The Complicated History of Sally Face

I get asked all the time where the idea for Sally Face came from and what inspired me to make the game. I also went through a lot of personal struggles while creating the first two episodes. So I thought that topic would make a good starting point for this blog.

Around 2006 / 2007, I sketched a creepy character (as per usual) and the name “Sally Face” just popped into my head. Over the next few weeks, I began to imagine this character and what his life would be like. A boy with a girls face sewn on. I imagined him living in an apartment building filled with odd tenants.  His best friend would be a lazy stoner who wore a cape and lived in the basement. This was the genesis of Sal and Larry.  Here are the original sketches from that time:

Sally Face and Larry (aka “Lazy Kid”) version .01

A few months after those initial ideas began to form, I had already created a backstory for Sal (that’s when I ditched the sewn on face in favor of the prosthetic mask), a world that he lives in, a cast of characters and different stories I could tell within that universe. At the heart of everything, I really wanted to create something that had the look and feel reminiscent of a 90’s Nicktoon (like Doug, Ren and Stimpy, Hey Arnold, Rock’s Modern Life) but with darker themes and more mature stories/content.

Sally Face version 2.0  (young Steve had just started learning 3D modeling)

I got together with a few friends that were good artists and animators, as I attempted to assemble a team to make Sally Face into an internet cartoon series. Everyone got into the idea at first and we were all excited to start this project. However, between work and school schedules, no one could commit enough time and things quickly fell apart.

Sally Face sat in the back of my mind for seven years, as I moved on to other projects.

In 2010 I started a small indie game team, Wither Studios, with some friends. We developed a game called Crowman & Wolfboy that released in 2013 on mobile platforms. The game got great reviews from media and users and was downloaded over 600,000 times. Despite all of that, we still struggled to make money off of C&W. Because of this, the team voted to abandon development on the planned expansions to the game. This had me pretty bummed for a while because I had some awesome ideas for the direction of that game that I was really excited about at the time. A year later, our team was still struggling with what direction to take our next game. Eventually, at the end of 2014, we lost two of our team members over that conflict. It really sucked because they were not only good artists but good friends as well.

The chaos that Wither had fallen into is what ignited my desire to work on my own project. I wasn’t sure if the team would make it through that rough patch but I also needed a creative outlet. There were a few ideas I was tinkering with but Sally Face came back around into my mind. I thought it would be nice to finally do something with that idea and that it would transition pretty well into an adventure game, rather than a cartoon. So in 2015, building from the original concepts, I rewrote the story arc to fit a five episode narrative and began working on episode one in my free time. It was a slow process, as I was working a full time job and still working with Wither Studios too.

Redesigning Sally Face Characters  (third time’s the charm?)

In February 2016, I was unexpectedly laid off from my job, during a company wide downsizing. Finding a new job afterwards was turning out to be difficult. That’s when I decided to focus on finishing episode one of Sally Face. I had enough money saved plus unemployment coming in, that I could be more casual about looking for other work for a while. My wife at the time fought me tooth and nail over this decision. It turned out that she didn’t support my dreams and refused to even meet me on any middle ground. This torn a giant hole in our relationship.

That summer, I moved out and stayed with my parents while we figured out what we were going to do. During that time, I was able to finish up development on Sally Face, Episode One: Strange Neighbors. I released it in August, on itch.io. Sales were dismal to say the least. I tried my best to promote it but I just couldn’t gain enough attention. My funds were also starting to run low. So I decided to run a crowdfunding campaign, hoping to kill two birds with one stone (funding and attention).

During that fall, I moved back to Pittsburgh, with my wife. We were going to attend couples therapy and try to work through things. In November, I raised over $13,000 for Sally Face via crowdfunding. Luckily the game had started catching on with YouTubers and some of the bigger channels were starting to play episode one. That was a huge help with getting more eyes on the game. In December, I had released Sally Face on Steam to great reception. I was finally able to focus my full time efforts into making a game, and not have to worry about finances.

Things were seeming to look up, when tragedy reared its ugly head again. A very close family member of mine was reported missing (I don’t want to name them out of respect for their privacy). There was a suicide note. I was 7 hours away. The next few weeks were the darkest, saddest and hardest times of my life. Thankfully, the police found the family member still alive. After days in recovery, a second attempt and then more days in recovery, they are doing much better now. Obviously, this slowed production of episode two down quite a bit. Even after I had returned home, I was still dealing with a deep sadness over what had happened.

Working on episode two actually became helpful for me, in what I was struggling with internally. As I was nearing the later half of production, in the spring of 2017, my now ex-wife had decided that our marriage wasn’t working for her. So she left for another man. We had been together for 8 years so this was a pretty huge impact on me, especially with the emotional roller coaster I had just been through. This all but halted production for a while. It was the second biggest hit for my life and for episode two.

