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On finishing...

January 2, 2014 | Dukus | 101 Comments

During the AMA a few weeks ago, someone asked what the hardest thing about making Banished was. I thought about all the programming, art, and design issues I faced with the game, and taken by themselves, they may have been time consuming, but none of them really seemed hard. So what is it?

It's finishing.

The design of Banished was very dynamic. Once some of the core mechanics were in place, I simply added things that I thought would be interesting or add depth to the game - and this type of game lends itself well to a lot of additions like this - I could work on it endlessly adding layers upon layers of features and complexity.

Once I did decide to stop adding new buildings and features to the game, I knew I was working toward getting the game ready for release, but the time to complete the game has seemed overly long.

I've been thinking about this for a while - The game has looked complete, and played well for a long time - since October, but there have been many final remaining details to deal with. Even though I've been continuously working on the game, my own perception of the game - and I assume the outward view of the game being done - looks like this:


Development started slow, went really quickly for a while, and then leveled off as all the main features were added. You don't see major visual or game play changes as the work continues, but there's still the same amount of work being done each day.

This can be a frustrating thing to look at. The has game looked complete, but it isn't. The game play is in place, and all the artwork done, but there have been a lot of final details to actually bring the game to completion. There's testing, dealing with feedback from testers, tweaking, balancing, fixing bugs, creating installers, tutorials, instructions, preparing to sell the game, and a bunch of other mundane tasks.

This is different from my perception of making games for consoles on a large team. When I was a graphics and tools programmer, often I'd be working on the next project before the previous one was even complete.

And before I worked in the games industry, I'd often take any personal game projects to the point where I learned something new about programming, math, or algorithms, then lose interest and move onto a project with something new that I was curious about.

Next game I should have a better idea of the time and tasks that go into finishing a game. I suppose I've been making games long enough now that I finally had to finish a game to learn something new! 🙂

Oh, and Happy New Year!

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101 comments on “On finishing...”

  1. It's like an object with mass accelerating infinitely close to light speed but never reaching it. Even if Banished never reaches "light speed" I will happily take it at it's current 99.9%!

  2. I think im going crazy! If it comes out later than january i'll jump off a bridge. !NOT REALLY!

  3. Happy New Year...and cheers to a bug free game..even though they never really have existed...lol

  4. I dont think you'll ever be finished. Not to your satisfaction anyways. 🙂

    I would just release it now, and add anything you want later. Maybe even some really big stuff as DLCs. Thats just me. I want the game to come out so bad. 😛

  5. Steam's Winter Sale didn't do much for me as Banished what I've been waiting anxiously for. That said, with the popularity of early access and beta releases I give you credit for sticking to your guns and waiting to release a finished product. Look forward to seeing the culmination of your work.

  6. I'm glad you are taking the time to fully complete the game. It is a breath of fresh air to see a developer work so hard. I am very excited to see a game like this and hope it is out soon. You have done amazing.

  7. That's not just game-programming, but programming in general - unless of course you have a very precise definition on what you want. The project I've been working on for the past 5 years has been "90% finished" since 3 years 😉

    There is ALWAYS room to improve, and there are ALWAYS features you can add... and when you think you're done, there's suddenly new tech available you could implement 🙂

  8. I saw the email and hoped...oh well. Happy New Year Luke! I would really like to give you my money! 🙂

  9. I soooo want to spend my money on this game! I know you are working hard but don't forget, you can always release a patch or two afterwards 🙂

  10. As someone who has had a very similar career in the games industry, I congratulate you on (very nearly) finishing a substantial personal project - something I've never been able to do myself. I'm really looking forward to playing this.

  11. We can read in the header of the page: "Coming soon for PCs in late 2013!" It's 2014 now so it's got to come out pretty soon xP

  12. It's okay for games to go beyond version 1.0 you know... Not like this will be Simcity and reach 8.0 one year after release.
    Was really hoping this was the "happy new year game released" email.
    Hopefully by next year we will see it.

  13. The impressive part is probably that you resisted to send the game to Steam as some early/beta to start getting paid for all your work, while the game feels finished on your side and

    But seeing the interest the game gained since, it looks like waiting for a polished version will pay off nicely for you 😀

    Also, did you consider also publishing the game on Humble's Store? (to get a Steam key from there and it's also a good place to host a DRM-Free one if you had planned for that) Or will Steam be the only place to buy the game at?

