The Stanley Parable Helpful Development Showcase!

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The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe launches next week on April 27 on Steam (PC, Mac, Linux), Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 4 and 5. To celebrate, we are running a short blog series called The Helpful Development Showcase to fill you in with accurate, informative information on what it's like to make a game like The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe. Part 3 of this blog series can be found below.

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3: Setting Expectations Through Marketing

On December 7, 2018, at The Game Awards in Los Angeles, we announced The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe with a new trailer that played to over 26.2 million online viewers.

YouTube player showing Ultra Deluxe logo on screen

...and at the end of that trailer, we announced the very day that the game would be released:

YouTube player showing title card, text reads: Launching April 27, 2022, guaranteed. That’s a firm commitment to April 27, 2022 right on the dot.

You see how confident we were in April 27, 2022? To delay the game to even a day later would be a mark of shame on us as game developers, and the highest form of disrespect to our players. No, the game could not be delayed for any reason.

But game development is hard. And we had a lot of expectations to deliver on. Let’s see now, what exactly did we promise in that initial trailer?

YouTube player showing title card, reads: New endings, new choices, and new platforms.

Well, the “New Platforms” part is easy, thanks to this handy menu option in the Unity game development editor:

Screenshot of Unity Editor, menuing to File > Export > PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch, PC, Mac, and Linux

But the other parts are a bit tougher. “New Endings” could mean anything, and “New Choices” is fairly arbitrary as well. Exactly how much new content would our fans come to expect from Ultra Deluxe? Would it really be possible to deliver it all by April 27, 2022?

The answer is emphatically, unconditionally: YES!!

Well, sort of. You see, a couple of the “New Endings” that we began to develop weren’t really shaping up to be in what you’d call “playable condition” in time for a April 27, 2022 release.

Take this hallway, for example.

An empty hallway

Down this hall we intended a lengthy new ending with an elaborate musical sequence. But I’m publishing this article on April 20, 2022, and at this moment nobody has written any music, or recorded any narration, or made any new environments of any kind for this segment.

Okay, let’s not panic. Let’s not freak out. This can be salvaged.

What do we have to work with? Well, we have an empty hallway:

Same picture of the empty hallway

That’s not nothing. Some video games don’t even have ANY empty hallways.

So we decided to use the hallway to our advantage. We have filled this hallway with an awful noise, it’s somewhere in between the sound of a dental drill and a swarm of bees stinging a man to death. As you walk further into the hallway, the terrible sound begins to get louder and louder, guaranteeing that no player will voluntarily choose to walk to the end of the hallway.

“Hmm,” the player will think to themselves, “It looks like there’s more content down this hallway, but I’m just not gamer enough to endure this terrible, terrible noise. Guess I’ll go somewhere else instead. What matters to me, as a gamer, is that the developers were entirely 100% honest in their marketing and did not deceive me, even as I am choosing not to actually engage with the content they produced.”

Illustration of a gamer

Artist rendering of a “Gamer”

I will be transparent with you: there is more than one unfinished section of the game which uses this terrible sound to deter players from experiencing what is otherwise unfinished content. We truly thought we would only have to use it once, but then we ended up spending a tremendous amount of time developing the most gut-wrenchingly miserable noise any human has ever heard, and then WHOOSH before you knew it 3 years had just flown by.

But what matters is, we have the awful noise. So now it’s fairly simple to simply use the noise anywhere that development appears to be falling behind. And currently we have six endings which are not shaping up to be finished by April 27, 2022:

Screenshot of a room in The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (2)
Screenshot of a room in The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (3)
Screenshot of a room in The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (4)
Screenshot of a room in The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (5)
Screenshot of a room in The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (6)
Screenshot of a room in The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (7)

“Wow,” the Gamer is thinking to themselves at this point, “there’s a LOT of new content in The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe! I was thinking there would only be one or two new endings, but SIX?? Incredible.”

The fact that none of them actually contain new content beyond the horrific noise is irrelevant to the Gamer. “All that matters is the very specific set of expectations I had formed in my mind based on a single piece of marketing content from 2018.”

Illustration of a gamer, thinking a bit harder

However, a second question arises: Have we delivered on the promise for “More Choices”?

Well, it just so happens that in the course of developing the awful noise, we had to iterate through quite a number of grating sound effects to find the one that most perfectly erodes the human soul.

So since we have all those audio assets just lying around, the answer became obvious almost immediately: we’ll offer players the “choice” of specifically how they want their terrible noise to sound! Using this menu, players can add as many qualities onto the grating noise as they’d like.

Screenshot of a menu of sliders allowing players to adjust settings like 'dragging cheese grater along a chalkboard', 'larger bees', 'activated smoke alarm', 'baby crying in airplane made of cheese graters and chalkboards', 'bees also stinging airplane baby', 'airplane also made of smoke alarms'

Looks pretty great, right? That’s what we thought too!

Unfortunately, the above mockup image took another 8 months or so to design, which left us with no time to actually create all of these new sound effects, much less implement them into a set of adjustable sliders. So we've decided to simply play the ear-splitting noise at maximum volume anytime this menu is open, to discourage users from attempting to interact with it. Problem solved.

Okay, so let's go back and recap everything that we've developed as part of The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe, to assess whether we're delivering on our promises. The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe contains:


Is that enough to alleviate any possible complaints? Does this qualify as “More Endings and More Choices” in a way that would be legally defensible in small claims court? I would be less concerned about all of this, but I've just learned that our console ports of the game don't even include the original Stanley Parable and are literally nothing but horrible noise, which is going to put a bit of a damper on our “New Platforms” promise as well.

As of the moment I'm writing this, we have about thirty-five minutes until the game needs to be finalized to ship. There HAS to be a way to launch this game in a way that doesn't completely humiliate our-

...wait a minute... I think I have the perfect solution to the problem! Marketing is what got us into this tricky situation, and marketing is going to get us back out!

In our remaining 35 minutes, we whipped up this handy sticker:

Close-up of a red star sticker that says 'Now with almost nothing but horrific noises!'

...and we slapped it on the front of every single marketing asset that we've ever made for this game. Look how seamless it all is!

Marketing graphic with red sticker
Steam store screenshot with red sticker
Street billboard with red sticker

There we go! Now anyone buying this game will understand exactly what they're getting themselves in for. Sure, there may be people who were hoping for more than just ear-splitting noise in the new Stanley Parable, but hey we put it right there on the box.

“It was my own fault,” thinks the Gamer, “I alone was the one who projected onto this game's developers my own personal expectations for what a new Stanley Parable game ought to include. After all, I'm literate, and the red sticker was right there the whole time.”

Illustration of a gamer, thinking a bit harder

“Perhaps,” thinks the Gamer, “perhaps this phenomenally abrasive noise is an artistic statement that I have yet to fully parse and appreciate. I shall use this opportunity to look inward and to cultivate myself as a consumer of art, to expand my palate for challenging and uncompromising media. In the end I am grateful to The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe for NOT catering to my needs, it is through their vision that I become not merely a Gamer, but The Gamer.”

“Thank you. Thank you, The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe.”

Join us next time on the Helpful Development Showcase where we'll be showing off many of the high resolution images of raw, untreated sewage that will factor prominently in The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe: Championship Edition.