#13: Release!

This post was originally written in September 2022

Curious Fishing has finally been released! You can play it completely free in your browser!

If you could share the game or retweet me I’d really appreciate it!!

I think the game takes about ~2-4 hours if you want to complete all 30 levels and haven’t played the game before. Progress is saved automatically, but not across devices.

The game can be controlled using a mouse, keyboard or gamepad on Windows, OSX or Linux. It can also be controlled with a touchscreen on iOS or Android using the on-screen buttons. By default the game will be landscape on desktop and portrait on mobile, see the website for details on how to change these.

The game will detect your system language on first boot. The language can then be changed in the settings screen. Supported languages are English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and Arabic.

The final build size is a whopping ~4.87 MiB, with ~4.57 MiB (~94%) of that being audio. Textures account for ~145 KiB (~3%) and code/gameobjects/collections are ~128 KiB (~2.6%).

Both myself and Andrew the audio designer are very happy with the game. We hope you enjoy it! Please feel free to leave feedback or comments here or on the itch page. Also if you complete the game, it’d be interesting to know roughly how long it took you - it’s hard to judge how long it will take to complete a puzzle game when you know all the solutions!

Why HTML5?

Way back in the original game jam, the game was built in PICO-8. To play the game you needed PICO-8 yourself, or you could play the exported HTML5 web build.

Part of the motivation to move to Defold was to release the game on iOS and Android. This mobile version is what was submitted to the Defold GDC Competition and later demoed weeklong at GDC 2017, with coverage by TouchArcade (which happened to occur during the one GDC talk I went to, so Andrew stepped in to demo the game). I also participated in the Pocket Gamer Big Indie Pitch at GDC, rapidly demoing and pitching the game to journalists and receiving feedback.

Everything about the feedback people gave, the impressions of the journalists, the Apple and Google back-ends: it all screamed that this game did not belong here. This was a small offline singleplayer premium game by a single developer. Where was my monetisation strategy, ad networks, retention plan, microtransactions? Where were my analytics, player tracking, content updates, live services? The Apple and Google backends required massive effort, ever-changing requirements, and expensive hardware that becomes rapidly out of date. It was all incredibly draining and unenjoyable and none of it made the actual video game better in any way.

What about desktop platforms, Windows, OSX, Linux? I have limited experience with OSX and Linux and the market share compared to Windows is very small, so it wouldn’t make sense to commit to supporting them. A premium release on Windows would probably need additional features like fullscreen and resolution options and key rebinding. It would also require distribution, potentially requiring SDK integrations such as with Steam, and support for their expected features like achievements and cloud saves. All that work, while cutting out OSX, Linux, iOS and Android.

Defold supports Nintendo Switch now, and releasing the game there would be awesome. But this and other storefronts like Steam are also covered below under ‘Why is the game free?’.

So, HTML5. With some extra work to reuse the existing mobile support, I was able to make a single build which is playable on Windows, OSX, Linux, iOS and Android. Fantastic. I’m also easily able to distribute the game by embedding it on a custom stylized itch page, a storefront I’m very familiar with and supportive of.

Why is the game free?

This is not at all the primary reason, but just on a practical level it’s not currently possible to embed a HTML5 game on itch while also having a required upfront payment price. Premium HTML5 games simply don’t exist.

The primary reason the game is free is simple: taxes. I have always lived and worked in the UK and taxes here are automatically deducted by your employer. It’s not something I’ve ever really had to think about, or have needed much understanding of. However in order to sell Curious Fishing as a premium title on, say, Steam and Nintendo Switch, I would have to form a company as a legal entity for tax purposes, then pay taxes on sales as a self-employed individual, in addition to my primary employment taxes. That would be a tremendous amount of hassle and admin, every year, for what would almost certainly be a trivial amount of sales. It simply isn’t worth it. In the future if I have other games to sell or have gone full time independent, it may become more worthwhile.

I do think the game is worth money. It is a level of quality and completeness that I would feel comfortable charging money for. Thanks to itch there is a ‘support this game’ button on the page, a kind of pay-what-you-want donation. This money is held by itch until I request a payout. Taxes for this are handled by itch at the time of payout, so it’s way less hassle. If nothing else I’m able to defer setting up tax stuff to the point in time (if ever) when there is a worthwhile payout available, rather than having to do it all upfront in order to be able to distribute the game. And again, this will almost certainly only ever be a trivial amount of money anyway.

Selling the game, as opposed to accepting donations, also comes with a much stronger commitment of maintenance, especially for desktop or console platforms or more commercial storefronts like Steam. This is another point in favour of the HTML5 build; having a single build using well established web technology that is basically guaranteed to be supported for many years to come. The bulk of maintenance work is on the companies creating browsers, rather than on me having to respond to the latest Windows version inevitably breaking everything, or Apple killing something fundamental, or whatever.

If I were to summarise the scope issues of this game, the reason it took so long, I would say that it started as a hobby project, then I tried to treat it as an indie project, before finally going back to being a hobby project again. And I don’t have to monetise a hobby project, I’m allowed to just have fun and learn things. Curious Fishing is more useful to me as a thing that is freely and easily accessible than it would be as a thing behind a paywall that very few would bother to climb.

I may well sell some version of this game on some platform at some point in the future. For now I just want to make it available to play and move on to making something else.

In the very first devlog, written over four and a half years ago, I said this:

I’ve given this game a lot and it’s given me a lot back. I’m very grateful for that. Ultimately I just want to make the game as good as I know I can make it, in the hopes that a few people out there in the void will appreciate it.

Well, I have finally shouted into the void. Time to see if the void shouts back.

Will there be more devlogs?

Yes :) I’m planning to write at least one more, exploring why this game took so long to make. I also have some other miscellaneous notes that could maybe be pulled together, we’ll see.

Follow me on itch or Twitter to see what I work on next. Apparently it should only take me 6 years or so

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