  14. Happy New Year Luke!

    I'm just wondering... did you noticed something like this on the scale of finishing individual features? I was thinking like a 'bowl-model' where the more a feature gets completed the steeper the sides get (so it takes more time to complete less).

  15. Have been following you game in a while now, lately entering your website at least once per day.

    Please let us know a new estimation of when you will release the game.

  16. I kind of figured you were one of those perfectionists who had a hard time finally sending a project in. My philosophy: "Shit or get off the pot."
    Sooo excited for your final and perfect product, and wishing for a lot of add-ons to include that extra content you cut yourself off from!

  17. As always your blog is a must read!
    Too bad there will not be a mac or linux port when the game comes out, though.
    Thanks to you I am going to install my 10-year old WinXP again 😉
    Happy new year!

  18. Hank,you're wrong,some people read everything.

    It's always a good thing to know something you're not able to imagine at the other side as a player.
    I played a lot of games without thinking about the work done on them;it was mainly big games,without information on how they were done,and it was a really good thing to read how the game was going on step by step here with Luke.

    A lot of us are really waiting for your game,and i think you're stressed enought for the approching release of your game.
    So thank you to let us informed on what's going on and happy new year too.

  19. Nice Post but i(we all) miss the release date! Its nice that you want to give us a bug free and almost done game,but dont let us wait to long and give us the date of release so that we all can sleep better without looking thousands time on this site. Happy New year 2014 too 🙂

  20. Anyone have a spare F5 key for a laptop? Mine is now broken.

    Thanks for the update Luke 🙂

  21. " I finally had to finish a game to learn something new!" -past tense

    Therefore it is done.

    Otherwise he would have said, " I finally have to finish a game to learn something new! "

    🙂 Woohoo !!

  22. Thanks for keeping us updated with your progress.

    It's very interesting to hear about the work that goes into great games like this!

    I hope you are having a great New Year!

  23. Hardest part about making games is PR, hands down. Getting the press to notice your game needs interesting gimmicks or hooks and lots of work/skill.

  24. I remember years ago reading an interesting article about the tug-of-war between publishers and developers. Of the publisher's comments, the most poignant one was (paraphrased since it's been years)

    "Developers hate deadlines. There's always just one more feature to add, one more thing that needs tweaking. But without a hard deadline, the games would never be released in any form."

    Of course there's the other side of that coin (software being published in literally unusable form to meet a deadline) but that usually is a complete failure of management to set reasonable goals.

    Another quotable, this time from a coffee cup I used to own (also paraphrased!)

    "Any code will expand in complexity until it exceeds the programmer's ability to understand it"

    It will never be perfect, which is why games in the early 90s sometimes had floppies you could order with patches on them.

    Alright, I'm out of ideas to posit to get the game out sooner:) Honestly without knowing your entire process, nobody here can say anything anyway. I just hope your project sees the light of day soon!

  25. I knew I wanted this game as soon as I saw it on YouTube, all the videos about it and then found the forum, still waiting. tks HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  26. You missed the xmas sale time, and I believe you made an error.

    Now, why just you don't release the game in beta on Steam, let the users report the least bugs and then you will be able to publish the final game....

    This would help you to develop the game (beta = money)

  27. Such a lovely game you have made! Thank you for all the hard work.

    A while a go you said there would be both Steam access and direct purchase from yourself/Shining Rock Software.

    While I occasionally stoop to the level of Steam (Tropico 4, Anno 2070, Port Royale 3)for deep discount sales, I prefer direct purchase from developer, especially without bloatware/adware/DRM.

    For direct purchase will payment be available by PayPal or traditional credit card? (Prefer PayPal for simplicity)

    Will registered paying customers get patches/updates as quickly as Steam renters?

    Do you plan DLC add on packs for Banished?

    Thank you again,


  28. @money The game will be out soon enough, and personally I glad he's waiting and releasing a finished game. As opposed to the the numerous early access game that are currently on Steam. Plus it kept me from spending so much money during the winter sale. Since I knew I would be dropping whatever game I bought to play this soon.

