Developer Edmund McMillen released a buggy version of The Binding of Isaac
because he "didn't want to waste any more of my time on something I expected would crash and burn," but soon found he had a cult hit on his hands.
This revelation comes as part of a postmortem of the game published today on Gamasutra
-- a reprint from sister publication Game Developer magazine's November issue.
"As of writing this postmortem, The Binding of Isaac
has sold over one million units on PC and Mac in its first year on Steam, one-quarter of the people who own the main game paid for the Wrath of the Lamb
expansion, and the interest seems to continue building," McMillen writes.
However, he says, he had very low expectations for the game as he was working on it.
"From any mainstream marketing perspective, I designed Isaac
to fail -- and that was my goal from the start."
So sure was he of its incipient failure that its first release was a buggy mess: "we had save bugs, game-breaking bugs that wouldn't let you complete the game, bugs that would not reward unlocks and achievements, and even some really odd ones that would scramble item clips and cycle through art from the game constantly," he writes.
"The biggest question, of course, was 'Why didn't you test the game?'," writes McMillen. "The reason we released Isaac
when we did was because it was done (if untested), and I didn't want to waste any more of my time on something I expected would crash and burn. I was just so worried it would suck that I wanted to get it out and over with."
Of course, the opposite happened -- the game became a Steam smash. McMillen suspects that has to do with the way the community has connected to and supported the game -- with YouTube videos, fan fiction, and more.
You can read all of McMillen's thoughts on the development of Isaac
in the Game Developer postmortem, live now on Gamasutra
The November issue of Game Developer magazine is now available via subscription and digital purchase. This issue also features a "mid-mortem" for free-to-play Shoot Many Robots: Arena Kings by Demiurge Studios. You can subscribe to the print or digital edition at GDMag's subscription page, download the Game Developer iOS app to subscribe or buy individual issues from your iOS device, or purchase individual digital issues from our store.