Last week I let out a deep breath. Though I’ve been hard at work since October, the oldest asset in that vertical-slice demo is only two months. I’ve been game-devving my ass off. Clicking the Publish button was a potent blend of thrill, fear, and catharsis.

Of course the demo isn’t flawless. Especially the plot, which some players justifiably concluded: it doesn’t have a hook (yes, you’re right, but don’t worry, it’s a placeholder, the real story will have a catchy beat). And even the style isn’t final (there will be a slant of grunge that you can’t see in a lavish penthouse). But damn, it felt good showing my progress to the world.

And, relief, the world loves it! Criticisms are important and honest, but the general feeling is superb. This includes people who didn’t have to say anything, or who don’t know me, or who didn’t know I made it. I even posted it to few places online, with positive comments!

Yes, maybe there are people who played the game and didn’t tell me they hated it (and if you’re one, please speak up, I’d love to chat). And I’m not trying to be arrogant — again, there are improvements I will make. But this is the closest thing to the final game that anyone has seen. And the support only means I want to make it better.

Thanks for playing.

Thanks for the feedback.

Thanks for the love.

Breathing is also easier because we left Ho Chi Minh City. It’s an okay place to visit for a few days, but a month was too much. Now we’re in Da Nang — where American soldiers first landed in 1965, starting the longest war in either country’s history. It’s hard to imagine — the Da Nang of today feels wealthy and cheerful. Not too crowded, clean, beach-front, cafe-loving. After a month of honks and fumes, Amanda and I couldn’t stop grinning on our first night, as we strolled along the twinkling boardwalk.

We also took a long-weekend trip to Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam, with all the citadel, tomb, and temple ruins to prove it. It seems every place has a hard history with The American War — much of the Vietnamese artifacts were destroyed by carpet bombings, and American soldiers were tortured and slaughtered — neither side came out great. But in the decades since, restoration has made the city a jewel in the middle of the country. Floating down their lazy river on a local dragon boat, I wondered if Hue was the most picturesque place in Vietnam.

And I let out another deep breath.

Images by Amanda Gansfield