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Post news RSS The True Slime King leaves Early Access After 6.5 Years of Development

I have a lot of thoughts about my journey building Slime King. I wanted to share them with those who might enjoy the story or for those it might inspire.

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Wow... the full release is finally here. I'm not really sure what to think. It's both awesome and terrifying. It's been a great 6.5 year journey making the game, and an awesome 5 years with you all during Early Access! I can't express how much your support and feedback has meant to me throughout this time. I originally only started out with the mindset of creating a game I would enjoy, so I'm glad to see there are some other people out there who also enjoy it.

Before I get into anything else, I just want to be clear that I'll continue to provide support and any performance / bug fix updates as needed (and add extra content if the game gets enough fans -- read more at the bottom).

For those interested, I'm going to take the space here to talk a bit about the development journey, what I learned, what my hopes are, and what I plan to do next.

What does Slime King mean to me?

I've been making little game prototypes with GameMaker since around 2006. Just like all my other prototypes, The True Slime King started out as me trying to figure out how I could implement a specific feature. In this case I wanted to build a replay system after having watched gameplay of Super Meat Boy (spoilers: I didn't actually play Super Meat Boy until part way through development; I just watched a ton of videos of people playing). I made a pretty bad looking slime sprite and put together a crude replay system where I could race against my replays in real time.

The slime had too many abilities and the slime sprite was too large, but even so, I was having fun just moving around, so I decided to build the game out further. After a week, I had reduced the abilities down to just being able to stick onto the ceiling and I had cropped the slime sprite into a square that I too quickly grew attached to and is what Slime King's face is now.

Somewhere around here I felt like giving up on the project, because I got what I wanted out of it (knowing how to make a replay system), and I didn't feel like there was much differentiating the game from all the other platformers out there, but my now-wife wouldn't let me give up so easily. She saw something special in Slime King, so I took a second look and agreed. I kept working on the game to figure out how I could bring my own unique flair. So just like I say in the credits, this game owes a huge thanks to my wife; it wouldn't exist without her (not at all, and not nearly in the polished state it got to through early access development).

About a month into development, I put together a crude trailer thinking I was only about 1 year away from full release. Boy was I wrong!

I put a lot of work into the game for the next year and a bit, mostly just filling out the story mode with content and polishing a lot of graphics. I got the game to a point where I was happy sharing it with the world and launched it into early access in March 2018. The game had already taken longer to get to that point than I thought it would, and I still had a decent amount of things to polish up.

While I expected the game to not get much attention at early access release, I felt like I got almost no attention, and it put me into bit of a slump for a little while after realizing how saturated the industry is nowadays and how much it takes to stand out. I never intended to abandon the game, but there were periods where I wouldn't work on it much for a few months because it felt like a waste of time since no one seemed to be interested in it. Ultimately, I realized the lack of interest was due to the game still being an incompletely realized vision that only I could see, so I needed to put in the real effort to bring that vision to life for other players. And so I kept pushing on, even though sometimes I got very hard. And thanks again must go to my wife for helping to me push through and realize my vision for the game.

But even with all the things to polish up, why did slime king take 5 years in early access to finish? Well, I'll tell you... scope creep. Beyond just polishing what already existed, I kept adding more features (because the game always felt lacking in some way). I wouldn't have been satisfied releasing just another 2D platformer. Here's a highlight list of things I added during early access (and remember that I was still polishing the existing content during all this time as well):

  • 2018/10: Achievements
  • 2018/11: Halloween blocks
  • 2019/07: Partial controller support
  • 2019/12: Winter blocks
  • 2020/06: Summer blocks
  • 2020/09: Level exchange
  • 2021/03: Options
  • 2021/08: Seasonal content and amulets
  • 2022/05: Full controller support (which meant redoing a lot of systems)

Life events also happened at various times that would slow down or speed up Slime King development. The level editor, quick play, and options all used a lot of time and brainpower to put together. I only barely just managed to squeeze the level editor into the early access launch, and that was mainly because I needed it to feasibly develop the game at that point because compiling the game was taking too long for quick prototyping using GameMaker's built-in level editor tool. But even still, I spent a lot of time improving the level editor throughout early access.

So after 6.5 years of getting better at pixel art, improving my time estimation skills, and generally just having a blast playing my own game, I spent the 2022 winter break putting together some cover art and a shiny new trailer to try to convey to the world how the game feels to me when I play it. I didn't know how to make good cover art or make a good trailer, so it was a pretty painful two/three weeks as I learned and prototyped and got lost and implemented until I finally found a voice to tell what I wanted through the cover art and trailer (that's so much again to my wife).

