Category Archives: Airport Madness: Time Machine

When the Heck is AM5 Releasing?

AMTM_2172_screenshotHere is another screenshot teaser of Airport Madness: Time Machine.  The above shot is ‘the future’, 2172 to be exact.  It doesn’t look like much without the aircraft, which have a very futuristic look and behavior.  Basically, we feel that in the future, planes will be bigger and faster.  Airports will be designed more efficiently.  And yes, there will still be runways.

The official release date is “May”, with quotation marks around it.  That means May 31, at midnight.  Honolulu time, if you get my drift.  Airport Madness: Time Machine is progressing nicely, but taking forever.  Most of the artwork is done, now it’s on to fixing bugs, adding sound effects, music and polish.  Oh, and testing, almost forgot that one. I’m always amazed by how much the to-do list grows at the last minute.  Fore a while there, I actually thought we’d be launching on May 1.

I’ve got a month still, so I’m not panicking yet.  You will know when we are panicking, because you won’t hear a peep from us.  Not an email, nor a tweet.  Not a blog, facebook update, newsletter, or YouTube video.  This game will be a good one!

AMTM Progress

Airport Madness: Time Machine is progressing nicely.  If things seem quiet around the website lately, it’s because we are hard at work on our current project. I’ve promised you all that this game will be ready by May.  Wow, I sure am good at setting challenging goals for myself, aren’t I?  May should be do-able.  I’m sticking with May.

blogImageSo far I’ve bragged about all of the stuff I am ripping out of Airport Madness in this version, such as radar and pilot voices, but I haven’t elaborated much on what’s getting added.  The coolest part of AMTM definitely has to be the story, which is based on the history of aviation with a few twists.    Each level begins with a popup, introducing the current year, what’s new, as well as a newspaper that describes the real-life aviation events that took place in that year.  As much as I love this newspaper feature, it’s taken a bite out of my time and pushed back the launch date by more than a week.  This is the story of my game development career.  I come up with an idea that a few folks will look at and say, “Hey, neat”, then I spend an inappropriate amount of time creating it.  My new motto should be, “If it’s not adding fun, don’t do it”.  Oh, well.  I will learn for next time.  What number are we at now, Airport Madness 5?

The heaviest workload has been endured mainly by our artist, who has had the task of managing the growth of an airport against aviation history’s timeline.  You see, we add new detail to the airport in 6-month increments.  So from 1925 to 1970, the airport evolves with nearly 100 small expansions.  In 1930, for example, we build a beautiful passenger terminal, only to bulldoze it seven years later for a bigger one.   And in 1933, our beautiful farm with it’s red barn gets bulldozed to make way for airport expansion.  A new terminal gets built, which takes nearly three years to complete.  After construction is complete, WWII breaks out and this area becomes a military base.

Another challenge is real estate.  What starts out as a small piece of farmland becomes a busy airfield.  As this field expands, we begin to run out of screen space.  When this happens, we do a zoom-out, which enables us to show you more detail. 1934 is when we first start to run out of room, so we shrink the details to fit.  The next zoom-out happens in 1955.  As the background detail gets shrunken to fit the screen, so must the airplanes shrink, to fit the smaller appearance of runways, taxiways and parking spots.

As usual, I’m running fashionably late with my latest game.  Look for it here next month, and if you haven’t already signed up for our newsletter, be sure to do so, and stay informed of Airport Madness: Time Machine’s release.

Designing Gameplay

So I was playing Airport Madness 2 today, and I managed to beat my old high score of 260,000. In fact, I beat most of today’s high scores, which means I’ve still got it. 20 years of real-world ATC experience was not all for nothing.

With each new version of Airport Madness, sales increase. But I often wonder if that’s only because my following has grown. Is AM4 really as good as AM2 was? I am trying to put my finger on what was really cool about this game in the beginning, and I plan to stick to that like glue.

