Iron Maiden: A Matter of Life and Death

iron-maiden-a-matter-of-life-and-deathUse the cursor keys and your mouse in this all-action shoot ’em up. Kill anything that moves, including zombies, parachutists and more. Don’t forget to reload by ducking behind the defensive wall.

This was my first big game with Hyperlaunch, promoting Iron Maiden’s new album ‘A Matter of Life and Death’. A build time of a couple of weeks allowed us to push the boat out more than we had done before, and add effects and flair for the sake of polish, rather than just getting the minimum done. The result is a game that plays well, and looks and sounds great. It was played by over 3 million people worldwide, which was a huge success for the campaign.


The game features destructable baddies that you can hit in all sorts of places for different effects and scores. For example, shooting a parachute a number of times makes it collapse, but you can get more points for hitting the tiny zombie figure on the chute itself. He can even be seen dropping his rifle and slumping on his ropes, and you can still take out the chute for even more points. This worked really well, and people who liked the game and wanted a deeper experience would learn how to maximise their points from each baddie.

There are 3D bullets too! I spent a fair bit of time getting them just right, including having them drop off in their trajectory in the far distance. The interraction between 3D bullets and the essentially 2D game engine worked surprisingly well too, with bullets being hit-tested as they passed through a particular Z-depth. I expected that to feel wrong and look unfair, but you just don’t notice what a faux-effect it is when playing! In fact, this is a game entirely made by it’s gutteral feel. Essentially all there is to do is click on targets that pop up, and reload occasionally. Having the atmosphere just right really makes it work.

The bullets even ricochet off objects. On the third level, this is really noticable with the tank turret. Bouncing bullets can still hit baddies, and it can be a surprisingly effective way to take things like parachutes out. Again, these tiny subtle features all add to the overall experience and help produce depth that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

On reflection now, the sound stage is a little overpowered by the music. I spent quite a bit of time getting things like the ratatatat of the machine gun just right, and it gets drowned out by the Iron Maiden song. Not that I don’t like the song of course, it’s excellent!

This game really reflects how essential a good graphic artist is to a project. The artist involved was superb, not just in his artistry but also in understanding the requirements I gave him in terms of how I was going to build the game. I’ve worked with lots of artists who can produce a pretty picture of a game, but only the top few can produce it in such a way that it’s then easy to convert it into working software. It’s not just about organising assets to be easy to work with (although that does help), it’s also about things like effeciency of design so that good-looking effects can be built up from a minimum of runtime elements, which helps keep performance brisk.

The only bit of artistry that didn’t quite work as we’d have liked was Eddie’s gun-arm. As it bends around the screen, it flips to some pretty unnatural and disturbing looking angles!

Lessons learned:

  • Add subtlty in gameplay wherever possible
  • Work with the best graphic artist available for maximum win!
  • A big name client helps considerably

One response to "Iron Maiden: A Matter of Life and Death"

  1. Creeper says:

    I’m one of the 3 million people that played it on its moment. Didn’t participate on the contest,though. I was too far away from London, heh heh. Brings back good memories, when I was still a kid. 🙂

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