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39 Days to Mars is a two player co-operative puzzle-adventure game. Step into the shoes of Sir Albert Wickes and The Right Honourable Clarence Baxter, two 19th century explorers who have chosen to pilot the HMS Fearful on its maiden voyage to Mars. When the steam engine runs out of coal, the ship's cat shreds the navigation chart, and the tea gets cold, it becomes clear that interstellar transportation isn't a walk in the park. It will take the talents of two players working together on the problems that arise to get to Mars in one piece.

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After working on gameplay for such a long time it was refreshing to get back to some artwork and design. Over the last month I tackled the massive task of designing and drawing the HMS Fearful - Albert & Baxter's un-spaceworthy space ship, and the place where you spend most of the time in the game.

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After working on gameplay for such a long time it was refreshing to get back to some artwork and design. Over the last month I tackled the massive task of designing and drawing the HMS Fearful - Albert & Baxter's un-spaceworthy space ship, and the place where you spend most of the time in the game.

Ship Artwork

I'd been delaying this because I knew what a big task it was going to be, and this meant it ended up hanging over my head for the last six months. However it turned out that thinking about the artwork was much more daunting than actually drawing it. Although it's still not quite finished, and there was a lot of code involved with the integration, finding a good look for the ship and drawing the artwork has been more straight-forward than I expected.

One of the biggest difficulties with the artwork is that the ship layout is procedurally generated, and so parts of the ship like ladders, staircases, balconies, and all the "interesting" bits needed to be aware of their surroundings and fit together. Here's just a few examples of the different ladder configurations that are possible in the game:

stairs

After drawing the artwork for the insides of the ship, I started concentrating on the bigger 'set pieces' that make the ship really feel like a crazy invention. I looked at the different shapes the ship could be generated in, and drew specific pieces that would (with a bit of programming magic) be linked up to the ship with ropes and supports.

balloon

sails

In total, the ship is generated from 87 individual pieces that are selected according to the layout and fit together to make it look as though the ship is an organic hand-built vessel.

pieces

Removing a Cutscene

I also decided on the level transition flow, and drew the necessary artwork for it. Up to this point, I've had a cut-scene showing the HMS Fearful leaving from Earth. This is the only cutscene in the game, and it started feeling out of place. I sat down and brainstormed some ideas for keeping the level flow continuous, and I feel much happier about the new transition. The artwork is drawn, but it needs to be implemented in the game.

ladder

Playtesting

I didn't run any public playtests last month, but I did run the very first full-length playthrough! This was exciting to watch, and showed me many interesting points that I didn't pick up while testing individual puzzles. Some of the important points were the need for a save and load system; and the current lack of support for most types of input. These are both already on my list of features to implemented, but they will become more important as I start testing 39 Days to Mars with more people on a wider range of hardware.

Save & Load System

I started work on the save & load system. This screenshot sums up the current state of this:

problems

Progress

So here's the monthly snapshot of progress. The lines crossed out are tasks I completed this month.

  • Gameplay & Balancing
  • Level transitions
    • Artwork
    • Integration
  • Artwork for the ship
    • Large setpiece
    • Interest pieces
    • Details and fillers
  • Steam platform integration
  • Save & Load System
  • Singleplayer Support
  • Sound & Music
  • Finalise Dialogue
  • Voice Acting
  • General Polish

Until Next Time

This month, I'll implement the level transition from the introduction to the ship. I'm running another playtesting session, and finishing off the small details in the ship so that I can cross the ship artwork completely off my list.

Don't forget you can follow @philipbuchanan on Twitter for more regular updates and development pictures!

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39 Days to Mars
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It's Anecdotal
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Unity
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