Proudly presents…

Heartbound Demo” Review

with ♥ from Froge

Release date: .
Developers: Pirate Software
Licence: Copywrong’d.

Verdict: 1/5 stars. At its core it’s really just another poorly – written somewhat quirky RPG, more bad for what it represents rather than what it is. Who knows? It might improve once the full game comes.


Heartbound is an independent 2D sprite – based nontraditional action – RPG featuring a combination of turn – based and real – time combat starring a mistreated child in a world he doesn’t understand and a mixture of humour, horror, and surrealism with an in media res storyline that features a cast of quirky characters and ends with you fighting an incomprehensible Eldritch horror.

…it’s too early for this shit.

It’s 18:00 and it’s too early for this shit. It could be 23:59 and it would be too early for this shit. I could be ninety – nine years old dying of cancer after decades of chemotherapy in a hospital bed, my laptop having nothing on it but a copy of this game and a text editor prompting me to send out one last review before the void beckons, and it would still be too early for this shit. It could be the very last microsecond before the very last quark of the very last hydrogen atom of the very last corner of the universe disappeared entirely, sending the cosmos into its final whimpering protest before it dies a cold and lonely death over the infinite amount of time it would take for the stars to decay, the black holes taking their place denigrating, and the final particles of radiation destroy themselves in the infinite black, never again to produce anything that can even be conceived to have ever existed in the absolute zero environment that is now everything we have ever known to be, and even after we reach a state that we know cannot possibly exist, even then, it would still be too early for this shit.

Where do I begin? Where? Do I start with the seventeen billion other indie games that, word – for – word, match this exact same premise? Do I start with how the mere existence of this game is a sign of the decaying and creatively – null default templates that new indie studios are shamelessly copying in order to feign relevance in an oversaturated and unforgiving market? Do I talk about how, as somebody who has devoted more time than the vast majority of people would consider healthy to a medium that just ten years ago was seen as something for children, frat boys, and lifeless losers, I was offended not only by how many people are ready and willing to see what sludge is going to be produced out of the full version of this game, but how much praise it’s getting for being the very same pink slime that I dedicated this magazine to fight against?

Forget about yesterday’s bitch track where I thought about giving up Kratzen and taking a break. Forget about being complacent with trudging through the wade of shit that I have to deal with each and every day, and just ignoring it because there’s so much of it! And forget about me giving credit to developers for showing a base level of competency in art direction and programming, because if I give out accolades for seeing developers do their fucking jobs, we’ll get the same scenario that the mainstream industry is so happy to allow: title after title of the same derivative comfort – zone garbage that companies produce because, despite you all supposedly being thinking and feeling human beings, you satisfy yourself with the same mindless trash over and over again without regard for anything else you could be doing in all your lives! And, as is evident by the lowest – common – denominator prolefeed you see before you, that scenario is already fucking happening.

Oh boy, here we go

Let me be clear: this isn’t a bad game in the sense that zero effort was put into its construction, or that it has absolutely no redeeming values as a piece of artistic media. The graphics are decent. The art direction is fine. The atmosphere does its job and sets the mood well. The music is listenable and the sound design isn’t obnoxious. And even the gameplay, however little there is, shows potential to be complex and interesting, and it was fun. Yes, fun, that thing we all get addicted to and see games as nothing but. The broad strokes of this game are competent and show that the development team isn’t composed of a bunch of chimps with Down Syndrome, even if their name, “Pirate Games”, is so whorishly dishonest that I’m reminded of the same corporate deceit that indie games are supposed to be a reprieve from.

