10 years of Submachine – and now what?


I’ll try to keep it short, however we’ve got a lot to cover here, so bear with me. The Submachine is over, and with it, an actual era of my career. 10-year long era. I’ll explain in detail what will happen right now and the reasons why it’s happening. It’s all caused by the patreon-induced transparency, as this is the first year where I feel obliged to keep you guys in the loop about what’s going on and why. I’ll break the wall of text into smaller chapters, each named appropriately. That being said, here’s the first one:

 

  1. Flash is dead.

 

As you can see, no beating about the bush in this article. Some of you might find this statement shocking, or perhaps shocking that I’m talking about this now and not like, couple of years ago. Well, there is a big reason why I waited until today, and the name of this reason is Submachine 10. You see, flash gaming was slowly dying ever since the advent of smartphone market and mobile gaming, around 2008. Yeah, 8 years ago. And I was fully aware of it happening back then too. But as long as I was creating Submachine series – I couldn’t ditch the flash platform. Submachine was born in 2005 as a free browser game and it was just impossible for me to carry on with the series for ten years, and then, when the last Submachine comes, switch the platform and turn my back on all those people who have been playing that game free online for the last ten years. The last Submachine had to be created in flash and it had to be free online. And it is. I went through the entire series as it started ten years ago, and now it’s done. Meanwhile, as I said, flash gaming was slowly dying ever since 2008 and I was stuck in the flash limbo, not allowing my work to evolve into something else on another platform. But it was my decision to stay that way and I have no regrets. Thanks to that decision I feel I earned your trust and respect. I feel that wherever I go in the future, you guys will follow. Those last few years were not wasted on flash. They were a foundation for something bigger. Closing statement on flash gaming is – while the one-day record of downloads on one of my games is 300 000, that was one of the Covert Fronts, perhaps the third one (imagine, more than a quarter million people played it in one day), right now those online numbers are abysmal compared. Flash is really finished, it was abandoned as soon as mobiles crashed the gaming market. If you say: “Wait a minute! I’ve been playing Submachine on my computer all along until now!” – well, yes, you have, but all those hundreds of thousands that are missing are playing on their smartphones and have forgotten browser games even existed. That’s ok, but there are serious implications  for my work and what comes next.

 

  1. So, if flash is dead, what’s next?

 

First of all, let’s clear one major thing – I will not jump to the mobile/smartphone market. We’ve tried that before and every time it ended ugly. There’ll be no games for iPhone nor Android from me, at least not for now. I want to go in a different direction. Namely – proper PC (and Mac, and Linux) gaming. That’s what I’ve been doing for last couple of years with my HD versions of older flash games, but it’s time to make a proper switch. Basically there are three options for me to choose from. These are three engines that I looked at. Unreal Engine, Unity and Game Maker. I tried all of them, and the most accessible for a flash developer is actually Game Maker.
what_now_gm

Unreal and Unity are great, don’t get me wrong, but for what I want to do right now, they’re kind of an overkill. These are mostly 3D gaming engines, and I still want to stay in the realm of 2D hand-drawn games. These bear my signature style and it would be lost when translated into 3D. Maybe, in time, I’ll switch to proper 3D gaming, but not just yet. The Game Maker seems to meet my expectations, and me being a self-learner I found it easiest for me to transition from flash. Take a look at this code snippet from Flash and Game Maker and notice the similarities.

 

what_now_flash_gm

 

I can easily find my way around this software. Actually, I never told you that before, but while I was developing Submachine 10 in Flash, I was also trying to do something in Game Maker already. You can take a look at this small sketch of a Mothball game, it was just for the sake of trying the software out. There’s nothing much to do but shoot enemies, but you can try it out yourself here.

what_now_moth

 

Closing statement on Game Maker is – remember, it’s not the tool that’s important, it’s who is using it. Game Maker is a proper game development software (unlike Flash which primary function was to create websites and animations), it uses sprites created from png files, which means I can still create my graphics in Flash and create games that look exactly as before, you wouldn’t even see the change in engine except that those wouldn’t be browser games anymore. But on the other hand – I can create sprites in Photoshop, or even paint them by hand and visibly change the style of what I do. This is the moment when creating a game that looks like one of my comic books is possible. I don’t know if I want to do this yet though. There’s a long time of rethinking my creative process ahead of me.

 

  1. So, the Game Maker, but what you want to do with it?

 

