2013: A year in postmortem, part 1- Hyper Gauntlet

It’s been a big year for me. Udell Games did not even exist in January, and yet here we are with a website, a domain name, some content and a heap load of free games! In the last six months I have been incredibly productive. Here’s a look back on everything that’s happened over 2013 as we look forward to 2014.

Hyper Gauntlet

The star of the show! Hyper Gauntlet started as nothing more than an idle play around while bug fixing the next big release of Fuse Breaker (my bad). I imagined a game with a third person camera, similar to Temple Run, and a character running and jumping over obstacles. I nixed that idea though, when I realised that being able to see the player meant not being able to see the coming obstacles. I tinkered for maybe 3-4 days, and ended up with a build that is remarkably similar to the one you can play today.

Screen shot 2013-08-22 at 14.55.53

Well, except the UI perhaps.

I submitted that build (then called Speedrun) to Reddit’s GameDev Feedback Friday post, and it garnered a lot of praise. Besides the UI, people liked its punishing nature, how fast it felt, and how addictive it was. I felt like I was on to something and after a week of continued development, decided to shelve Fuse Breaker. A few weeks passed and interest waned. People were still enjoying it, but there wasn’t enough changing for them to feel the need to pick it up properly.

Meanwhile I made friends on Reddit and Twitter. Noble Kale, who runs an excellent website with guides on empire building, pointed out a dire problem – one that I’d been aware of but hesitant to change – the name. If you google “Speedrun Game”, as you might imagine, you are swamped with videos and articles about people attempting to beat a game as quickly as possible (“speedrunning” it). This pushed my poor little arcade game back ten or twenty pages in the search results, and nobody tends to look past page 1. Not one to rest on his laurels, Kale immediately offered to help “fix this” and started brainstorming like no tomorrow. Eventually we reached a couple of options. I liked “Hyper Gauntlet”, but he was a strong advocate for “Nozzlethruster” (which I figured might have slightly too much innuendo).

I decided to make a compromise. Go with Hyper Gauntlet, but keep “Nozzlethruster” in the subtitle. It’s eye catching and I can’t help but smile any time a journalist talks about it, and that’s the story of how Speedrun came to be Hyper Gauntlet: Legacy of Nozzlethruster III.

Screenshot of Hyper Gauntlet

More releases, and more positive responses from Feedback Friday, coupled with all the indie dev blogs’ incessant harping on the subject of marketing finally gave me the courage to give my little darling to the brave new world of reviews. I scraped email addresses and contact details from as many sites as I could find, in any language I could just about parse. I crafted an email to every one of them (all right, I kind of cheated. I had a base message and I personalised it for each person I emailed Any email that began with editors@ however didn’t get the personal touch), hit the magnificent send button and waited with hot breath baited for the Google alerts to pile in.

I got my first response the next day. Surprised and groggy, I woke up to read that the ever great Chris Priestman over on Indie Statik had picked up on my email and played the game, and what’s more he seemed to like it! It floored me. The first piece of media notice for Hyper Gauntlet was positive! I felt like I floated down the stairs to tell my girlfriend. I’d had a sneaking suspicion, all along, that I was secretly the only person who liked Hyper Gauntlet, that perhaps people were just being kind to me because it was my first real game, or because I’d posted it myself to Reddit. I think every dev feels this, and probably every creator. The deep, insidious doubt that what you’ve made isn’t good enough. A hyper-awareness of your project’s every flaw. I knew that Hyper Gauntlet still had bugs, it didn’t have much in the way of replay value. It didn’t even have a High Score table then, and yet here they were, professional games journalists, talking about my game as if it was somehow worthy.

And then in came the Rock Paper Shotgun article.

I’d tried every major outlet, Joystiq got an email, PC Gamer got an email, Rock Paper Shotgun, everybody did.  I didn’t expect any responses at all, but as the SAS will remind you: He who dares, wins. And I won that day. In an article titled simply, “HYPER GAUNTLET”, Nathan Grayson wrote about my game as if it were haunting poetry. I was overcome with a levity and sense of unbelievable warmth reading that article, there were genuine tears of joy in my eyes and if I could float before then now I was practically on my way to the Moon. I’d been reading RPS for over three years and there I was, on their front page. What’s more is it was picked up and redirected all over the globe. Hyper Gauntlet was worldwide.

A gold vignette shown when the player levels up

With the hot fire of recognition burning at my soul, I set to work outlining exactly what needed to be done to bring Hyper Gauntlet to release. Since that day, there have been some major releases: power ups, the vignette system and the high score boards, and we’ve bolted closer and closer to the finish line. According to my list I have only one item remaining. Excellent!

So what happened then? The PSU on my development PC died. My computer can now no longer boot up for longer than three seconds. Thankfully, all of my code is backed up on Bitbucket, and I’m still able to get a hold of Hyper Gauntlet. Unfortunately my laptop is slow. I can add new code to projects, but bug fixing is a pipe dream. I’m doing my best, but now the best bet is to just get my old machine back up and running. Luckily a friend of mine runs a computer shop and is offering to do the fix for free in exchange for a copy of Hyper Gauntlet when it’s done, so all is not lost.

What does the near future hold? A fixed PC, that last bug shattered and a major announcement! Watch this space.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *