Sally Face Postmortem

I’ve been working on Sally Face for the last five years of my life. In that time, within the span of 5 episodes, I’ve created over 80 characters, 54 environments, recorded 56 songs, wrote thousands of lines of dialog, designed 70 puzzles/challenges and mixed over 500 sound effects. The final project has over 4,000 art assets and over 1,000 animations.

My blood, sweet and tears went into this project. I’ve poured so much of myself into making this game, at times giving too much and then learning to find a better balance with life. For many people, it’s tough to understand how much work goes into developing a game. I hope that the above stats can shed just a little bit of light on the sheer amount of work involved. Though honestly, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Yet, to me, this work is very rewarding and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I started working on Sally Face in my free time, around 2014/2015. I went through a lot of personal struggles during development, which the game ultimately helped me through (I’ve talked about this in detail in previous posts, so I won’t get into that here). In 2016 I began working on SF full time and it has changed my life. I now develop my own games for a living; something I had been working up to for about 7 years prior.

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Old work space vs new work space

Working on my own

This project has been a solo endeavor for me. I create everything in the game myself: art, music, writing, design, sound, animation and so on. Not only that, I also do every other aspect from marketing to PR to support. That means answering emails, fixing bugs, cutting trailers, making marketing materials, writing press releases, traveling to conventions, doing bookkeeping, managing social media sites, etc.

I began working on my own out of necessity (I didn’t have any budget) but also out of passion. It was a project I had been wanting to work on for years and I liked having something that could be my personal creative outlet. So even when the game started making some money, I still wanted to see it through on my own.

For my next game, I may contract out some artwork to help speed up the process. I’ve also recently partnered up with Brand Central, who have been handling Sally Face merchandise, which is great. One less thing off my plate and they’ve been getting some cool merch stuff going. I’ve also worked with a group of awesome volunteers for the translations, which I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own.

What I’ve learned

Keeping the project short and taking breaks in between really helps to prevent burnout. So the episodic format was great to work with in that regard. I also planned from the beginning to evolve the game as I went, so that I was always looking forward to making the next episode. That turned out to be very helpful in keeping my motivation going.

The episodic format becomes a nightmare to manage over time. Whenever I have to do an update or a patch, I now have to make 14 builds and upload them to four different sites. It’s very tedious and time consuming. Additionally, when there are big gaps in releases (with new episodes) plus software updates (Unity and plugins) it can sometimes create issues when users update their older files. In the future, I might need to rethink how I’ll be distributing a game.

Working 70+ hours a week is not sustainable. I used to work like this for long stretches of time without breaks. But it’s not healthy and I want to continue making games without burning myself out. Occasionally, I’ll still slip into that overworking mode for short spurts but I’ve learned to keep a better balance overall.

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Some of my non work-related adventures this year

I will never do a midnight launch again. Every time I plan this, I try to get everything set up early and every time I think I’m not going to be up too late. I always end up staying up super late anyway. For Episode Five I stayed up past 4am and it was just too much. From now on, I’m going to plan on doing launches in the mornings. This will give me the full day to work with a clear head and not zombie brains.

Avoiding crunch is hard, though I’ve been getting better at it. I think the key is to get the project in a near finished state before even talking about a release date. I’ve seen a lot of people online saying things like “drop the new episode already” but I don’t think they really understand what they’re asking for. These things take a lot of time and even when they are “finished” they still require a lot of work before launch. You have to get the bugs out, do testing, work on translations, ready platform specific implementations, work on marketing materials, etc. Asking for a rushed game is like asking for a shittier version of a thing you like. No one wants that. Especially not the person working hard on the project so that players will enjoy it.

No matter how hard you work and no matter how much testing you do, there will always be bugs. Always. Once thousands of players are playing the game on all different devices and interacting in different ways, issues will pop up. It’s inevitable. It used to really stress me out. And I’d be lying if I said that stress was totally gone but I’ve come more to terms with that. Just knowing and expecting to have to fix some things after launching.

The Response to the Ending

The responses to Episode Five have been very positive overall. The majority of players really like it, which is great. Though the thing with endings in general is that they don’t always please everyone. Sally Face is not an exception, as a good amount of fans didn’t like the ending. Even though it’s the minority opinion, I still feel pretty disappointed in that. This is a project I’ve poured my heart into and a community that I love and care about very much. So I do care what they think and it does affect me.

