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Episode 37: Full Quiet



A Homebrew Draws Near!

A blog series by @Scrobins

Episode 37: Full Quiet



I’ve frequently praised new homebrew for both giving us new gems in beloved genres, and for pushing the limits of homebrew closer to the heights of the console’s licensed era. But for all the achievements developers have collectively reached, one peak remained to be summited: scale. While myriad games have proven so addictive, fans will pour hours into them, we have not yet received the games that require hours, days, and more just to unfold the story. Until now. The nature of homebrew and indie games is such that larger projects will take more time, especially without the corporate budgets to propel them, though impatient fans make for a good substitute for screaming corporate executives. But now that the day has come, it was well worth the wait.

For this entry, I’m covering Full Quiet, a game that defies genre with its elements of mystery, adventure, and puzzle solving for the NES by Retrotainment Games. As of the time of this writing, Kickstarter backers have received their orders, and the game can be played digitally on Steam here, purchased for the Nintendo Switch here, for the Xbox here, and physical copies are available for purchase here.


Regular Edition CIB


Development Team:

Greg Caldwell: director, story/lore

@IBtiM(Tim Hartman): producer, concept design

Damian Yerrick: lead programmer

Zachary Curl: lead background artist

@humanthomas(Thomas Cippollone): lead audio, level design, concept design

Andrew Burger: lead animator, concept design

Doug Fraker: additional programming

Oskar Alvarado: regular edition box & manual art

Jim Rugg: limited edition box art


Game Evolution:

Full Quiet’s signal came in loud and clear, launching its Kickstarter on September 1, 2017, and starting a thread promoting the game on NintendoAge that same day. Backer tiers included a Steam key for the game; Steam keys for Retrotainment’s Haunted Halloween games; a swag bag that included a t-shirt, sticker, and pins; a cart-only option; regular edition CIB; limited edition CIB plus test cartridge to help the dev team with debugging; and the ability to have your likeness in the game. By the time the campaign’s broadcast was over and out, 509 backers had pledged more than $32,000. Test carts were sent out in May of 2021, and the completed game began shipping out in December 2022.


Full Quiet Test Cart



Full Quiet describes itself as…well actually it doesn’t pigeonhole itself into any particular genre. Simply put, it’s a new experience, mixing together a little bit of a lot. Like if the Coen brothers made a video game. You play as a resilient man of the woods, whose son has gone missing. You venture into the woods in search of him, all the while solving puzzles, repairing the radio grid, battling monsters, and rediscovering long forgotten secrets & lore, putting your survival skills to the test. A variety of equipment will help you map the area, track your location, communicate, monitor distant movement, and keep enemies away.

Gameplay consists of exploring the woods and caves, overcoming the enemies and obstacles that would try to slow you. Controls are delightfully complex: the D-pad enables you to move and shift your view of the screen to see higher and lower, aim in 8 directions, and turn dials; the A-button allows you to jump, insert fuses to repair equipment, and adjust radio amplitude; the B-button fires weapons and places lures; the Start button causes you to dive; and the Select button opens/closes your PDA and changes radio wave forms. A creative reinvention of D-pad functionality has you aim downward when you press down, crouch when you double tap down, and place rope. Pressing up can also pick up rope, and when pressed while jumping allows you to grab ledges to climb up or swing to other platforms.


Screenshot from Full Quiet



Full Quiet is a masterpiece from a team that has been impressing the community since they first appeared on the scene. This game reflects what is possible when time, love, and attention are poured into game development. Full Quiet may have won the facetious “race” to release against Mystic Searches, Former Dawn, Halcyon, and Space Soviets, but rushed this was not. The careful detail and complex gameplay make for an immersive challenge that will keep players hooked. We are thrown into the water of its story and learning how to play but are rewarded for learning how to swim. Exploration feels like being in the middle of a sci-fi psychological thriller, wandering from screen to screen, retracing our steps, and realizing that a detail in the background had more meaning than we assumed at first glance. The puzzles are exhilarating challenges that feel enmeshed in the story, with you feeling the stakes imposed on your character. Similarly, the use of a day/night cycle that marks the passage of time further draws players in, conveying the urgency of your mission and the peril of wasting time. At first you stick with the game because you don’t want to put it down until you feel like you know what to do. But then you can’t put it down because you know what to do, and you feel compelled to see how far the latest unlocked secret will take you.