And now that I've reached the end of this development journey, what has The True Slime King taught me?

For me, Slime King is a story of perseverance: in the story of the game, in the player's mindset in order to make it through levels and improve your times, and in terms of what it took to develop this game. This is my dream platformer game. I love speedrunning it. After 3700 hours, I'm still improving my abilities in the game. I've made hundreds of videos of me playing levels, and I'm still not tired of playing it. Slime King has won a place in my heart. Slime King has solidified that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to, even if that something requires me to learn 10 different disciplines, even if everyone says 2D platformers are overly saturated and you'll never stand out. To me, Slime King feels more real than the pixels on the screen. Slime King is a concept etched into my brain. Slime King is my friend who helps me not feel weak, because no matter how many times you splat, none of that matters when you get to the finish. It doesn't matter how you get to the end; it just matters that you didn't give up. Looking back, I wish I could have built more of that concept into the game's storyline. But for now it's just something I'll have to take forward with me into my next endeavors.

Launching this game is a bittersweet moment for me. I selfishly am going to share what I am feeling right now as a way to help process what I'm going through.

  • I feel vulnerable. This game is my baby, and I adore it. But will people enjoy the game? Will they say nice things? With they say mean things? I can no longer hide behind the protection of early access (where I can improve things people find annoying or lacking), and that's scary.
  • I am excited. I can't wait for the people who want this kind of game to play it. I ultimately don't care if this game isn't for most people; I just hope that it connects well with some people. It means a lot to me, so I hope it can mean a lot to at least someone else as well.
  • I feel lost. I've spent a lot of my free mental time working on this game over the last 6.5 years. From full release to launch, I've put in about 3700 hours into planning, designing, composing, making graphics, programming, playtesting, and marketing for the game. This was my go-to project for all that time. But now that it's polished enough for my stamp of approval, I have to set it free into the world and see what happens. It's going to take a bit of time to readjust my brain to not habitually sit down and figure out what Slime King task I need to do for the day. The True Slime King has been with me for about 1/5 of my life now, and while I had plenty of challenges along the way, I enjoyed all of it. But now it's over, like the finale of your favorite TV show: the arc completed without making things bloated, but you still wish you could pause or rewind time to exist in that fantasy realm a bit longer.
  • I am no longer weighed down by this game being an unfinished project. Art, like many aspects of life, is something that is never truly done, but at some point you have to say it's good enough and move on. I decided that now was the time to say The True Slime King is done. While that feels sad to say, it does mean I'm now free to pursue other things; I am ready and willing to embark on my next grand adventure.

What are my future plans?

If I'm honest, I don't think I'll be making more games. I have plenty of ideas for both video games and board games that I'd love to work on if I had infinite time, but I don't, so I want to use my time in this universe wisely. I have some other domains I feel compelled to explore, so I'm going to be doing that. I can't say where any of it will go, just as I couldn't have told you what a wild and awesome journey Slime King has been.

Continued development of Slime King

There is just one exception... If the game gets a lot of support (aka sales), I plan to add a corrupt mode (new game +) as a free update to the game to double the story mode content (with harder levels) and to add in more cutscenes / lore to bring Slime King's story to the final conclusion I dreamed of when I set out on this project. I already have it all planned, and I've built many of the levels and made some of the music, but it still will require a big time commitment. If this is something you're interested in, let me know in a comment so I can gauge interest levels.

Final remarks

I'm feeling a fairly existential right now, so this write up might not have been what you were looking to read when browsing about video games, but if you've made it this far, I want to thank you for reading my wall of text. And I hope you found something interesting in all of it.

Slime King gives me hope. Even though it is just a game, it is profound to me in many ways. I won't be able to know what it means to you; I can only hope I cared for Slime King enough that it grew into something beautiful for you too. The end of my journey here will hopefully mark the start of many new journeys as others discover and play The True Slime King. May you find peace and inspiration in all the art you consume, and then harness that energy take on your own grand adventures within the universe. Because reality is in your mind, and your mind creates reality. And so our stale minds left uninspired would waste away without adversity and inspiration. Harness your challenges in life as you do in your games to unlock new levels within yourself. Stay speedy and slime on! I'll see you out there on the high score boards!

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