  29. This is more of a general rule for all devs these days. Never be too afraid to release your game. It seems obvious this isn't exactly one of /those/ devs. Yet so many indies are waiting years or doing "Early Release" and making a massive disclaimer about it being imperfect because they are literally frightened of negative criticism, but that's going to happen. You take the negative criticism with the positive. You have to release your game and afford to eat. There is a massive difference between the releases that are so buggy that they're unplayable and a game with some bugs and missing features but was released in a reasonable timeframe.

    It's finances that usually kill indie game developers.

  30. It's the realization of the 80/20 rule - 80% of the project takes 20% of the time, while the final 20% takes 80% of the time. Sad to say, you are in that final phase. Good luck with the final close-out.

  31. it's better to wait for a game to be done before release than releasing a game at 85% done than patching it many, many times.
    EX: Sim city (online), Diablo3, every "The Sims" games.

  32. So update soon? You said December at least you could do is give us an update on when this is coming out.

  33. This is typical of game dev.
    This is also known as "The Wall".
    This is not the fun part.

    But it will all be worth it in the end 🙂

  34. ehm 🙁
    Banished is a city-building strategy game. Coming soon for PCs in late 2013!

  35. Thank you for all your hard work.

    Seriously, we are our own worst critics..release the game now, and update later.
    Its how it works. People will deal with any bugs and it will help you learn. :):)
    Happy New Year!

  36. did i miss sth? it still says "Coming soon for PCs in late 2013!" :p
    i hope it isnt a typo and should be late 2014 :O

  37. @chris, No need to worry. He was expecting to get the game out for sale in late 2013, but he just have not got time to change that. He is sitting and finishing the game, which I rather would want!

  38. There's a quote in production.

    Once you have finished 80% of the work, you have to do the other 80%.

    Great work, can't wait to get comfy and play this game!

  39. It's nice to see someone putting in the effort to actually finish! I've seen the same effect in non-programming work, too; there's always a lot of little details you don't think about until they're all that's left. But it really does make a difference to get them done.

  40. A few years ago, I read, "An artwork is never finished; it's abandoned."

    As a developer for over 40 years, I can say that statement applies to programs as well.

  41. Thank you for being so good at keeping everyone up to date. I have never followed a game in development as closely as this one, and the ride has been fascinating. You are, however, killing me with anticipation.

  42. Really looking forward to release! Kudos for holding back - I'm sure it's difficult given the pressure to release!

  43. Keep working, release something you're proud of. There's no benefit in rushing it to meet expectations that weren't based on experience. The insight you've gained WILL help in the future. We can be patient, and the way you're working is worth a little more waiting. Got my money ready when you're done.

  44. Please do not listen to those complaining about the release date. They will be the first to complain about any glaring bug. Just finish the testing and release when you are happy with. But do not try to "finish" the game since you may want to get some positive/negative feedback from the community for the direction of the future updates.

  45. Nice read.
    That's the thing about making games, when it's 90% done then there's only 90% left.
    So true :S

    Best of luck for the finishing work.

  46. This is something Six Sigma talks about in great length. Nothing can ever be 100% done or 100% in quality. You do something, you release it at the pinnacle of it's development and then you revisit it every once in awhile to tweak and update the product. Or as I used to tell clients, "The polishing of a product really never stops."

    Too bad today's IT and game companies no longer follow the Six Sigma formula originally proposed by Raytheon. Now they're all about the 2-of-3 principle. You have three factors: speed, quality and cost. You only get to choose two of those and the third will be below expectations. At least you're trying to make a great game with great quality, concerned about how it plays/looks when it comes out.

  47. I am still hopeful to see this game come out as soon as it is ready, I'd LIKE it to be soon as possible, but can wait till it is ready. Hurry tho 😛

  48. I am more than ready to pay for this when your ready to release it. Everything I have seen up to this point has been grade A quality. Just remember there is fine line between polish and procrastination. I am sure you will hear some pretty strong critique when you release this no matter what you do. Don't let the thought of the future trolls get you down or slow up the release. The proof of your game's popularity will be in the pocket book, which I think will pleasantly surprise you.