It seems that most of those who were disappointed were so because they wanted more. And at least that’s something good. This was one of the feelings I wanted people to have at the end. I wanted them to want more, I wanted them to wonder, “what happens next?”, I wanted there to still be mystery remaining for people to talk about. Additionally, I wanted to keep it open so that I could revisit the world of Sally Face. I have too many ideas to let it die and too many things I want to explore.

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What’s Next?

So will there be another Sally Face game in the future? Yes! Will I work on that next? Maybe! I have several ideas that I am excited about. However, I also have other game ideas (non SF related) that I’d like to explore too. Life is short and games take a long time to develop, so I have to choose what I do carefully. It may also be good to take a break from SF then come back to it, so that I don’t get burned out on it. But I haven’t made any decisions on that just yet.

In general, I wanna work on games that mean something to me. That’s why I’m an indie developer and not signed on with publishers (not saying publishers are bad, just that I prefer to have creative freedom). I wanna make things that I care about. And I hope that whatever my next project is that Sally Face fans will also enjoy it.

That said, in the short term here is what I’ll be doing:

  • First and foremost, I’m going to take a short break for the holidays and visit my family (who I haven’t seen in a year)
  • Working on some more translations for Sally Face when I get back
  • Putting together a Sally Face art book! (more details to come later)
  • Porting Sally Face to new platforms (more details later)
  • Figuring out and designing my next game 

 

Thank you all for your love and support. It means the world to me.

💙 Steve

Published by

Portable Moose

Artist and indie game developer. Creator of Sally Face.

38 thoughts on “Sally Face Postmortem”

  1. Sally Face is such an amazing and remarkable game. Thank you so much Steve, for sharing your vision and Sal’s story. It is without a doubt one of the most emotionally compelling stories I’ve ever experienced in a game.
    Im in the process of getting 100% in all episodes to see everything in the game and am so happy to hear youre gonna revisit Sally Face one day.

    Thanks again, from one of the many fans who enjoyed your game.
    PatriotJax

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not really one for replying, but I can’t help myself in this case. I talk about this game all of the time, and the first time I came across it, I was beyond surprised that everything was made by a single person. As someone who is in school to learn more about game design, character design, animation, and etc., Steve Gabry has become a huge inspiration to me. And Sally Face in itself is such a great game. I could go on and on on how much I love it. But, yeah. Though I’m upset that it’s ended for now, I’m excited for the other things coming. Like that art book? I will totally be getting that, that’s like totally my thing. But, yeah. It’s been a wild ride! Can’t wait to see what else is in store. Keep being the great creator that you are, Steve Gabry!

      Like

  2. Congratulations on finishing it! All the work you put in was totally amazing and the fact that you did it by yourself if baffling. This game left a huge impact on me so thank you for making something so amazing. Even if Sally Face is technically over I won’t stop drawing it and it will never leave me in my heart (cheesy. I know. But it really did mean a lot to me). Thank you so much!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is sure an amazing game! I am so grateful for this since it really changed my life. And I will sure support you in any more projects that are going to be published in the future, thank u Steve!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved your work …. me and my friend we were discussing theories and history and we stayed like this for hours …… i’m a little sad because you didn’t show the face of salt fisher …. but by the time he went to the electric chair I could get an idea of ​​what it was like. And I was happy and sad to know what really happened to mom and salt …… I just didn’t understand why salt found it that the man was a dog …. but I love and I will continue to love Sally Face😍🤩🥰

      Like

  4. Steve, Sallyface is the greatest thing i have stumbled upon, I feel close with Sal himself and this game has helped when i needed a distraction from stress and I hope to see another Sallyface game in the future. This has become my favorite game ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sally Face is a game that honestly changed my life and my outlook on things. It was such an emotional rollercoaster from start to end, in a good way Ofcourse! It’s easy to see all the effort that went into this game and I’m so incredibly amazed and blown away. Steve, you are an amazing person inside and out and you have such a creative soul. I’ve also never have felt this welcomed in a community before and I’m altogether just so grateful for this game and everything that it has brought to me and to so many others. I can’t wait to see what you will make in the future. Until then have a wonderful holiday!