After some time, I began getting back to development. Working on the game, again, became very helpful in getting me out of the dark hole I was isolating myself in. Seeing all of the excitement of the fans and how much the fandom was continuing to grow was also a big emotional gain when I needed it the most. I can’t say how much I still appreciate seeing that excitement from fans every day.

Sally Face, Episode Two: The Wretched was released in July 2017 and was even bigger and better than episode one.

Development of episode three has gone MUCH smoother than both episode one and two. I’m in a healthier emotional place. I don’t have negativity around me, dragging me down. I feel great about my future and the future of Sally Face. I’m crazy excited to start on episodes four and five and I can’t wait to see people’s reactions as the mystery unfolds.

My goal with this blog post wasn’t to write a sob story or gain pity points, but to tell the story of Sally Face as it intertwined with my life. I got dragged through the shit but that’s part of life. When I got knocked down, I stood right back up, held my ground and forged ahead. Life is full of ups and downs. After all, we couldn’t have joy without sorrow.

Creating interactive experiences to share with people around the world is an amazing feeling. I would never want to do anything else and will likely be making games until they bury me in the ground.

Sally Face, Episode Three: The Bologna Incident  will be out on Feb 10th!

*As an additional note, Wither Studios is still kicking! I help them on the side with game design and art, among other things. We’re currently working on a demo for a new horror game, called IMMURE.

Thanks for reading my first blog post! I really appreciate the continued love and support!

– Steve

Published by

Portable Moose

Artist and indie game developer. Creator of Sally Face.

30 thoughts on “The Complicated History of Sally Face”

  1. This is honestly so inspiring. That first picture of Sal is terrifying, I love it SO much omg. Steve you’re a great guy and I can’t wait to see how the story of sally face continues! Till then I gotta wear my hair in pigtails till it comes out!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I want to thank you for being strong, and showing that someone can create and inspire through and despite of adversity. I’m very much looking forward to more of this series, and more of whatever you continue to do and share with others! I hope you continue to have a bit of joy, with not too horrible sorrows haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing the journey with us. I know that after 8 years of marriage finding out that your wife does not support your dreams had to be hard. I just want to say tat you are a very talented person and I am glad that you pursued your dream and brought forth such a wonderfully entertaining game series. The day will come when someone will walk into your life who will support you and stand behind you no matter what. Someone who will appreciate you for who you are and deserve what you have to offer. In the meantime keep reaching for the stars!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The only thing I want to say is thank you so so much!! You have such a creative mind and such a kind soul. I’m so sorry that you had to go through that kind of stuff, you didn’t deserve it and I’m sure someone better will come into your life. I just really needed to thank you for making this game that hooked us all and for me even helped with my depression. Thank you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m a huge fan of games that have so much work and passion behind them, and after reading this my love for Sally Face has grown. I’m loving what you’re doing and can’t wait to see where this goes!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m a 14 year old in the United States. I love casual games that don’t require much skill to excel in, this game is perfect with an interesting story and relateable characters. I found your amazing game from my favorite youtuber GloomGames (Kassie) I even then bought the game for myself on steam and I can’t wait for episode 4 and 5. Sally Face inspired me to get back into art because I really wanted to draw Sal, and now I draw everyday. Thank-you so much for pursuing your idea of Sally Face so many people could enjoy it. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Loveee this and can’t wait for episode 5! So far so good actually better than good! I am in love with Sally face this is my favourite game in the world I’m so happy that you thought of this it just makes my whole life happy thank you!

      Like

    2. I really appreciate your work. I am lost to my words as I fail to express how much I love your art. It drove me to tears, and it still does. If there is a way for me to confirm you reading this, I would appreciate it dearly. Sally Face is something not everyone can create, and the story behind it only strengthens the point.
      In a world where people struggle and fail to speak when every door is shut and every window is closed, when we look upon ourselves and find tears that slip from faces to cover pages of their past, do we think we are or do look upon bitter flaws in our souls? Do we crawl on each other, scratching the surface of their skin, or do we bleed to feed their hungry, drained, flawed, empty and lost — I no longer am able to hold it in. My heart is in pain and my eyes are the same, we, as I, myself and me, can never, and I am telling you ever feel better. I really want you to know that there are people out there that really are happy you made this wonderful piece of art, and there is something about it that keeps making me cry… I just do not know why, it is so beautifully painful because it is truthful, I would lie if I told you it is not. If there is a way for me to keep in touch with you, I would, I really would love you talk to you more about it. Thank you, again, for such an opportunity.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. What an inspiring story, I’m glad you made it through all of that. I’m loving your game and can’t wait for your next two episodes, and anything you develop after this!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. 超级喜欢这款游戏!人设还有故事都超级棒,情节也是跌宕起伏。真是万万没想到Sally face的制作中会有这么多事情发生同时也真的是一碗好喝的鸡汤啊啊!最近也陷入了生活的泥沼里面,看完这篇感觉自己又振作了起来! Thanks for your sharing, and I m really looking forward to the episode 4! LOVE SALLY FACE!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello Steve, I’m “CUR1NG4_ZK” I’m your fan of Brazil so do not worry about grammar mistakes, I think it’s amazing to play the story, the gameplay and how the character is so empathic with me, I really hope you and your game Sally face do all his goals (and who does not know the best indie game), his game inspired me so much that my work to make a short film I was inspired by sally face (I did not copy), but even without wanting my movie was half ” a scary character “(this part is from your blog from the beginning a reference), sorry for the big text