One would think a game set in the woods couldn’t have much variety in its graphics and color palette, but with Full Quiet you wouldn’t just be wrong, you’d be dead. Careful attention to detail and subtle movement will help you spot what hides among the trees. Offering a lot to see in its scenery, Full Quiet plays with its environment, creating a space where you can get lost but have the means to find your way and survive. The dark colors, save for the ever-changing sky, create a sense of claustrophobia that does not relent until you find safety or a more open space that feels like a breath of relief. The sprites complement this paranoia with its you-against-nature (or unnature?) as you stick out with your outdoorsman garb while many enemies blend in. Many games are content to create enemies that thematically match their environment, but in Full Quiet they are truly incorporated. Meanwhile the game’s music is beautiful but eerie, an atmospheric soundtrack with a classic Nintendo feel. At the beginning of the game there is no music, but a subsequent screen begins to play a tune very low, with a gradual crescendo, conveying your approach to something…safety? Danger? Your entry into this quest? Indeed, the choices of music and sound intertwine to bolster the psychological horror you must endure with each step deeper into the dark.



Can’t stop to admire the view, there’s death in them thar hills



I opened lines of communication with Full Quiet’s development team to learn more about what may go bump in the night deep in those dark woods…



Retrotainment Games


-Before we dive into Full Quiet, I would love to talk about you and your backgrounds. What first inspired you to become homebrew developers, directors, and producers? What is your origin story and the story behind Retrotainment Games?

Tim and I got into this retro world through chiptunes. We come from a music background, playing in bands together, recording music, etc… Tim found some chiptune artists online who were using LSDJ and we thought it was super cool. We went to our first MAGfest just to check out a few musicians and learned more about the retro world at large. From there we started seeking out more info on how this music was being created, then we learned how NES hacks were done, and finally how homebrew games were made. It captivated us and so we set out to make an NES game about Halloween (our favorite holiday), thinking it would likely just be a one-off, fun project… something cool to hang our hats on. We dug into the Nerdy Nights tutorial to start making the game ourselves and along the way teamed up with super talented people who we formed a team with. We cannot say enough about the importance of the NES homebrew community, without which we would not be here. But now we’re four games in and we’re still working on projects together as a team that we’re really passionate about.


-In addition to being game developers, you previously owned and operated Cash-In Culture Games, a video game store in Pennsylvania, where you are based. Do you feel that your experiences running the store informed the work you do at Retrotainment Games?

I don’t think there was much crossover other than seeing how passionate others were about retro gaming. We did think we might be able to sell some copies of ‘85 through the store but the reality is that most retro gamers just want the classics. Totally understandable, but we do think we opened some eyes to the world of NES homebrew through the store, at least a little.


The old Cash-In Culture storefront in Greensburg, PA


-Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now?

Personally, I don’t really know enough about the gaming industry to have influences. I don’t follow any game dev outside of my friends in the NES community who ask me to playtest or who have games at conventions that I get to attend. I know the rest of the crew is more in tune with what’s going on in the gaming world. I just mostly hear about things once they’re released. It’s pretty sad when I think about it… I wish I had more time to get excited about things.


-How would you describe your design aesthetic, what to you are the hallmarks of a game made by you?

The games have to have something unique about them, I guess. We’re always looking for ways to mash up different ideas or create stuff that the NES has not seen before. We love pushing the envelope, testing the limits and challenging ourselves to make new things.


-Though Full Quiet is a very different game from the Haunted Halloween series, they all have a fun, spooky horror vibe to them. What about this genre resonates so much for you?

Our love of Halloween definitely oozes out into our projects. Also, the NES restrictions sorta keep us in the fun, spooky realm instead of the bloody, horror side of things. We just like weird, interesting things in general and the genre allows for that.


-What tools do you use to code and create?

We have been using Pyxel Edit for the art but we’re transitioning (although I’m struggling) to Aseprite. Outside of that we just use Notepad++, nothing fancy or interesting. We do create our own custom tools for working directly with our game engines to help make the process more efficient.


