After four weeks of working into the night, pulling out hair, and coffee on drip I’ve finally finished making Super Mega Space Blaster Special. A game that’s currently in beta and slotted for release on Steam(Win/Lin/Mac) on 18th June 2019 for only $0.99 (£0.79, €0.79). After months of slog on our big console action-RPG, The Flawless: Art’s Tale I decided I needed a break. But I didn’t go on a nice relaxing trip to the countryside, or chill in an urban location on a city break, oh no! I set myself a challenge; make a game in four weeks. Not just any game either, a full-featured game to release on Steam.
A Full-Featured Little Game
So what do you mean by full-featured, I hear you cry. Well, if you go to Steam and look on the right hand side of a game’s page you’ll see a list of features with little symbols next to them (see the screenshot below). These are the features I speak of. They range from things like ‘local coop’ and ‘multiplayer’ to ‘cloud save’ and ‘leaderboards’. I wanted to tick as many of these features as I could and not only tick them but also make them add to the gameplay experience. So many unpolished, rushed games have come-out on Steam after Greenlight’s demise and I’ve read a lot of articles and forum posts about how the Steam store is now littered with vapourware. I didn’t want to add to the trash pile. So I set about designing a game that was low in scope, fun to play, and ticked off Steam features by the bucket load. A ‘game in four weeks’ here I come.
Simple But Fun Concept
I knew the concept had to be simple and I wanted to try and keep it to one game-screen. This would lessen the workload; no scrolling backgrounds etc., and give the game a retro feel (and if you follow us you’ll know how much we love retro games). After a few hours of pondering and watching retro game videos on YouTube I decided on a space shooter. I made this decision partly because I’ve played and loved loads of simple shoot ’em ups (shmups) over the years from the retro Asteroids and The Galactic Plague, to Bit Blaster XL. But mainly because they are simple to code, can be done on one game-screen, and I’ve worked on them before on The Last Pilot prototype. I quickly wrote a completely unnecessary back-story about the Earth falling apart and the search for a new planet, and started work on a prototype with simple graphics.
I played with a few different ideas; like physics based spaceship control and having an option to play as a ground vehicle like in Silkworm on the Amstrad. After play testing them with some mates in 2 player coop the simplest, no physics and no ground-vehicles, version was the most popular and the most fun. I decided to go with it and started to draw the ships. Drawing the ships was fun, I tried to create a variety of ship shapes and used the first style that came to mind. I then spent a few days transferring the ships from sketch to screen. I needed an obvious colour scheme and went with glowy neon colours. Cyan for player one, yellow for player two, and red for the enemies. Everything fell into place quickly and within two weeks I had a demo build running which I tested again with some peeps to iron out the faults and streamline the gameplay.
Now To Add The Substance
Now that the game was built in basic form I went ahead and started adding features. From feedback from the testers I decided to add 3 game modes:
- Survival Mode (1p or 2p local-coop): The player(s) must survive whilst dealing with a constantly firing gun and managing depleting fuel and ammo.
- Protect Mother Mode (1p or 2p local-coop): The player(s) must protect a mothership from being destroyed by scoring combos and destroying baddies.
- To The Death Mode (2p competitive only): Player(s) battle it out until only one space blaster remains.
These game modes instantly ticked the boxes for single-player, coop, local-coop, shared/split screen, multiplayer, and local-multiplayer and were also great fun to play. Six Steam features down loads more to go. Then I added Steam trading cards. I created all the necessary assets and images. They won’t go live on Steam until we sell enough copies of the game (Steam explain more here). Next, I added Steam achievements to reward players for doing things like getting high scores and unlocking ships. Then came Steam leaderboards. I decided to add a leaderboard for each mode and its 1 and 2 player variants, so five in total. After this I added cross-platform Steam cloud save. With this feature if you play the game on multiple PCs, on Windows and Linux, or on a PC and a Mac you’ll be able to continue where you left off. This article about Steam cloud save integration on Gamasutra by Catalin Marcu was really helpful. Finally, I added full controller support with in-game images for Xbox, PlayStation, & Nintendo Switch controllers. I now had all 10 of the Steam features that I aimed to add working in the game… But I wasn’t finished yet.
Blasting The Extra Mile
Now that all the Steam features were added I still had about a week left to meet my target of ‘a game in four weeks’. I wanted to make the game compelling to play so I added more ships, to make ten in total. Each with different stats as well as looks. This allows players to choose the ship that suits their gameplay style. I then added coins which would be dropped by enemies and that the player can spend on unlocking new ships. Next, I added 20+ challenges which reward the player with between 1-5 coins for completing each task. These challenges range from the easy one coin challenges like ‘use 3 different power-up weapons’ to the insanely hard five coiners such as ‘score over 30,000 in survival mode’.
I also decided to add a boss, as I love big bosses in retro games. The inspiration for the boss came from Super Fantasy Zone on the Sega Megadrive (Genesis). It is hard to defeat but well worth the effort. The music for the game is also important and the 80’s inspired synth-pop soundtrack from Electric Fan Death doesn’t disappoint. It comes with the game as free DLC. I also added language support for 10 languages by calling in a few favours.
We Have Super Mega Blast-Off
By mid May the game was finished and ready to launch on Steam. I had met my ‘make a game in four weeks challenge’ and I was very happy with the result. I spent a day writing all the blurb and making all the necessary images & assets for the Steam store game page. I then submitted the game and the first build. Which brings us to the present day.
We are currently beta testing the game and improving it as much as possible before its release on 18th June. If you want to get involved you can join the Discord: discord.gg/J4ynrFD. Feedback so far is positive and I truly believe the game is loads of fun and great value for money. We’re going to keep supporting Super Mega Space Blaster Special into the future so if you want any features adding to the already feature-packed game let us know and we’ll see if we can add them in an update or free DLC.
Well now I need a break from my break. No time for that though, back to developing The Flawless for PS4, Switch, and Steam. We will have loads more information about ‘Super Mega Space Blaster Special, and ‘The Flawless: Art’s Tale‘ very soon. Until then you can keep up to date with all things Bare Knuckle on the Discord: discord.gg/J4ynrFD or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
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Ste Wilson is a director, game developer, and programmer at Bare Knuckle Development Ltd. When not coding away on BKD games he can be found playing video games on console and PC. He also makes music under the music maker name of ‘Electric Fan Death’ and loves playing guitar, writing tunes, and producing music.