Hamilton Playtest and Progress Update

We have had some very busy weeks here at M5 Games. We have been wrapping up many of the major components of the game such as the sound effects and the completion of the world maps. Which means that we are inching ever closer to finishing off the game and announcing our release date. This also meant that it was a good time to get some playtesting input and to give some of our close friends and colleagues a first hand look into the world of StretchBot.
Getting to this playtesting night was pretty big milestone for our team. To some we may have been a little overzealous about showcasing StretchBot but this cycle of development worked for us and this project. Many game designers will tell you to get peoples hands on your game as soon as possible because it's their input that matters the most. I agree with this mostly but it's a case to case basis. For StretchBot we had a vision and we didn't want major mass input until we had that solid working copy of that vision. In our case if we did a major playtest too early it may distract us from attaining and then properly testing our big picture ideas first. We definitely wanted the game to be at a point where we could avoid too many comments from casual testers suggesting new game components. We wished to avoid comments like: "You should add a giant robot dragon here!" and "What if the stretch could do magic and jump kicks?". Luckily we were able to keep our test focused to the analysis we really wanted.

Playtesting Night Photo

Was it luck? We definitely feel lucky. The playtest went far better than we could have expected in terms of interest and quality of feedback. It was hard to predict how the informal event was going to go even after the first testers arrived. One thing we definitely miscalculated was the average length of play. We had set the objective to get feedback on some very specific aspects of the game thus we limited the testers experience to just a few levels and with minimal story and other game components explained. We were focused on feedback for controls and comprehension and general scale of difficulty in the level designs. We figured we would let people play for 10-15 minutes enough time to taste 2-3 levels and give us some feedback. We didn't expect that most people wanted to keep playing and that their fun quotient seemed to rise with more exposure time. We just couldn't ruin our testers buzz so an event that was planned to run for 2 hours actually went for around 6 hours. It was a really fun event for us and great way for us to cut our teeth as we get used to testing a mobile game in large scale. The input has been incredibly helpful for us as we check off many of the game mechanics and systems. This major milestone also feels great for the team because we are only a few steps away to wrapping up the whole project and we are heading down that road with a new head of confidence and energy.

Playtesting Night Photo

Thanks to everyone who came out on that warm March Hamilton night! and thanks to the StrangeBarn for hosting us. Next on the agenda are playtests in Toronto and Montreal. Stay tuned for updates on that!

Happy Pi Day!

It's everybody's favourite constants special day (March 14th = 3/14 = 3.14 = π) and we at M5 Games are celebrating by eating pie and discussing circles. The fact of the matter is that without Pi (π) the universe that we have created for Stretch and his rebel hacker buddies would be far less interesting. Every enemy would just be moving in straight lines! There would be no circular punch attack! Actually Stretch wouldn't even be able to move because his on screen D-pad would be useless without π and the trigonometric functions that come with it.

In fact π is the only mathematical constant we use in the whole development of StretchBot. Sorry e there are no natural logarithms here! So we are quite thankful to π and think that you should take this time to learn a few things about this powerful constant ratio!

So check out some of these cool resources for the story of π and its special day!

A Brief History of π:

Official π Day organization:

Steam Serenade: The Original StretchBot Soundtrack

Sometimes I wonder if my best game memories are because of the background music. I'll admit it, I really do love video game music. I am one of those fans that sometimes remembers the music more than the gameplay. You know those anthems that are fused into your mind during hours of experience building and puzzle solving. The importance of the soundtrack  in a game experience can not be understated and I believe that every game has the basic duty to provide, in the very least, a soundtrack that does not distract, annoy or infuriate the player (unless that's the point).  The tunes we play during all the sword swinging and brick punching are as integral as the action itself. So aiming only to hit those minimum requirements is probably not the best route to your players hearts.

Listen to the full 13 song StretchBot Soundtrack on Bandcamp

Considering this basic belief when it came to developing StretchBot we devoted a lot of attention to the music design of the game. It took some care and planning but we are finally ready to release a 13 song epic soundtrack on the M5 Games Bandcamp. All of these tracks were composed and recorded by a fantastic musician and friend of the studio Mike Labelle. Mike is an incredible composer and we could not be happier with the job he has done and we hope you like it too! For those who are curious and would like a little more insight into how and why we designed the soundtrack that you can hear today please continue reading but not until after you've pressed play!

StretchBot is a classic action platformer at heart so when planning the soundtrack we knew we  were going to need plenty of groovy adventuring tracks to add pace to our levels. This is best epitomized by the bass heavy rock found in "Junkyard funk" which is featured in the very first level of the game. A catchy background theme for bot smashing is one thing, but we also wanted the music to give tone to the story. Since StetchBot is a platformer which infuses some RPG aesthetic and elements into the game play, it was important for us to build a game universe with some depth. We didn't want to bog down the player with too much text and an overly complex plot so using music was our best method to adding feeling and emotion to Stretch's world. Here Mike created tracks like "In the valley of the crystals" and "the hacker shuffle". Songs like these allowed the game to break free from the typical platformer mold, games which often don't have or need much depth,  and gave the world, where Stretch and the programmers live, layers of atmosphere. As designers we strived for a contained and interesting game universe and Mike's beautiful soundtrack has done it's fair share in helping to make that a reality.

During the making of StretchBot we played the various levels for countless hours while we developed, tested and perfected each one..With the soundtrack ever playing. It was the ultimate test and it is what makes me confident that this is a collection of music worth sharing. So please check out the Bandcamp to get a preview of the songs that will soon be streaming from your various mobile devices when the game is released later this year.  If you want your own full digital copy for your personal listening pleasure then we have got you covered!  The whole soundtrack is downloadable for the ridiculous low cost of $2! (that's only 15 cents  a song!). With a sliding scale if you would like to contribute more. Every little bit helps. So thanks for listening and go on my steam brother and sisters and let your life be filled with music!

Listen to the full 13 song StretchBot Soundtrack on Bandcamp