For one, you cannot support online piracy and support international copyright agreements as they currently stand — you cannot! If you download materials illicitly for your own personal use, and do it on a regular enough basis that you become the type of guy that the media conglomerates use as part of their anti – free – culture propaganda, you cannot create copyrighted materials and say you’re in support of maintaining the same copyright laws that you flagrantly violate. For two, the name is vague enough to refer to classical maritime piracy, and because I know 90% of indie developers are the type of quirky Millennial cunts that eat this coy self – depreciating brand of trollish humour like a dog eats its own shit, they’ll look at the shit they’re being called out on and say, “Oh, we weren’t referring to that type of piracy, we were referring to this type of piracy”, like they’re so fucking clever for lying to one half of their audience and then turning around and lying to the other half.

For three, when this game is successful — and I will predict this game is going to be a success because I have enough experience in pattern recognition to see what corpses the mindless ants before me have ravenously consumed — the developers are going to write on their Twitters, their going to make pleas on their YouTube and Twitch accounts, and they’re going to complain about how the Internet is killing their “right” to sales and blather blather same song and dance blah. I can see the Techdirt article now: “Indie Developers ‘Pirate Software’ Troll Software Pirates”, followed by a hilarious description of how the uploaded a malicious version of their game to The Pirate Bay where they can’t attack and the wizard guy, who appears out of nowhere just as he does in the main game, refuses to save the boy because he paid money to access an artificially scarce piece of software. And before you steal my idea like you stole every other idea from every RPG just like this one, know this: I have eyes everywhere. You cannot hide from the pissed – off Internet Hate Mob that lurks behind you at all times waiting for the opportunity to brigade your work and make the rest of your careers a living hell.

But no. This game isn’t bad because of all that nonsense, because the game as a fundamental concept — as utterly and undeniably generic as its conception is — is fundamentally bad. It’s because any inspection of this game on any level of its construction that extends beyond the surface level reveals how flawed, slipshod, and arrogantly put – together the sum of this experience is. There is no grand failure of this game that causes it to be a failure. It is in its dozens of little niggles, the same niggles lazily kept in and shipped out by a development team with no interest in creating a well put – together product, that makes this game so aggressive towards my entire being.

It is the type of game one praises if they know nothing about what makes games worthy of praise in the first place, and have deluded themselves into thinking this is that, and that is this, vice versa, ergo, a good game… As a patron of the arts, and as a man who uses rationality and his higher brain functions in order to base his opinions on games in regards to artistic theory, life experience, and the continually – increasing backlog of games that, based on this theory and experience, creates a body of evidence and precedent which allows us to define what makes a good video game, I am entitled to an opinion that holds slightly more weight and merit than that of your typical Armchair Developer. I have written close to a million words about the subjects you see before you, and all of that in eighteen months. I have some claim as to what legitimises the virtual arts, and what disparages it as you see now.

Denigration in action

This demo can be completed in thirty minutes, and I still am unable to come up with an idea of the “plot” for this title. It is a story only in that there are a series of events, connected through the most loose and conveniently – available threads the writers could have come up with, where there are no characters who understand the concept of “drive” or “motivation”, instead reacting to external stimuli like spiders react to chestnuts and flashing lights. Things occur in this title for no reason, the characters find no reason to question their fantastical situations, and there is very little reason that can be extracted out of this game, because it lacks its rhyme as well as its reason.

We have a protagonist that would react to, for instance, encountering a gigantic tentacle monster and being transported to three different magical worlds in under five minutes, and dealing with the situation with the same cool collectiveness as finding out your mother brought home Coca – Cola instead of Pepsi. I cannot call that “characterisation” because his emotional palette ranges from stoic to miserable to fucking pissed to scared as all hell to being a hyper – competent warrior, changing within a matter of seconds depending what the script calls for, and there is no indication that he is supposed to be acting the same way an actor does when practicing at dress rehearsal and has to run through six different scenes within the span of a few minutes. We do not have a protagonist at this point, because that would require having developed a character. He is a blank slate. An autonomous being that accepts input and then creates an appropriate reaction without delay. One could write the story using Markov chains and it would come out more sensible than what is presented to me.