Now you can stop laughing about those two missing “Mission to…” games. I’m talking about “Mission to the Sun” and “Mission to Earth”. I know I’ve been saying that I’ll create these games since, uhm… 2012? But this year it’ll be different. You see, I kind of feel like I went back ten years. Right now I’m facing an (mostly) unknown to me software and I’m not sure what I can do with it. It’s a great place to be for a creative mind. Ever since I created a coherent engine for creating point and click games in flash (my so called float engine) I lost the actual intellectual challenge of the process. And that’s a big thing for me – the challenge. You might have missed it, but ever since 2010 each year I had some sort of challenge that I tried to achieve and actually achieving that was the most fulfilling thing for me as a creative person. But being kind of stuck in the polished flash engine was slowly wearing on me. Right now I can shake all the dust off my brain, oil the gears and restart the intellectual machine. I remember one of most creative times were when I had an unsolvable (at the time) problem, and I couldn’t even go to sleep properly because my brain was working full speed on solving the problem. But in time – I just got too good at creating point and click games in flash. There was no more challenge for me. But right now, we’re back to square one, yeah, sure, I’ve got ten years of experience behind me, but I’m starting a new adventure right now. Ditching flash is probably the best thing that will happen to my brain this year. That being said – I’m ready for a long time of learning the new software. Learning – meaning trying to create few smaller games, and here’s where “Mission to…” games come in. I’ll try to create those in the new engine as an exercise before creating something bigger. Besides that, two more games will be created – that is if I’ll be able to create them. Do you see how unstable all of this is right now? It’s all hanging on a thread named: me being able to learn game development on a new engine quick enough. I’m actually excited for game development again. Anyway, those two games are naturally new “10 Gnomes” game (“10 Gnomes in Pothia”) and another “Where is?…” game (“Where is 2017?”). So at the least – you’ll get four games this year, none of which will be point and click games. You happy? Probably not, but we just have to power through that period of me learning new things before I can create something bigger.

 

  1. Something bigger? What is it?

 

Yeah, sure, you had to ask. You just HAD TO ask that question. Well, if you have to know, the answer is – I don’t know yet. Firstly – I want to learn the new software while creating smaller games, and then I want to go BIG. I don’t know what it will be, but I can tell you the rough outline of what it might me. Basically I want it to evolve into something better. That means – taking all things that worked in previous games and put it all into one, big game. What it might be? Imagine – a daymare-like world, but in full color, that houses submachine-like puzzles, while having a main character that you control as in Daymare Cat. Maybe throw something painted in watercolor like in my Revolutions comic book series. Imagine that.

what_now_mashup

A clash of all goods I delivered during last ten years. In my mind that’s a proper way to evolve. Not creating something never seen before, but learning from your previous experiences, taking everything that was good and further improving it. Just as Submachine 10 was way bigger than it’s predecessors, I want to create something even bigger and better than that. I don’t know what it will be for now. Ask me in a year. I’ll probably have an answer by then. Did I mention it’s kind of important that you stick by me, or even support me through the Patreon page? Yeah, it is crucial. You’re still getting four games this year anyway. All of them free. Too small to attack Steam though.

 

  1. Steam?

 

Yeah, with that bigger, better, newer, evolved game I’ll try to finally tackle Steam. I’ll probably put that game on Steam Greenlight and will need your support in putting it through the process. But that’s a long time from now, like 2017. Many of you suggested that I should port Submachine games to Steam, but the thing is – I don’t want to start my presence there with an old, ported flash game series, that’s also free online. Steam community would kill me for trying to pull such a stunt. I really need to and want to create something new. Yes, that means the era of free games is over. I know it’s kind of strange to hear, but guys, let’s be real, I don’t want to go for the free-to-play model and basically destroy my games with ads and annoying prompts to buy more lives, or hints or tries or whatever. I’d rather give you an opportunity to buy a single piece of my work that’s complete, like a book, and ready for you to read. I mean play. That’s all.

 

  1. So why should I consider supporting you on Patreon.

 

Because I’ll be using my patrons as members of my development team. They will be getting samples of graphics and game sketches to play and express their opinions. Everytime I come up with something significant gameplay wise I’ll let them see it first hand. If you’re following me on facebook or twitter – you’ll get the same amount of info as before about new releases, games, comic books, everything. But on Patreon I’ll let people inside my workshop to see the process of creation and be a part of it.

 

  1. Why am I still reading this?

 

You must really like what I do if you’re still reading this article. Thanks! We’ve already covered all the essentials of what will be happening in 2016 – 2017 and all that’s left is for me to thank you all more in depth. Firstly, all of you that support me on Patreon – thank you from the bottom of my heart, as this Patreon thing is really the heart of this whole operation.  Secondly – big shout out goes to all people that bought Submachine 10 from my store. You guys turned up and basically allowed me to take the entire year off for learning and just creating small free games before going onto that bigger project. I’m really thankful for your donations and purchases as it’s the definitive way to know whether people actually like your creations so much that they’re willing to throw some money at it. I feel that right now is the best situation I put myself into since all those 10 years. We have a direct connection, me, the games developer, and you, the player. The money flow can’t be more direct. That’s really ensuring that the future ahead of us is bright.

 

Final thoughts: if I haven’t explained everything in full detail and you have any questions for me after reading this article, ask them on facebook or twitter. I’ll try to address them all in a separate post.

I’m very optimistic about the future, yet I’m not sure about your feelings concerning our relationship. Just know this – I’m always creating and my brain is always working and coming up with new ideas, stories and ways to awe all of you. That’s something I observed in me long time ago, that there are actually no off-time periods, even on vacation or when procrastinating hard – in the back of my head I’m always thinking of something new to create.

Remember that as I set off to create something bigger and better – it’ll also take longer to finish. There’s no schedule as of now, but it might take a year or two. The era of short free games will probably be over after this year, maybe with the exception of “10 Gnomes” and “Where is?…” games, which I may or may not continue after 2016.

10 years of Submachine are over. Let’s see what next 10 years bring us.

I’m curious. That’s the best mindset I could be in right now and it’s all thanks to you and your support.

Waiting for your questions.

Thank You for everything that happened so far.

 

Mateusz Skutnik