Happy new year, guys!

This has been a hell of a year for me. Frankly, I find it hard to really believe how well things are going now, considering how things were looking near the end of 2009. It’s amazing how much has changed in just a year.

Things were pretty bad for me just before IGF submissions last November – far worse than I’d let on at the time, in fact. Last year I’d basically given up my ambitions to be an indie game designer full time, because I’d run out of money. The only reason I was still making games was because I was unemployed, couldn’t find a job, and didn’t really have anything better to do.

At the start of 2008 I’d taken out a loan for 15,000 euro, but that only lasted a bit over a year. I spent six months in 2009 on unemployment benefit. By November I was utterly broke – my credit card was maxed out, my bank account completely overdrawn – I was borrowing money from friends and family just to pay rent and make loan repayments. I eventually just ended up moving back in with my parents. Things were pretty bleak.

The only thing I really had going for me was VVVVVV. It started out as just a small side project, but I was having so much fun with it that I just kept letting it get bigger and bigger. I figured it was probably going to be my last game as a full time indie, after all, and I wanted to make something I could be proud of.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I finally released it. I didn’t really know what I was doing, and probably made a mess of the release in a lot of ways – having so much of the game available in the beta was a big mistake; I really should have done more to try and make sure it wouldn’t be leaked. Assuming I’d just be able to build a Linux version without any complications was really stupid. And $15 was a seriously misjudged price.

Nevertheless, despite my fumbling, things actually worked out! On the first day, I sold 312 copies of the game. By the end of January, I was up to close to 2000 copies! Not only had I made enough to get myself out of trouble and pay back what I owed, but I had enough to keep making games for the rest of the year. Things slowed down after that, but by the time I launched on Steam in September, I was up to 3000. I don’t think I’m actually allowed to talk about my Steam sales figures, unfortunately, but it’s doing quite well there too.

I’m not in this line of work to make money – all I want to do is make enough to live on, and thanks to VVVVVV, I’m now doing that. It’s the best game I’ve ever made, and I couldn’t be prouder of it.

I’m sorry, I’m rambling… (there’s a reason I don’t talk about this sorta thing too much!). I’ll try to wrap up.

I’m starting 2011 in a very different position to how I started 2010, and it’s down to more than just money. Last year I was completely isolated from fellow game designers, now I’m living with two other game designers I hugely admire, in a beautiful little city with a flourishing gamedev scene. I’ve won an award for my work. I’m working on one of the most promising projects I’ve ever been involved with. I make a living doing what I love. 2010 has been a very important year for me, and I’m incredibly optimistic about what 2011 will bring!

This post was supposed to be about 2011, not 2010, but I suppose that can wait awhile. Thank you to everyone who’s enjoyed my work and supported me! It’s been a great year πŸ™‚

55 thoughts on “Stop and Reflect”
  1. Terry, I think it’s brilliant how things have changed for you since we met at Eurogamer 2009, it’s been so interesting following what you’ve been doing. I’m so pleased for you that VVVVVV has been such a success, it’s a great game, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what you do next xxx

  2. I had no idea, I’ve always loved your work but am so happy things are working out for you now though. πŸ™‚

    Vvvvvv is mindblowing. People talk about Super Meat Boy as being the big platformer/indie game of the year but it can’t hold a candle to Vvvvvv; it’s the kind of game that brings a smile to every gamer, half-gamer and demi-gamer I show it to, with its charming graphics, charming characters and brilliant music.

    You should be very proud, Terry. Good luck in 2011!

  3. This is great news, Terry! I really wish you all the best for the coming year, and I can’t wait to try out your new game soon!

    Stay frosty 8D

  4. You deserve it! VVVVVV is a really awesome game, and i’m happy that there’s a lot of people who think the same.
    Happy new year!

  5. Ah, this was frankly inspiring. This was the sort of post where my face gradually went from an intense look of interest, to concern, to a beaming smile. Glad to see you doing well, and the best of luck in the next year!

  6. It’s amazing how our lives can change in such a short amount of time. And how great that is! As they say on the movie Vanilla Sky, every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around. You did turn it around by doing your best, and life has rewarded you!
    I’m a big fan of your games. Just for you to know, I just spent my first night and dawn of 2011 playing VVVVVV, which I had already finished. πŸ™‚ I love it, and I love Viridian, haha!

    Thank you for not having given up, and keep up the good work in 2011!
    Happy new year πŸ™‚

  7. The turn of events are truly magical. I have myself had a journey not unlike this, after making the music to VVVVVV.

    I want to officially thank you for inviting me onboard the game and take another opportunity to celebrate everything else we’ve shared, from success to salmon.

    Doing what you love, getting paid for it – it’s a dream come true. And I can think of nobody who deserves it better.

    I tip my hat, nodding my head knowingly, and wish you the best of the best in 2011. Let the miracles unfold!

  8. i bought vvvvvv when it was first released for $15. from a business standpoint i can understand feeling like the pricing was a mistake, but in my opinion from a quality standpoint it was worth every penny. looking forward to nexus city. please make a mac release for it! put your all into it, price it the same as vvvvvv, and i’ll drop my cash down on release day. happy new year terry.

  9. VVVVVV was fantastic, I was more excited with my purchase of your game than any boxed title I paid for in the last year.

    I didn’t think it was possible for me to enjoy a game that much any more, but the graphics, design, music and puzzles were all perfect.

    If you can keep getting media coverage for niche, charming products like that, there’s no reason why you can’t keep doing what you love for a living.

