After the unfortunate closing of TinyLetter this newsletter has been on pause until I find a suitable replacement service. I’m very grateful for the readers who have reached out with recommendations, and those who have encouraged me to keep writing more. A great deal has happened since I wrote the last letter! So if you will indulge me, how about a quick life update?

In 2024 I was able to celebrate the release of Penny’s Big Breakaway — Evening Star’s debut title. I was Evening Star’s first employee over five years ago, and it has been a long road to get the game out the door. The team built our own 3D engine, created a unique technical pipeline for iterative level creation, and experimented with gameplay conventions to make a truly fresh entry in one of the oldest genres in videogames. I am unbelievably proud of our accomplishments, and any trials we faced were peanuts compared to the gratification of seeing people dig into the game on Twitch, YouTube, and elsewhere. I’ve worked on many titles that never saw the light of day, so having the opportunity to be part of a game all the way through production was very special.

I also had the opportunity to come up with new original titles and pitch them at DICE and GDC in 2023 and 2024. This was a ton of work to juggle while also finishing the studio’s Big Breakaway title, but it was a blast. It gave me a new perspective on the business end of game development, and really transformed the way I think about design. I’ve always tried to keep a material labor focus on my design analyses here, but my understanding of the economics were more abstract before, and now I have a better sense of scale and numbers. I’ve had to do more than a couple breakdowns of other games in an attempt to reverse-engineer their productions, which I can’t share here but in the future I might do some for fun and share those.

We built some incredible prototypes, but unfortunately couldn’t land a publisher either year. I might spend the rest of my life thinking about what I could have done differently, but I know it wasn’t for lack of thoughtfulness or effort. The climate for mid-sized indie titles is dire right now. Many people have offered different perspectives of why this crisis is happening, and I definitely have my own, but I don’t think there is a single fundamental cause. Everyone’s takes are probably right, to some degree, which means that there isn’t a single change that can fix broken parts of the game industry.

I have no clue what the future is going to look like. New modes and models will emerge somehow, someday, and the people who adapt to them will be the ones that stick around. What I know is this: play is older than mankind, and color television is younger than the president. There will always be games, but the technology and business around them cannot be taken for granted.

Until the next time, keep on having fun <3