Indie developers Massive Monster have been working on variations of their game, The Adventure Pals, for three years now. I spoke with one of the developers, Jay Armstrong, about how long the game has taken them and why. I spend most of my time looking at games that have been made under a very short time frame for game jams, and occasionally forget that many big releasestake a lot of time before they are finished, polished, and ready to be played. *Check out The Adventure Pals on Steam and wishlist it to be notified when it releases!*
With it now a year since The Adventure Pals was funded on Kickstarter, how are things going?
Jay: We’ve made huge amounts of progress since being funded! We’ve spent that year working full time on finishing off the game and making it the best we possibly can. The Adventure Pals is now feature and content complete, meaning all the different systems, levels, storylines and quests are in place. The remaining work now is lots of polishing, testing and bug fixing, to make sure the game runs as smooth as possible and that players don’t run into any nasty bugs while playing. We’re also working on the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game, making sure they run well on each system and meet all the requirements necessary to launch of these platforms.
Jupiter: As someone who mainly plays smaller game jam titles on PC, I often don’t tend to think about the time and effort it takes to port games to different platforms. For example, if a developer creates a game for PC, porting the game to another platform like an Xbox console is far from simply hitting a button. This must take a large amount of time and testing on each device. Having to develop and set aside time to make sure your game runs smoothly is something to really consider when it comes to releasing a game… especially since one release across all platforms at once, rather than staggering them, often makes the bigger impact.
After working on The Adventure Pals for over three years, do you find this length of time has helped you create a more polished and well made game?
Jay: Definitely! We’re really aiming to make the most polished game we can, and doing so has taken time… LOTS of time! This will be our first Steam or console release, and quite honestly everything has taken much longer than we initially expected. This is a big game with an epic story, over 100 levels, lots of enemies, boss fights, arena battles, towns, shops, cutscenes… Making sure all of these things are polished, fun, well tested AND all working together to make a cohesive and streamlined experience has been a massive undertaking. When you’re working on something so big and for so long, its very easy to get tunnel vision and lose sight of the project as a whole. Back in April, under the advice of the Armor Games fantastic publishing team, we took a step back and realised some areas of the game could benefit from being reworked and improved. We ended up completely rebuilding the levelling up and inventory systems, revamping the combat, adding the new stickerbook system and also reworking the collectable cupcakes to make them more rewarding. This is one of the reasons the game has taken so long - we’re always looking at how we can improve and make everything as fun as possible.
Jupiter: Ah! So that’s where the time has gone! It’s always amazing to have a game that is polished and fun to play, especially when it comes to games of this size with a huge amount of content. I have played demos of The Adventure Pals at various events… it is a really, really fun game! All of the wacky and zany characters fit well into the realm of the story, and seem to have a lot of detail, polish and personality.
The Adventure Pals had to be reworked, not once, but twice, pushing back the release. Did you find that taking the time to remake the game was worth it in the end?
Jay: If we had released the original version, it probably would have come out over 3 years ago! Originally the game was a direct sequel to Super Adventure Pals, and was going to be a free Flash web game much like the original. Around this time the Flash game scene was in decline, and like many other Flash developers we decided that we wanted to move towards Steam and make bigger and better games. We looked at Super Adventure Pals 2 and realised we could do much better. We decided to start from scratch and make the best possible game we could, and take advantage of the new technology that releasing a full standalone game would allow. The project has been a massive learning process for all of us, but we definitely feel the extra time has been worth it - the game we have today is a completely different beast - leaps and bounds over the previous versions.
Jupiter: Personally, I am extremely glad this decision was made. The Adventure Pals is a game I have fallen in love with between seeing screenshots of the development, playing demos myself, and reading up on what is in store for the future. This full game, much more than a simple Flash game, is something so unique and amazing. I really can’t wait for the full release as I have not played anything else quite like it!
With a game that has changed so much from the original concept of what the developers were aiming to do, there must be a real pressure to keep things on track and to keep the scope of the current game precise. With that in mind, I figured I’d ask Jay about some details of how the team works.
What sacrifices have you had to make to keep the game on track?
Jay: Its been tough. Making games is hard, and working on something for so long has certainly taken its toll at times. We’ve been in positions where we’ve struggled to pay rent, worked some pretty crazy hours, doing everything we can to keep the whole thing together. Massive Monster has nearly fallen apart more than once… but we’re still here! Quite honestly without the amazing support we’ve had from Armor Games over these few years, I’m not sure where we’d be right now. Not every publisher would be so understanding and believed in the game as much as Armor have. We owe them a lot!
Have you ever felt the need to work under ‘crunch conditions’ on your game? If so, has it resulted in quality work?
Jay: Yeah, we quite frequently work long hours and crunch to keep the game progressing as fast as it needs to. You hear a lot of horror stories about crunching in AAA studios… People say its an unhealthy and counter productive way of working, others call it a necessary evil… I guess we fall into the necessary evil camp. We are a very small studio, and this game is our baby. We don’t have bosses telling us what to do and we’re not crunching for other people’s gain. The quality and success of the final game essentially comes down to how hard we work on it. Sometimes it sucks, but by the end of the process we’ll be confident in saying that we gave it everything we had. Hopefully The Adventure Pals is a success and for our next project we can afford to hire people to help with the workload. Fingers crossed!
Jupiter: This brings up a point that I had not heard from a developer. Crunching for your own gain, as opposed to other people’s direction, is, at least in their view, a different way of crunching. Doing it under your own pressure instead of for other people is at least your choice. I do hope that when The Adventure Pals is out, the work is worth it and all of Massive Monsters are proud of what they have created.
Do you think that having such a long amount of time to make your game has helped with burnout and overworking your studio?
Jay: As mentioned before, there have certainly been times where its taken its toll. We’re still working hard, and its tough, but right now the end is clearer than it has ever been, the game has been seeing some great feedback from people, and we’ve had some fantastic opportunities appear over the past few weeks that we can’t talk about right now. These things definitely feel like a bit of extra motivational rocket fuel that is helping push us over the finish line!
The Adventure Pals seems to be close to being released, which is super exciting for all of the people who have backed the Kickstarter and have been following the development (as well as those quirky gifs that the team shares of the gameplay!) Three years may seem like a long time to work on a project, but when the project is as big and as polished as this game is turning out to be, the time seems to be very much worth it!