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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From A to Z

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I've been holding off posting this update for a while, but it's finally time! In the last update, I talked about working on the ending of the game, and designing the last puzzle. Now it's implemented, which means 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 iron out and some playtesting to do, but finishing the puzzles is an important and exciting step, and lets me start focusing on other parts of the game.

My original tagline was "a coffee break game", something with a short playtime that you can play in one sitting. Depending on how much coffee you drink, this is still more or less the case : a full playthrough takes one to one and a half hours.

There are fourteen puzzles & mini-games in the final version of 39 Days to Mars, each taking about 5 to 10 minutes.


I'm slowly working my way through the game and replacing placeholder art with final art. I found time in-between working on puzzles to replace the title screen, which now looks like this:


The Last Puzzle

One of the last puzzles to be finished was the 'Controls' puzzle. The first pass of the puzzle had the basic concept in place, but the temporary graphics were significantly different to what I had in mind for the final version. It looked like this:

Playtesting the puzzle showed that it worked, and players understood the general concept, but the execution was far from finished and there were several parts that weren't as clear as I wanted. To make sure this wasn't due to the temporary graphics, I drew the artwork for the controls before the second playtest of the puzzle.

214 controls

To my surprise the puzzle was significantly worse after the graphics were put in! Not a single player understood how it worked, and nobody sucessfully finished it. This is obvious in hindsight, when looking back at the differences. The first version had a logical layout, and the only information on the screen were pieces that were pertinant to the puzzle. The version with artwork is complicated with pieces of information related to each other scattered around the screen with no logic:

To rectify this I made some small but important changes to the layout. Now interacting pieces of the puzzle are all next to each other and clearly indicated. I'll be playtesting again soon, to find out if this fixes the problem!

So there's a release date, then?

No. Sorry! There's still a very long list of tasks to be done before 39 Days to Mars is actually finished.

I'm going to try and give a progress update on the remaining tasks in each new update. For now, because they're not started, it's just a list in roughly the order I'll be approaching it.

  • Playtesting & Balancing
  • Artwork for the Ship
  • Steam Platform Integration
  • Save & Load System
  • Singleplayer Support
  • Sound & Music
  • Finalise Dialogue
  • Voice Acting
  • General Polish
  • Other Miscellaneous Bits I've Forgotten


Until Next Time

This month, I'll be playtesting the last of the puzzles, and starting the final artwork for the ship. I'm also spending more time bug fixing - a slow and sometimes frustrating part of development. This means that I'm going to be working just as hard on the game, but there will be less visible progress for the next few months.

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

Creating an Ending

Creating an Ending

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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

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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...


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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39 Days to Mars
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Latest tweets from @philipbuchanan

Pictures from the Square Enix Montreal game jam are now up. Our team made a private investigator photography game! Square-enix-montreal.com

Oct 22 2016

Just a lazy Saturday morning of performance profiling & pathfinding algorithms. #screenshotsaturdayT.co

Oct 22 2016

I integrated some more artwork today! Solar sails and rigging for '39 Days to Mars'. #screenshotsaturday #gamedev T.co

Sep 4 2016

Debugging a small problem with characters .... #screenshotsaturday #gamedev T.co

Aug 28 2016

Today I started the huge task of drawing the ship artwork. Here's a quick WIP. #screenshotsaturday #gamedev T.co

Aug 20 2016

The latest dev update for 39 Days to Mars: It's now playable from start to finish! Surrealix.com #gamedev T.co

Aug 11 2016

A whole month since my last tweet! Here's some more puzzle art I've done since then. #gamedev #screenshotsaturday T.co

Aug 1 2016

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

Jul 1 2016

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