And that’s not even getting into the “story” portion of the game, which managed to crib notes from LISA, Earthbound, and Undertale in a combination that I never would have thought possible — incidentally all games that match the very description I gave in the first paragraph, although LISA involves, instead of a generic child character, Brad. Yes, Brad, the character so tragic and with so many depths that he only needs one syllable to evoke so much emotion. What do we get from “Lore”, the generic child character of Heartbound? That his dog is more interesting than he is and disappears fifteen minutes in? That his personality is whatever the story needs it to be? That he wears a sweater? I don’t think I can remember a single interesting line of dialogue he’s said, beyond whining and screaming as need be.

So Lore wakes up in his bed in the middle of a storm — the Earthbound notes — and is forced to get up because of his dog being hungry, also bow – wowing about some sort of “adventure” which he repeats so many times I wonder if the writers are trying to force a tortured meme out of him. He then gets shitcanned by his abusive dad who yells at him through the beer – can littered hallway — the LISA notes, you see. This irks me. A lot, actually. Not only has it become trendy for “abusive parents” to be writing shorthand for “feel sorry for this kid”, it’s such a pedantic and insensitive way to make us relate to a character that it would be less lazy to make him blind, put him in a wheelchair, or other guaranteed ways to say “FEEL SORRY FOR THE KID”. Not even LISA did this right in its beginning act, because the only thing we knew about Brad up to that point is that his childhood was shit, which I was also worried was a sign of incompetent writers. I grew up in an abusive household until I was a teenager. Seeing these baseline depictions of abuse and not having the depictions say anything meaningful, not even a basic apology for the survivors of such abuse, really makes me disappointed in the writers who don’t understand, or don’t have the capability, to depict such a subject with the care it deserves.

So you go downstairs in a kitchen that looks strikingly like the one in Sans and Papyrus’ house, pick up the trash, pick up some wet dog food (instead of the far cheaper dry dog food?), and feed your little mutt (who hates being called that, because that joke has never been used before). I found it somewhat funny how you could feed the dog the garbage, as did I find some of the world descriptions funny (like how they made three separate descriptions for the socks in the kitchen sink), but these jokes are hit and miss. For reference, the microwave description was “Big enough for a head”. Isn’t that, you know, unnecessarily morbid for what’s supposedly a light – hearted game with some tasteless child abuse themes? The tone of the novel, just like these descriptions, is all over the place as well. One second the kid’s crying his eyes out at the loss of his only friend, and the next second he’s on a floating temple in space solving lever – pulling laser puzzles like it was no big deal.

In the super – serious and spooky last area where a disembodied voice… I don’t know what the hell it was, some sort of ghost? A soul? Anyway it’s trying to make you feel really bad about yourself for no adequately explained reason, and along the way, there’s this dirty sock on this ground that you can pick up. For no reason. And it says something along the lines of “A shadowy sock on the ground. Sneaky!” And I was just blown away at how this serious atmospheric portion of the demo was interrupted by this silly throwaway joke about socks. Did nobody playing this demo see a problem with the schizophrenic tone of this game? Did nobody bring this up to their boss? Or — more horrifying — was it their boss who wrote this game?

And by the point in the game where I’m done taking the trash out and have to go back to sleep, I’ve already had so many little nagging issues with the game proper I’ve spent double the amount of time staring at the wall thinking about this game than I have actually sitting down and playing it — because I can’t look at the game itself and think about it because the moving character sprites distract me! Even though it is a nice touch to have the dog sit down after you don’t move for a while, not that it matters, because he gets abducted — or does he die? It’s never made clear — immediately after. There are so many easily – identifiable nagging issues that is made readily apparent just from going through the game’s normal motions, with no added effort needed to deconstruct the basic and fundamental mistakes of the game’s writing and plot structure, that I couldn’t even focus on the very basic motions that I was supposed to go through in order to advance the plot. Also, I’m pretty sure they cribbed Undertale’s sound effect from immediately after you enter your name and the soundtrack goes “whooooOOOOO” like a cymbal crash in reverse. Not saying it’s the exact sound, but it’s damn similar.

