What We’re Playing 11/18/2022

John Harris: I’ve been playing a ton of Glitch revival Odd Giants, which I mentioned last month. It’s incomplete but still under development, and the original game was never complete anyway. I might write something more on it in the near future.

Josh Bycer: I just started playing Warriors of the Nile 2. it’s a tactical strategy game with roguelike elements too, a lot of ways to break the game with the right skills and every character has their own abilities and strategies to use.

Phil Nelson: I finally have been playing the recent Marvel’s Spider-Man games and Miles Morales really does kick ass as a game most of the time, but I still run into some bullshit. In a more just world we’d have a proper Spider-Man roguelike.

I like how Josh and Phil are talking about roguelikes, and I’m really into an old non-violent MMORPG with like maybe 100 players. I’ve always got to be contrary I guess.

Roguelike Celebration: Joel Ryan on Creating the Sil-Q Tileset

Sil-Q is an Angband variant. Joel Ryan, aka MicroChasm, made its tileset which shows a lot of care in its creation. Sil-Q’s tiles are modular, so humanoid monsters can hold weapons, and also have strong silhouettes to aid recognition. It’s full of the kinds of concerns pixel artists have to worry about!

Silhouettes of various monsters in Sil-Q
As a bonus, the talk provides this lineage of Sil-Q!

Dizzy Dwarves Developer Interview

For this Perceptive Podcast, I spoke with one of the designers about the mobile game Dizzy Dwarves about starting their first major game development, working on mobile in today’s market, and more.

Wobbledogs comes to Switch

There are dozens of new indie games every month (ask blogmate Josh Bycer about that!), and it can be very difficult for any to stand out. One that has for me is Tom Astle’s Wobbledogs (Steam) a bizarre pet sim involving raising sorta-dogs in a physics system, feeding and caring for them, and mutating them as they progress through their life cycle, which involves hatching from eggs, and sometimes spinning a cocoon around themselves and mutating into a new form. Like dogs do.

Image from the game’s Steam page

Well this post is just to inform you that Wobbledogs is now on the Nintendo Switch! No one paid us for this notice-I’m just an enthusiast. That’s everything on this site-enthusiastic.

Romhack Thursday: Zelda in Low Res

On Romhack Thursdays, we bring you interesting finds from the world of game modifications.

When people think about NES games, they often think of pixel art. Big chunky pixels! It’s one of the defining aesthetics of our era. The NES occupies a niche between the truly blocky graphics of the Atari VCS era and the 16-bit consoles, which don’t have a much greater resolution than the NES (since the limitations of CRT displays were a big factor), but had a much greater color depth that could help smooth things out.

But it can be interesting, visually, to try to find a middle ground between the Atari and the NES. That is where the subject of this post comes in: The Legend of Zelda Chunky Edition, a graphics hack by Zero Meaning.

There are no words for how much I love this look!

Only the graphics have changed, and just to make them more blocky, instead of the prevailing trend for remakes, which is to make them less so. (Oh also, the bright cyan of Link’s Blue Ring tunic has been darkened a bit.)

For some reason, this look suits The Legend of Zelda a lot! The greatest challenge to making it, I think is figuring out how to represent letters and numbers. You can see from the title screen above that the S, R and numeral 8 posed particular challenges, as did the copyright symbol.

There’s not a lot more to say about this one! So here are a few screenshots of Zelda, chunky style.

News 11/16/2022: Freezing Metroid Prime, An Exploding Oculus Set, Mario Galaxy Melancholy

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

Sickr at My Nintendo News found a Twitter thread where former Metroid Prime dev Jack Matthews talked about a situation, after the game’s development, where Nintendo told them that there was a “bad batch” of Gamecube processors in the wild that Metroid Prime would work incorrectly on, with glitchy animation. The game pushed the hardware’s memory bandwidth pretty hard, and it was the only game that would reveal the problem. Nintendo’s solution, rather than replace the affected systems, was to get Retro Studios to get the game working properly on the bad chip. Further, Nintendo only had one dev kit that used the bad chip, and in order to get the situation to occur the had to keep it in the freezer! They had to freeze the kit in the break room while burning a disk for it, then run it back into the studio and save the game in as many places as they could in 15 minutes. Then they had to make their fixes and burn the new code while freezing it again. This was to get the game so that it would work with the bad chip as, being in the days before software updating, Nintendo’s “fix” for the problem was to send this new version of the game to disk and send it to affected customers. Seems weird to me, but it makes for a good story!

