I can’t believe it’s been a year since we released Graceful Explosion Machine! Looking back it was such a whirlwind of emotions, before and after launch. So much happened at once and we never really had a moment to reflect on it. In honour of our GEM-iversary I wanted to share the story of Graceful Explosion Machine from inception to now, including our eShop sales figures and our biggest sale yet.
I began prototyping Graceful Explosion Machine in mid-2015. The initial spark was creating a shoot-em-up with multiple weapons that the player could switch between effortlessly. It started with two weapons, but pretty soon I thought “Wait, why stop at two?!” With four face buttons on a controller, wouldn’t four weapons work? It did, and everything else grew from there.
So how did a game I was prototyping on my own eventually end up on the Switch? Like most “Whoa, how did that happen?!” stories, this one was pretty boring. Literally, I just tweeted Damon Baker:
@DWBakes Hi Damon, I’m interested in writing games for the 3DS. I’m in town for the week of and following PAX, can we meet up and chat?
He said yes! That was it! I sat down for a meeting with Kirk Scott at Nintendo HQ. This was way back in 2015, and though we wouldn’t discuss the Switch until more than a year later, this is where it all began.
In 2016 we went into full production, which meant expanding the team from just me to a team of five. The game really started taking shape: Gabby took my programmer art and turned it into something beautiful, Robby came up with the perfect “intense-but-chill” musical direction, and our producers kept us on track. (Shoutout to Nina for wrangling us into a meeting room every week and coaxing status updates out of us!) We were also fortunate enough to exhibit the game at PAX several times with Indie MEGABOOTH.
We learned about the Switch later in the year (with the debut trailer, just like everyone else), and quickly put together a pitch for Nintendo. We were the perfect match: the release dates for GEM and the Switch lined up, and more importantly, our in-house engine meant we weren’t dependent on anyone else to make or break our release date. The folks at Nintendo got it. They responded to our pitch quickly and a few phone calls later we were signed on to be a Nintendo Switch launch title. Everything was going great… but then we actually had to port the game.
In a month.
On a console none of us had ever seen.
We got our dev kit and I went into hiding, determined to not emerge until I had the game running in my hands. There were many days of me sending process shots to the team, and them cheering me on. It was a pretty overwhelming technical challenge at first, but once I got the basics working everything came together quickly. Before we knew it, the whole game was running perfectly on the Switch.
All the while we were still working on finishing up the game. It came right down to the wire: we were at PAX East setting up our booth when I submitted the final build to Nintendo for certification. It was approved just a few days after we got back. (recounting this story to our current producer is giving him a heart attack) In short, it was an intense month.
The stress of shipping the game was softened by the love from press and fans. Our announcement tweet got so much attention that it crashed my Apple Watch. GEM was featured in the inaugural Nindies Showcase for Switch, we were interviewed by Polygon, and on IGN’s excellent NVC Show. When press got their hands on GEM, we received pretty flattering reviews.
(We were also featured in Nintendo’s Cat Mario Show in Japan, which may be the greatest achievement of them all)
The launch itself wildly exceeded our expectations. It’s been a whole year, but I still vividly remember everything: the game going live, watching our sales numbers grow every hour, climbing the eShop charts, and our celebratory Korean BBQ team dinner.
So just how well did it do? To date, Graceful Explosion Machine has sold just under 50,000 copies on the Nintendo Switch. This is such a remarkable achievement for our humble little game! We continued to support the game (with features like the new score screen, highlight screenshots, and video capture) and continue to be amazed by (and grateful for) the community’s support and enthusiasm. Most importantly, GEM’s success put us in a strong position to get back to work…
Speaking of which! We are definitely working on a new game, and we’re excited to share it with you… but not just yet. For now, let’s state the obvious: it’s an action game, it’s colourful, and it’s coming to Nintendo Switch in 2019. Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to hear about it.
Until then though, we want to celebrate our first year anniversary with our biggest sale yet. Graceful Explosion Machine is 50% off on the Nintendo Switch eShop (and Steam as well) starting today, for one week only.
Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me!
(Special Thanks to Shae Humphries for our gorgeous, brand new key art at the top of the post!)
We have a small (but pretty cool!) update out for Graceful Explosion Machine today which adds Video Capture support for Nintendo Switch. Now when you pull of a particularly graceful run, you can just hold down the capture button and share.
We’re excited to check out all the cool videos you post, so please make sure to share them with us on Twitter!
I’ve mention this a few times on Twitter, but a final reminder before the month is out: our debut game, WE ARE DOOMED is free on PlayStation Plus for September 2017. It looks and plays great on PS4, but it absolutely shines on the PS Vita as the perfect pick up & play game.
