What's New this Month?
I found some patient friends and colleagues this month to inflict the current build of 39 Days to Mars upon. Over the last month I've been polishing, fixing, and re-working bits of the game to make it more playable, more fun, and more understandable.
As the game gets less buggy and more complete, play-testing gets easier because I don't have to be present to explain what all the unfinished bits are supposed to be. This month was the first time I watched people play through some of the puzzles with no intervention!
I inflicted the game upon some colleagues and some friends. While a couple of the puzzles were broken, and quite a lot of the game was unclear, there were some sections that got a great response and I got a lot of good action points to work on over the month. One of the biggest things I changed was the way the voyage progression works. Up until this point, the voyage has been running continuously, only pausing when in co-op minigames. One of the problems this led to was a puzzle imbalance. I only have so many possible things to break on each voyage, and if the players were experienced and completed the minigames quickly, there were long periods of down-time where nothing was going wrong and the goal wasn't clear. If the players took longer to fix parts of the ship, then puzzles would compound more and more quickly and the game would finish too quickly without a chance to pull the ship back from destruction.
So instead of a time-based ship with untimed minigames, I've changed things over to an un-timed ship with timed minigames. This makes it much easier to plan when specific things should go wrong, without overwhelming or boring the players. I'm excited for the next playtest to see if these changes have helped.
What I'm working on, in 140 characters.
Implementing a temporary pause screen, for when you alt+tab out of the game.
Information bubbles now merge when they overlap! Now all I have to do is fix this flickering bug
Photo from a playtest of the dev build of 39 Days to Mars.
I'm experimenting with attempt-based disasters instead of time-based disasters.
Instead of writing complex positioning code for speech boxes, I just made them physical.
It's so much fun to play with that I've spent longer messing around in-game than actually working on the feature ;).
More physical speech for 39 Days to Mars, this time when moving vertically.
Also, it's really hard to get the interface the right size. Bigger and it covers the gameplay. Smaller, and you can't read it.
Finally updated the random ship generation so I can prioritise placement. Engines at the back. Bow at the front.
Screenshot from 39 Days to Mars : It's a new co-op activity!
I've implemented a calendar animation!
I'm going to be working on some important but non-gameplay related areas (such as generating graphics for the ship). I'll also try to add a new puzzle or two to bring the game to 20-30 minutes of playtime.
Don't forget you can follow @philipbuchanan on Twitter for more regular updates and development pictures!