    ps:shirts prints are a lot of ways I’m going to buy birthday

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dear Steve,
    My name is Zoe. I’m a 13 year old living in the U.S.
    I am personally sorry that you had to deal with such awful things in the creation of this beautiful game. After eight years of marriage, it had to have hit hard to learn that your wife didn’t support your dreams. But I have to say; thank you for Sally Face. Believe it or not, before I discovered Sally Face, I was contemplating suicide. Sal taught me that people less fortunate than you live the best lives possible, and that you should be grateful for what you have.

    (PS: Is there Sally Face merchandise? I’d be interested!)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. So i just finished watching chapter 4 (btw i love everything of this entire game.) But i was curious. Is chapter 4 the end or will Ash take up the mantel and take down the cult for Sally and Larry?

    Like

  12. Thank you for finding and nurturing the drive to create Sally Face. This is a game that always lingers in my mind and keeps me excited for every update. You have a gift for visual storytelling and I’m glad you pushed through despite the obstacles you’ve faced in your life. I can feel the emotional connection embedded in your game, and I’m very happy you’re in a much better state now! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hey Steve!
    I just wanted to let you know that I absolutely love this game!! I found this game back when episode one was released, and found it so fun to watch, and got me into other horror games too! After that, sadly, I sorta brushed it off and didn’t think much of it. When I heard a friend say that episode four was realsing, I was so excited! I’ve been struggling a lot with mental health recently, and this game has sorta been an outlet for me. I hope you are well and development continues smoothly.
    Love,
    Salem

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Hey steve! I just binged watched this game till episode 4 and i LOOVED IT ♡♡. im so glad your doing okay now and that you stayed strong all throughout :)! This game is amaazing and i cant wait for ep 5 (although im sad that it will end soon..) ♡ ive been drawing fanart about sally face nonstop too haha. Thank you for not giving up on us ☆

    Like

  15. I just wanted to say that I really love this game, it always keeps my attention an I never get bored of it the story is so amazing an the characters are very impressive I really enjoy the watching the mystery of the game I can’t wait for the next episode I have researched all the episodes at least 20 times, I hope everything goes well for you too keep up the awesome work.

    Like

  16. Dear Steve,
    Thank you for being such a brilliant and wonderful person. I love you and your work. I’m sorry you had to go through such rough times and am grateful that you’re still with us. Your games have brought me joy and a piece of mind and i would just like to say my thanks. I’ve been having a rough couple of years due to my depression, but your game helps me keep my mind off of the hard times. I feel a sense of camaraderie with you that i haven’t with anyone else. Though i’m only 17, and haven’t been around long enough to be as knowledgeable as most, i know for a fact that you are a prodigious individual. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thanks for sharing what you were going through during the making of Sally Face and for making such a cool unique game. I’m glad that you’re in a better place now and I hope that you continue to make games. I can’t wait for the next episode of Sally Face!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Sally Face is an amazing game, I discovered it by watching Jacksepticeye play a walkthrough of it. Immediately, I fell in love, the concept of the game and the creepy 90s feel to it definitely drew me in. Reading about the development and where the story came from gives me the motivation to pick up the sketch pad once again. I know it’s really tough for an artist to stay progressive considering life isn’t always easy. I’m ultimately excited to see what the future of this game holds.

    Like

  19. I absolutely love this game. I am from Venezuela and also got to know your game through a youtuber (Jacksepticeye). The game has its own universe and all the characters feel so special, alive and well fitting. The vibe that Sally Face gives is something not many games are able to do as yours makes it feel more relatable and real. Keep up the amazing job, really excited to see what episode 5 holds!

    Like

  20. It’s May 26, 2019 and I’m reading this with so much respect. I think u are one of my biggest heroes Steve! I’ve unhappily never played the game but I saw so much Let’s Plays on YT and I love this so much…I think I have never felt so much fear besides a videogame. I’m so excited for episode 5 and I hope that everything will turn out well :))
    Thank you so much for your great content and ideas! 😀

    Like

  21. Steve, sally face is amazing. Im usually not a fan of this type of game but you hooked me. Awesome story and gameplay. When will episode 5 be released? My kids and I are chomping at the bit for the next episode. Thanks again soooooo much for sticking with it. Definitely worth it!

    Like

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