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Devs reflect on 8 years spent making an episodic game meant to take 12 months

Devs reflect on 8 years spent making an episodic game meant to take 12 months

August 7, 2017 | By Alex Wawro

August 7, 2017 | By Alex Wawro
More: Indie, Production

"We were just flying by the seat of our pants. 'Who cares how long things take? Let's just get this party started and solve all problems as we go!'"

- Anders Gustafsson, speaking to Waypoint about starting out a year-long episodic game that wound up taking 8 years to complete.

In the last twelve months we've seen a remarkable run of games releasing after incredibly long development cycles: Owlboy (9 years), The Last Guardian (~10 years), and now (well, back in May) The Dream Machine (8 years).

In a new interview with Waypoint, Dream Machine co-creators Erik Zaring and Anders Gustafsson chat a bit about what it was like to see the claymated project through to completion, given that it was released in 2010 with two of its six episodes already playable -- and the rest expected to take about 12 months to complete.

It's a nice chat, and devs who are working on episodic games (or considering the structure for future projects) might especially appreciate the way Gustafsson describes it as both a pain and a panacea when it comes to getting through the ups and downs of game development.

"I wouldn't recommend a marathon development process, but a good thing about episodic development is that you compartmentalize the unavoidable post-production lull that follows the completion of any major undertaking," Gustaffson told Waypoint. 

"If we had worked on this game as one monolithic chunk, then I would probably be depressed as fuck right now. After eight years in development, my life would feel totally empty. But because we've already released the game five times, we've had the chance to distance ourselves over a longer period of time. Maybe not the game as a whole, but at least chunks of it. That made taking this final step far easier. Episodic development sucks in a lot of ways, but this is one of the benefits."

It's a bit of interesting perspective on what it feels like to be making an episodic game as a very small team (basically, two people).

For more from Gustafsson and Zaring on everything from how Dream Machine was inspired by the work of John C. Lilly ("he'd do heroic amounts of Ketamin and LCD together with friends") to how they managed to survive an eight-year production cycle, check out Waypoint's full interview.

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