An hour before the clocks ticked over to March 3, two European students — best friends and game development duo — released MariO. A twist on their own tradition of tinkering with classic games, MariO is a hybrid of Super Mario Bros. and Portal. They’ve made a complete replication of the original 1985 levels and dropped in a portal gun. The results are, well, give it a try. It’s free.
Since we last talked the scope of the game grew to accommodate not only a separate set of portal levels, but a complete level editor, 4-player co-op, and hats. What’s a game related to Valve without hats?
“It’s a huge burden that’s been lifted after all this development time,” Maurice Guégan, programmer, and half of Stabyourself.net told me Monday afternoon. After a constant flow of updates about the game’s development, they set a firm date for themselves. In retrospect, it was probably too soon. “[Two] weeks before that it was still pretty relaxed, the last week however was absolutely insane,” Sašo Smolej, the other half of the team, recalled.
“‘It’ll be done on Thursday.’ And then Saturday it was all ‘Is it done already?’” Guégan said. “Yeah I’m not very good at making things on time,” Smolej added.
Their self-imposed crunch ended successfully and MariO finally made its way out into players’ hands. There was no time to celebrate though, as their upload server got hit hard when thousands of fans downloaded the game. “I thought of celebrating a few minutes in but it was more interesting watching Analytics explode with numbers, and then panic once the server went down and I had to ratify the situation,” Smolej said. “I don’t think anything else in my life got my heart racing like that. It was pretty intense.” The counter on the site was climbing towards 1 million downloads as we spoke.
Unsurprisingly, MariO began with a lot of hype. Meeting that level of excitement required new development tactics when compared to their previous games, and maybe a new word. “Since this was my biggest project to date, I had problems at first with the undynamicalness (is that a word?) of my code, which worked for smaller games like Not Tetris 2 or games that I wrote in a short time, like Ortho Robot,” Guégan said. By “undynamicalness” he means the inability to incorporate new elements into the code with ease. Throughout the project the code was revised and restructured multiple times, resulting in a much longer wait until release. “It was a lot longer and needed a LOT more playtesting.”
As is routine in game development now, they’re supporting the game with several bug fixes, and plan to release DLC, like map packs, and possibly an online multiplayer feature, once they figure how to do it. “I actually have no idea how to do proper online. I should probably read up on that so I can decide whether it’s worth it,” Smolej said.
“I’m actually surprised to not see more than a few [complaints] about the lack of a Portal bossfight. I wanted to have something but then the deadline came and punched me in the face,” Guégan said. But he doesn’t rule it out from making its way in through an update. And about those hats: “Maybe I should add the feature to actually equip more than 1 hat at a time in an update.”
The 1.4 update is out, and things are looking stable, giving Guégan and Smolej some much needed rest. They haven’t even properly celebrated yet. “Once we meet up again before Gamescom we’ll probably high five and have a beer or something,” Smolej said. “Maybe I’ll order a pizza once we hit a million downloads,” Guégan said.
So, what’s next for Stabyourself.net? Android development. Smolej said they want to create “something new that we can put on the market to make a cent or two.” Guégan thinks some of their older games would lend well to the mobile platform.
What’s terrifying, is the answer I got when I asked for a new idea of a mashup of two classic games: “We have this idea where we mix Big Rigs with Superman 64.” After playing MariO, something tells me I’d only play it if they were the ones behind it.