Even if you are the mythical sort of person to have no standard of quality that evolves beyond stereotypical depictions of what makes “good” and “bad” games and are able to ignore the massive red flags in the game’s very first minutes that it’s not going to be as good of a title as you were expecting it to be, no matter how dolled – up the page is and no matter how many followers on Twitter the developers have (it’s 2,885), the upcoming portions of the game stretch even the modest suspension of disbelief that even those who suggest to “turn your brain off” can manage. Because not only is it not possible to ever fully turn your brain off when watching a piece of media, because to do so you would have to be an infant who can be endlessly entertained by the most rudimentary of materials, it is incredibly insulting to those who put time and effort into making it rewarding to read into and analyse their works.

To suggest that something that’s as story and philosophy – driven as Bioshock is of the same level of artistic merit of something like Battlefield 4 because you can enjoy them both equally if you just “turn your brain off” shows a great deal of ignorance of all the ideas and themes that art can contain, and to punish developers for having the gall to make games that explore real themes and express real ideas, even if those ideas fail catastrophically, is antithetical to the purpose of art itself. The reality of being an artist is that some works do have more artistic merit, more ability to invoke complex emotions and implore complex thoughts, than those where you are expected to “turn your brain off” and ignore all the brilliancies and capabilities that human beings can become if we decide to use our brains instead of mindlessly consuming content. To put pieces of complex art into the same category as deliberately simple, conventional, and milquetoast pieces of prolefeed is the same thing as declaring a perfectly – made double – patty cheeseburger from Five Guys with all the toppings on it to be of the same quality as a $2.25 hamburger from your high school cafeteria. I know it’s your opinion, but your opinion is just wrong!

I don’t even need to talk about the rest of the story, like how you end up having a fighting chance against a giant alien monster with just a hatchet and some pyjamas, or how even with that fighting chance you still need to be saved by a wizard — a literal wizard — that appears out of nowhere and casts him out like he’s motherfucking Gandalf, and then teleports you to his sapiosexual sex dungeon, also known as a “library”, to pontificate some magic bullshit about artifacts and pages and timelines that never connects to anything else in the story before or after. I still don’t know what the deal was with the evil book at the end that’s supposedly possessed (why did he pick the book up? why didn’t he put the book down?) by a spirit that’s a haircut away from being Chara from Undertale, before abruptly ending after the dog gets turned into stone and broken into pieces. Yikes. The Newbery Medal strikes again.

To be fair, it is heavily implied throughout the story that reality isn’t quite acting like itself, what with all the sleep motifs and the obvious book names (like the wizard named “Binder”? you couldn’t name him something like “Verbatim” or “Herodotus”?). But if that’s the case, it’s the most ham – fisted excuse for a nonsense plot I’ve ever seen in a game, and I’ve seen some games in my time! Even in a dream world or a story book, which I’m not convinced this is what the game is really driving at based on the lack of cohesion, details, or anything of interest, there still needs to be some sort of structure to the overarching narrative to avoid it from looking like the writers pulled multiple plot points out of their ass, because that’s what it looks like with this game!

Consider something like the Borderlands 2 expansion pack where you play bootleg Dungeons and Dragons. It’s true the dungeon master is a psychotic thirteen – year – old who dictates everything within that game world, but there’s still a plot with an involved story, and the cases where she does pull things out of her ass is played for comedy and drama! Things never just “happen” because things “happening” are required in order for the game to work. They happen based on logical series of events. This, you see, is called “storytelling”, and it’s a blight on Heartbound that it fails to accomplish even the basics of storytelling, having a worse plot structure than even Undertale. And, from everything I’ve said about Undertale, the most prominent would be that it’s not a very well – written game.

