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When a game misses its release window by four years Exclusive

October 1, 2014 | By Mike Rose

October 1, 2014 | By Mike Rose
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More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing, Exclusive, Video



Back in the summer of 2010, I covered an intrigued music-based shooter called Substream on our sibling site IndieGames.com. The game, created by Southampton, UK-based developer Ben Bradley, was due for release sometime in 2011.

What made the game even more intriguing was the talented musicians he had on board, including VVVVVV composer Souleye, and Tomaš Dvorak of Machinarium and the Samorost series.

And then 2011 slipped by, as did 2012, then 2013... Four years later, Bradley's email address popped up in my inbox again, complete with a new trailer for the game, and word of a Kickstarter campaign.

"Back in 2010 when development started, the game engine market was very different for indies," explains Bradley. "The options at the time were either at triple-A prices, or didn't give me the level of control needed to make the kind of dynamic worlds I wanted."

And so the developer decided to build his own engine -- unfortunately, this meant that the going was very slow. If only he'd starting development years later, when engines like Unity were so freely available for decent prices.

This engine choice a knock-on effect, such that Bradley eventually had to pick up a full-time job to fund his game development. "I had to move cities when my wife needed a new job," he notes. "This caused a lot of expense, I had to get a full-time job too. Development has been down to a few hours a week since 2012."

With so many years in development for a single game, I question whether it was tough to keep the passion for making the game alive over all these years.

"I like to finish what I start," he says simply. "I have that kind of personality. I do have game ideas turning over in my head all the time. Actually, I see other indies who have side projects, and I've tried to do that but I can't maintain them, and sometimes I get quite jealous of that!"

"It does feel like a long time to stick with a game now," he continues, "but when I take it to expos, people get really excited about it. That encourages me to keep going."

Substream is now in its final leg of development, and Bradley is hoping the Kickstarter will help push him over those final hurdles. The plan is to release the game for Windows PC next summer -- although perhaps it isn't entirely wise to choose a release window for this game, given its history.

Interestingly, the entire soundtrack for the game has been in place since very early on.

"In almost every game-music process, the developers build the game and then music is chosen later to fit that style of game," he says. "For Substream, I picked some interesting artists and asked them to create a track. Design of levels starts with me sitting and listening to the music, wondering what would look good with it and what it reminds me of."

You can read more about Bradley's thoughts on synchronizing gameplay and animation with music on Gamasutra now.


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