tl;dr Development on Gravity Garden is done. Players are not interested and I can't seem to craft anything fun from my prototypes. A great learning experience, but a failure as a game.
Development of this farming idea goes back many years and includes more than one failed prototype. After my first game in Unity, Breeders, I was excited to try another simulation. I started work on another Breeders with plants and a wider ecosystem. The prototype was encouraging but I got bogged down quickly when I tried to gamify my ideas - especially the User Interface. My Unity skills were still raw, and my coding skills were still stuck in the 80's as usual. :)
I decided to try something 'simple' - a small arcade game inspired my Lunar Lander mixed with a QWOPish control scheme. Crashed Lander turned out well and response to the game was good. Soon after I bought an Oculus Rift development kit, a DK1. I quickly set it upt to see Crashed Lander in VR. Mind blown. I was sent on a multi-year VR journey, my ideas for a farming sim pushed to the back burner.
I learned much about Unity, a little about writing better code, and more than I wanted about updating software to work with beta APIs. Crashed Lander was a success in my eyes, but after the 338th update I was ready to move on. I tried another version of XenoFarm, this time in VR. This was before we had virtual hands. It looked cool and I built some useful systems, but I failed to find the fun.
Back to the virtual workshop and I made several versions of my Chunky Orbits sim. I love Chunky Orbits, I think it's the best thing I've ever made. :) I felt like I'd finally made a solid, polished experience and was ready to try something more complicated. Back to the XenoFarm. 3rd time's a charm?
I made great progress at first, implementing refined versions of my previous ideas. XenoFarm became Gravity Garden and I felt like I was on to something. I built efficient game assets. I planned for player progress and challenges. I reworked my virtual interface endlessly. I made cool looking spaces with nifty plants that grew and reacted to their environment.
And...it was Boring. Pretty and lifeless and boring.
I could tell that folks were losing interest, especially as my code struggled to keep up with my ideas. I gave away free demo versions of the game and begged players for feedback. No takers and no feedback. I started to panic a little. I released the game into Early Acess on Steam hoping for a bigger audience. No interest and no feedback. 5 copies sold in 8 months.
Meanwhile my home life was requiring more and more attention. My Dad's Cancer was gone, but my Mom was not as lucky. As her Cancer grew I had less time and energy to focus on my projects. Eventually I had to drop everything else and just care for my family. The Garden was pushed to the back burner again.
Fast Forward 6 months and I'm here at a crossroads. I have more time for some of my own projects again. What should I work on? A game that nobody wants or a fresh new adventure? I'm voting new adventure.
If I'd not sold the game I'd have no problem cancelling it now. The work is not wasted. I still have the knowledge gained from the process - and the fun I had while working. But I did sell it with a promise of a complete experience. I'm looking into giving automatic refunds on Steam which would ease my conscious a little. If you purchased the game please feel free to contact me.
The free demo will still be available on Steam and Itch. I don't see any reason to hide it away. I'm proud of what I accomplished with the game, even if it's not what I had envisioned.
Thanks to everyone who tried the game, offered support, or sent feedback. I know that there are SO many options for entertainment and I'm always grateful when people spend time with my creations. I'm sorry this one didn't work out like I planned.