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Unbread: An early story about a game without a deadline.

Unbread: An early story about a game without a deadline.

Startup Story

Sherif Salama

Sherif Salama

Founder

Unbread

A metroidvania about the emotional life of a zombie stuck in a toaster.

🇪🇬 Egypt

📅 Founded January 2017

🏆 1 Founder

💵 Monthly Revenue = NA

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Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Sherif Salama. I’m a Cairo University computer engineering student in the middle of dropping out in the pursuit of a dream of making indie games. For the past 2 years, I’ve been struggling with the guilt of being in the top university in Africa, and that I’ve had to postpone my dreams to finish my studies. But lately I’ve realized that the educational system is too flawed and helped make taking the decision easier to drop out and follow my dreams. 

I’m currently a solo developer working on a PC & console game about the emotional life of a zombie stuck in a toaster, hence why it’s called ‘Unbread’. I do all the programming, art, & animation in the game. In a way this game is my way of projecting my real life struggles that I’ve found in life into an artform that is a video game. The game is without a deadline as the aim of the game is not to release a finished product, but to give me a daily exercise where I can continuously become a better game developer than yesterday.

I have a wonderful full-time freelance job in game development to support myself financially while I work on my dream game Unbread. I work 5 times a week, 8 hours spent on my fulltime job, 3-4 hours spent on Unbread. Even though I have the leisure of working anytime I want from home, I have found that I am most productive when I’m working on a fixed daily schedule just like I would in a normal job. It helps condition myself that important stuff needs to get done before playtime.

Walk us through the process of creating Unbread so far...

I’m currently one year into development. It’s really weird, you know? Because at this point I thought I’d get tired of this project, but honestly my joy working on Unbread keeps getting incremented every single day. There’s just something different about working on a project with no deadlines when you get to see yourself improve in skill everyday as a game developer. It sort of feels like I’m playing a real life MMO where I’m constantly leveling up my skills, finishing quests, and when I show my work to real people on social media, that’s when I get the rewards from these quests. I feel so warm reading all these wonderful comments about people giving me feedback on my game. Even though the majority of it is positive feedback, I specially enjoy the negative ones. Because that’s when you know someone has cared enough about the project that they’d want it to be the best it could be.

I’ve worked on another game, of course. I’ve made a small mobile game about protecting an oyster from sea monsters that are tired of hearing his puns. It’s called Seas The Day. Of course this isn’t the kind of project that represents me as the game developer that I am and want to be, nor the kind of games that I make, but that doesn’t keep me from being proud of it as my first project as a game developer. I’ve created Seas The Day with the intention of creating and finishing the simplest game I could think of just to see if I belong in the game dev community or to find out early if it isn’t something for me. To my luck, it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and because of it, I’ve managed to make great game dev friends in the journey such as the developer from Ori & The Blind Forest!

What are some of the most effective ways that you attract people to your game?

I usually post progress about my game on Reddit and see what strangers think about my game. It helps me get genuine feedback from people who have never seen my game before and point me in the right direction if there’s anyway I can improve my work. It’s a lot different than showing my work to my friends, colleagues, & people already fans of the games as they can sometimes feel pressured to show more kindness than I deserve in their feedback, but it’s definitely worth it to see their reactions whenever they enjoy something I’ve made. I’ve created a Twitter to share progress on the game for people who are interested in the project.

Not so long ago, I’ve been asked by interested Redditors to create a Discord for Unbread, and oh my it was the most wonderful thing that has ever happened. I’ve watched people come and discuss Unbread, create memes, fan-art about the game. I’ve made a prototype of the game in which people had been speedrunning for weeks and kept stealing each other’s title for the top speedrunner title. It’s honestly such a fun ride, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next.

What are your sources of inspiration?

My sources of inspiration consist of the following:

Hollow Knight: The game that ruined other metroidvanias for me. After playing this game other metroid just couldn’t compete in the same level of game design, gameplay, and magnificent world building.  And to think it’s only been made by 3 people.

Cuphead: An absolutely breathtaking game with absolute excellence in animation quality that has been made by only 2 people.

Antichamber: A game created with sheer dedication and struggle of one man in 7 years. One man that didn’t have the best talent nor skill, nor has he ever relied on luck to create the best game he could. The man that adventured throughout his journey on his search to answer to what makes not only a successful game, but a great game.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far creating Unbread?

The hardest decision I’ve ever made was to go solo and pursue a fulltime job while working on my own studio. At first I didn’t have any time at all to work on my studio, but recently I’ve scheduled consistent hours to go back to working on Unbread while at the same time helping myself financially.

I do have the opportunity to work with other amazing people to help speed up the process & development of Unbread, but my goal is to develop as a developer, and not rush a finished game. So I’ve found this setting to be the most effective, as well as the most fulfilling.

Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs or game creators?

Don’t let the guilt of having someone else’s dream life keep you from pursuing your own dreams.

Where can we learn more?

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