Final Thoughts on Shu

Yes, we eventually added multiplayer.

I promised I wouldn’t do a postmortem for Shu’s Garden, and I mostly meant it. But two thoughts keep bouncing around in my brain and so here I set them loose.

An Apology

Shu, that happy, weird, space-gardening videogame, failed to go according to plan in so many ways. But in recent months it’s become clear to me that one of the root problems was my inability to commit to the mission: Mr. Colin and I set out to make “a game that could sell”, and to do it in a short, efficient production period (four months). Unconsciously, I worked against these goals.

When we needed to be rapidly building out a game experience (originally meant to be an adventure), I was taking long periods to write and re-write an unnecessary procedural plant-generation scheme. On reflection, such things simply interest me more than making an adventure game, and it seems I can’t help but pursue them, difference in time investment and promises be damned. Where we needed to deliver an experience which hooked in an existing player base and gave them a sense of purpose and value for their time, I pushed for an open-ended world without objectives that just made people scratch their heads.

So four months became more than a year. And “a game that could sell” became a weird, miniature experiment appealing to no existing market.

Despite his protests, I offer my apologies to Mr. Colin. I made promises, and couldn’t bring myself to fulfill them.

A Sideshow

Shu was a commercial failure, no doubt. Even the biggest bursts in sales (from launch announcements and kind articles) only sometimes approached a reasonable income rate before quickly subsiding back to zero. But, for me, the worst failure of Shu isn’t the lack of sales: What haunts me more is that it doesn’t say anything about me as a creator.

I set out as an indie four years ago. Published mostly silly little experiments, and blew a lot of time doing freelance work just to stay in the black. This is the only original work of note to show for all that time, and ultimately it’s just another cutesy kid-friendly game that is easy to dismiss and hard to say anything about. It doesn’t change the way we think about games. It doesn’t reach new audiences. It certainly doesn’t explore any aspect of the whole “interactive story” field which I’ve claimed is my main interest.

Yes, Shu seems like another professional failure. Or perhaps a professional sideshow. Another delay. Another “it’s not really what I’m about” time suck. I learned from it, naturally. But nothing I couldn’t have learned in other ways, in shorter time, pursuing things that matter more to me and have more to say.

Bye, Shu!

So, ten years after graduating university, nine years after trying my hand at teaching, eight years after officially entering the world of videogame development, and four years after going indie, I’m left feeling like I still have yet to get started.

The next phase is unclear. In the coming months, I will finally finish the interactive story project on which I’ve been dragging my heels forever. It will be more modest and under-the-radar than I once hoped, but it will be done come hell or high water. (Or else I will be returning grant money, head hung in shame…) What comes after, I just don’t know.

This will be my last post about Shu’s Garden. The path turns a corner up ahead, and I can’t yet see around it. But the space-cacti are behind me, finally slipping over the horizon.

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Final Thoughts on Shu”

  1. Shu will be missed! Goodbye weird space cactus! Get crackin’ on that interactive story 🙂 I’ll be one of the first to try it! (Notice I don’t say I hope to be cause I know you’ll finish it.) I hope your new project will leave you feeling more accomplished than the last and until then I’ll be reminiscing, “While Imagination Lasts” 🙂

  2. Dear Mr. Bond, I think that you underestimate your achievement with Shu’s Garden. In my humble opinion, it is in a peculiar, quirky way a really nice experience. I am not a child, but I like this experience nevetherless, in the same way someone can enjoy a well crafted children’s book. Maybe its not art, but it is well crafted, it feels alive. What I like about Shu is that it is NOT about some kind of goal, which gives the player the possibility to experience something that’s mostly missing in everyday life for many people – un-teleological being-in-a-world (if I may call it like this). Shu is not so much about something objective, it is about a world, everything about it is worldy, opened up. I love how the world of Shu seems to breath life, how everything grows “by itself” even if you just sit by for a while. Story-based games are good, but there are so many of them. Please reconsider what makes Shu special. Best regards!

  3. Thank you for your creation!
    I stumbled upon Shu’s Garden through Nathan Graysons Top 10 2015 games just now, and I instantly felt compelled to buy it. For me, it evoked memories of the Katamari Games, and also somehow of the SEGA classic Ristar – but in such a relaxed, beautiful, goofy and cute way.
    It may not have turned out to be the result you envisioned it to be – but I’d like to let you know that it did leave a really strong impression on some people, including me! So please, don’t ever think the time you and Mr Colin have spent on this has been wasted – because the result is beautiful.
    Keep putting things out there, I have no doubt theres an audience for them!
    Regards from austria,
    Leander

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