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  • Postmortem: Eastshade

    - Danny Weinbaum

  • Release

    The tale of Eastshade's launch day is an odd one. I have been wanting to catalogue it somewhere before the details of it vanish to the decay of memory. The tale begins, as many epic tales do, with some backstory.

    In the final year of our five-year development, we were beginning to run out of money. With both Jaclyn and I working full-time on the game, we managed to stretch our savings quite far, but eventually the well was running dry. My mother and grandmother, who live together, very graciously offered that we come live with them. Bless their hearts! This helped us tremendously, and ensured we had enough reserves for final launch costs like localization.

    My grandmother's house is a bit rural, but the internet is fast, and continuing development there was never a problem. But on launch week, something truly rare happened. It snowed. A lot. In fact it was the 3rd biggest snowstorm in the Seattle area in the last 100 years. The day before launch we lost power. No problem, right? Just pack up the computer and drive as far as you need to to find power and internet. The problem was there was about 1 mile of private road to leave my grandmother's house. With over a foot of snow, just about any car was hopeless, and no snow plow was coming.

    We considered our options. The first thing we tried was driving over the snow. We made it about 20 feet before losing traction and starting to drift sideways, toward a ravine (fortunately this was still in the driveway, so we could leave it there). Next we started shoveling a path. Anyone who has shoveled snow probably is finding that notion quite laughable, because shoveling a mile of snow by hand is not really feasible. It only took a few feet of shoveled road to understand that.

    Running out of ideas, we considered gathering our things and hiking out to the main road, and summoning a family member to pick us up. But among other logistical issues that are too tedious for this story, the roads were in no state for anyone to be driving on. Snow isn't a huge problem in places that are prepared for it, but in the Seattle area, even a little snow is basically the apocalypse, and we had a foot of it.

    In the end we decided we'd wait and pray the power returned before 7am the next day, our scheduled launch time. We did have a build I had uploaded a week prior, that was in a somewhat launchable state. Over the phone I was able to get my brother (in a neighboring city with power) logged into the Steam partner site, ready to hit the launch button if power didn't return to us in time.

    It was a dark moment for me. It wasn't so much that I was worried things would go badly without the most up-to-date build (though I was worried about that), or that people wouldn't be understanding of the slightly delayed updates due to our snowstorm situation, but just that I had been dreaming about launch day for five years. I had always envisioned being able to watch it all unfold from my own workstation, with my own internet. I found myself on the eve of our launch not even excited about the big day, but rather just praying through gritted teeth that the power would return.

    At 4:30 am, just 2.5 hours before our launch time, the power returned. I uploaded the latest build with the force of a thousand well-lit rooms. And by the guiding light of electricity, I went into the kitchen for a pre-launch snack. There, on the counter, I found this:

    While I was trying to jump start cars and shovel snow the night before, Jaclyn had secretly made an Eastshade pie by candlelight. Of uncooked oats, peanut butter, and honey, she had made the only thing she could come up with without an oven or burner. I cried like a baby. In all the madness I hadn't thought to do anything to make the day special or memorable. I was too worried about the power to savor the momentousness of the occasion. When I saw the Eastshade pie she had thought to make, it finally felt like a special day. Even now if I think about that pie I tear up.

    As far as the launch itself, it went pretty smoothly, all things considered. We did have one absurd bug with the Russian localization which we fixed within a few hours. A few days earlier we caught that some of the text fields were overflowing in Russian, so I scaled the Russian font down globally to 90%. On my ultra-quick verification test everything looked dandy, but if I had kept playing another minute I would have seen a ridiculous problem. I was doing 90% of the current font size. The result was the font shrank a tiny bit each time the text field was repopulated. Until you get something like this:

    For months I was getting bug reports of that, because all the torrent sites instantly uploaded the 1.0 version of the game, and many of them didn't bother to update, even though the fix came within hours. It made it very easy to spot the pirates.


    I'm hugely proud of Eastshade. It's a bigger and better game than anything I envisioned when I first started it in 2013. I am so fulfilled by its completion, that if I died tomorrow, I would be content with what I did with my years. To be clear, I'd very much like to keep living, but that is the level of impetus I felt to complete it.

    In the months following its release, amidst the joy of finally achieving some security as an indie, and the warmth of its reception, a small part of me did feel off. It was the forward-looking part of dreaming about what Eastshade would become. It may sound a bit one dimensional, but for five years, I saw many things in life through the lense of being excited for Eastshade. If I saw a beautiful building, I'd think "Ooh we could do something like that in Eastshade!", or if I heard a street performer, I would think "Wow wouldn't it be cool if we had street performers in Eastshade?" All forms of inspiration were impulsively funneled into dreaming about the game. When it was finally released, I was a little unprepared for the quickness with which that habit had to die. "Oh that would be cool in Eas- oh right... It's shipped and done, and whatever it is will always be," I thought, as I found myself unexpectedly wistful about things that never came to be in the game. But you can't keep working on something forever. And please don't advise me to keep working on content updates for our fully released, single-player, barely replayable game with a regular decaying sales curve :)

    Eastshade Studios is now a fully self-funded game studio free to work on our own products. We are a game ahead of our capital instead of a game behind (meaning our revenue is stockpiling for our next game, instead of going to pay back a publisher or investor from our last), which means we can go wherever our whims blow, instead of needing to seek more funding. While we intend to expand our budget a bit for our next title, we also intend to store some nuts for winter, and put ourselves in a position where one flop won't kill us. It's an exciting place to be! And we have every intention of our next game blowing Eastshade away in scope, polish, variety, coziness, wonder, and personality!


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