Right, that’s the plot. I’m done talking about the plot. I’m done talking about the game. I’m done with this crap, I’m done with the death by a thousand cuts, and I’m done reviewing Earthbound spin – offs until I find one that’s actually fucking good. This is not that, this is far, far away from that, and the worst part about the experience is nobody has the fucking gall to admit that.

You have all disappointed me, I have run the entire gamut of emotions from anger to despair to disappointment to even feeling a little joy, but overall, I’m just so fucking drained from talking about this fucking game. We’re wrapping up. There’s one more section. Then it’s goodbye. Goodbye!


Gragggh… Dear God I Am Not A Religious Man But If You Want To Kill Me For Being Gay Now’s A Good Time To Not Pussy Out Like You Do On Every Other Fucking Prayer.

I don’t even know where to end. I didn’t know how to begin, either, so hey, at least we’re back at the starting line!

I think that, out of everything that irked me about this game — the delusional hype given by the same fans who gave it to Undertale, the game being a case study in what happens if you don’t hire a professional writer for your development team, the tasteless inclusion of themes it doesn’t understand, the schizophrenic use of tropes and ideas without understanding how to pull it all together with any level of skill or talent whatsoever — the thing that irked me most is how Heartbound is such a stark reminder of how dangerous — yes, dangerous — it is for our culture to become satisfied with producing and consuming awful work, all the while convincing ourselves that we just need to “lighten up” and not take such games so seriously, because having taste and standards is considered tools of Bourgeoisie oppression, something for the upper classes and pretentious assholes like yours truly to debate about in their ivory towers instead of producing real literature.

When a child consumes a piece of media that they really like, they will often fixate on that media for the longest of times, often several years, and have it form a part of their identity, sometimes central to who they are… and when it comes to media created by corporations instead of other artists, we find that so many people owe such significant portions of their being to copyrighted, corporate – owned culture that never really belonged to them in the first place, leading to a massive disparity where they are so indebted to the company that produced the media that they will continue to patronise their products for a good portion of their life, but once they try to express their fandom through the use of fan works, they find themselves at risk of being betrayed by the company through lawsuits, takedown notices, and other malicious bullshit.

Think about every Pokémon fan who has ever walked the Earth, and think about how many of them grew up to be such talented animators, designers, developers, and digital artists, who got to express their debt to the Pokémon franchise through all the fanwork they created before they became working professionals. Hell, I’m one of those kids who grew up loving Pokémon, and I still have a soft spot for the easily – marketable brand – name bastards. The work of Nintendo has inspired them so, and they have created beautiful, truly beautiful things because of that work. And what has Nintendo done to encourage this culture, to give back to the culture which they created, but the fans enhanced to the point where it is now their culture instead of Nintendo’s culture? Absolutely nothing. Not a damn thing has been done to give back to the fans which made Nintendo as successful as it is today.

The suits at Nintendo don’t care about the lives they’ve changed and the careers they’ve made. Everything about their franchises, from their conception to their marketing to the quality of their products, all serves one purpose: money. The idea of “free culture” is so poisonous to the capitalist bureaucracy of Nintendo, and every one of the thousands of companies like Nintendo, that they will do whatever it takes to stamp out anything remotely related to Nintendo that has any chance of making a red cent that they aren’t in control of. This is the definition of corporate – owned culture. Nothing gets in, nothing gets out, unless Nintendo gets their fucking cut in, no matter how they’re gonna get their cut.

This is why I want to abolish copyright. This is why I want free culture. This is the reason I’m writing the way I am, and the reason I’m producing such a large body of work within my lifetime: because when you have hundreds of millions of children who have their entire lives based around what an international conglomeration of soulless bureaucrats is selling them, something is fundamentally fucked up with the way our society is functioning. If I can become the first multi – million dollar enterprise that not only creates culture worth being a part of, but creating culture that is actually owned by the fans I have? That’s something special. That’s something worth devoting your life to.

Now, that’s for the good media. What about the bad?

