39 Days to Mars is a co-operative steampunk puzzle-adventure game.

Step into the shoes of Sir Albert Wickes and The Right Honourable Clarence Baxter, two 19th century explorers who have chosen to pilot the HMS Fearful on its maiden voyage to Mars.

When the steam engine runs out of coal, the ship's cat shreds the navigation chart, and the tea gets cold, it becomes clear that interstellar transportation isn't a walk in the park. It will take the talents of two players working together on the problems that arise to get to Mars in one piece.


39 Days to Mars is a two player co-operative game.

The HMS Fearful is a masterpiece of unreliable engineering, therefore Albert and Baxter will need all the help they can get. Nothing can be done without the effort of both players, who have important roles to play in the adventure.


If you don't want to play with your friends, the ship's computer-controlled cat will keep you company.


The mix of action and thoughtful puzzles make it perfect for playing in short sessions. The entire adventure fits comfortably into an evening.


Be drawn into the world of Albert and Baxter by the unique illustrated artwork. 39 Days to Mars has a rich sound-scape and a beautiful piano score that is punctuated only by the occasional disaster.

The HMS Fearful embarks for Mars soon!

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Finished Ship Artwork


Happy 2017! This is the first development blog for the year, and it's been a busy Christmas break for 39 Days to Mars. The last months saw integration with the Steam distribution platform, new artwork for the ship, the start of mouse and keyboard support, performance optimizations, and some great progress recording the voiceovers for Albert and Baxter!

Ship Artwork

All of the artwork is finally finished for the levels and puzzles in the game! I'll let this poster do the talking, click for a larger version:

Steam Integration

39 Days to Mars will be released on PC through Steam (and a non-DRM version for those who want). To do this, I needed to make sure that the game integrated correctly with the Steam Platform, and set up the information that ensures the game will be presented correctly when it's released. This is now complete, and having the game deploy correctly and show up in my Games Library felt like a big milestone.



In early December I started working on the input system. To support different platforms, and to allow for a single-player mode, I need to support a wide range of controllers. These are the ones I had lying around and the ones I'll be getting working first:


The most important is getting mouse support working. Unfortunately this is the most different to the joystick input. It's now working in the levels, and some of the puzzles. It will require some more hard thinking in the next month to get it working in all of the mini-games and puzzles.


Over the last few months, as more final content has been added, and more sections of the spaceship have been onscreen at once, I started noticing some slow-downs and lag. I'm developing 39 Days to Mars on a laptop with no GPU, but it's a fairly simple 2D game and I wasn't expecting any major problems. So I decided to investigate.

I opened up the profiler - a tool that lets me look under the hood and see what parts of the game take the most processor time. The problem stuck out like a sore thumb, it's easy to see the difference between running well (on the left) and running slowly (on the right):

profiler problem

This huge slow-down happened whenever a character moved around, and didn't have anything to do with the graphics at all. I could also see from the profiler that one method was taking an astounding 56 milliseconds to run each frame. To put this in perspective, a game running at 60 frames per second has only 16ms to run *everything* in the game (and draw all the graphics too). This one method was using almost three times this limit by itself!


Opening up the code, I was greeted with a comment from over a year ago:


Any comment that starts with the words "TODO" and "Fix" is usually bad news.

But obviously, this shouldn't have come as a surprise to me. The early plans I had for the ship in 39 Days to Mars involved pieces of it moving around, or falling off. To support this, I would have had to dynamically update the pathfinding (the parts of the ship that are walkable to Albert and Baxter) as the ship changed. To focus on more important tasks at the time, I skipped the whole problem and wrote a quick-and-nasty method that just recalculated everything every single frame. I also left a comment telling my future self what needed to be fixed!

Fast-forward a year, and the design of the game has changed. Parts of the ship no longer move around or disappear, and I don't need to worry about updating pathfinding any more. A day's work shifted all the calculations to run only once, when the ship is generated. Each frame now takes less than 2 milliseconds to calculate pathfinding, and the profiler paints a much healthier picture:

profiler after

Although this is an extreme case, performance optimization is as much a part of debugging as fixing crashes. I spend a lot of time behind the scenes making sure that the game will run smoothly for everyone when its released.


So here's the monthly snapshot of progress. The lines crossed out are tasks I completed this month, and everything is roughly in the order I'll be approaching it.

  • Remaining Art:
    • Logbook/Menu
    • Load Saved Game screen
  • Artwork for the Ship
  • Sound & Music
  • Finalise Dialogue
  • Voice Acting
    • Audition to voice Baxter
    • Record Albert's Lines
    • Record Baxter's Lines
    • Integrate voice acting into game
  • Steam Platform Integration
    • Steam API Integration
    • Steam Store Page
  • Singleplayer Support
    • Mouse Input in Levels
    • Mouse Input in Puzzles
  • Save & Load System
  • Gameplay & Balancing
    • Level transitions
  • General Polish

Until Next Time

I'll be implementing sound, music, and dialogue, and then working on controller support for the remaining puzzles.

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

Ship Artwork

Ship Artwork


After working on gameplay for such a long time it was refreshing to get back to some artwork and design. Over the last month I tackled the massive task...

From A to Z

From A to Z

News 2 comments

39 Days to Mars is playable from start to finish! All of the puzzles and mini-games are complete (and with artwork). There are still numerous bugs to...

Creating an Ending

Creating an Ending


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...

Two New Puzzles

Two New Puzzles

News 2 comments

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...


Are you looking for a composer by any chance? I really like the theme of the game and I would happily produce classical/piano style music for free...

If you are interested, you can reach me at cubecapitan@gmail.com

Reply Good karma Bad karma+1 vote

Art sylie looks rad bro! Keep up the good work!!
Much Love.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
PhilipBuchanan Creator


Reply Good karma+1 vote

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.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
PhilipBuchanan 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.

Reply Good karma+1 vote

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

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes

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

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes

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

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Latest tweets from @philipbuchanan

39 Days to Mars got a short write-up over at games site Siliconera

Feb 16 2017

After redesigning the main menu for the third time, it finally works the way I wanted. Glad to be done with it!… T.co

Feb 12 2017

A puzzle to unlock a tea chest to find a top hat to sail to Mars. Who said games aren't logical?… T.co

Feb 11 2017

39 Days to Mars got a mention in @indiegamescom's screenshot roundup: Indiegames.com #gamedev #indiedev T.co

Jan 30 2017

39 Days to Mars got a mention on french indie game news site, Graal.fr: Graal.fr #indiedev T.co

Jan 29 2017

A #screenshotsaturday from the new Steam page. I'm excited to have it up at last! Store.steampowered.com #gamedev T.co

Jan 28 2017

There's a neat write-up about 39 Days to Mars over on Gameplanet. #indiedev #gamedev T.co

Jan 27 2017

In case you missed it, 39 Days to Mars now has a Steam page! Store.steampowered.com #gamedev #screenshotsaturday T.co

Jan 26 2017

Exciting news! 39 Days to Mars has a coming soon page on Steam and you can add it to your wishlist!… T.co

Jan 25 2017

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