39 Days to Mars is a co-operative steampunk survival-adventure game. You play as Sir Albert Wickes and The Right Honourable Clarence Baxter, two 19th century explorers who have been chosen to pilot the HMS Fearful on its maiden voyage to Mars. You must keep the two explorers alive through the trip by attending to their needs, while at the same time keeping the ship from falling apart and solving the problems that arise.

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Creating an Ending

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What's New this Month?

I spent most of the month designing, implementing, and testing part of the game's ending. Up until this point I've been concentrating on puzzles and gameplay, and the game just stopped cold when you'd solved all of the puzzles. My aim for the month was to create a denouement that left players feeling like the game was complete.

Notes from the playtest

Because I was busy with the ending, I didn't have many improvements to other puzzles that I wanted to test. There were only two puzzles I was focused on:

The Tea Chest

This puzzle has been through at least four different iterations, and I was both exited and worried going into the playtest. Excited to see if the new version worked well, but also worried that if it didn't work, maybe there was no easy way to make this straight-forward single-player logic puzzle into a multiplayer activity.

Luckily, it worked very well. My aim for puzzles is for them to have two "ah-ha!" moments. The first is after playing around with the things on the screen, discovering the rules for interacting with it, and finally understanding what the goal is. The second "ah-ha!" moment comes after actually solving the puzzle and reaching the goal that you discovered. This was the first playtest where the tea chest puzzle hit both of these moments.

After the playtests, I drew the final art for the puzzle, and with a few tweaks and a number of bug fixes, I'll be able to call this one complete.

The Game Ending

I'd been delaying work on the end of the game for months, partially because I needed to finish the core puzzles, but also because I wasn't sure what I was going to do! After sitting down and sketching out ideas for a while, I finally came up with a mini-game and ending sequence that I was happy with and I felt was both short and satisfying.

I had hoped to playtest this in depth, but because of sequential nature of the game, it's hard to do. For the latest playtest session, I had only half of the minigames included in the build, giving it a 30-40 minute play time. From the 7 pairs of players who started, 5 made it to the ending, and none succeeded at it.

This month, I'll be working to balance the difficulty a bit better!

Polishing Gameplay Graphics

As well as working on the game ending, I spent some time re-visiting parts of puzzles that I'd drawn artwork for but hadn't animated or worked on the layout. These small tweaks are a mixture of polish - to make it look better, and gameplay - subtle animations that can draw your eye to important details you may have missed.

Here's an example of a warning sign that used to fade in and out. The quick animation is much more noticeable, but doesn't keep distracting once you've seen it.

Until Next Time

This month, I'll be concentrating on getting the last minigame designed and integrated. I'll also continue working on feedback from the play sessions, and if I have time, start finalising the dialogues. With the (mostly-successful) implementation of the game ending, there's only one new puzzle to finish up the whole story arc! I can't wait to get it implemented and to be able to play 39 Days to Mars from start to finish.

Don't forget you can follow @philipbuchanan on Twitter for more regular updates and development pictures!

Two New Puzzles

Two New Puzzles

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In March I concentrated on play-testing three puzzles. Two that had improvements I wanted to test, and one I hadn't widely tested at all. I also had fun...

Puzzle Improvement

Puzzle Improvement

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I spent February fixing bugs and getting some new puzzles ready for the public playtest that I ran. The playtest went well, showing me what worked, what...

Puzzle Design Complete

Puzzle Design Complete

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I've been working on making more puzzles playable, and integrating some of the feedback from the playtesting I mentioned in the last update. All of the...

Playtesting and Drawing

Playtesting and Drawing

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At the end of October, I ran a playtest of the introduction level with 6 pairs of players who had never played 39 Days to Mars. A final push made sure...


As I see, obstacles of game looks like Don't Starve (Somehow). Well, it's definitely interesting. However, what exactly must keep me playing?

For example, in Don't Starve I must keep lighted areas lighted, meanwhile my health, mind or hunger level can fall down and I should plan each day to survive without any loses. Otherwise, night will catch life of player.

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surrealix Creator

I've yet to play Don't Starve, but the sense of pressure you mention is something I'm also hoping to capture in 39 Days to Mars. If you don't keep pushing forward with the puzzles & minigames, then problems compound and soon the ship is falling apart around you.

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Aaahhhh! Amazing visuals! Excited! The art style is going to be a huge selling point for this one. :) Keep it up!

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This is gonna be an awesome game !!!!!!

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Looks great! Glad to hear that it's coming to Wii U!

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Latest tweets from @philipbuchanan

Finished the artwork for the character selection screen. #screenshotsaturday #gamedev T.co

Jul 1 2016

RT @GamePlaySpace: Playtesting tomorrow w/ @KitfoxGames @CardboardUtopia @dblstallion @philipbuchanan @NawaTSB RSVP: #038;notif_id=1467204944969918">Facebook.com

Jun 29 2016

The latest 39 Days to Mars dev log just went up on IndieDB. Read it here : Indiedb.com #gamedev #indiedev

May 29 2016

I finally have an ending for 39 Days to Mars! And other news in this months dev update : Surrealix.com #gamedev #indiedev #devblog

May 29 2016

My latest intake of playtest notes. Thanks @gameplayspace and everyone who came and played 39 Days to Mars! #gamedev T.co

May 26 2016

Feel like a trip to Mars? Come and help me playtest 39 Days to Mars at @GamePlaySpace, Thursday 6.30pm. Facebook.com #gamedev

May 24 2016

Albert finds himself in an unfortunate situation while on a space adventure. #screenshotsaturday #gamedev T.co

May 23 2016

Working on more art and animations for 39 Days to Mars. #screenshotsaturday #gamedev T.co

May 21 2016

Working on one of the last mini-games, currently with placeholder artwork. #screenshotsaturday #gamedev #indiedev T.co

May 8 2016

Lots of awesome feedback for 39 Days to Mars, thanks @GamePlaySpace @ShawnMatthewLee and everyone else who tried it! T.co

Apr 28 2016

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