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Developing Space Lift Danger Panic! for the 3DS

January 15, 2015

Today we release ‘Space Lift Danger Panic!’ for 3DS! It’s available right now on the USA eshop for $2.99, and should come to Europe in about 1 month.

If I look back on my career as a game developer, this is a pretty huge milestone for me, and something I never really expected I would achieve outside of the framework of a corporation.

I guess to a lot of people, releasing a game on 3DS might seem like not such a big deal, but to me it’s up there as a huge life goal!

I guess to understand why I feel like this, I’ll have to explain my whole history of games…you might want to stop reading now, and just go to the eShop and buy our game, rather than read this slightly narcissistic pile of words.

Anyway, before I started trying to actually understand game development, the idea of building a game was like magic to me. It’s one of those things that was so mysterious I didn’t have even the slightest idea of how you would do anything at all that contributed to making a game.

Eventually through a huge volume of hard work I started to figure out some stuff, and through the luck of the gods, I landed a job at Full Fat in the UK. The first released game I worked on was Dave Mirra BMX2 on the Gameboy advance.

This was in 1999, I entered the office with an open mouth, in awe of the AGB development kit that sat on the lead engineer’s desk. This was one of the early “wideboy” kits ( http://www.nesworld.com/n64-wideboyagb-1.php ) this was essentially an N64, torn wide open with wires flowing from every corner and fragile circuit boards sticking out the top. For me, I felt like I was entering some super-secret club, and being given the luxury of playing with prototype hardware that barely anyone in the world had been able to get close to.

wideboyagb-1

Eventually we got the actual dev kits, which still had a few fragile wires sticking out of the, but they were essentially production GBA units stuck to giant boxes. They were luminescent pink, and made of slightly different plastic to the ones that were finally released to the public. So to me they were still very special things, and they were as far as I could tell kind of expensive, which is why I was never allowed one on my desk! Only programmers had them, and Id go over and test my work at a programmer’s desk, before running back to my seat and using an emulator or something to try and figure out how the game worked.

Our compamy mainly made games for GBA, and I think while I was there I worked on a crazy volume of games for the system (to my memory it was 18) including:

Dave Mirra BMX2
The Land Before Time
Dave Mirra BMX 3
BeyBlade Ultimate Blader Jam
The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy
Rock em sock em robots (the worst rated game ever in the history of the GBA!)
Pacman world 2
Pacman World3
Ms Pacman Maze Madness
Sim City Advance
Monopoly Advance
Backyard Skating
Punch King (which was about as stereotypical a game you can imagine…I kind of felt it was maybe a little racist at the time we were making it!)
Freakstyle (EA Big)
Aggressive inline skating

There were actually a few more than that, I just can’t remember them all right now.

But seeing our games in the store, was pretty spectacular!

We went on to the DS, and I worked on several more games including the Sims, Sega Darts and a Biker Mice From Mars game, that features me doing some really terrible sound effects as I try to impersonate cats getting punched in the face.

DS was also really exciting, back then a touch screen was actually pretty cutting edge as far as gaming was concerned. Remember, the iPhone didn’t yet exist, so for me when I got to design games for touch screen it was like entering uncharted territories! And trying to figure out how to use two screens was also a super interesting challenge.

The first DS dev kit we got was even more crazy than the GBA one we had before, it was just a bare circuit board with a single screen on it. The lead engineer who was using it tried to build a housing out of cardboard with a hole in to show the screen (which wasn’t even a touch screen!).

Console development has always been so much harder than PC development, or mobile dev. All my formative years of game development were spent working on Nintendo systems. And when we were at Lucasarts I was lucky enough to work on the Wii-U for a while before the console got released, ultimately the project was cancelled, but getting my hands on pre-release hardware was once again unbelievably exciting. Most of my fondest memories of game development (and playing games) are deeply entwined with Nintendo, which is why making a nintendo game now, feels like going full circle, in a time when mobile is king.

So I think this is the 33rd shipped console game I have worked on,and the 40th game I have shipped when including mobile! The amazing thing is that out of those 33 consoles games, only 4 were on consoles not made by Nintendo! So this is my 29th Nintendo game! Which is pretty crazy.

So this achievement is amazing for a couple of reasons, firstly, I never imagined I could get through the hoops to become a registered Nintendo developer, and then secondly, being a programmer who only knows how to use C#, I imagines that getting something on the C++ only 3DS would be impossible. For that, I can thank my colleagues at Springloaded (paul and Alan) for building a semi cross platform solution that allows my code to run on the console.

I may have made a lot of games on Nintendo systems, but I never even for a moment thought it was in the realms of possibility that I would be able to do it in my own company! But here I am ticking off a very satisfying life achievement!!

I have no idea whether doing this was a good business decision or not, bit I guess in the next couple of months we will find out! I really hope that it is a viable market that we can do well in, and we will only know for sure by making a few things and not giving up too soon!

So what is net, well we hope to launch heart beaten on the 3DS in February, for which I rewrote the game from the ground up especially for 3DS, (although we may do a Vita version too), then after that we plan to just carry on making stuff….2015 is going to be pretty crazy for us! We are trying to do an insane volume of stuff, which is as rewarding as it is challenging.

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One Comment
  1. Melody Hu permalink

    Congratulations on the release! Just as I was wondering about what games I should get for my new 3DS XL, this arrives! 🙂 Time for Space Lift Danger Panic!

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