Well, it doesn’t take a genius to understand it: one bad apple spoils the whole barrel. When one developer is inspired by a piece of bad work they have, through some means, deluded themselves into thinking it’s something worth making something inspired by it, they end up copying and taking notes from that faulty piece of media, and so creates an even worse piece of media because of how they’re unable to separate the good from the bad, ending up merging them into one globular mass where one cannot pick apart a faulty aspect of the game without coming across several more lurching out of the grey goo before them. And when another developer comes along and gets inspired by that particular grey goo, they make something even worse, because that developer would have to be even more delusional to enjoy it.

It creates a vicious cycle of shitty, low – quality work, the endless stream of which can be witnessed on sites such as DeviantART and where there is no quality control whatsoever, that just encourages even more shitty and low – quality work. Without traditional arbiters of quality such as moderators removing the wheat from the chaff, as well as critics calling out bad games on their bullshit for all to see, Sturgeon’s Law — where 99% of everything is crap — comes into full force every hour of every day. If I’m not here being an Internet asshole and talking about the games that need most to be talked about, good and bad, then I am quite literally contributing to the decline of my culture.

Do I even need to bring up the Google Play Store and the mobile games market as an example of this principle in action? At least most of the shitty fanfiction out there is original shit, not plagiarising other sources. The Play Store has zero concept of quality control whatsoever, save for preventing viruses, and will gladly host bootleg, rip – off, and copyright and trademark – infringing games without so much as a cursory glance. Why? Because Google profits no matter how much shit they shovel! It costs virtually nothing to host, and every app has the potential to earn thousands of dollars from data mining and advertising. That’s capitalism in action!

And even more insidious about these types of awful mobile games, the ones where you play for ten minutes, watch an advertisement, get bored, and then move on to the next app, to repeat the same cycle again, is how damaging they are to the children of negligent parents who let them on mobile devices with no oversight as to what they are playing so long as it looks vaguely child – friendly — and even worse if there’s nobody checking on what they’re playing. Kids who rely exclusively on free – to – play, cookie – cutter, prolefeed mobile games as their first and last resort of entertainment, will never have any concept of what proper art is, what it can do for people, how it’s structured, how it benefits the imagination, and how it can help someone get through their toughest times when they have nothing to rely on but their comfort zone and the memories of why life is worth living.

If you tell me that Candy Crush has ever stopped a teenager from cutting themselves, or an overworked salaryman from hanging himself with his belt, or a first – time depressed mother from stopping herself from throwing her baby in the hospital dumpster… well, to be quite frank, I won’t fucking believe you.

I get that kids enjoy watching television and playing games and all that shit. I think the vast majority of programming for children and young teens is as insipid and banal as it ever was — even more so given how every children’s cartoon nowadays seems to be built for the exclusive purpose of being toy – selling propaganda — but without cartoons, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate SpongeBob, The Simpsons, and the occasional really good 2D animated movie. But you cannot just put them in front of a screen for hours at a time and expect them to still feel the same way about life as a child who grew up in far more humble circumstances and had to make do with enjoying the textures of the great outdoors, the feelings of the weather against their skin, and being forced to make do with the limited amount of resources they had, making their own entertainment, instead of relying on a magic box to do it for them. In essence, your parents were right: it really is good to go outside more. It makes you a more complete person, and one reliant on themselves instead of passively consuming other people’s entertainment.

I remember when I was a kid in elementary school, I’d wake up in the morning and play console games, go to school, come back and play console games, and everything else that wasn’t gaming was ancillary stuff like reading, television, and being forced to go out with my parents. I didn’t have anything else in my life going for me, and so much of my life was spent in devotion to Nintendo and everything they sold to me, but even then, at least I could appreciate some form of structure in the types of media I consumed. I could appreciate the beginning, middle, and end of a story, I could appreciate the satisfaction of being able to get a game to 100% completion, and I could appreciate being able to play the same games over and over again knowing that I’ll be able to discover new stuff and cool tricks that hadn’t occurred to me before.

