Subnet Final Flash Update and why it had to end…

Listen… I know. I know there’s too much reading as of late about the Submachine here. This is the last article about the Flash era Submachines, ok? I promise. Just let me do this, and it’ll be done for. Next time we’ll be talking Submachine it will be about new game created in Game Maker to be released on Steam. Hopefully that will be in two or three years from now.

Funny how things work. Submachine wasn’t even mentioned on my to-do list for 2017, yet it was the biggest and most important project of the year. It all started with an idea I had in January to create a Patreon goal of making one Submachine Universe location per month, once the required condition was met. If all went well, that would mean 12 new locations spread throughout the entire year. As we all know, things not always go well, the goal wasn’t met few times, so later that year I decided to unbound this project from this Patreon goal, and just decided to create one location per month without any conditions. This decision not only allowed me to work more freely, I also didn’t have to look up to Patreon nervously each month checking that state of the goal. I could also create more than 12 new locations. Submachine Universe became a canvas on which I was able to paint new complicated puzzles involving old and new locations. I could sprinkle inventory items everywhere, add more theories, design multi-location puzzles.



Here are some numbers. In 2017 I created 29 new locations that consisted of 221 new rooms. If we were to treat it as a standalone game – it would make one hefty Submachine game. In fact – probably the biggest one yet.

As I finished the monthly goal of new locations in November, somebody joked that I should make another 12 locations in December to have entirety of 2018 covered.

And so by pure coincidence, during the so-called “final update” in December I created 12 new locations which had 113 new rooms. Almost half of the entire year’s work done in just one month. It was a pretty busy December, if you remember that there also was “Where is 2018?”, released on December 31st.

And here we are. That December final expansion was a secret one, not only the biggest expansion ever created since the inception of this project back in 2010, but also one that would give this game a definitive ending.

An ending that I had to finally create. And ending that had to happen. And here are the reasons why:


1. Flash being killed in 2020.


We’ve been through this countless times by now. But there were some new developments of the sad story of Flash Player in 2017. Mainly – Adobe finally killing Flash in 2020 for good and telling everybody to jump ship. Here’s the announcement. So basically that only proves me right when I made the decision to jump ship three years ago. You see, this platform now officially has no future whatsoever. Submachine Universe was my LAST flash project that wasn’t discontinued mainly due to nostalgia and me not wanting to leave things in the air after more than half of a decade working on it. Hence – the ending.


2. Flash being more and more problematic as standalone executables. 



This is more of a behind the scenes thing that does not concern most of you, but the problem here was Flash was always meant to be an internet thing, viewed through your browser, held by flash player plugin. This, I guess was giving flash content a hint of security and stability. Once you start creating standalone games (that are .exe and .app files, not .swf) you’re basically done for. In the past, various system tolerated these, potentially risky files. But now? The days of downloading and opening whatever you wanted from the internet are gone. Now your antivirus and OS will held your hand and tell you what you can and can’t do.  Just take a look at this:


As you can see, plethora of problems on both ends. Mac OSX version was being stopped by Gatekeeper (form of antivirus built in feature of Mac OSX), which was telling people that these files they just downloaded are damaged and the only way to deal with them is to just trash them and forget about it. Well then… Thanks, Gatekeeper… On the other hand flash .exe files were being stopped in the same way on PC computers, which, to no surprise, were not really fond of opening .exe files that were downloaded from the internet. You can also add problems with saving games, as the system of flash saving is the most counter-intuitive thing about it. Yes, sure, once you download a game that is a standalone .exe file, and you actually are able to open it at all, when it doesn’t want to save – you just have to change flash plugin settings in your browser, because of course. Saving was the most fragile part of Flash development. You moved your game to another folder? Your save is gone. You changed the name of your game file? Well, you might as well start over playing it, right?

And don’t even start me talking about amounts of hoops people had to jump through to even open my games on Linux.

