Monday, 7 February 2011

Run! released, and Asteroid Armageddon on its way

I never thought I'd say this, but Run! has finally been released to Xbox Live Indie Games. Now it's out, I can tell the story of this Team Mango release, and how it almost never happened. It's not that interesting, but here it is all the same...


Development of Run! began in February 2010, whilst I was getting Dysnomia ready for release on XBLIG. I used it as a creative output whilst I wrapped up all the necessary but boring bits that make up the last 10% of getting a game to market, especially one with the scope of Dysnomia.

The original idea for Run! was to create a simple Skyroads clone. I'd already written a clone using OpenGL way back in 2001, called Rollminator. I had a basic engine for Run! working in just a couple of days, but the idea of using Avatars wasn't there right from the start. I guess that came out of the frustration that a lot of XBLIG creators were feeling back then, that fully-fledged games were being ignored in favour of "shovelware" that used Avatars as a gimmick. I was also glad that I had the idea when I saw Dr. Mistry's rather excellent Blazin' Balls, which is pretty much precisely the direction that Run! was headed in that first week or so.

So, I was using Run! as my one-dollar-avatar-game experiment. Being part of the problem, I guess. Except I completely missed the boat, as usual. Though the game was 90% complete around the time that Dysnomia became a finalist in Dream Build Play, I was simply too busy to wrap it up. Last summer, there was the whole house-buying thing which dragged on, then there was distraction in the form of Windows Phone 7 and the work I was doing there. Run! became the "difficult third" game that was swept firmly under the rug.

Then just before the holidays, Microsoft announced they were turning off XNA 3.1 publishing as of, well today actually. This means that Run! was on a deadline. Now, I'm a bit of a completionist, and it was starting to really bug me that Run! was still unfinished and sitting there taunting me in my projects folder. I decided to push to get it out before the deadline, saving me the pain of upgrading to XNA 4.0.

I used the Christmas break to finish the majority of the work, and got the game into Peer Review mid-January. I completely skipped Playtest, which I hated doing but there was just no time, and I thought that upgrading to 4.0 would be far too painful.

Run! made it through peer review on the second try (after a rare but game-breaking bug was found and fixed) and was released to the world. I was ready to put this one behind me and work on other things. Fate, it seems, had other ideas.

A couple of days after release, Leon (resident Team mango artist) pointed out that I had used the wrong boxart for the game. When we were putting together concepts for the boxart, we were using an avatar taken from MatthewM's Avatar Dash boxart, as it was exactly the kind of pose we needed for ours. I later wrote a quick app to animate random avatars so that Leon could pick his own for the final Run! boxart (above). But somewhere in those six months of downtime, I completely forgot to update the boxart and title screen images in the game project. Uh oh.

It was a genuine mistake. I didn't set out to plagiarise Matthew's boxart, I would never dream of doing so. I had to get it fixed. And so I updated the entire project to XNA 4.0 so that I could resubmit a new version with the correct boxart. As of writing, I'm still waiting for the 7-day submission "purgatory" to end. MatthewM - if you read this - I apologise profusely for the screw up, and a fix is on its way. Drop a comment so I can get in touch.

And so ends the sorry saga of the third Team mango game. Lessons have been learnt.



What's all this about then? Why, it's Team Mango's first Windows Phone 7 game, of course! Here's a trailer!



Asteroid Armageddon was suggested, designed, and bought to life by Leon after looking about on the WP7 marketplace for action/shooting games. It's a simple but addictive game that uses the tilt sensor to rotate the player's viewpoint, the the touchscreen to fire lasers at oncoming asteroids. Between each wave of asteroids, the player can upgrade his turret with more shields, more weapon coolant and so on. I wrote an online high scores service especially for this game, but that can also be used for future Team Mango WP7 and Windows games.

I'm really happy with this bitesized game, perfect for those 5-minute breaks in your day when you might break open a game on the phone. It took just under two weeks to put together all the code and assets for it. It's something I'd like to do more of, maybe a game of this size and simplicity for the phone every couple of months. We're still working on the next "big" Team Mango game, our as-yet-unnamed RPG, and it was nice to have a quick break from that to work on something else. Looking forward to getting back on the RPG this week though, I have to say.

I think that's enough rambling for this week. Next week, I'll go into detail about that high score service I created for Asteroid Armageddon.

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