    I’m really looking forward to your next release!

  10. And while you were at it, you made a huge difference in my life, too. Without your help and support (and Gregory’s) there would probably be no Infinite Ocean remake and I wouldn’t be making flash games. And you have given me the chance to work on Nexus City, which is a project I never expected and which has come to mean so much to me.

    Not long ago, I was in exactly the same bleak place as you were. I haven’t come as far as you have yet, but I’ve come far – and you were a big part of that. So thank you, and there’s another thing you achieved in 2010.

  11. Terry, VVVVVV is a wonderful game and your pride in it is well deserved. As a huge fan of little indie gems I am very happy for you and the way everything changed for the better.

  12. In my honest opinion, VVVVVV is one of the best games I’ve played””it’s as close to perfection as World of Goo and Portal are. That is not hyperbole.

  13. Wow…I had no idea you’ve been through a very tough time during VVVVV development! I’m glad you didn’t give up and I’m really happy for you that the game help you continue making games. You are very talented and if you stop making games, that will be a crime:D
    Thank you for sharing us the story. I wish you a very happy new year!

  14. I love VVVVVV. I’ve played the demo many times, and just bought it on steam while it was on sale (I would have bought it full price but alas, my credit card…)

    Happy New Year Terry, may you have health and wealth and all you wish!

  15. This was touching, hopeful and actually uplifting. Thanks for posting it Terry. Oh, and VVVVVV is by far the best platformer since, oh, Manic Miner. Keep up the excellent work and a happy (radical too) 2011!

  16. I’m glad that VVVVVV (one of my favourite games this year) has helped you sort out your finances, I hope the continuing income it brings in allows you to keep making exciting games and I’ll be sure to play them – Happy new year!

  17. Happy new year!

    Although it’s kinda comparing apples and oranges, I can honestly say VVVVVV could be the best platformer made so far. Ever.

  18. I was in a similar position at the end of last year, but instead of debt I had a baby on the way, that’s a form of debt you can never repay. Now I’ve got a second one (different woman) and I’m pulling in the cash money – all from my 1 bedroom apartment!

  19. That was a really inspiring read. VVVVVV is amazing and I was happy to buy it. Your story reminds me of this quote by Edison: “Many of life’s failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

  20. Hiya,

    Just wanted to comment on this, to say that this was a brilliant thing to read. I really loved VVVVVV and am very glad you made it.

  21. […] distractionware — Stop And Reflect “Happy new year, guys! This has been a hell of a year for me. Frankly, I find it hard to really believe how well things are going now, considering how things were looking near the end of 2009. It’s amazing how much has changed in just a year.” […]

  22. Thank you for this post, Terry. I find myself in a similar position to what you describe before the release of VVVVVV, and its very encouraging to see that things can turn around so much for someone in a single year.

  23. Terry,

    I had no idea the situation was that dire, but I’m very happy VVVVVV has worked out and turned things around for you. It was some of the most fun I’ve had gaming in awhile and one of my top games of the year. Super Meat Boy and Portal were my other two and I’m not going to rank them or include any commentary. That’s like picking a favorite child..

    At any rate, great work and I continue to recommend it to anyone I think will listen as it’s a great game that deserves some support.

  24. That is a very touching story and it reminds me of what Squaresoft went through before creating the first Final Fantasy game. I really wish you all the best for the future and I’ll buy your next game for sure.

  25. Hi Terry, I’m really honestly delighted to read that things have worked out so well for you with VVVVVV. It warms the icy cockles of my heart, as they say. (And as it turns out, my heart is just effin’ full of the things.)

    How is Nexus City coming along?

  26. I’m happy to hear that things are going well for you. And I hope you’ll be able to remain doing what you’re doing with no problems — after all, your games are awesome. VVVVVV was one of 2010’s best experiences, and few things have touched and resonated with me as Pathways did.

    Here’s hoping 2011 will be an awesome year, and that you’ll continue making kick-ass games.

  27. I would just echo what Jonas said exactly. Without your help, I would never have made my first tentative steps into the indie world. Thanks so much for all you’ve done for me personally man, and all the support you give other developers… And I greatly look forward to what the future has to offer for our Cambridge group!

  28. Thanks. You deserve all of the praise.

    I sincerely hope for everyone’s sake that you don’t have to suffer to make great work like VVVVVV in the future.

    Good luck for 2011!

  29. I know a lot of people have already commented but I just wanted to say that this is really inspiring. VVVVVV really is a quality game – it’s pretty much perfect and explores its mechanics so comfortably and deeply that, by the end, I felt like I’d gone on a strange, friendly journey – and it’s really uplifting that a truly great game can stand up on nothing but its own merits and make enough income to support its creator.

    Also, can I ask – how did you market VVVVVV and get the word out? It would be really helpful for indies who might have made an excellent game but simply don’t know how to tell people.

  30. We are really proud of you and the great work you have done. Glad to have been of some assistance when you needed it. Keep up the good work!!

  31. Yo I bought VVVVVV on Steam.
    I just hate that people buy Left 4 Dead(the game that has so much teamwork requirement that idiots on my team make me into a raging murderer) and don’t buy good small single player games. So I guess I got to give some of my money.
    Anyway keep it up and make good games I might buy them as well πŸ˜‰

  32. Great to hear! I bought the game the day it was released for $15 and I don’t regret it one bit. Everything about this game is top notch! Too bad my save file somehow disappeared recently but I don’t mind replaying it some day.

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