Metroid Prime (image from Mobygames)

The news has gone around a bit, but Kyle Orland at Ars Technica tells us that Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey has created a headset that’s designed to kill the wearer if they fail in the game. It uses explosive charges to detect when the screen shows a certain shade of red used in the Game Over screen to “instantly destroy the brain of the user.” Oh, joy. Luckey says it’s just a piece of office art at the moment, but it has actually been constructed. It seems almost designed to be game news blog fodder, something to keep Oculus talked about while Meta is going through its recent troubles. Anyway, we’re fans of permadeath as a design concept here, but this seems like it might be taking it a bit too far? And how do you even test it? Oh, also, why on earth would anyone even want to create such a horrible thing?

Steven T. Wright at Gamespot talks with someone who taught himself how to to repair old CRT monitors for use in retro game setups. There is considerable demand in repairing these old CRTs, since classic games look and (because they have minimal display lag) play much better on them. Particularly old professional-grade monitors like PVTs, which were quite expensive when they were made, are great for this. Some of his information comes from old personal homepages, another legacy of the oldweb that we’re finding ourselves increasingly obsessed with.

At The Verge, Andrew Webster reviews Digital Eclipse’s new Atari 50 compilation, which he calls “the best attempt at a retro collection I’ve ever experienced.” Digital Eclipse does great work! It’s full of interviews and the context around the games. Sadly games with licenses, which includes the infamous E.T. on the VCS/2600, are not included. Also, later arcade games that were made after Atari was split into home electronics and arcade companies are not included, so anything in arcades from Marble Madness on won’t be in there, which is a huge shame.

Super Mario Galaxy (image from Mobygames)

And, also from Gamespot, Grace Benfell talks about how Super Mario Galaxy’s setting and melancholy air brings a depth almost completely lacking in other games in the series. It’s a nice and meditative piece.

The Evolution of Decision and Cancel Buttons

Image from the blog in question. I presume they got it elsewhere.

ABA (who makes great tiny games BTW) linked to a Japanese blog post that goes over the traditional “decision” and “cancel” buttons on a miscellany of game systems. The link is to the Google Translated version of it; here is the original. It’s fearsomely detailed!

RetroGamerNation Covers New VIC-20 Games For 2022

The Commodore VIC-20, Commodore’s first attempt at a budget color home computer, often gets lets out of the spotlight in favor of its more capable successor, the Commodore 64. Back at release it had significantly limited RAM even for the time, only 5K, and it also had only eight colors for general use, simple sound, and no hardware sprites. Even so, it did all right in the market, but was quickly overshadowed by Commodore’s more powerful followup.

But all of these factors mean that making substantial games for it is both a more interesting challenge, and a lot more impressive when it’s done well. Youtube channel RetroGamerNation did a roundup video of interesting VIC games made in 2022. Remember, when watching these videos, the VIC had no sprites. I personally like the look of Flood. Most of these games require significant RAM expansion to run (on the VIC-20, “significant” means at least 16 kilobytes), but many people who try them out will be running them on an emulator anyway, and one of the games actually runs on an unexpanded VIC.

RetroGamerNation: Commodore VIC-20 Games Roundup For 2022 (Youtube)

ZOR: Pilgrimage of the Slorfs Developer Interview

For this Perceptive Podcast I sat down with Righteous Hammer Games’s Clint Jorgenson to discuss the work on his deckbuilding survival tactical game Zor: Pilgrimage of the Slorfs. We talked about going from AAA to indie, and the many challenges indie developers face.

U Can Beat Video Games: Super Mario Bros 3

We’re brought up U Can Beat Video Games before (here’s all of the videos they’ve done to date, and here is their home page with a merch store), but this time they’ve covered Super Mario Bros. 3 in their typically completionist style, covering every level and every secret in the entire game. Sometimes they split a long game into two or even three videos, but not this time, this one video goes through the whole game, and it’s three hours and 23 minutes long! The other reason to link them this time is it’s their 100th video!

They’ve done some other interesting games since the last time we linked them, which was when they covered A Link To The Past. Some particular games they’ve done in the meantime:

Even if you don’t have an interest in seeing these games taken apart so thoroughly, many people enjoy using their videos as background while doing other things. In a Youtube environment where video makers feel encouraged to go nuts with editing and fill their footage with distracting noises, UCBVG is a model for how to create interesting and informative videos. They are great! And they have a couple of adorable dogs who appear in every video, too!