-Where did the initial idea for Full Quiet come from?

Two different game idea conversations that happened close to each other in time lead to Full Quiet - one with Zack about exploring a contiguous space set in the forest and one with Tim about hunting bigfoots. Things obviously changed and grew a lot from there, but those two were the initial ideas that came together. Then we brought in our love for other things in the game like the strange creatures, maps, ham radios, Morse code, etc…


-What is the working dynamic like across the whole team at Retrotainment Games generally? How did you first connect with everyone else on the team?

There’s nothing formulaic about what we’ve done over the years, each game’s dev cycle has been different. The key things are that we try to work through ideas as a team and that everyone understands that things evolve over time. Rarely does anything ever come out of the gates feeling right, everything takes iteration and revision to make it work, especially on the NES where efficiency is paramount.

The team grew over time as we worked through the development process of ‘85. We started out just Tim and I making audio and graphical assets to learn the ropes, thinking we were gonna make the game entirely ourselves. Then Zack came on board and basically took our shitty art and made it nice. Then Thomas came on and started composing stuff that was so good that we stopped trying to make any more audio ourselves, although a few of Tim’s SFX did make the final cut 🙂 I started programming and got a few backgrounds and sprites implemented into a build and then Damian came on board with his wizardry and that was the immediate end to my programming career. We just rolled from there from one project to another. Along the way we brought in Doug Fraker to do some additional programming and Andrew Burger to do sprite work and that’s pretty much where we’re at right now.


Screenshot from Haunted Halloween ‘85


-What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing Full Quiet as opposed to previous projects? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps?

Life. Especially when working with a team, hitting deadlines is super important. Once you start pushing past deadlines life starts to really creep in and wreck your plans. We all set aside a year to make the game and after that year passed, life came crashing in and derailed our momentum. After that we just kept chipping away at the project, never giving up on it, just slowly and methodically chipping away at it. Letting the timelines slip was my biggest failure, one that we really struggled to overcome. I take full responsibility for it and have learned a lot from it. In the end we finished what we started, the way we set out to do it, it just took considerably longer than we had initially hoped, but we’re proud of the results.


-I always ask my interviewees whether there is a reflection of themselves in the game’s protagonist. Do you identify with the hunter?

Not personally in any real way, but I do identify with the lore and Ham radio aspects. My dad was a communications specialist in the army and I had an affinity for walkie talkies and CB radios growing up, so my dad taught my sisters and I how to communicate like radio operators from a young age. My handle was Hurricane because I was an out of control whirlwind that wrecked things as a kid and my dad was Hawk because he had a wild, sorta-pet, hawk when he was young. So that part of the game is near and dear to me.


-There has been a lot of support and enthusiasm for Full Quiet, from the Kickstarter campaign, to the demos you shared at expos, and the updates you’ve shared online. How does it feel to see so many people excited about this game?

Really good overall but it definitely put a lot of pressure on us to deliver. Not that we needed the motivation, but we definitely felt like some folks were waiting (patiently) for us to fulfill our promises and make what we laid out in the Kickstarter campaign. We can’t thank backers and fans of the game enough for trusting us with their hard earned money, their patience, and the messages they’ve sent to us, both public and private. It definitely feels great when someone personally thanks you for making a game. Although it feels a little backwards, cause we’re all like, no, thank you for supporting us; but it does feel good when people appreciate all the effort and time and detail that are packed into the game.


-Speaking of the demos showcased at various expos, I was fortunate to play a couple of them and chat with you in person. How did you decide what portions of the game you wanted to feature in these demos? What was the response you received from players?

This changed over time. Initially we just wanted feedback on the player mechanics and controls to make sure they felt right. But as development lingered on, we started utilizing expos as a way to effectively playtest different things like puzzles, equipment, enemies, etc… The response was always great, overwhelmingly positive. There’s something to be said for showcasing a game live and getting direct feedback from players. Some of the most important things are unsaid… There are things you pick up just watching how a player approaches something or reacts to something, physically emoting in various ways, usually without them even knowing it. There’s so much to be learned from that kind of experience, it’s really priceless.


-What aspects of Full Quiet are you most proud of?