I’ve learned that making the planes faster does not increase fun. Keeping things slow makes it more challenging, because the decision and it’s consequence are farther apart in time. The fun in AM is predicting whether a takeoff will work. Is it a good decision to ‘line up’ a departure while still waiting for crossing traffic to land? Sometimes we dig ourselves a hole, but fail to get out later on.

I’ve learned that adding pilot voice does not increase fun. Nor does radar. Nor do user profiles. These are gimicky, and will not exist in Airport Madness: Time Machine.

AM1 and AM2 were cool because the airports grew. The reward for playing was the unlocking of runways over time. I truly hope that AMTM will deliver on this. It offers an airport that starts as literally nothing, and grows up to handle 747s, 50 years later.

After building nearly 20 games over the years (autocorrects to tears, LOL) I’ve learned that some aspects of a game can be added immediately before release, but others must be baked in from the beginning. Like, for example, the story. A time machine? Why? Does it matter? I have a rough idea of how I will explain this to players, but there is still time to change my mind.

I copied Angry birds. Well, not completely. I merely stole their concept of short, unlockable levels. In AMTM, if you pass a level, you have the option to move on, or replay the level to earn more stars. I think it’s a good fit for this game. There will be some who want everything unlocked all at once. “I want to play the FINAL level, damnit!” And there will be some who don’t want the levels to be short. Some people like to play for endurance. So I will add a ‘continuous play’ feature.

The good folks at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco think I should add a virtual currency system to the game, so that you have to open your wallets every time you want a special new aircraft or an additional runway. Statistically, there’s more money in it for me if I do. But I truly hate such games. I did this only once, in Approach Control iOS, but it fit. Each additional sector cost a buck. Your game play was not limited in any way, but additional levels were a buck.

I am old-fashioned. I like the idea of offering the product with a front-end price tag. Gimme your money, and the game is yours. The levels are all locked, but that’s your job to unlock them by being the best air traffic controller you can be.

Upcoming Airport Madness 5

While it is true that we have been busy porting some of our games to iOS lately, our priority is always Airport Madness. Our upcoming next version in the series offers an airport that grows and changes over time.

This next version is named (drumroll please)…. “Airport Madness: Time Machine“. That’s right. You time travel. Without spoiling the game’s storyline, let’s just say that the game definitely has story to it.  Check out this teaser video!

As we test the completed parts of our game so far, watching the little grass field slowly develop into a major international airport across a lengthy time span, it feels like watching a child grow into an adult. I’ve given the game a few test plays, and it’s definitely got the “fun” factor. But it’s got something more than just fun play mechanics. It’s an experience. A really neat creation that does not simply describe aviation history to us, but shows it to us, and allows us to interact with it. “AM5” will be particularly special to aviation history buffs, although I don’t look forward to the corrective emails that I am sure to receive. “Hey, the Douglas DC3 did not enter service until 1936.”. Sure, I can’t wait until those start coming in.


Although most of AMTM is based within the 20th century, the image above is from the year 2068. There are only a few key changes to the present day. Most notably: moving taxiways, airships and gyrocopters. In addition to the year 2068, there will also be the opportunity to zoom way ahead, to 2173. What will future airports look like? Our concept is basically what we feel is obvious. Airplanes will become faster and larger. Airports will become more efficient. What we will show you is an airfield where things happen fast. Planes move at ludicrous speeds, and decisions must be made quickly. Thousands of people are moved in and out of the field every minute. We will post a screenshot from the year 2173 shortly. 2173 is the real future airport we’ve mentioned before.

What’s the story?

Oh, yeah.  About that.  You are a training air traffic controller at a small airport, present day. You go on your lunch break. As you exit through the tower basement, you hear a strange humming noise. What is it? A brief investigation leads you into the old ‘equipment room’, essentially the tower’s junk yard for old radar equipment. You fall through the floor. Ouch! Falling through a floor really hurts! But what do you discover? A strange device which takes you back to the year 1925…

This next Airport Madness should be a good one!