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Sally Face – My Journey as a Solo Game Developer

Once the dream of becoming a game developer formed in my head, I didn’t let go until I attained it. The road leading to Sally Face was long and challenging but it changed my life forever. This is a personal story of how I got where I am today.

The Origin and Inspirations

I grew up loving metal, video games, and cartoons of the 90s. These things were big artistic influences on me. I began drawing at a young age, with a strong interest in characters and storytelling. I also taught myself guitar when I was 16. Living in a haunted house was another big element that molded me. Plagued with horrible night terrors and strange encounters throughout my youth, I’ve always found myself drawn to darker subjects and the paranormal.

I didn’t really know what to do with all these interests of mine and it wasn’t until after high school that game development came up as an option. It was almost an immediate spark – making games was perfect for me. It involved everything I love: storytelling, art, music, creativity, interactive worlds…

Around 2007, during my college years, an odd dream I had inspired a creepy sketch. This drawing was the origin of Sally Face. Soon after, I had various rough sketches and ideas for a cartoon surrounding this character. I tried to get some friends together to animate it but that quickly fell apart. So the concept sat in my head for the next few years.

Early sketches

After college, I formed a small indie team with some friends, called Wither Studios. We worked on projects in our free time, after work hours. A couple years after releasing our first game and still struggling to make money, the team hit a rough patch. Arguing caused two of our members to leave. With an unsure fate, I decided to start my own side project. I had enough experience by then and needed the creative outlet.

In 2015, the concept for Sally Face came back to me and I thought it would work well as an adventure game instead of a cartoon. Keeping the gameplay simple was also important because I’m not a programmer. I needed to learn some new tools because of this. And that was the starting point of my solo endeavor as Portable Moose.

Sally Face, Episode One: Strange Neighbors was almost done but the next year or two would be the hardest of my life. I was suddenly laid off from my day job and having a hard time finding good work. Then began a separation with my ex-wife which led to moving back and forth and ultimately divorce. In the midst of this, a close loved one made multiple suicide attempts, which was traumatizing. I fell into a deep depression and couldn’t leave my apartment or even get out of bed. This halted production on the game for a couple months. Though, eventually, working on the game again really helped me pull myself out of the dark hole I was living in. It gave me something to pour myself into. It gave me something to be hopeful of.

Achieving the Dream

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I originally released the game episodically on PC as I was making them. Episode One came out in 2016 and people were liking it. The game was now pulling in enough revenue for me to continue working full time on it. Sally Face continually grew a large cult following and is still growing strong. The fifth and final episode was released at the end of 2019 and then I began working on the console ports. I ended up hiring outside help for the ports; which besides for translations, was the first time other people have worked on the game besides myself. I crafted the story, the design, characters, artwork, music, all of it. This made it even more rewarding as the fan base grew and the amount of admiration they showed for my creation.

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Keep Fighting the Darkness

Delve into the offbeat mystery today with Sally Face on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S!

Xbox Live

Sally Face

Portable Moose

A DARK MYSTERY IS UNFOLDING… Delve into an unsettling adventure following a boy with a prosthetic face, as he uses his handheld video game system to speak with the dead and learn their stories. After a string of mysterious murders, Sal and his three friends discover something truly sinister casting shadows over their small town.