The Ineffable Lightness Of Being
Released On Steam
**Warning, this post contains spoilers about the Matrix.
If you haven’t seen it, watch the first film and stop there**
“What's it like having a game out on Steam?”, you ask... you... you apparition of my conciousness. It’s a question I would’ve asked to others aswell, maybe... if I were a ridiculously insipid individual with no better questions to ask. But even if that was the case, I now know exactly what it’s like to have a game on Steam and I will tell you now Barry; Barry being the name I have given you, because we’re operating on my terms at the moment.
It’s certainly... a thing.
Our release build had been sat on Steam for some time before the clock hit 00:00 on the 30 March 2015 EST. A part of me had held out hope that around 16:00 Gabe Newell would stride into Lamplight HQ and shake our hands; He's understandably a busy guy and it’d take time to come all the way over from the states, so I allotted him an 8 hour window.
“Well done” he would say in his calming tone, and then we would chat and enjoy a drink together. We’d laugh about the good times and the bad, and he’d chuck a few Steam boxes and controllers at us (not agressively mind you... not Gabe). There’d of course be pizza, and we’d play the early alpha of Half-life 3, because we were part of his exclusive little clique now.
What release day was supposed to be like.
However, there was no fan fare, not even confetti; and we were at least 84.7% sure that if not Gabe Newell himself, there would at least be confetti, the clock just ticked over, and shortly after there was a chance that whilst looking at the Steam Store front, your screen would be graced by our game’s image capsule in one manner or another.
It was predicted that the world that ends “Not with a bang but a whimper”, we may not yet be able to confirm or deny that our mortal plane expires in such a manner. We are, however, now well equipped to confirm that a Steam game submission certainly place in this way.
Whilst similar, not exactly the same.
The period since has been almost like limbo (the place not the game, though perhaps that too), a slow process allowing the sensation to set in, and I for one am still in the very ambiguous state of almost offended uncertainty. I feel like I should be ecstatic, incredibly angry, or crushingly depressed, as it is it feels like another day at work will transpire next time in the office. One feeling I am able to latch on to is a sinful one, above all things I am proud.
The game we’ve made may not be perfect, to some people it may not even be good depending on ones tastes, but gosh darn it if it isn’t a game. Almost 3 years work, and I can actually sit down in front of it with a game pad (or keyboard), and just play. I am finally able to acknowledge that it’s something I’ve made with the team, and it is indeed a game.
Keeping It Real.
This sensation of “real things” has been solidified over the last couple of weeks since release. Upon the day of release we were trucked out for our 3rd Lamplight day out, we’ve now chalked up an average of 1 excursion a year! So look out world, we’re verging on normality, a poor mans normality albeit, but we’ll take what we can get.
This particular excursion saw us down to Channel 4’s HQ in London, very splooshy, where we were exiled to the ACTUAL BASEMENT. The aptness of a bunch of game developers showing off their wares to the world in a basement did not escape me. We should have been wearing our LARP clothes and speaking in high elven whilst others ran around as boglins casting wary eyes over the visitors and leering over the computers.
The actual place was pretty cool, it had an attached bar and cinema, but there was quite a 'dungeony' vibe at the same time. There were chains down there, genuinely, there were literally chains hanging down, everywhere. What’s that around the whole room you ask? CHAINS! Want to get to the cloak room do you? Oh is that a tasteful cloth divider marking the entranceway? Nope... CHAINS IN YOUR FACE! All in all however, the attendees took rather well to our dungeon of woe, people played the game and they didn’t seem to hate it either.
Replete with more chains than you will every need, for anything, ever.
Later in the evening, the show moved into the cinema section, at which point we, the Lamplight collective, were coralled onto stage like some kind of grotesque circus event. The preface for this particular part of the night was to give journalists the opportunity to meet “the talent”, however ended up being a host of journalists bearing witness to 20 minutes of 5 grown men up on a stage, crying. All in all a positive result and we even got free beer.
So after that experience we had nought but a few days to recover before it was straight off to Coventry, i54 was taking place, and we were to be there with a stand. We had T-shirts, business cards, and even a banner with our game’s name on it. We also had badges, but the badges never came, we still think about them, from time to time.
The morning of arrival was one of typical Lamplight class. I for one slept for 1 and ½ hours before getting up at 5AM and driving around the M60 for 2 hours picking up other members of the team. This was then followed by a brisk foray onto the M6 towards Coventry. There was a pressing desire amongst the team not to get lost. The last two times we had attended Insomnia, we had gotten lost, in completely different fashions. Both were equally tragic, and both pulling us in an hour late. This time we actually succeeded, although it then took us an hour to get our passes. Some delay in deliveries caused an issue at the reception, meaning we pretty much got set up at the exact same time we have every other time. Let it never be said that Lamplight are not consistent.
To summarise the event, it was good, our game was out, meaning when people asked the inevitable question of “So, when’s it out?” we had a real respsonse. Where previously we would sheepishly turn away and mutter something about beef chuck, we could now pounce upon their well meant query “HAH, FOOL, IT’S OUT NOW!” with terrifying glee and intent and no obvious sign of sanity. They had no context of our shame, they didn’t know what it meant to be able to say those words, they were victims of our hard won victory, being verbally assaulted at a video game exhibition. It was fine though, they dropped the charges.
Swag meter at unprecedented levels.
One can’t quite conjure into words the particular brand of exhaustion that sets in over an extended period of exhibiting. 3 days of constant talking, standing, and with always less than proper amounts of sleep. It’s debilitating. Time spent away from the exhibition floor were filled with blissful nothingness, we literally couldn’t think. Conversations between colleagues decended into chromagnon grunts.
When, before taking the first leap, Morpheus said to Neo “Free your mind”, they should have just saved everyone some time and sent him to an even vaguely accurate reconstruction of of a 3 day game development exhibition. Neo would have aced that jump, Trinity would still be alive, and that series of films could’ve been saved from a slow decline into the abyss.
Amongst the team I had been the one pushing for us to camp, and eventually after all AirBnB applications rejected us (I think they mistook “team of highly introverted and awkward video game developers” for “lad about town gang up for anything not excluding pillaging and fire” the two are understandably synonymous) we decided we would camp. This was a decision we would barely live to regret. It is April, a few months before we’re meant to be at the height of summer and I’m being slapped in the face in the middle of a night by wet tarpaulin roughly the temperature of a nuclear winter. We wore hats and gloves to sleep, and our tears froze upon our withered visages. That was the Friday night.
The Saturday night is an entirely different venture. We didn’t end up going back to the tents that night, like some kind of angelic force, the lovely chaps over at Laser Dog totally set us up with a mean hotel floor and some half beds to sleep on, and it was glorious. This was precluded by an evening of mirth at the i54 pub quiz, at which out of English politeness I think I drank more than my weight in alcohol purely because it was being put in front of me. We also represented in the traditional boatrace, which safe to say we won, in no small part due to Alex Johansson’s genuinely demonic ability to consume a pint in about 6 seconds.
Some of the Lamplight boys representing, amongst others. Just happy to be allowed out really.
All in all we had a good time. Exhausting but good. And that about wraps it up, for now the Lamplight crew trudge onward trying to take A Pixel Story to the masses in whatever way we can, there’s been discussion of tying hard copies to cute puppies and unleashing them around Manchester. We’ll workshop it and get back to you.
tl;dr Game out on Steam. Things are real.