I think the fact that we finished what we set out to do. Additionally, the fact that we stuck together as a team throughout all the difficulties. We made the game we wanted to make and we’re ok with whatever comes of it.


-Over the past few years, you’ve also launched a number of prominent collaborations, such as the 6502 Collective with Sole Goose Productions, and 8-Bit Legit with Mega Cat Studios. What are your roles in those collaborations? How does it feel to be such a sought after partner? What advice do you have for others hoping to foster collaborations of their own?

We just want to help get NES games out there. We’ve been blessed with meeting and working with so many great people from the community and we really appreciate all the opportunities that have been afforded to us. We work with others to try to make products the best they can be, from physical materials with the 6502 Collective to digital ports with 8-Bit Legit. We’re dealing with very niche markets, obviously, but we want to push things to be as polished and professional as possible.

As for advice, I’d say that teamwork is a great thing. Learning to work with others who are willing to put as much effort into things as you are is vital, especially if you don’t have a lot of resources at your disposal to go it alone. Additionally, and maybe more importantly, finish. Just put it out there, whatever it is that you wanna get started on. Feel out the process from start to finish. Everything is flawed. As a creator, you get to learn so much more if you make the decisions and mistakes yourself than if you’re just analyzing things from the outside.


-You’re also working on Garbage Pail Kids: Mad Mike and the Quest for Stale Gum. How is that game progressing? Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon? Any dream projects?

GPK has been a great project through and through. It was a dream project to get to negotiate the licensing deal for an NES game with Topps for something that we loved as kids. We got to add some cool features like trading cards with GPK NPCs and porta-potty fishing that helped take that game beyond just a traditional platformer and make it feel true to the IP. We really loved digging into the limited GPK lore and filling the game with Easter eggs for those who geek out about the GPK universe.

Now that we’re freed up, we plan to get back to the Haunted series to finish up that trilogy on the NES. We’ve also got a few internal games in the works that we have to decide on as well as continuing to collaborate with others on interesting ideas. We’re just honored that we get to represent part of the NES homebrew community and continue to work on cool projects as a team and with others.


-Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play?

Halcyon for sure. Courier is gonna be killer once it’s released; I’ve been holding off on badgering Kevin for the ROM so I can play it on cartridge first. Kudzu for GB also looks like it’s gonna be a cool adventure.


-I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans?

The patience and support we’ve received over the years is remarkable and we’re extremely grateful. We appreciate everyone who is a part of this NES nerd culture - developers, players, streamers, interviewers, hackers, pixel artists, chiptune artists, speedrunners… it’s all important and all part of what makes the community so dynamic and fun. Thank you to everyone involved!




Damian Yerrick


-Before we dive into Full Quiet, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer?

I had my first assembly language experience on an Apple II in eighth grade. Years later, someone showed me an early NES emulator. I started with simple graphics and text hacks that I never released, such as putting a character in a wizard costume. Later I wanted to cute-up Contra, but after looking at that game's coding, I figured that making something from scratch would be just as easy.


-What is the significance of Tepples and PinoBatch as your usernames?

"tepples" was generated in 2002 with a random word generator set to the phonotactics of cartoon character names. It replaced a username that my college had assigned to me, which many people had been misreading. "PinoBatch" came from a short story by Frank Thomas Smith.


-Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now?

Influences that come to mind include EGAint author Eric Ng, whose use of the GPL inspired me to read Stallman, Torvalds, Raymond, and other founders of the free software movement. Also Swift, Collodi, and whoever invented the roly-poly toy that doesn't fall down, which Russians call a "nevalyashka."

There are other fantasy authors and publishers whose work I've come to treat as "look but don't touch". I plead the fifth on mentioning them because I've seen how some of these companies scour fans' work for incriminating similarity to shake down amateurs and startups without a bottomless legal budget.


-What tools do you use to code and create?

I use Xubuntu operating system because I've found it faster than Windows at booting, startup, and file access. Many are available on both Linux and Windows: Mousepad for editing code; GIMP for editing background tiles, sprite sheets, and other graphics; Python to write asset conversion tools; and cc65 and RGBDS as assemblers.


