A Celebration, Some Closure, and Giving It All Away

December 13, 2022 | By

2023 marks my 40th year in the games business, making games pretty much continuously since 1983. Yes, I’m old. To mark this auspicious occasion, I’m hanging up my debugger and retiring from game dev (yeah, right). Obviously I’m still gonna mess around with the odd prototype here and there (told you so), but I don’t think I have another full project in me. My last published game, Immortal Darkness: Curse of The Pale King, was the best, most satisfying project I ever got to work on in my long career. Given the resources I had at the time, it’s as close to the game I always wanted to make, as I could get. Because I’m retiring, I also retired the game from Steam, and now I’m giving it away for free so more people can play it (link below). Think of it as a Holiday gift. I’m proud of the game and I reckon it’s a good project to end on.

You can download the game from here;


Because this silliness involves my game, I planned on writing a Gamasutra blog as a followup to the other dev blogs I’ve posted on there. Sadly they shut their blogs down, so here it is below instead. Enjoy!


I originally wrote a series of blogs over on Gamasutra, about developing and publishing my game, Immortal Darkness. I want to talk about what’s next for the game, getting closure, and moving on.

We published Immortal Darkness in November 2018, to high hopes and expectations. If you read my last blog post on here, you’ll know that things didn’t really go as we hoped. The game languished and the company we set up to develop the game, withered and died. People went their separate ways, and I ended up owning and managing the game personally. The game has sat on Steam for the past 4 years, now selling a couple of copies a month, and slowly falling into neglect. The version of Unity the game was developed on is old and tired, and there were cracks showing. Updating the game on the Steam store became a problem, and its issues and need of a refresh sat in the back of my head, pecking at me to do something about it.

I’d not played the game for a long time, essentially ignoring it and hoping it wouldn’t break. But then one evening about 2 months ago, I randomly fired the game up and spent a satisfying and enjoyable 4 hours playing through the first 6 levels or so. That play session brought back a lot of good memories and also a little sadness, of dashed hopes and dreams not realized. We’d planned a sequel, with even grander scope and story, but that all hinged on the success of the first game, which sadly never happened.

When we decided to make the game originally, it was very much a passion project. Something my partner and I had always wanted to make, and so we poured everything we could into its creation. We were just 2 guys with very (very) limited resources, and development was slow and difficult. Both Damon and myself are old pros with careers going back to the 80s and 90s. We knew what we were getting into when we started the project, and we were seasoned enough to push through all the hard stuff, and ultimately we pulled it off. It was never really about the money for me personally (well maybe a little), because I really just wanted to make something cool that people could play and enjoy. I love the idea of willing something into existence; creating something from nothing and having it become part of poeple’s lives and experiences. That’s always been a big motivator for me, creatively.

I wont rehash what I’ve said before too much, but when the game didn’t do as well as we hoped, and all the air got knocked out of us, it took a long time to recover. We questioned the quality of the game, the design, the art, the coding… but now the dust has settled years later, I think it was mostly a lack of exposure, marketing, community, and awareness. Not that any of that was the fault of the people helping with those aspects of the project, rather it was simply a lack of money. All the stuff you have to do, after the game is done and published, costs a lot of money, and frankly we were left with a pittance to spend by the end of development. My partner took it harder than me, putting an end to his indie developer aspirations, as he threw himself into his full time game dev job. For me, it was disappointing for sure. I wanted two things for the game. First, I wanted lots of people to play it and (hopefully) find some enjoyment in it; delighted by a trap or puzzle we’d labored over. Second, I wanted to do more. I wanted to build a small independent game dev studio, and make the sequel. I’ve had a pretty good career in the games business, spanning almost 40 years (yeah, I started in 1983). I have a long history of making games and being involved with startups, and I have nothing to complain about. I’ve done it all, and I’ve had a fantastic time doing it. But I still wanted to have my own, small, indie studio, making cool games that I wanted to make. That’s probably most developer’s dream. So that was the hardest hit for me, and despite being an old, cynical pro, I still had the hope that Immortal Darkness was that one lottery ticket, that if it hit, might fund my dream studio.

As I sat there, playing through puzzles and traps I’d completely forgotten about, fondly remembering the joy and pain, and challenges of coding them, it struck me that maybe I could still satisfy that first hope I’d had for the game, namely more people being able to play it. It was created to be played, after all. That’s its only real purpose, money aside. So I decided there and then that I would just give the game away for free. It would certainly be easier to do that than try and resurrect it commercially. It also fit nicely with my plan to retire the game (and myself), plus it’d make a cool, fun Holiday gift to everyone!

Fast forward 2 months and the game is finally available as “freeware”. I retired the game on Steam, and put up a website where people can download the game for free. Even this seemingly simple task took time. Fixing old bugs and tweaking stuff in the game, getting the game retired, winding down my partner agreement with Steam, making a website, creating EULAs and installers… But now it’s all done and the game is available to download and play.

Untangling the game and myself from Steam was a process. I had to post an announcement and assure Valve that the version of the game sitting in people’s Steam Libraries would continue to work as expected (it will), and that I will continue to offer support via email, etc. (I will). I completely understand the need for this. The customer is king (to a fault), and they have to be OK with the change in status of the game. Removing the Steam dependency freed me up to fix long standing bugs and make some improvements to the new, free version, including additional keyboard controls (WASD) that people had been asking for forever.

All that said, and as cathartic as this has been, I still believe it’s good to be rewarded for your work, and I’m not someone who hates money at all. I’ve provided several ways for people to show their appreciation if they choose, offering ways to “tip” using various payment systems. A big “Buy Me A Coffee” button is on the title page. It’s the only nag there is, and I don’t think players will mind it too much. Of course I’m not banking on it making any money. That’s not the point of this exercise, but it’s there if people want to use it.

So think of this as my Holiday gift to the world (Awww, bless). I hope you enjoy the game as much as we enjoyed making it. Cheers!

You can download the game from here;


Category: Business, Dev Blog, Game Dev, Games Business, Indie Games, Personal Blog

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