The real problem here is that there was no way for you to sign those executables with a developer ID, so that the system would know it’s legit. Something that is readily available in Game Maker and is actually required if you want to create Mac OSX versions of your games. No such thing in Flash though! You want an app? There you go. Just don’t sweat that people won’t be able to open it. And you know what – I’m not surprised operating systems are fighting that tooth and nail. The way Flash was handling .exe and .app files was reckless and could be possibly dangerous. Times have changed and Flash just got left behind. But we move on. We have moved on. It’s just that the Subnet got left behind in flash.


3. My mild OCD concerning constant updating, tweaking

and upgrading minuscule stuff in the Subnet.



Those were two technical problems of Flash being Flash in [current year argument]. Now onto something more personal. You see, one of the most distinctive characteristics of a comic book artist (which, mind you I am primarly) is that mild version of obsessive compulsive disorder of wanting to finish open projects. This is the only way for you to actually finish, let’s say a 100-page comic book and not stop after you get bored and tired of it after 30 pages. And while in comic book once you finish a page, it’s done and you move to another one (well, that is at least the best outcome), in game development it’s not easy. You see, as the Subnet grew, the amount of work put into tweaking smallest things grew as well. This is all technical stuff too. For example, when I started creating it in 2010 I was far worse at programming then I am today. Through all those years the code was changing as well. Let’s say I wanted to change the way transporters work. I’d have to go to each one and change code inside of it. But then I learned how to change it only once, in a coding package container and then a transporter would just import that code into itself automatically. Fine, but that also meant changing all transporters as well, one more time to be able to work this way. Before the last update I thought I should change the appearance of wormhole portals to resemble the last version, the one presented in Submachine 10. Again – had to go through all locations that contained a wormhole portal and change it manually. One of the biggest changes was the way the game displayed theories. As you remember, each location had it’s own piece of paper with a theory written on it, but by the end we had a system of keeping all theories in one place and displaying them uniformly, just as notes in regular Submachine games. And so on, and so forth. I’m boring you to tears with this, I know, but I just want to explain why it had to end.

Bottom line – my OCD was stretched to the point of breaking and the only thing left for me to do was to move away from it. Creating a finish line for Submachine Universe allowed me to do just that.


4. Programming dichotomy



The strangest thing was that after working in Game Maker for a longer period of time and especially coding in it – I felt completely lost when I returned to Flash and the way it was handling programming. It was like going back to a regular stinky city bus after somebody gave you a ride in an exotic car. It felt really strange, since I was working in Flash for over a decade and now it’s kind of tossed aside.

But the truth is that Game Maker is just so much better at helping you in what you want to do. Basically – programming is just constant struggle. Game Maker has your back during your struggles. Flash on the other hand was just laughing in your face.  It’s just not fun anymore to create games in Flash, I’m sorry. I know there are people who desperately want things to be as they were all those years before. To be able to play games in a browser, free and online. But the gaming market has changed so much, especially in the free, online, desktop and mobile department. Remember, when Submachine started back in 2005, there was no iPhone, or even YouTube. There was no mobile gaming. Hard to imagine, I know, but that just shows you how much things have changed. All of you still longing for the good old days that I, personally, destroyed by switching to Game Maker – I refer to you once again that article about Flash being discontinued in two years.


5. I had to step away from Submachine to focus on the Big Game.



There’s a light at the end of this tunnel. The Big Game, main focus of my work this year, for which I had to kind of create a clean slate in my mind, sort of clean up the mind desk, open all windows in my head and let the fresh breeze blow the Submachine away. At least for immediate foreseeable future. And again – finishing this project, saying good bye to Flash did just that.

But don’t worry, Submachine will return. Submachine Universe will return as well, recreated in Game Maker in it’s due time. Probably changed to the point of being unrecognizable from it’s Flash version, but hey, times are changing, and so are Submachines.

Let’s just all hope for a smooth development process of the Big Game.