It’s been a while, but it was worth it.

Well, it’s been more than 4 months since I wrote a blog post. The good news is, I have so much to talk about! But I want to keep it short so, in the interest of not wasting your time, here’s a short list of bullet points that will summarize our current status:

  • Major Contract is almost ready to ship.
  • We made huge changes in art and game-play.
  • The game will come out in 3 platforms, for starters.
  • Major Contract is the best game in the world a game.

Got that? Would you like to know more? Well, read on. (more…)

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Dynamic terrain and weather effects

I’m not an artist, but I know my way around Photoshop and I love pixel art. so making the art for Major Escape look better is part of the learning process. Now that most of the mechanics are in the game, and the code for stuff like game options is in, it’s time to look at remaking some of the current art in the game. I will probably revisit the art again just before releasing the game but now is a good time to redo some art, add new things like weather effects and make the game prettier in general.

Here you can see a few screen shots of new stuff that has been added…

A beautiful sunset… at least I think so.

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How difficult to play is it?

I’ve come to realize that I am the worst game tester ever; for my games that is. I’ve played Major Escape hundreds, nay, thousands of times. I have escaped the clutches of an exploding planet so many times that my eyes glace over when I see the points screen. In Major Escape, you need to reach a space rocket that will leave the planet without you if you don’t reach it in time. There was a time, a long time ago, when I could not escape the planet. For almost 2 weeks I kept playing, and kept dying, without being able to reach the rocket.

I got better at the game, and today I can beat it in my sleep, which is the kind of progression I want players to have. It also makes me a terrible tester of the game. The game seems easy to me, and I have no idea how difficult it will be for other players. I designed the game to be difficult on purpose, I just don’t know if it’s so difficult to the point of being unfair.



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Being social is hard

It’s been a few weeks of slow progress. At least it feels slow.  Major Escape is still in closed beta and I’ve been mostly working on menus and killing bugs. This means that the game looks almost exactly the same as it was two weeks ago. That’s why it feels like there has been no progress. It’s not fun to work fixing bugs and making your menus look better and work better, but it’s necessary work, so I’m getting through it.

All of this means that there is not much to talk about the game, at least not at this stage. My Twitter account and Facebook page have been a bit more silent than in the previous weeks when I started promoting the game. Still, I need to keep the conversation going, but how do I do this?

According to several online articles, I should be posting and “tweeting” regularly. Some articles recommend that I add to my posts an action shot (video or picture) showing the game’s progress. It makes for a more interesting read. Oh and plenty of hashtags ( #indiedev #gamedev #gamemaker etc.). I’ve been doing all of these things, for weeks, and I’ve increased my Twitter followers by 2 (a 200% increase over the previous month) and my Facebook followers by cero.

This is what articles call an “action shoot”. Menus, really interesting stuff huh?

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A game is an app

There comes a time for every game where the “game” part takes the back seat and the “app” part kind of takes over. I’ll explain in a moment what I mean.

Last week my latest game, Major Escape, reached closed beta status. A very select few testers are playing it and soon it’ll become an open beta. To get the game to beta, not only the main design and mechanics of the game have to be implemented, but also the user interface, menus, screens and in my case, the Leader-boards and Analytics for the game. Those last items is what I mean by the “app” part.

At some point I had to stop doing game, art and sound design, to deal with leader-boards and a comprehensive way to gather data from the testers, so that their time with the game could be used in the best way possible to make the best game possible. This has nothing to do with making a fun game, and everything to do with making a solid app.

Take this for example: text input. I want players to be able to write the name of their character in the game. If you are playing on PC, that is not a problem, everyone has a keyboard. In mobile devices however, that can be tricky. I was able to find an extension for Game Maker that allows me to call for the virtual keyboard on the device so problem solved, right? Nope. It only works for iOS and Adroid. I also want to develop this game for Windows Phone 8 and I don’t have a way, that I know of,  to call for the virtual keyboard on this platform.

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It’s all about the upgrades

As I’ve said before, Major Escape is meant to be a difficult game. That doesn’t mean that it’ll be impossible to play. As you play, and play it more, you’ll get better at it. With better skills you’ll be able to reach farther and farther, maybe even escape the planet.

Then there are the Upgrades. To aid you in your escape, the game features a series of upgrades that you buy with the accumulated points you gain on each run. These upgrades will make it easier for you to traverse the planet’s unforgiving hazards. Here’s a peek at the upgrade screen (work in progress):


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Major Escape level design

For this week’s development blog, I thought maybe I could talk about some of the level design choices I’m making for Major Escape. This game is designed to be short and sweet. I expect that, when balanced, the game will give players about 2 hours of engaging game-play.

So, with that in mind, I had to create the level in a way that it could offer an unique and challenging experience every time it was played, without really adding too much content to it.

Each time you play a round, the entire corridor is created with random components. Each corridor is divided in rooms. Each room is randomly selected and then stitched together to form a corridor. The contents of the room themselves are somewhat random, but each room is carefully designed to offer challenge and fairness, according to the room’s level of difficulty. This type of semi-randomness is similar to that of games like Spelunky, one game that I admire for its brilliant design.

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Development Q&A for Major Escape

For this week’s Major Escape development blog, I thought about making a kind of Q&A. I realized that I haven’t really told anyone what the game really is, how will it work or how does it look like. So, here we go…

What kind of a game is it?

Major Escape is a challenging 2D side-scroller where you need escape the planet you are on, while evading all sorts of obstacles, and collecting items for upgrades.

The main focus of the game will be to escape before is too late, but it will not be a simple task. Gravity is low, so you must learn to control you boost pack to properly evade the obstacles. You are against the clock, but if you take your time to collect items, you’ll be able to patch yourself if you are injured or even upgrade your equipment. Just don’t take took long or you risk getting stranded forever.

Every time you die, or escape, your attempt will be scored and you will receive points that you can use for upgrades.

How about a screenshot?

Sure. These are from the alpha version.



Is the game hard or casual?

The game is meant to be hard to complete without the proper upgrades. Making it to the end without using any upgrades is something I haven’t been able to do myself… yet.


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Where do ideas come from…

In this first blog entry for Major Escape, I’d like to talk a bit about where this game came from. Exactly a month ago, a little event called the Global Game Jam took place all around the world. For this event, I worked by myself, for 3 days, on a game called Stranded. If you look at both games, you will see many similarities. The original idea was to have a game where you would repair damaged equipment, and gather resources in order to survive and escape a planet after being stranded there. Many of the concepts developed for that game served as the basis for Major Escape.

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