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  • Postmortem: Eastshade

    [10.15.20]
    - Danny Weinbaum
  • Eastshade is an open-world, first-person adventure game where you play as a traveling artist. It was released for PC on February 13, 2019, and for Xbox One and Playstation 4 on October 21, 2019. 

    Quick Facts

    • Game Engine: Unity
    • Platforms: Windows, Xbox One, PS4
    • Eastshade Studios' second release, following our small spinoff title Leaving Lyndow.
    • In development from 2013 to 2019
    • Metacritic 78, Steam score 89 (at time of writing)
    • Initial budget of 200k*, plus additional 60k post launch for porting and patching
    • Self-published, funded from personal savings + help from family toward the end when we nearly ran out of money
    • Roughly $2M USD gross revenue across all platforms so far (1.5 years since launch)

    * Most of the budget was for living costs, while living as cheaply as possible. If a publisher asked us to make a game like Eastshade for 200k we'd laugh at them. A bare living cost style budget is not really comparable to an actual hiring budget. If we wanted to convert this budget to its actual economical value, it would have been more like 700k.

    The Beginning

    I landed my first game studio job in 2010, and ever since then I knew that one day I'd want to make my own game. I always assumed it would take a lot of money, and that no publisher was likely to hand it to me to try, so I saved religiously. Assuming I'd have to hire a team to build something substantial, I thought it was going to take a very long time to build up the funds. But my outlook changed in 2013, when I saw a number of indies creating impressive products solo or near solo.

    I'd been working on what would become Eastshade at home in the wee hours for months, and was making good progress. My inspiration burned so hot, I was finding it hard to get to bed, which resulted in a severe lack of sleep. Some people can manage to work on their indie project while holding a regular job, but I've always had a very single-project mind, and struggle with multiple projects. I knew I could only keep doing one. With years of savings stockpiled, in December of 2013 I quit my job at Sucker Punch Productions as an Environment Artist to go full time on Eastshade. I knew I could pinch pennies to make the savings last, and with no children or mortgage my tolerance for risky financial moves was high.

    The first year of Eastshade development was a very special time in my life. Imagine a moment of pure inspiration- the feverish kind that burns so hot it gives you goosebumps (maybe that only happens to me). I felt that burning inspiration every day. The inspiration waned slightly each year, and eventually gave way to commitment, which, as it turns out, becomes easy to hold when you're 3 years in and have invested your life savings. In the last year, when I had sight of the finish line, neither commitment nor inspiration seemed required, as the thrill of finishing and releasing-the moment I'd been fantasizing about for so long-was all I needed to keep swimming.

    Team

    I started the project alone, but fortunately I didn't have to finish it alone. By the second year my partner Jaclyn was making major contributions in design, writing, UI art, and in-game illustrations. By the fourth year she was working on the project full-time and doing quest markup, mapping, and testing. Most of the game's hallmark mechanics were of her conception and design, including the painting mechanic itself, as well as the inspiration mechanic. In addition to her high level art chops, she has grown into the best game designer I know, and it's safe to say the game would have been wholly unrecognizable without her.

    Beyond myself and Jaclyn, our composer, the amazing Phoenix Glendinning, has been working closely with us from the start. We also had a character artist, Daniel Merticariu, who was an army unto himself, and single-handedly modelled all the outfits and characters. Toward the end of production we hired two quest scripters and a programmer to help us implement quests and get the game across the finish line. Finally, we worked with a number of additional contractors, including voice actors, translators, DO Games who handled our console ports, as well as our publicist extraordinaire Charlene Lebrun of Player Two PR.

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