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Pushing the Button....Wait. Not That One: The Launch of Fish Game

"Take it easy on yourselves and others. Focus on your vision. Embrace agility and change."

Gordon McGladdery, Blogger

December 21, 2023

11 Min Read

On Sat Oct 11, I slithered onto my Edmonton hotel bed with my shoes still on, my left eyelid vibrating as it had been for 2 weeks straight. I was giving a talk at Alberta Game Series that weekend, which inconveniently wound up being the same weekend we were announcing the launch date for Fish Game. I had left for the airport that morning on no sleep due to an all-nighter cutting and delivering the Fish Game Date-Announce Trailer so our PR company could distribute it Sunday.

Before descending into brief, dreamless slumber prior to the AGS speaker meet & greet, I thought I’d check Slack one last time to see what I’d missed while flying:


“. . . end date says Oct 3”


I had a great nap. I scrambled to see if one of our editors was available to rescue my dumb ass. A lost hiker in novelty crocs and hotpants clinging to the side of an iceberg waving at a helicopter, the confounded rescuers shaking their heads, 

“How did he get here?”

I was rescued, but oh, what an iceberg it was. The eye-watering mass of hectic errors below the surface, abracadabra’d to my team over the course of our launch by The Incredible Oops, Magician of Misfortune, is impressive. 

For My Next Trick…

Here’s an incomplete setlist of shit rabbits I pulled from my hat leading into the Early Access**** launch of Fish Game:

  • When I announced the game on Twitter, I linked to Steamworks instead of our Steam Page. This was not noticed out until the tweet already had hundreds of likes. 


  • My first press delivery build had no .exe file. It took 4 hours working with 3 other dev friends to figure out how to fix it.


I still don’t know what John is talking about. Buy his game for helping me.

  • I couldn’t get our first Next Fest Stream working properly until 30 mins after the scheduled start time


  • I didn’t realize how long Steam needed to approve builds, and that our demo build didn’t count, so we wound up not even launching on the correct date the aforementioned Launch Date Trailer laid out, rendering my all-nighter effectively pointless. 

  • ****I didn’t release our game as Early Access


This is me. 

It can be frustrating to be me. And to deal with me.

ADHD. Blah blah blah. As an 80s kid, I am still in partial denial of this; “diagnosis” and “effective medication” and “this run-on sentence” aside. But I can’t deny I screw up a lot.

Of course I have quaint stories of arriving at work wearing two belts or without my keys again, but blundering small details with potentially catastrophic implications, seemingly regardless of how many times I double & triple check, holds a behind-velvet-cordons, Mona Lisa-like place in my oeuvre of calamitous faceplants. 

I am actually a pretty accomplished individual. I’ve written a bunch of soundtracks, I run a sustainable game audio studio of 15 that has shipped over 50 titles, a game trailer production studio, and a game studio, while raising two kids under 5 that I hope won’t be sending me resentful letters from prison as adults. Yeah I get a lot of things right, but as a human person those aren’t what I think about when I can’t sleep.

And don’t accuse my successes of being by design. I have a lot of ideas and sometimes people don’t talk me out of them. I then complete said ideas, buttressed by privilege and fueled purely by the terror of disappointing the people I’ve roped in.

The new Food & Nutrition update trailer, which was released today on purpose at the appropriate time.

My rat’s-nest brain can only hold so much, however. Having kids is like a firecracker going off in one’s hippocampus; a hard drive partition corrupts for every child you raise, and I wasn’t exactly running high-end equipment to begin with. As a result, I flail in a goo of false and absent memories: things I know with certainty I’ve done but haven’t and things I’ve already done but completely forgotten about.

But this isn’t a journal for a weary therapist who’s just poured themselves a quadruple bourbon! What does this yard sale of Buster Keaton banana slips have to do with Transferable & Applicable Knowledge in the Field of Game Development?

#1: Tell People Who You Are

When I tweeted the wrong link, I had two choices:

1) Delete & repost the tweet, pretend it never happened, and carry on with a facade of perfection I will never achieve 


2) Own it. 

The thing about being a career space cadet: it’s a permanent full-time position. I’m never getting promoted out of this; it’s how I’m wired. You get used to owning mistakes. For me it’s daily, usually small, but sometimes not. I decided to own this particular mistake, loudly. I’m not the only one working on this game–everyone else is much better-organized–and as much as I hate that it might misrepresent them, the buck stops with me. The game is my vision and therefore this was also an announcement of who’s responsible for it and what to expect.

Over my 12 years in games I’ve found what you exude will be reflected in who you attract. I don’t know if I want our game to have fans who are meticulously anal-retentive–I don’t know if a project led by me could make such a person happy. 