-You could fairly be described as one of the OG’s of homebrew. How has your approach to homebrewing changed over the years? What trends have you observed about the community?

Prior to fourth quarter 2007, testing software on an NES required soldering EPROMs onto a circuit board salvaged from an existing game. This hassle kept many developers from having a chance to test their work on hardware, leading to widespread software that is compatible with the emulators of the time but does not run correctly on an NES. This became less of an issue in fourth quarter 2007 when the PowerPak came out.

There was a fairly significant change in 2012. Until then, US courts had proven lenient toward authors of functional workalikes of programs, following Lotus v. Borland. This allowed the GNU project to produce replacements for popular programs that respect the freedom of its users while not requiring these users to spend a lot of time and effort retraining themselves on new software. In second quarter 2012, it became clear from the verdict in a lawsuit about a falling block game that the courts would not afford quite the same leniency to video game developers. It's as if only one company were allowed to make official-size tennis courts, rackets, and balls. This limited what sorts of projects a budding homebrew programmer could build for practice and show to others, and it led me to pull several past projects off my website and pick future projects with a less cavalier attitude.

Apart from homebrew, the ruling led me to question the viability of esports based on proprietary video games. My conclusion was later borne out by the actions of Nintendo against Super Smash Bros. tournament organizers.


-The breadth of your work includes test suites, templates, tech demos, as well as full games for multiple platforms. Across your development work would you say they have any qualities that seem quintessentially you that you have maintained across platforms? How would you describe your aesthetic?

One thing often seen in my work is characters with no legs who scoot on their hands and bottom. This began when I designed a fantasy race inspired by the nevalyashka. After this, I went on to design a set of other races to use in games, many of them based on what would happen if a particular genetic difference became fixed in a human population, so as not to derive too closely from any existing product identity.

At times, I have struggled to balance representing the aesthetic of the game world with accessibility to players in this world. There's a convention in some mediums to use different styles of type or lettering to represent different accents in speech. Some users report disgust at some of the typefaces I use, despite their being perfectly readable to me. One font choice back in 2001 even caused Cowering, maintainer of a ROM cataloging tool called GoodNES, to misspell my name.

Occasionally I write short compositions to demonstrate various chiptune techniques. The choice of instruments and rhythms in these also reflects musical styles in the game world. There's a banjo-like instrument, sometimes some wind instruments, and an instrument sounding somewhere between timpani and washtub bass, and compound (or swung) time. This can be heard clearly in the music of "Sticks" and "Stairs" videos, which I had originally produced as references for character animation.




-Do you take a different approach to each type of project, such as a test suite versus a game or tech demo? Which is more fun for you to work on?

I put test suites and tech demos in the same category. They have a constrained scope, and apart from minor choices in visual design, a test is right or wrong: either it shows or it doesn't show the expected effect. Original games don't have an acceptance measure that is quite as clear. They have their advantages and disadvantages, including a tendency to induce writer's block.


-Your work is also a prominent part of the Annual NESDev Coding Competition, including the 240p Test Suite, Thwaite, Concentration Room, and Zap Ruder, among others. Where do you derive your inspiration?

Puns. Lots of bad puns. Thwaite is half of the name of the manor in Burnett's The Secret Garden, with an aesthetic inspired by a life simulation game popular at the time. RHDE likewise was a mashup of an early arcade RTS with a life simulator. Zap Ruder compares the light that a Zapper captures from a screen to the light that a man's camera captured as evidence of an assassination. I admit that with my interpersonal disability, sometimes I go too far. Concentration Room was originally a pun in such poor taste that I had to ask online friends to suggest something to replace it. I ended up expanding a 2-sentence pitch by Shiru in the NESdev IRC channel into the present lab accident scenario.


Zapruder, I get it, evidence of the Kennedy assassination conspiracy…




This looks an awful lot like Dealey Plaza…




Another inspiration for the compo in the first place was an old policy in the Fedora operating system's repository against including emulators. Tom "spot" Calloway explained on the fedora-legal mailing list that if Nintendo were to sue, Red Hat didn't have an open-and-shut case for the legality of emulators. The rise of a vibrant NES homebrew scene may have since caused Fedora project leaders to reconsider this stance. I'm not entirely sure how the policy is construed nowadays.