  49. Just release it already.

    It'll never be perfect by your own Standards.
    You could spend MONTHS looking for bugs in the game when an army of devoted fans could do in days.
    You've been hyping this and teasing us with a bread crumb trail of screenshots and videos that have been passing around on the internet for months: just release it, you're at the cross road where if you stall for much longer the game will never be able to live up to the hype.

  50. I understand that you just want to focus on developing this game for windows for the time being. But will you test your game if it runs under Wine? (You can find more info on wine here: http://www.winehq.org/)

  51. I am just happy to see a Game like this being developed and programed they way so many others should have been, with proper time taken to "get it right" for the user base, with passion and with the thought that it is "never done". So many lessons the much to corporate gamming establishment could relearn from this project. I have not seen this type of detail, dedication and end user opinions considered since the days of the original Westwood and Blizzard type studios. You've done an awesome job dude and you deserve the success you will achieve!!

  52. It definitely looks like the game is reaching the pivotal moment of release worthiness. I think the word "worthy" is better than "complete". This kind of game, with such a devoted developer, can never be complete. But it certainly can be worthy of release. I'm glad you are taking the time to get it right. However, I have money here - and I want you to take it.

  53. honestly its great to see someone putting so much effort and time into completely a project so thoroughly but u did say yourself that it is a complete game which in my mind means its 1.0 and its time for release and everything u wish to change and tinker with can be saved for 1.0+
    after all u certainly have a lot of ppl interested in playing and u don't want ppl getting impatient and finding other means of distracting themselves

  54. For real. It's 2014 and Steam is hotter than ever with indie games. I'm pretty sure the only games I play anymore are early release. Join into this fun new gaming era. Release today!

  55. Getting so hyped over this game. Wish there will be a tablet version of this for iOS or Droid. Will be a great time killer while commuting.

  56. Something like the ability to change houses from wood to stone as your citizenry become richer would be cool

  57. "Something like the ability to change houses from wood to stone as your citizenry become richer would be cool"

    Jesus patrick, you didnt saw the gameplay? First the game dont have money so its impossible to be "richer". Second you can already upgrade the houses to stone.

  58. Happy New Year!

    One of the first things I learned about programming was the 80/20 principle: 80% of functionality comes within 20% of time... or in other words: the devil is in the details.
    So take your time, but don't try to make absolutly everything perfect 😉

    I'm looking forward to see the fruits of your hard work! I also hope you will continue your devblog after release - after the deserved pause, of course.

  59. First of Happy new Year.
    I Just want to thank u for Opening my eyes and make me think a little bit about "finishing" Part of game Design.
    Me and my 3 friend are making a game by ourselves in IRAN.
    We Love to see your game and Play it but we hope that if u answer us by email and help us a bit about the design and programing.

  60. I have a great idea for a DLC or Mod for this game. How about with the fight and struggle to survive the harsh elements and conditions, add a zombie apocalypse into the mix! Think about it, a small village defending and thriving in a zombie infested world? Armed with weapons and large defenses like watchtowers and fences. Then you could use certain zombies you capture for tasks and chores like undead slaves.

  61. Ever since I heard of this game being released in December I was really happy. I kept checkin the website if anything changed or even a release date since the interview he pushed it back to January. Look I understand you want to finished a game 100% I use to make video games then I decided to do something else. I thank you for taking time but for the past year is 10 months you been 100% done or 99.99. In my opinion iv never seen a game with ought bugs but that's what patched are for. I looked every day after my courses looking for a release date or any new news and really I just don't want to look it up anymore. To tell you the truth I'm losing intrest. I know you want to focus on the game and get it out as fast but some updates on exactly what's left like. I'm waiting for people to finished testing or I have 6 bugs to fix then retest then see if it's complete so on and so on. All we are asking while we are waiting is to give us exact updates so we can keep the excitement up because it sounds like people are losing intrest. No effence

  62. I'm reading all of these "oh please release the game" and "I don't care about bugs, just release it" and all that's coming to mind is that these are the same people who will be flooding the forums whining about bugs, cussing out the dev/team and generally acting like entitled brats. I'm looking forward to the game - whenever it's released but I hope you're preparing for the inevitable s-tstorm that's gonna come when you do release.