Even when I was addicted — and this is not an exaggeration, because anybody who’s ever seen Froghand will know that I do not joke around with this type of stuff — to Valve games like Team Fortress 2 and DOTA 2, at least there was some form of structure involved in being able to complete a match, learn how to play a new class or hero, use a new item, and get incrementally better at a game you barely understand and will always suck at until you grow up and become enough of a mature adult to know how banal those feelings really were. At least there was some form of structure involved in multiplayer games, and at least there existed some measure of quality control on Steam and consoles that made sure you weren’t getting a complete pile of garbage like you can download on the app store, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, for free, right now.

And kids who are exposed exclusively to that type of content, all day, every day, will begin to see video games as nothing more than easily – disposable garbage they will forget about the moment they choose a different app, making them unable to concentrate on anything for long periods of time and becoming reliant on hit after hit of instant, easily – obtainable dopamine instead of anything emotionally or physically fulfilling, altering the human mind to fit a mold that it was just not built to fit instead of the long periods of deep and rewarding concentration that we as humans are supposed to take advantage of to create great things. There will be entire worlds that are closed off to them forever because their parents didn’t give enough of a shit to let them try their hand at something that wasn’t designed explicitly to addict and manipulate them. This is the real cost of what happens when, without any standards, without quality control, we allow unlimited access to the unlimited amount of horse shit that clogs the Internet every hour of every day, forever.

Anybody who profits off of human misery is the worst scum imaginable. I have zero respect for anybody who ever develops products designed for profit above all other costs — whether moral or actual.

You have to understand that I am in no way comparing the developers of Heartbound to the emotionless, unempathetic cunts who develop these mobile applications, and not to the parents who decided to become parents and don’t even bother to do the bare minimum of their jobs and be able to take care of their child. Heartbound is a bad game because it was designed by amateurs. Everything else I’ve talked about is bad because of their mere existence, being able to do actual, legitimate harm to those who consume them, whether psychological or physical, and the praise surrounding Heartbound just reminded me so much of what happens when we let go of our bare minimum standards and accept this trite as something we should be looking forward to.

I am in no way shitting on or criticising the developers of this game for having the gall to be human and make a product that wasn’t perfect. I am simply describing the game as I see it based on the knowledge I have acquired through my several years of existence devoted exclusively to this silly, shitty, sometimes surprisingly amazing medium that I don’t know what I would have done with myself without. The life decisions of those who developed Heartbound are theirs alone, and whether or not they turn out to be the right decisions for them is a problem that I can offer advice on, but only they can solve for themselves. You have to understand that beneath all my criticisms, beneath all my vitriol and sarcasm, I’m doing this because I really do care about the fate of my culture. I can’t spend the entirety of my life living in anger and expect things to magically get better along the way. I just can’t.

To every aspiring developer who is looking at a professional enterprise like what Pirate Games is developing, even if I still can’t believe they named themselves that, I want to offer some advice. You don’t need to treat your game as a business if you don’t want it to be one, because the chances of your game being a success in this marketplace is most often dictated by luck and connections, neither of which you have. You don’t need to have six social networks and post on them every day, and you don’t need to stream your development on Twitch in order to get work done. You don’t need to listen to theories like “unique selling points” and “game loops” to know what makes a fun video game — though the theories do help, and I advise you to keep reading sites like TV Tropes, Gamasutra, Zero Punctuation, and even yours truly in order to understand good design. And, above all else, you have to keep working on your game until it is finished, while still realising it’s never going to be perfect. If you have to choose between “done” and “just a little bit better”, I want you to choose “done”. You can make changes when it’s done, but if it’s never put out there, it might as well never exist.

I think, above all else, I have an obligation to tell the truth as I see it. And so long as what I say is true, then I hope it helps you realise what it takes to make your way in this stupid, silly world we live in. I think the art helps with that. I think talking about it helps with that, too.