I’ve been putting off writing this post for far too long. That probably goes without saying, eh?
So let’s jump right to the good news: active development has resumed on Village Monsters! The fabled v1.1 will release this October. Yes, that’s next month.
More details, a new trailer, and a firm release date will follow soon.
If that’s all you’re interested in knowing then you’re good to go! But for the sake of accountability I wanted to explain myself. I owe you all that much. Keep on reading to understand what’s been going on with me.
(Note: This post contains no new info on VM itself, no new screenshots, etc. I thought that’d muddy the waters too much.)
Over the last year I’ve had the worst luck imaginable in my personal and professional life. Eventually I was forced to choose, and decided to focus on my family’s health until I got my head above water. We’re good now, so I’m ready to once again work on Village Monsters.
I’ve mentioned a lot of this stuff previously – here, on Twitter, via emails and DMs – but it’s been long enough that I felt I should put it all down on paper from the beginning. Let’s revisit March 2022 and the disastrous release that was v1.0.
It all began, unbeknownst to me at the time, with a bug in my version control software introduced months before release. Version control let’s you maintain and organize the huge amount of code changes you make to a project; I use git and SourceTree. It’s very important even for solo devs.
I did not discover this bug until the day before release when I created the final “build” of v1.0, which basically means creating the files that let’s you play the game. Instead of taking 10-15 minutes and spitting out the necessary files, GameMaker instead ran for hours and then silently failed and froze my entire computer. Not good.
The nasty part was that Git said everything looked good, and GameMaker showed no errors, not even when the build process failed. The only clue pointing at my source control was that my directories were full of junk files that coincided with times I’d push / pull from my remote git repository. It seemed that GameMaker was “choking” on these junk files when it came time to build the game.
Of course I had backups – local and online – and went through them slowly to find a “good” copy of the game that’d build successfully. I did find one… but it was many months old. I had been crunching for weeks on v1.0, and all that work was lost. I’d have to do it all over again.
I should have done the rational thing and delayed the release so I could fully examine and fix the problem programmatically. I’m not an expert on git or source control in general, so the problem may have had a simple solution if I had time to dig at it.
Instead I panicked and attempted to fix everything by hand using the old backup from my laptop and manual “cherry picks” from git. I pulled multiple all-nighters and worked 16 hour days in an attempt to release and fix the game simultaneously.
This was a very dumb idea and made a bad situation much worse. Now my codebase – which was already a delicate house of cards – was full of errors, half-fixes, copy / paste mistakes, hardcoded data, etc. etc. A total mess, and even months later the game was still broken regardless of how many patches I shoved out there.
I had the plan for a v1.1, a reboot of sorts to get everything back on track. I just needed a good chunk of time to work on it. Instead, I got much less.
Separate to all this, my family was dealing with its own (unrelated) major stresses and problems. These had been building up prior to the release, and had resulted in some major shifts in my life and schedule to accommodate.
But the situation became untenable after the difficult birth (and even harder infancy) of my son in the summer of 2022. This was unfortunately around the time I was first designing v1.1 and what a “redo” release might look like.
Suddenly I was put into a position where I had to choose between family and work. I put it off as long as I could and tried to juggle between the two priorities in my life. But turns out I suck at juggling, and I was dropping things more than I was catching them.
I ultimately throttled back my work to the barest minimum so I could focus on my family. I figured a break of a month or two would let me stabilize my own life so I’d be able to focus on stabilizing VM.
Of course it didn’t work like that. The problems somehow kept adding on, some urgent and very scary, others minor but extremely tedious, and Village Monsters became more and more distant down my priority list. I never fully stopped working, but I wasn’t putting in enough time to get a release out.
It has been a very, very long year. But things are better now.
I’m now 3000 miles away from where I was this time last year. I’m on my same desktop, using my same keyboard and monitor, but everything else is different.
We’re in the process of moving closer to our relatives – turns out you really miss being around your safety net when crap hits the fan. However, this means means going back from Seattle to New England. It’s an ongoing process, but we have a good (albeit temporary) setup now where I can work.
It feels good to work on VM again, though it’s a bit like waking up from a deep sleep after throwing a very irresponsible party. I vaguely recognize the comfortable shapes of my house under all the trash and broken furniture, but putting it back together won’t be easy.
But it’s doable, and I left myself in a good place before hitting pause, so I’m able to start from 70% as opposed to 0%.
I’m also using this opportunity to reevaluate things. To be frank, I may end up turning indie vidcon development back into a side effort, and not my main career. I’m still defining what exactly that means and I’m currently exploring all my options. It won’t effect v1.1, but it may change future releases of VM or any other titles I may work on. We’ll see.
Anyway! You can look forward to more progress updates here and on Twitter (…X?), and I can pinky promise that v1.1 will be ready by October. A monster month for a monster game. Seems as good of a fit as any.
See you soon, villagers!