-In fact, as the developer of the Action 53 multicart engine, many rising homebrewers can attribute some of the exposure their games have received to you. Additionally, as one of the admins of NESDev, you serve as a major steward of the homebrew community. What are your thoughts on this role you play in fostering the community?

I remember watching a documentary about the development of Action 52 by Active Enterprises. It explained that the goal of Action 52 was to replicate the experience of playing a pirate multicart, just without the piracy. It got a bad reputation because the games' development was unduly rushed. I had the same goal in mind with Action 53, with the volunteer effort of the homebrew community instead of a mad crunch. The layout of the menu itself was inspired by later volumes of PlayStation Interactive Sampler, the demo disc included with original PlayStation consoles, as opposed to earlier volumes whose notes Nintendo may have copied for Wii Menu.

My participation in the compo sort of tapered off in 2015 when Retrotainment hired me to work on the Haunted games and Full Quiet.


-Much of your work is open-source, so others can do what they want with it. Do you have any secret, specific hopes what some will use your projects to create? How would you describe your philosophy about the public availability of creative tools such as your templates?

Once I drafted something called the Theme License. It'd act as a dual license of the GNU GPL and a more permissive license with some random restriction on the field of use. The GPL is a copyleft license that free OS distributions like and some for-profit companies haven't figured out how to use effectively. The GPL in particular is incompatible with the terms of the app stores of iOS and modern consoles. The other half of the Theme License allows use in proprietary products, subject to one constraint from each contributor. This could be the theme of a game jam, or "do not make erotica of my characters," or "you may use this in any work incorporating a nevalyaska person as a main character." If a lawyer wants to help me finish the Theme License, let me know.


-You’ve worked with Retrotainment Games for several of their releases. How did you first connect with them and what is the working dynamic like as you work together on these games?

I started on Haunted: Halloween '85 in March 2015 through a job posting on the NESdev forum by a recruiter who was also the developer of the game's Steam port. Every change needed to go through me, big or small, whether it was background art, sprite art, physics, level layout, or enemy placement and behavior. This made iteration tedious. For Haunted: Halloween '86 and later games, we started working more closely as a team, and I was able to train my coworkers on editing things like level color palettes, collision maps, enemy placement, and constants related to physics.

I'm remote, living two states away from Retrotainment's office. Sometimes I get a lot of work that's steady and straightforward, and sometimes the work comes in spurts and I get a lot of hours in one day and few in another.


-Tell me about the evolution of Full Quiet from a programming perspective.

HH85 and HH86 had one-way scrolling like Super Mario Bros. This let me cheat a bit with video memory, as if something appeared only at the start of a level, I could unload it once the camera passed by it and load something else as the camera approached it. To achieve a sense of exploration and verticality in FQ, I devised an 8-way scrolling engine with a map format inspired by the architecture of the NES game Blaster Master. This required all the art to be loaded up front, and it was challenging for the background designer to adapt to the video memory constraint. One thing we ended up doing was splitting the background into two images: a playfield and a parallax loop for things in front of or behind the playfield. Because only one of those two images appeared on any line of the screen, I could give them separate sets of 256 8×8-pixel tiles.

Compared to HH86, FQ has a much larger and more open world, with a bigger set of things interacting with one another. Level designs and lock-and-key placements had to be revised several times to address soft locks and hard-to-understand things discovered during testing. At last count, there were like 16 total game modes, minigames, and menus.


Screenshot from Haunted Halloween ‘86


-Did you have a different attitude toward developing Full Quiet compared to your own projects? Is the experience of developing them different?

In some ways, FQ was easier than my own projects, as I didn't have to make all the art, write all the story, and the like. Greg sent me rough GIFs of an enemy interacting with a player, and I translated those into drafts of the action instructions (AI) that the enemy would follow, first in pseudocode and then in assembly language. It was just much, much bigger in scope than anything I'd done in my free time. There was also the issue of using a sound driver whose internals I wasn't familiar with, and I needed occasional help from its maintainer Doug Fraker to add hooks to trigger actions when a song loops. (Doug also did one of the minigames in FQ.)


-What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing Full Quiet? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps?