WE ARE DOOMED is an intense, neon-soaked twin-stick shooter. It arms the player with an overpowered laserbeam and the more ridiculous SUPERBEAM, then throws in an endless barrage of polygon baddies. It’s a tiny arcade game that I’m glad we were naive enough to build.
Going back and playing it now, I’m happy to see it holds up quite well! Playing it after Graceful Explosion Machine though, I’m especially proud of how far we’ve come as a team since then.
For more info, I’d recommend this excellent video review by Ludiscere. I couldn’t help but smile at his conclusion:
It’s without a doubt an enjoyable game, [but] hypothetically if you were going to pay for only one [game] Graceful Explosion Machine is definitely the way to go.
And despite how much I still enjoy We Are Doomed, I’m inclined to agree.
Graceful Explosion Machine is out now on PlayStation 4 and Steam! You can find store links and more info on the game page.
We also put together a new launch trailer. It really captures the intense gameplay and chill vibes that Graceful Explosion Machine is all about.
We wanted to do something on the Switch as well, so we decided to have our first-ever sale! From now until August 15th, GEM is 30% off in North America and Europe. That’s just $8.99 / €8.99! If you were on the fence before now is a great time to jump in.
Regardless of which platform you decide to play on, we hope you enjoy Graceful Explosion Machine! 🚀✨
Graceful Explosion Machine is coming to PlayStation 4 and Steam on August 8th, just two weeks from now.
The folks at Sony were kind enough to give us space on the PlayStation Blog to break the news. GEM feels right at home on the PS4, with Trophies (yes, including a Platinum), leaderboards, 1080p, 60fps, and most importantly, swapping the Lightbar colour based on your active weapon.
GEM will also be available on Steam on the same day, and you can Wishlist it today!
Finally, we worked with our friends at Kakehashi Games to bring GEM to Japan for Switch, PS4 and Steam. Switch players won’t even have to wait: GEM will be available on the Japanese eShop tomorrow!
After launching GEM, we were overwhelmed with how enthusiastically everyone took to high score chasing, S-ranking, and sharing scores on Twitter, so we started thinking: how can we make this even better?
We started by redesigning the score screen to give a clearer breakdown of your score, weapon usage, and additional stats that better reflect your play style. It’s both fun and functional.
We also wanted to make it easier to capture and share those clutch GEM moments. Once you’re in the zone, we know it’s hard to stop the game even for a few seconds to grab a screenshot, so we had to come up with a really creative solution.
Or, more accurately, a really technical one: We designed an AI system to pinpoint the most exciting moment of your run, which we then automagically screenshot and display on the score screen. You can fullscreen it, add it to your Album, share it, etc.
(Oh, one more thing! I got really excited looking for a new programming challenge one day and optimized the heck out of the loading code. It started as a quick, easy-peasy thing, but then it kinda spiralled out of control. Long story short: the game loads almost twice as fast now.)
These new features are coming to PS4 and Steam when the game launches on August 8th, but are available to Switch players right now! We hope you enjoy, and we’re looking forward to checking out your killer scores and gorgeous screenshots!
An update for Graceful Explosion Machine is now available, it should be downloading on your Switch as we speak!
So what’s new? With this update, we wanted to focus on adding “quality of life” features to make GEM a little more frictionless to play. To that end, we have two new features:
We’ve heard from people playing GEM on trains, buses, at work, etc. who get really great high scores, but can’t upload them because they aren’t online. This breaks our collective developer hearts, so for v1.0.2 we’ve added Upload Score Later.
From the Score Screen, choose “Later” instead of “Submit Score” to save your score for uploading later. Then, when you’re back online, go to the main menu and select “Upload Scores” (by pressing X) to upload all the pending scores. (And don’t worry, if it fails to upload you can retry later!)
We also added the option to reduce or disable the Screenshake effect. If you have motion sickness related concerns, this should really help. It may not be perfect (our options are limited given what a fast-paced game GEM is), but it’s definitely an improvement!
Those are the major changes, and of course, we snuck in some smaller fixes too. We also have more new stuff in the works, but we’ll save that for another day!
New Graceful Explosion Machine screenshots. ✨
We debuted Graceful Explosion Machine at PAX East 2016, and it went super well. Everyone totally “got” the game, had lovely things to say about it, and quite a few people returned to play through the demo again.
As always, I especially enjoyed the post-playthrough chats, listening to players’ thoughts, and amassing pages of feedback/notes.
Relevant and exciting links:
Warp Zoned named GEM one of their Best Of PAX East games! The entire list is worth reading through, and it’s a total honour to be on there.
The DG Cast has a nice write up as well, going over the basics and core mechanics.
Finally, I was on the Indie [Dot] XSplit Showcase, where I talked about and played Graceful Explosion Machine for a whole 25 minutes or so. Please enjoy the footage, and also, my almost-entirely drained vocal chords.