scoped our project well that we could totally handle building the game for multiple platforms at the same time. I was very wrong about this.

Despite setting out to make a game we knew we could execute on, as just two people, there were simply not enough hours in the day to work regular jobs, build the game, AND do the extra engineering /paperwork/testing for multiple platforms all at the same time. We started working on console ports in 2015, and we did get the game running on every platform we were targeting (at the time, PC, PS4 and Wii U). But all the effort we put into porting it was effort that we didn’t get to spend on building new parts of the game. In 2022 the Wii U is no longer a thing, so every hour we put into that version of the game was essentially wasted at this point.

Unless you can dedicate at least one or two people on your team exclusively to porting your game to other platforms, I would not recommend targeting more than one launch simultaneously while trying to build your game.   

(Most) Side Projects are a Dangerous Time Sink

Over the course of making any game, you are going to hit dozens of different brick walls. Your ability to sustain progress on your game will be derailed by unexpected life events, world events, physical exhaustion, mental health issues, or simply being faced with a development problem where the answer is not immediately apparent. Whenever this happens to you, I would strongly advise against taking on game side projects as a distraction.


This is the most personal section of this write up, but I regret every time I immersed myself in another game project while we had a game we knew we were going to finish still deep in development.

Game jams and one-off experiments are fun, and great opportunities to learn stuff or try things, but I have found personally that once you are settled on project that you intend to polish up and release, they are a bad way to take the edge off when your primary project has temporarily stalled out. 

Working on games is a uniquely taxing experience. It takes a specific kind of mental energy that only distance and time can rejuvenate. In moments where I didn’t know how to proceed on our game, starting up a side project pretty much always left me in a worse place mentally and physically than when I started.

Over the years I’ve ended up with a few tabletop projects, a couple of video game or phone app prototypes, and nothing to show for all that effort. Spinning up each of these projects felt productive at the time, and then crashed me down to earth hard as they would sputter out one by one and leave me with yet another thing that I hadn’t finished.

Whenever you inevitably hit a brick wall and stall out on progress on your game, step away and do anything else that doesn’t involve game dev at all. Try to get more exercise, take up knitting, try painting or fixing up old cars, literally anything that does not tax the same part of your brain that solving problems in games does.

I have found that long walks, listening to music, and resetting my consistently terrible sleep schedule have all been awesome ways to eventually bounce back from game dev deadlock. As far as other creative projects go, starting a small YouTube channel was the only one that I’d say worked out for me. Making those videos is time consuming, but it’s a very different process than working on games, and each time I got a video uploaded I was able to take the mental health boost of having completed a thing from start to finish.


Hopefully this can help some of you take your games from whatever state they’re in and finally complete them. The last few months have been an insane sprint that I’m still recovering from, but it was worth it finally close a chapter in the game development journey we began so many years ago.

Stay safe out there, don’t give up hope, and I know you’ll eventually be able to ship your game. 
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