I guess I should say something. If for nothing else, for the fact that there’s nothing left to lose here.
It’s been a few weeks now that the “main” Perpetuum server is no longer running, which I suppose is the symbolic conclusion of the development of Perpetuum, something that was our first venture in game development and took 10+ years of our lives. In some ways, it was an emotional moment to pull the plug, and in other ways it really wasn’t. Let me try to explain why.
We started working on the game (then just called “GenXY”) in around 2004 – we genuinely had no idea what we were doing, we had no idea of the scope of it, we had no idea what it’d become or what we’d WANT it to become; we just had a faint idea that it was possible, and we started on it because we didn’t know better. Turns out, that was kinda really we needed to get it done – because if we would’ve known what’s coming, we probably never would’ve started.
I don’t mean that as necessarily a negative, it’s just that we mostly just made shit up along the way as we went: there’s no “How To Make An MMO” handbook, and there sure as hell wasn’t one in 2004. Most of us were still in our early 20s, and we never realized the amount of technology we would need to conjure up along the way, but we were ambitious (and stupid) and the fact that we can’t (or not supposed to) do it just never occurred to us. So we went to it head first. We really were indie before “indie” was a thing.
Of course, the mission objective changed a few times along the way – initially we didn’t want character models, just these little soul-like particle bursts, because we wanted to cut down on having to write an animation engine. Then when we realized that’d be boring, we went for robots because we didn’t want to code skinned animation. The longer we went on, the more it snowballed, and next thing we knew we had this elaborate multi-platform architecture to have a game, a client, a website, a webstore, a backend, all these things in all different programming languages, platforms, database engines, that we just cooked up out of nowhere because we just thought “we have to figure this out”, and we did, even though many many people not only warned us against, but actively predicted we couldn’t do it.
That’s not to say it wasn’t bumpy. Even after alpha, even after closed beta, even after beta, it was bumpy. There were some joyful fuckups (like accidentally shutting down servers with a piece of pastry and setting our kitchen equipment on fire), some a bit more stressful (like screwing up the game launch because we weren’t drunk, as opposed to the early access launch when we were) and some of them pretty miserable (like the cease-and-desist letter – guess who!). But through all of this, we had one goal and one goal only – to finish and release a game and do the best we can. And in that, say what you want, we succeeded. Not opinion, fact.
We didn’t always see eye-to-eye with you – and that’s putting it nicely; as developers, it was necessarily to be cagey and secretive sometimes, to be stern at other times – even though we desperately wanted to keep in contact with out playerbase, we learned quickly that any reaction we released to the public had immediate ripples in-game, sometimes considerably bigger ones that we imagined, so we often secluded until we had something that was ready to show. This of course sometimes meant that what we produced wasn’t in line with the general expectations, or that it split the playerbase even more – it often felt like a no-win-scenario, but we soldiered on, because we were desperate to make this work. There’s a delicate balance between listening enough and not listening too much, and we often missed that balance – but we always tried.
The way I imagine studio closures happen in gamedev, they’re probably come more as a sudden shock – for us, that wasn’t the case. There were several moments where we knew that this isn’t gonna go for long – we all hoped it would, but I think reality set in when we weren’t able to reach the numbers we needed; we reached a number that was enough to sustain development, but we had no funds to market the game, or to produce massive amounts of content, and our creativity and work-ethic was only able to get us out the door, not all the way to the next town. So yeah, we’ve seen the end coming for a long time – and who are we kidding, you did too. But we didn’t want to go away without leaving a mark, pretending this never happened, so we did what we could to make sure the legacy at least in part lives on.
I personally am still 100% proud of the effort we’ve put in over the years and the spirit we’ve invested in this game. Would I do things differently, knowing what I know now? Sure. But hindsight is always 20/20, and with the naive mindset we had, and the resources we had available, I think we made the best game we could.
A few people have asked what projects we moved on to, so here’s a brief summary: (I’ll continue to expand this if I can find others)
- Zoom spent a bit of time in motion graphics, and now works at Primal Games on a yet-unannounced title
- Alf is developing cloud technology at Nokia, which he says is a lot less stressful
- BoyC is working on car UX software at NNG
- Quodys, in his own words, “is on his journey to wreck a yet bigger enterprise, this time a global telco company”
- Gargaj (me) moved on to Slightly Mad Studios and has worked on Project CARS 2, and is now working on a yet-unannounced title.
Aside from that, as many of you know Zoom, BoyC and myself have been and will continue releasing work under the name Conspiracy; we’ve recently released our first venture in VR on the Oculus store – it’s not really game-related, but it’s something we’ll keep on doing if you wanna follow us there.
Thanks for sticking with us over the years – you helped us achieve something that very few people could.
See you around, somewhere, sometime.