I hid a message in HH86 about process lessons that I learned during development. I got the idea for this after seeing programmer rants from Pachi Com and The New Tetris on TCRF. During FQ, we improved on some of those points. At times, I felt we bit off more than we could chew with this project. It also became more difficult to put concepts in front of play testers when trade shows closed during the pandemic.


-What aspects of Full Quiet are you most proud of?

Mostly that I managed to come up with an engine that gave us headroom for expansion. Over the course of a week, I could take the engine, yank out all the levels, enemies, and event flags, drop new levels in, and have the basis for starting work on Garbage Pail Kids with its new set of player and enemy characters. I'd compare it to Rockstar's reuse of the Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis engine for Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption.


-Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, NES or otherwise?

Garbage Pail Kids and Full Quiet have just come out on NES. GPK also recently came out on Steam, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. I'd also like to make a physical release of 240p Test Suite including some of my past games, with a frame story that the TV field tech brings the games to help test the TV with a client.


-Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play?

It might sound surprising from a dev, but I haven't really been following new game releases.


-I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans?

Don't base your life around a product identity from the entertainment industry. And don't take a job with an employer who insists on a broad non-compete or an anti-moonlighting provision.




Zachary Curl

-Before we dive into Full Quiet, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer and artist? What is your origin story?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember being alive. I always wanted to be an artist growing up, but I don’t think I knew what that meant. My uncle was an artist, but I never had too much of a chance to get to know him, as he died when I was only 2 years old, so I think the biggest thing that appealed to me was the idea that I could make the world be whatever I wanted it to. I was a pretty imaginative kid, which I wouldn’t say is quite the flex that it sounds like, so I pretty much only wanted to draw my ideas. I have been dealing with depression since I was very young and hated school, though I loved reading and learning, so I always wanted to see how things worked so I could draw them.

I eventually was able to stick it through a tech school and get an associates degree in visual communications focusing more on print design, hoping that one day I would be great at making comics, but I never thought I was as good as I wanted to be, and while I had been doing freelance design work for a while, Greg asked me if I was interested in maybe working on a game and let me know what he wanted. I had known Greg for a few years because he played hockey with my brother, but he actually didn’t know that I drew or anything. I basically said “hell yeah,” and was interested enough to not really give up when I was learning, and it felt like a good fit for me.


-Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now?

I think my first influences growing up was my family. My mom will disagree, but she was a terrific artist, and I would see her drawings that she kept around and really wanted to emulate them. My dad always wanted to be an architect, but like most dads back then, he became an accountant/money related guy. I got to see him work on floor plans sometimes on the weekends, just for fun on graph paper, so that was an impact on me in terms of design.

I always read comics and watched animation growing up, but as I entered adolescence and my mid-teens, I discovered Akira and the work of Katsuhiro Otomo, who has remained a tremendous aspirational influence to me even today.

When it came time to make 2D sidescrollers, the two biggest sources of inspiration I looked towards were Noel Sickles and Jacques Tardi.

Noel Sickles kind of reinvented the way comic strips flow, and it provided me with a way to approach horizontal eye-line on a flat, left-to-right visual plane.

For me, Jacques Tardi is a perfect cartoonist. He perfectly blends architectural correctness with a loose caricature that never doesn’t impress me, so when I was trying to understand background design for a game who’s hardware leaves very limited room in terms of line variation, it only made sense to look at how he was able to achieve such correct-looking backgrounds with so few lines.

I’m constantly looking for new art, new films, new music, and I’m a bit of a collector. To put a final point on a very long answer, I think that it’s super important to keep searching for new things because you can learn something valuable from everything.


“Nestor Burma Paris – 4th Arrondissement” by Jacques Tardi


-Do you feel that your art has any qualities that are uniquely you? How would you describe your aesthetic?

Hmmm, that’s actually hard for me to say for myself. When I look at my drawings, I see a composite of basically everything I love, so even when I don’t succeed in a drawing, I feel like I’m just using everything I’ve learned along the way to complete my idea of how something should look. For my own personal tastes, I love finished art in black and white. I love screen tone, and I love doing as much by hand as I can.