  63. @buttercup - that's not necessarily true, people are just anxious to play and it's already been stated the game has been playable for months.

    People simply just wanna play and like any upcoming release people get a little impatient.

    2013 saw a lot of disappointment in the gaming sphere for many - most likely due to console releases and developers holding back a little.

  64. The hardest part about making a game is the release... you've pampered this as your baby for years. It's nerve racking because you want it's first day to be grand but cynics and critics always hover in the back of a dev's mind. I just want a copy so I can throw money at you. I've watched too many "other" people play this and tease us in social media sites. I've fallen off the sim-city building type games because they've taken away from the core of what a city building game should be like. I feel this game captures it from what I've seen.

  65. At this point, throw me a pre-order release date and I'll be happy with that while I anxiously await the real release date 🙂

  66. It is great to see a developer taking extra time to work on every part of his game that needs to be completed before releasing it. I say you should take as much time as you need to complete it as its already looking to be one of the most professional indie games I've seen.

    But there is something to be said for releasing an early 'beta' version if you feel that it is taking too long by yourself. If it is taking so much time and needs so much extra work, you could possibly develop it to a point where it can be released in an early form and then play tested by the community. Then both you and the community could test all the bugs together. And then you could release the final completed product a few months later. Though I notice you said you have some people play testing the game now so hopefully they are helping.

    No matter what decision you make, I just want to say this is my most anticipated game. Thank you for making what looks to be a solid revival of the old style simulation games.

  67. Not sure if you are aware, but steam has been taking some heat about the release of a game called X rebirth, it's an abysmal travesty of the X series.

    The point is, be careful with steam, I have a feeling they are going to start having some issues, people are getting pretty mad about how they keep charging people full price for a very incomplete game.

    I'm sure yours will be fine, that isn't the point, the point is it might be worth your while to consider the negative PR steam is getting lately. They have an F rating with the bbb.

    Looking forward to your game. Good luck and to thine own self be true.

  68. @ Jim

    Steam doesn't make the prices, the publishers do.

    Also Steam was, is and will for a longer while be the absolutely only digital distribution plattform this size.

    I for myself will purchase Banished - if possible on Steam. Yet alone to play it in my both houses on both computers without need to have some physical things to carry with me.

  69. I haven't been this excited about a game in a long time. I've been reading as much as I can on it and I'm so looking forward to it. Like others, I am very forgiving of a few minor bugs as a patch can fix those. Just remember most of us aren't going to approach the game from a developer's viewpoint so try to not be so hard on yourself with anything that seems unfinished to you.

    Eagerly awaiting release but thanks for working hard to make this the best possible product! 🙂

  70. Finally! This is what i was looking for. A strategic/management city building that focus only about one thing, your city! This game transmit me peacefulness. Those trees, those chimneys that smoke, the snow.. God, I can swear it, I want to live there <3 This game brings me back to "Master of Olympus, Zeus", to a game that you've to stop to think and plan how to go ahead with awereness and wisdom without rushed decisions. Keep up the good work! Best game of the year 🙂

  71. Everything about Shining Rock Software is holding my attention. Banished is a game experience I have been waiting for.

  72. It pains me to have to keep waiting to play this game, but it's refreshing to see such dedication to releasing a polished and bug-free product. Something that Maxis could take a few life lessons from, perhaps.

  73. 100th comment! also, looking forward to the game. appreciate you putting effort in to have it finished before release.

  74. I've been watching this game for awhile. I honestly remember shareware games back in the 90's. Some of the best games came from back there when companies cared about a product that they were making and not just the $$$$.
    I really want this game and it is on my must have list for 2014. Infact it is on top of that list with Tropico 5 right behind it.
    This style of game is almost lost in today's gaming industry. SimCity 2013 was a joke.
    Been a long time since I actually watched a website to see the developement of a game and kept tabs on it. Oh, and it has the look of the very first steam engine days..I can literally see a steam engine chugging through it..lol sorry train fan and saying there should be a train it just looks that darn good.
    I'll keep watching though I seriously want to play the game now, but the dev knows best when it comes to their product and this one definetly cares.

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