Stugan Update 1: Piling on the Bones

Week two of eight at Stugan has come to a close. What a whirlwind it’s been! I’ve met some great indie devs, tasted new and intriguing Swedish cuisine (hint: lots of salmon), and been eaten alive by mosquitos. I tried (and failed) to get around the camp grounds on my wheelchair. (The ramps are awesome, the gravel, not so much.) Several devs, myself included, have been interviewed by media outlets in print, online, and on television.

Oh, and the scenery is gorgeous everywhere you go:

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And the nights are exceptionally bright and… purple.

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I was interviewed for the first official update from Stugan’s YouTube channel:

In the work department, I spent a good deal of the first week cleaning up messy corners of my Unity project. I also modified the game flow from a hard-coded system to something more data-driven, so I can plug in a spreadsheet and modify the story script quickly. This means in the coming weeks I can test out variations on the stealth gameplay and iterate on writing much more quickly. I have built a skeleton that is flexible enough to walk on its own feet.

Several industry vets have visited to give us mentorship and advice. One frequent discussion was how to handle marketing for a game that’s meant to be short—since Sunshine is meant to be finished within an hour. While this is an easier question when you’re making a free game, as Sunshine will be, it’s a topic I’d like to explore deeper. I would like us to find out if there is a way to market or sell shorter games in a way that players understand. With Tale of Tales’ recent departure from games following the commercial failure of Sunset (lots of sun-related games happening lately…), I wonder about how feasible it is to sell unconventional games.

If there is any money in “art games”, it probably will be found outside the existing consumer market, and instead in exhibition spaces, galleries, and grants—the usual hubs for capital “A” art—along with new funding sources such as Patreon. I am skeptical, however, as Patreon pages are rarely successful enough to sustain themselves long-term. For most creators, Patreon income provides a little bit of helpful side-money to pay bills, rather than a solid foundation from which to build a body of work.

Perhaps we must continue to bang against the walls of consumer culture helplessly until we create something resembling a movement, some cultural force that is textually literate enough to form a mission statement encompassing several creators rather than one lone, isolated studio. Maybe the bones of the fallen, stripped bare by the consumerist machine, will be the first to lift us up. It is morbid, but thankfully, a metaphor. Usually.