So, into the Branding Cauldron it goes! What a relief! I don’t have to slip into some alternate narrative voice when I’m writing content for our game. When I see devblogs written like Executive Board Memos I am a bit curious as to who exactly they’re for. We’re in the business of fun, meaningful experiences. Everything should encompass this. 

I think this has contributed to our community being upbeat, forgiving, and excited. Like us. 

#2: If One Small Mistake Ruins Everything, It Might Not Be Just One Small Thing

While I don’t have the confidence in myself to book a flight without having my wife double check the details first I do have a lot of confidence in my creative vision and the people I choose to work with. I know when I’m onto something good; be it composition, a new business model, or our game. While every one of the aforementioned errors had my heart pounding behind my eyeballs, it was usually only for a moment. The vision and the people working on it are a stronger machine than almost any wrench I can fumble into it.

I knew we had a good game. Nels Anderson (Firewatch, Mark of the Ninja, head of Sonderlust Studios) told me “you can do Early Access, but it has to be excellent”. I took this to heart, and I knew Fish Game was excellent, even if it didn’t wind up being *cough* Early Access. 

The launch reinforced this. We grazed past 50 in Top Sellers. As I’m writing this we just ticked over 200 reviews and we’re sitting at 93% positive. The game has made enough to pay for another year of development in its first month. I’m not going to say “make a good game & it will be a success”; we all know that’s a bunch of hooey and we did a ton on the marketing side of things to give it its best shot. I will say: in many cases, a strong forest will overshadow a few sick trees.

If something feels like its success is completely reliant on a specific date or flawless execution of any one given thing, there might be something holistically wrong with the project. This isn’t landing a rover on mars, it’s video games. And if you feel you’re catering to an audience who will destroy you for a small misstep, well, that might be worth considering as well. 

#3: Be Forgiving To Yourself & Others

Being a cartoon tornado painfully aware of the trail of debris behind me, I’ve spent a lot of personal energy on reflection & behavioral correction to treat others how I’d like to be treated. Basic stuff our parents should teach us. Nonetheless, it’s ubiquitous that managers are much harder on mistakes downstream than they are with themselves or upstream. Because I screw up constantly, I am in no position to dole out stern reprimands for completely human mishaps, so I don’t. We’ll go over what I try to do instead in #4.

Again: what you broadcast echoes back. Rarely in projects I’m working on does anyone react in anger. One could argue this is hierarchical and I’m just not seeing it. Maybe. But if you ask someone on my team without me present I think it’s because I don’t yell and tantrum when others make mistakes so they don’t do it to me. Forgiveness begets forgiveness.

#4: Roll With Punches but Prepare for Them, Too.

With this forgiveness, instead of beating up on yourself or others divert your focus to more productive actions. A mistake happened. There is no ctrl+z for life. My absence of self-trust has made me fill my business with contingencies and redundancies, which is a whole other article, but suffice to say: accepting mistakes can and do happen–by you, colleagues, entire industries & economies–leads to more stable business models. Don’t dwell.

Focus on the next steps: OK, we’ve got a bad situation. What is our new situation? What can we do? Was anything prepared beforehand? We always had multiple dates planned for our marketing push just in case something happened in the world that dominated the internet. Launching a game involves a lot of spinning plates, and you have to have a plan for when one crashes to the tile.

I think the following exchange from immediately after my flubbed EA launch illustrates the above 4 points well. No anger, accepting the current situation, finding a silver lining, moving on. 


#5: You’re Not Alone

What I was reminded of most when seeking help or just relating my experiences for a self-deprecating laugh with friends is that everyone has a launch horror story.

My pal was releasing their (incredible, extremely well-received) game around the same time as us. We spoke while they were in a panic because a week from launch influencers were getting flagged for copyright infringement due to the music accidentally being distributed with autoclaim toggled (through no fault of their own, but that’s their story to tell). A PR nightmare.


I was able to provide some techniques to dodge the issue, which thankfully weren't needed, but again: contingency & community are vital.

This stuff happens to everyone. This was my first tango with Steamworks and I’m a non-technical person. It was my friend’s 2nd, they’re infinitely smarter than me from a technical perspective and still things didn’t go perfectly. There are just so many boxes to tick and details to keep in line. Of course their issue was outside of their control and mine were entirely inside my control, but, uh who’s keeping score… definitely not me, staring at the ceiling every single night. 

In conclusion 

Take it easy on yourselves and others. Focus on your vision. Embrace agility and change. Attract players you want to attract by being honest about who you are. Unless you’re a jerk, in which case, grit your teeth to be nicer and I swear you’ll still have a better time. 

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