One of the most difficult thing to do as a game creator is nail down a release date. Unforeseen difficulties can easily crop up that take longer than anticipated to solve. Matt Thorson, one of the game’s creators, explains how Celeste has gone from a “launch window” Nintendo Switch game to missing the entire year altogether.
Hey everyone! I’ve got a pretty big announcement to share about our mountain-climbing platformer Celeste. I want to talk about release dates — let’s pretend the title didn’t already give it away. It isn’t the window we were originally hoping for, but we’re still very excited to announce a January 2018 release. We’re still launching on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Steam (PC and Mac). We’re incredibly proud of the game we’ve created and we can’t wait to share it with you.
We tried very hard to get Celeste ready in time to be a Nintendo Switch “launch window” title. We learned with TowerFall how valuable launch title status can be — the relative lack of games competing for attention thrusts yours into the spotlight. I’m sure many PlayStation 4 (and Ouya!) owners who wouldn’t have otherwise noticed our little game gave TowerFall their attention because of the sparseness of the early marketplace. So having the privilege of being there close to launch feels like an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted. We’re grateful that Nintendo believed in Celeste, and us, enough to afford us that opportunity. But in the end, we know that business opportunities can’t take priority over the quality and completeness of the game itself.
Our first self-imposed deadline for Celeste was April 2017, and looking back now that seems laughably optimistic. But game development has a reputation of being notoriously hard to schedule for good reason. I can’t speak for everyone, but for us game development is largely a process of discovery. We don’t actually know what a game is until it becomes that thing, and the whole time we’re just making our best guesses at how big it will be, how long it will take to make. We don’t know in advance how far each idea will carry us, or the unexpected roadblocks, detours, and happy accidents we’ll stumble into along the way. Maybe we’re especially bad at these estimations, but this is why we wait as long as possible to announce release dates. I’m only writing this post now because we feel like January 2018 is later than our fans are expecting, and we want to be open and clear about it now that we’ve made that decision.
Back at the start of 2017, we thought Celeste would span around 200–300 levels stitched together by a minimalistic narrative. We had the first two chapters of the game playable, and extrapolated their development time out to estimate how long it’d take us to finish everything. We were done the heavy lifting of designing the basic systems and coding the core infrastructure of the project, so it seemed pragmatic to adjust our time estimate down to account for that.
Today we have over 500 levels and it looks like we’ll crest 600 pretty soon. Celeste’s narrative has grown to an essential feature of the experience, and maybe the aspect of the game I’m most personally proud of because we pushed ourselves so hard on it. Every chapter of the game has big ambitious ideas that we went for despite feeling the whole time like we might not be able to pull them off, before totally pulling them off. I feel so lucky to be working with such an amazing, hard-working, and talented team on a project where we’re constantly pushing ourselves to improve in so many ways. It’s obvious now that releasing this game sooner than January would be a huge mistake. It deserves room to breathe and become everything it can be, and fortunately we can afford to give it that space. We need to know that we took it as far as we could.
So there it is. January 2018! We have a lot of work left to do, but we feel great about where Celeste is, and what the finished game will be. As always, thanks for all your support and for sticking with us. We can’t wait for you to play it.
See you on the mountain!
[Source: Matt Thorson]