Shader is a video game, but it is stuck on one computer forever.

Yesterday I went out and bought a cheap netbook. I’ve downloaded onto the netbook the as3 development environment I use to make games and started writing. I’m going to write Shader entirely on the netbook.

After I finish writing it I’m going to destroy all the usb, bluetooth and internet capability of the netbook and superglue the harddrive in place. Shader will be stuck forever on this little netbook I bought in Buenos Aires.

The game will be about using math and programming to make trippy visuals. It will have levels, a difficulty curve, a friendly UI. It will not have a tutorial. It doesn’t need one because I can explain to you how to play, because unlike most games there will only ever be one copy so I will always be there to show you how to play.


I’m not actually totaly sure why I’m doing this. I have a strong urge to do it. Ever since I thought of the idea about a month ago in Panama I’ve been itching to start. Here are some things I like about Shader, although I hesitate to say these are the reasons I’m making Shader. I know I want to make it, and that’s reason enough.

-Shader can never reach a large audience. Games can reach a massive audience, my game Fantastic Contraption was played by tens of millions of people. Because of the possibility of reaching an audience in the millions it is hard to ever be truly satisfied with how many people have played your game. Traditionally the audience’s experience is the entire point of the game but it is impossible for millions of people to play Shader. There is only one frail netbook, and when that’s gone, Shader is gone. This is weirdly freeing. I will never feel the hope, yearning, and stress of releasing Shader. This is also different from simply never releasing the game because merely the fact that you *could* release it will sit in the back of your mind. You will feel cowardly for not seeking an audience. After I sabotage the netbook it will be impossible to release it so there will be no stress.

-I get to see the game’s entire life. Usually the vast majority of a game’s life happens outside its creator’s view. You get to spend the formative years with a game, nurse it to life, help it stand, watch the first few people play it. But then it explodes away from you. All you get is tendrils of people’s reported experience. The game is now it’s own thing and you don’t really know what its life is like. I will get to see the entire life of Shader. I wont sit, staring out the window, wondering what the game’s life is like now. I will know. I will be sitting next to it watching.

-No need to attain standards but my own. Since Shader can’t find an audience there is no reason to consider what anyone else will love or hate about it. I will never nervously click on a review link or get an email about how much someone doesn’t like it.

-No tech support. No Tech Support!

-The feeling of creating one piece of art. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to paint a painting once and have only that. I’m so accustomed to being able to copy infinitely, I want to know what it feels like to have one of something. To sweat and work to create something and only have that. I want to know what a painter feels like when they finish a painting.

-Blurring the line between the game being easily-copied bits or a solid physical thing. In some sense the netbook will *be* Shader and vice-versa. I’ve never made a physical thing of value before. The laptop becomes my canvas and paint, I now have a materials cost like a sculptor or painter. The ease of copying has a vast impact on the perception of games. I can put a game up on a forum and have hundreds of people dismiss it in two minutes, the standard price for two years of my work on the app-store is 3$. I want to see if I, or other people, think about Shader differently.


I’m certainly not going to stop making audience-seeking games (I’m working on one of those now as well). Games being easy to copy and share is vastly better than the opposite. But for this one project I kind of want to see what it looks like on the other side of the reflection.


14 thoughts on “Shader

  1. For it to be “a single piece of art” you also need to declare it finished/done at some point. And then permanently remove the dev tools from the hardware so changing the game is not a possibility.

      1. I dunno, I like the idea that you can keep working on it whenever you have an idea for it. Why does art have to be static to be art?

      2. Awesome idea, Colin. Hope I’ll get to play it someday.

        Deleting the source would be scary as hell! If you found a bug afterward it would nag at you forever… but I guess once you’ve tested it enough you’ll know that there are no major bugs, and minor ones can be explained to the player since you’ll be there :)

  2. ^^
    “Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.”

    1. The only way is to be in the same place as me. I’m in Brazil now, I’ll be at GDC and western Canada after that.

  3. Meh, publish a video and someone will make a copy and upload it to newgrounds so that everyone can play.

    Very good idea though. I like it when I see new ideas in the videogame industry. Everyone now is so obsessed with “better graphics”.

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