    – Leah Simeone

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You dont understand how much this game means to me. Its one of the reasons i started watching sean, aka jack. I think this was the first game i saw him playing and thats why it means so much. Because through you i met him . Through him i met metal and through metal i met my best friend. Its funny and mind blowing because without clicking on that video my life would be different from now. I love this game and not only this game ,i love you steve cause you mean so much to all of us. Whatever happens we are here for you as you are to us❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was definitely one of those people who did not like the ending too much, however I really appreciate how much work and dedication you put into this game. Sally face has truly been such an amazing, comforting and emotionally filled experience for me and I will never forget this game for as long as I live. I look forward to your new projects and thank you for all your hard work. Happy holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sally Face has given me such great and awesome feelings along with happy and great experiences I never thought I could reach. Thanks to this game I met so many cool and awesome people,along with the characters too! The work you do is just great and wow,I have no words for how good it is really!
    You need to take a break after the awesome game you just developed!
    Have great vacations Steve! You deserve them!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for working so hard on this game. I know its hard to please everyone, which is near impossible, im the same way. But i think the way you created the game, and told Sal’s story is the best way possible; your way! I’ve been following this game since 2016/2017 and ive completely fallen in love with every aspect of it. I cannot thank you enough for this. It means a lot to us fans. I look forward to your future projects and will support you in each game you release. Happy Holidays, Steve. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is simply the most mysterious, dark and complex story I’ve ever dived into after Silent Hill. It’s just awesome, it has everything I could expect for: incredible story, characters, places, songs, etc. I had to read and watch some extra stuff to fully understand about the Cult, Nockfell’s past, who are Jim and Stacy Johnson and what are their roles… It’s been a good while since I dug so deep into a game.
      With that said, it would be nice if you could explain more about this “darkness” and its origins, Jim and Stacy, Alison Rosenberg, Terrence Addison… Might be a good idea for a “sequel” to Sally Face!

      Oh, and cheers from Brazil!

      Like

  10. Sally Face was such an amazing game, and it definitely should be up there with the best games ever released! I absolutely loved every aspect of it, from the music to the art to the plot, and it’s incomprehensible to me how it was made by ONE PERSON. I’ve been waiting for a full year for Chapter 5 to come out and it was well worth it! With that being said, congratulations on completing this masterpiece, and you definitely deserve to have a break! 💓

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Steve I was amazed and never thought this was made by a single developer and I can’t imagine how long it takes for you to make this as I sometimes play around with coding my own games. I am one of your biggest fans and though the ending had me a bit annoyed. I was happy once I read this because there is gonna be a part 2 and I am wondering what happened after. I have bought all of your merch so now my closet is mostly sally face merch. I would love to see this as a movie as this would do well. You have also got me through a numerous amount of rough times. THANK YOU STEVE.

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  12. Steve, thanks for this wonderful story! I never knew someone who would be as attentive to their fans and spend so much time answering questions and supporting fan art! Thank you very much for everything! Good luck with your new projects! And of course we will all be happy if one day you want to return to the world of Sally Face!

    Like

  13. I feel like… We are just dissapointed, because there’s so much understatements here. Not because it’s ending. Good ending can make people cry and remember game too.
    Honestly I’m dissapointed. I was expecting something MORE. Okay. Sally, Ash, Larry won with the cult. And? The End of Story.
    Thank you for this game. I’m really into it. I’m dissapointed but still grateful for making this story. Characters are so awesome, story line too. Ony the last scene could be better.

    Good job and do what you want to do. You’re doing amazing job. I will always love Sally Face.

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  14. But I suggest you open an online store that sells post some cosplay stuff …. for example the salt mask, larry’s hair piruca, the gear boy, the guitar and etc …. would be really cool of your part because people like me sally face cosplayers want to dress beautifully from Ashley for example

    Like

  15. My daughter LOVES Sally Face, saying LOVE is an understatement. She was Sal Fisher for Halloween and she is constantly writing SF fan fiction. Your post is so important because it or shows her that there is person behind her favorite characters and game. It shows dedication, hard work and sacrifices made in order to bring to life Sally and the gang. Thank you.

    Like

  16. Steve! Thank you for such a wonderful game ♥ ️ There are so many puzzles ~ I like it ✨ I am very glad that you are set to continue Sally Face❤️ Don’t be afraid to do other projects, it works great for you ♥ ️✨ We love you, Steve

    Like

  17. This game was one of the best games i have ever watched and played. My best friend Wiktoria showed me Sally Face and we made hundreds of theories. I really loved the story line, characters overall everything and i am so happy to hear that you are planning to do another Sally Face game. I will for sure buy this artbook because I love this kind of things. You did a great job Steve and I will be for sure looking forward to your another project. Sending you all the love and positive energy – Paweł from Poland

    Like

  18. Hey Steve! I hope you’ll keep in contact with any future endeavours you’re looking forward to pursuing, I think you’re incredibly creative and talented, and I’ve fallen in love with your storytelling, writing, music, aesthetic direction, etc. etc.!

    I know you don’t need me to tell you this, but please don’t worry about fan reception or anything when you branch out and experiment with whatever else you want to do, Sally Face or not. I think the fact that you’ve stuck to what *you* want to do, and what *you* want to see, really helped Sally Face, and let your love and passion bleed through into it. And the fact that it’s such a passion project for you that was loved and nurtured into a fully fledged game is both inspiring and really heartwarming. I think from here on out, no matter where life takes you, you’ll have a sea of dedicated fans inspired by your work. And, if worse comes to worst, as the age-old adage says: Those that mind don’t matter, and those that matter don’t mind!

    Keep up the great work, and take care of yourself! Hope the past couple of years have been treating you well (or, at least, better)!

    Like

  19. I have seen and heard a lot about Sally Face, sir, and I think you have done an amazing job! I didn’t even imagine you had done this all by yourself, that is incredible. While all of us want to see more from you and especially of Sally Face, by all means go see that family and take a little time for yourself for a little while. Don’t forget about Sal now, but do take a little bit of time to enjoy yourself with your family.
    Thank you for this wonderful work of wonder and have a great rest of your year!

    Like

  20. Sally Face was a thing for me and my gf for the past 3 years. We played all the episodes together and it was a fun time. Yes, we both kinda disappointed in ending but the only reason for that is that the whole story and characters were sooo awesome that in our opinion they deserved something more at the end (especially Sally). I don’t know about continuing our tradition for sequels but ty for this journey, it was a great one

    Like

  21. Thank you so much for creating such an amazing game! Sally Face has really helped me through some tough times, and chapter 5 reminded me just how exciting this game really is. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next! Please have a great holiday, and enjoy your break!

    Like

  22. Dear Steven, it’s very nice that you share your precious Game with us and that you might do a sequel to it. I loved the Game a lot, though i didn’t play it and watched it on youtune but well, i might buy it as soom as i get my Money.

    Now i have a serious and pretty much open Question, IF you start the sequel would you like to add some voices this time? I mean i know someone from germany, austria and america who would totally love to “DUB” your SF sequel.

    Sincerely Daisy

    Like

  23. Hi Steve! I just wanted to say THANK YOU for all your effort and passion for this game. It has become in one of my favorite games pretty quickly; but you’re are also one of the big inspirations that pushed me forward to decide to do my own indie game. Now it’s not only “my” game, because more amazing artist friends joined and we are now a team. We are very serious about it, even if we know that it’s going to be tough. And well… this project that we are creating…this is in part thanks to you.
    So thanks again Steve, you will always have a fan here! 🙂

    Like

  24. As both a horror fan and spiritual person, Sally Face was truly a pleasure! I didn’t get to play it, but I watched gamers on YouTube play through it and enjoyed every minute of it. Thank you for the well-rounded characters and for being inclusive of people of color, those with disabilities, women, etc. I hardly see any representation of myself in games like this, so it gives me hope for the gaming world and what’s to come.

    Like

  25. Sally Face is one of the greatest games I’ve ever played in my life. Now, I kind of do agree with that small amount of players that didn’t like the ending much, but I can respect the fact that all endings aren’t necessarily happy. I also respect that Steve should take a break from SF and work on other things, but I have an idea that is a bit much to ask. If Steve could somehow bring Sal back to life when the players least expect it, well.. that would be amazing. I know that this will kind of bring back that spirit of a happy ending, but I don’t know if it’s just me or other players too, but I feel that slight feeling of hope that Sal or Larry will return. Not so much for Larry, but I feel it for Sal. It’s fine if Steve does not bring either back, it’s just an idea. In other words, the ending was unsettling, but I still love this game, even with any ending Steve will give us.

    Also, I have to thank Steve for actually spending his time into creating another SF episode after episode 5. I hope others don’t care about how long it takes to create this next chapter of the game, just like I don’t, but all I am saying is that I am fine with however long it shall take to create another SF episode. Thank you for the amazing game, Steve.

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  26. Absolutely in love with it! Always have been. So wild that you made a masterpiece like this COMPLETELY on your own; it blows my mind. Looking forward to what you do next!

    Liked by 1 person

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