Greetings fellow gamers!
Many of you have probably noted an obvious slowdown in development since Update 1c was released last year. First and foremost, I would like to absolutely reassure you that development is, in fact, continuing and Update 2 is currently in work, with Update 3 and 4 already planned out.
But why did this happen? Well, that's a story I thought I would never find myself in a position to tell, but here we are. So strap in! There's a lot of back context needed.
In 2013 I decided to learn to program as it was the only remaining skill left I did not have to make a video game. I had no experience what so ever outside of doing mods/scripting for various games over the years. I spent 8-9 months of my life doing nothing but working at Lockheed Martin as an Avionics Technician 8-10 hours a day, and another 8-10 at home learning how to program in my language of choice, Java. After roughly a year it was time to go pro, and I started development on Retro-Pixel Castles, or eventually to be renamed, Rise to Ruins. I saved up (or have been saving up, more accurately) around $90k working at Lockheed, because I lived out of a suitcase moving from one military base to the next every 4-6 months for 5 straight years. So, I did the totally rational thing you do when you want to completely change career paths into a job with an extremely high rate of failure that you have literally zero professional experience what so ever in doing, I quit my current job at Lockheed Martin.
Yes, you read that right. My first ever attempt to "go pro" happened within a year of learning to program and I quit my very secure job to do it. Despite all odds, I was successful in the attempt. I also got an Associates Degree in Psychology at a local community college and bought a house in cash (87k, near-condemned foreclosure) while doing all this because it was necessary. Thanks to my former military service I could go to college for free. In fact, they paid me roughly $1,200/mo to go on top of paying for books/tuition, it's how I fed myself in the early days of this. I also needed a place to live during this ridiculous adventure too, and reducing costs was key to my strategy working, so what better cost reduction than removing rent/mortgages all together? Long as I was in college for free and getting paid $1,200/mo to educate myself for the next 4 years, I could survive.
Development on Rise to Ruins itself was blistering fast as a result, because this whole plan would implode within 4 years when my education benefits ran out. It's easily a whole story in of itself, but I'll gloss over that for brevity's sake because that's not the point of this already really long announcement. Basically I dedicated years to work, spending a good 10-14 hours a day usually 7 days a week at the height of it just chugging out patches during Early Access. Fast forward to Rise to Ruins officially releasing in October of 2019, right before the pandemic started. My plan was (and still is) to continue to support the game post release. Rise to Ruins has done me very well financially, supporting my and my wife's lives without either of us having to get outside jobs.
But there's a problem. While Rise to Ruins does in fact currently support my livelihood and the entire 4 year plan became irrelevant by year 2 because Rise to Ruins' income started to support me and my wife by itself, it still isn't enough to finance the next game. The next game, code named "Project Mary", is another project that will likely take me multiple years to complete with a very long Early Access cycle. I cannot guarantee I can duplicate Rise to Ruins' Early Access success again, and Rise to Ruins' sales revenue will eventually dwindle. It must, it's just the nature of how it works in this business.
So, how do I get around this problem? Money. Lots of money. Well, Rise to Ruins makes decent money, but still not enough, I can't assure it will be there forever and I am against taking money from publishers and what not.
Coronavirus has entered chat.
In 2020 one of the worst pandemics in human history began and to my disadvantage, only a few months after Rise to Ruins released. I was faced with an awkward problem as I was locked in my home. I needed to find proper funding for my second game and I absolutely abhor taking money from publishers. I'm a solo developer and it's going to stay that way. The pandemic amplified this problem because it limited what I could do to solve my funding issue.
I knew Rise to Ruins profits couldn't sustain development for the multiple years needed to complete Project Mary, and a Kickstarter also wouldn't be right as an already successful company running a Kickstarter for funding is bad optics in my opinion. Even with full continued patch support, Rise to Ruins will eventually drop under the bar its sales support me, that's just how it works unless you have a mega-ultra-hit like Stardew Valley, Rimworld, etc that generates so much cash on the front end it doesn't matter. Rise to Ruins still had done me well, at the time of making this decision I had no debts of any kind, house and car paid off in full, and over $200,000 in my savings account. That sounds great, but it still wasn't enough to accomplish my goals and as I said previously, I felt a Kickstarter would be in bad tastes (and potentially not raise enough money anyway). I had to figure out how to generate even more cash during a pandemic without relying on Rise to Ruins, so I could work on the game without any future cash flow fears.
Repeating my normal methodology of throwing my whole-everything into a problem, I dedicated a ridiculous amount of time in one of the places I thought I'd never find myself; The soulless depths of the stock market. I studied, studied, and studied more. My whole life existed for one reason and one reason alone; Learn the market and use it to secure funding for Project Mary.
So uh, yeah, again in my life, against all odds, I did it.
As of writing this, I have turned $200k into $2.5 million dollars. That was actually higher before the recent tech crash in February and early March, where I broke a staggering $3 million. I am now pulling back from active investing, and transitioning to a semi-active-passive thing, so I can refocus on what's important; Rise to Ruins continued development, and starting development full time on Project Mary. I should hopefully have a minimum sustained additional income of $10k/month (that's not a typo) throughout all of Project Mary's development without actually touching the $2.5 million. That's not assured, but it seems likely.
This process impacted everything in my life, including my own mental health, that I'm still recovering from as I write this. Trust me folks, money doesn't buy happiness and while I have a lot of it now, the past 8 months have been absolutely exhausting and downright destructive to my mental health. I will simply need time to recover.
I hope you guys can forgive the lack of patches over the last year as I went through this adventure, and have gained some understanding as to why I did it at all in the first place. But, one thing is now certain for Rise to Ruins', Project Mary's and most importantly SixtyGig Games' future as a whole: