An interview with Vicarious PR

Besides writing and talking about game design, I also do a lot of interviews with developers and people all across the industry. For this interview, I spoke with Michael Brown who is the CEO of Vicarious PR about what indie marketing means today. If you’re an indie dev who is working on a game and would like to talk to me about it, you can reach me on social media or send me an email at josh@game-wisdom.com

The Verge interviews Ron Gilbert on Return to Monkey

Link. Information in the article includes screenshots, the team, and the news that they’ve been working remotely. Hype is running high for a new 2D Monkey Island game. The last trip to this well was Telltale’s episodic 3D take Tales of Monkey Island, which was appreciated but some thought was lacking.

Phil Fish on Fez’s 10th Anniversary

Screenshot courtesy my own personal 209.4%, 64 cube, three heart-cube game

Eurogamer’s Robert Purchese got in contact with early indie superstar turned recluse Phil Fish, creator of the brilliant Fez on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the game’s initial publishing.

Fez was eagerly anticipated in development for several years, and Fish was one of the subjects of the movie Indie Game. It was the subject of tremendous applause when released, winning the both the Seumas McNally Grand Prize and Eurogamer’s Game of the Year in 2012, as well as Indiecade Best in Show in 2011, . For some idea of how long ago that was, the 2011 winner of the Seumas McNally Grand Prize was freaking Minecraft.

But then, at the height of its popularity, Phil Fish got into an argument on the center of all internet strife, that place where sanity goes to die: Twitter. He would cancel Fez’s sequel and swear off game development. He returned briefly in 2014 at what would turn out to be exactly the wrong time, the shameful era of GamerGate, before going underground again.

It was something of a coup that Robert Purchese got an interview with him. If I had known it was something one could just do I might have considered it myself.

Phil Fish’s Fez remains one of the outstanding achievements of the early days of indie game culture, and his being basically hounded out of it during GamerGate remains an egregious travesty.

Link Roundup 4/15/22

“Coming to you from the planet Koozebane”

Jeremy Parish’s NES Works looks at Robot Block (the original R.O.B. game in Japan), Geimos and 10-Yard Fight

Hardcore Gaming 101 covers No One Lives Forever: The originalThe sequelContact J.A.C.K.

Simon Carless’s Game Discoverability Newsletter takes a look at game ownership stats uncovered from a survey of 5,000 Switch owners

And for bargain hunters, GOG is having a sale on indie games, up until the 18th.

Game Boy Camera Virtual Art Gallery

From Cat Graffam on Twitter, the Game Boy Camera Art Gallery is a Game Boy rom image, in the form of an RPG-style walkaround, showing off photos taken with Nintendo’s crazy and awesome little heavily-dithered, 4-color foray into 90s digital photography. It can be viewed in-browser or as a downloadable rom, or you can purchase a cartridge with it for use on your own Game Boy or Game Boy-compatible hardware! Here are a few works from the compilation:

Nicole Express: Tengen’s NES Chips

The always-wonderful retro gaming and hardware info site Nicole Express has a great post about the chips that Tengen (a subsidiary of Atari) used in their cartridges! Tengen is a special case among NES developers, in that while a Nintendo licensee they got to use their own mapper, from Namco, but went and manufactured their own ASICs when they split off from Nintendo’s licensing program. The deets are all in the article!

Nicole Express’ archives are well worth a look, which among other items hosts their article on Zaxxon and Future Spy. They have interesting games to play on their itch.io page too! Have I used enough exclamation points yet?!

The Hidden Structure of the Overworld of Link’s Awakening

pmorinerie (on Mastodon @pmorinerie@mastodon.xyz) has been working on a full disassembly of the fourth Legend of Zelda game, Link’s Awakening on the Game Boy, and has a series of articles they’ve written about interesting technical aspects they’ve found.

One of their discoveries is of a hidden structure to the overworld of that game. Their discussion of this is fascinating, and should be referred to if you have an interest in such things. I will give a broad summary here.

The Game Boy was not given much VRAM for storing graphics. To avoid bus conflicts, the CPU that runs the system only has access to VRAM, to store new background tile information, either during VBLANK, a specific time each frame when the PPU circuitry isn’t accessing memory, or by blanking the screen entirely, which is only really feasible during major transitions, like through a door or into a hole. So, the system is limited in how quickly it can store new tiles during play.

Link’s Awakening stores two kinds of tiles in its VRAM. Most of them are from a set that’s used throughout the overworld, but a small number are overwritten, used for different purposes as Link explores the landscape. The overworld is separated into 2×2 blocks, and each can have its own set of these customized tiles.

There is a problem with this setup, however. When Link changes screens, like in the original Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past, the screen transition scrolls smoothly between the areas. During the scroll, briefly, it’s possible for elements from two different screens to be displayed at once. How does the program handle situations where the custom tiles have two different definitions between screens?

The answer is that the overworld is cleverly designed so that there aren’t adjacent screens with walkable passages between them that use different sets of custom tiles. There are screens in the game that only use tiles from the main overworld set, and all of the places with passages between the screens with custom tiles have one of them, as a kind of memory airlock, to prevent glitches during transitions. It’s pretty clever.

If this is interesting to you, I encourage you to read the whole article, especially for the exceptional cases where the system breaks down and they had to find other ways to keep the screen from glitching.

In-browser System 7 and Mac OS 8 emulation

When I was a kid, having this to work on would have seemed like heaven.

Mihai Parparita (@mihai on Twitter) presents a couple of Classic Mac emulators in-browser, with a good number of programs and games available by default: https://system7.app/ and https://macos8.app/.

The Internet Archive offers in-browser versions of MAME these days for running lots of games. Mihai’s blog post on the sites mentions many of the giants on whose shoulders he stands, including an in-browser version of the Classic Mac emulator Basilisk II. What these sites add is built-in software, including games and productivity software, to use on your virtual Macs, and ways to get files into and out of the emulation easily.

Nethackathon 2022

April 15th through the 17th, a group of 24 streamers will be playing classic roguelike NetHack for 48 straight hours on Twitch! Their site is at nethackathon.org, and they’re on Twitter. Last year’s marathon can be found archived on YouTube.

They did a similar stream last year in the month of September, but this year they’ve moved it to April in order to space themselves better around the two major NetHack tournaments in June and November.

What is that? You don’t know anything about NetHack? Oh boy, I get to explain it again-it’s a venerable roguelike game that’s been in existence for 34 years! The first version of NetHack is older than the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It began during the presidency of Ronald Reagan! While there have been lulls in its development, and at least one major member of its dev team, Izchak Miller, passed away years ago, it’s still going, and it’s still being worked on. It’s notable for its high difficulty, the large amount of information a player must assimilate to be successful, and for its high degree of fairness (although sometimes it doesn’t seem fair)

NetHack comes across as like a solo adventure in an old school first-edition AD&D megadungeon. It’s full of monsters with weird properties, you have to figure out what your items do, and every game is randomly generated.

An Indie Dev Showcase

Hello everyone. I’m Josh from Game-Wisdom and I’ll be uploading my video series, the Indie Dev Showcase here for Set Side B, along with indie game reviews. Each week, I cover indie games on my youtube channel and then use these videos to highlight the many games I play. If you’re an indie dev with a game you would like me to look at, please reach out. This one, in particular, is my 100th video in the series, and I’m taking a look back at the many great and hidden gems of the indie space I covered, which is perfect for a site like this.

  • 0:00 Introduction
  • 1:14 Alwa’s Legacy
  • 1:48 Lumote
  • 2:54 BoyandBox
  • 4:11 Sky Racket
  • 5:08 Intergalactic Fishing
  • 6:38 What the Golf
  • 7:25 The Hex
  • 8:35 PokeyPoke
  • 9:48 Shapez.Io
  • 11:08 Keen One Girl Army
  • 12:34 Candy Raid The Factory
  • 14:06 Gloom
  • 15:32 Final Upgrade
  • 16:46 Professor Lupo: Ocean
  • 18:02 Webbed
  • 19:06 Dojoran
  • 20:08 Kunai
  • 21:17 Leap of Fate
  • 22:35 Quantum Protocol
  • 24:05 Time Break Chronicles
  • 25:09 Vision Soft Reset
  • 25:56 Morkredd
  • 26:50 Siralim Ultimate
  • 27:53 Loveland
  • 28:40 The Dungeon Beneath
  • 29:39 Hoplegs
  • 30:16 Boy Beats World
  • 30:59 Turbo Overkill
  • 31:40 Prodigal
  • 32:46 Ghostlore

Indie Gaming: Hyperbolica

The ceiling beams and walls in this screenshot are not curved! They only look warped because they’re in a hyperbolic universe….

I did a Q&A with the creator of Hyperbolica for Game Developer a few months ago. It’s out now, on itch.io and Steam!

It’s really an awesome idea: an exploratory kind of game set in a hyperbolic space. If you’re wondering how someone could even make such a thing, developer CodeParade did a great series of YouTube videos on how he made it. Hyperbolica neatly upsets many of your intuitions of how basic motion and rotation work. It uses the processes of playing video games to communicate ideas in a deeply intuitive way.

If this looks like your kind of thing, you might consider looking into ZenoRogue’s HyperRogue (SteamAndroid), which is a one-hit roguelike set on a hyperbolic plane. Or the similarly brain-bending Manifold Garden from William Chyr (SteamSwitchXboxPS Store).

The Mana World is coming to Steam!

The ‘Mana Launcher’ App appeared on Steam. Slated to be release on December 1st, this open source MMO has entered a new phase of development.

The Mana World (TMW) is a free 2d open-source MMORPG. With a team of volunteer developers, it has been a labor of love for a decade, and on April 5th they celebrated officially getting on Steam.

Explore the multiple unique universes. The Mana world team is focused on building detailed worlds, unique quests using classic retro graphics. Currently you will find four unique universes that are being developed into it’s own unique world.

It is my hope the community will blossom with its release to steam.

I am quickly reminded of Tibia online or Nexus: The Kingdom of Winds as I was learning the ropes. I was greeted with a few players willing to help me warm up to the universe and get started. TWM has a unique retro style questing system and a magic system not for the casual gamer. If you are looking for a new 2d home I would recommend exploring ‘The Mana World.’

It even works on ARM computers!


If you can’t wait until December 1st for the release of ‘Mana Launcher’ on Steam, you can download the client today at The Mana World and explore the magic of this retro-style MMO.