For game art, as I mentioned, the biggest thing I focus on is to create as much as I can with as little as possible. It’s the product of working and reworking levels with the rest of the team; sometimes as a requirement of saving space, and sometimes just making something insinuate more than an exact reproduction could achieve.

I think I use far fewer colors than most artists working on the NES right now. Because of the limitations in colors and palette restrictions, I tend to reuse the same colors in multiple palettes to create an effect that essentially hides the grid that one normally associates with art on the NES.


-What tools do you use to create your art?

For game art I have been using a program called Pyxel Edit. It’s a pretty easy to use program that allows for easy tile creation and management. Our programmer, Damian, created us a custom checker tool that lets us manage our tile usage and palettes, and it’s become indispensable in our creative loop. I don’t think Pyxel Edit is supported anymore, so I’m sure that will change in the not too distant future.

For my own personal work, I love pencils, pens, inks, screen tone, and watercolors. Since I was a kid growing up with comics, I’ve always thought of inking as the final step to a drawing, so much of my consternation in my own work comes from that step and not feeling good enough.


-In your opinion, what makes in-game as well as concept art stand out?

Ooh, that’s a good question. I think for concept art, there really isn’t any real rule I adhere to or any one thing that appeals to me. I love Syd Mead and how he would find a sense of space for all of his concepts. It lives and breathes and just sets my imagination on fire, so despite whatever style or detail in concept art, I just love anything that makes me tell myself stories in my own head.

In-game art is a little tougher to define. I can like anything that doesn’t feel illegible. Great design never goes out of style.


“Downtown Cityscape/Blade Runner” by Syd Mead


-Tell me about the development of the art you created for the game, what is your composition process?

The initial seeds of Full Quiet came actually really early, even going so far back as before the first Haunted Halloween game was finished. I was basically the only creative member of Retrotainment at the time --I say creative in terms of what you would see visually, because Greg and Tim already knew what they wanted, they just didn't quite know how to achieve that yet. As I understand it, Greg was speaking to a couple different programmers at the time who were trying to get the game to work how he and Tim had envisioned it playing, and I was still pretty early in learning how visuals on the NES worked, so after I had built the first level of HH'85 (which of course would later be redone), we wanted to keep me busy getting used to the workflow we would need. Greg had a kernel of an idea that I then riffed on and we expanded together; all that time I was coming up with a visual prototype for our shared idea. We knew it was a long way off, and actually might not happen, but I was learning what would become my visual language over the course of our games, so by the time we were up and moving on Haunted, I was more or less ready to go.

After we had completed our first two games, we had been hired to prototype a game for someone else that was put on hold, come up with other small ideas that never fully suited our skill sets we had been developing over those past two games, and were kind of just looking for the next step for our team. We felt like our core unit was pretty strong, if not still pretty green, but we all knew we wanted to keep making games. Greg and I casually mentioned the old idea we had to Thomas, and I had it all in front of me on my computer, so we watched the prototype animations, looked at some visuals, and told the story that we thought our game was going to be about. Our story was picked apart and essentially rewritten as we threw out so many ideas that we originally thought this game was going to be about, and Full Quiet became something almost unrecognizable from our initial ideas. It should hopefully go without saying that we all learned so much after the development of our first two games, so we felt like this was the right time for us to tackle something much bigger.


-How did you first connect with Retrotainment Games?

I was basically the first member added to the team. I'm sure Greg and Tim have told you their origin story, and in a way, Retrotainment had been there between them in their imaginations the whole time, but after I had met with Greg to talk about what they wanted to do, he showed me his prototype art and I was able to reinterpret it into something that made sense to me. I don't think it's conceited of me to think that that was kind of the reality of what Retrotainment Games was coming into full view; the next steps were finding a composer in Thomas and a programmer in Damian, each of which made Tim and Greg's vision of Retrotainment come true.


-What was the working dynamic like in your development of Full Quiet?

The way we worked back then was much looser than how we work now, but early on we really all were involved in the development of ideas that would go into our games. The Haunted series was really Greg and Tim's baby; it was a childhood dream and still feels very close to them today. Full Quiet was the first time I think that Thomas and I felt like we were right there in the process from the beginning, and we were really creating this thing together.

For a long time I felt like I was working alone; I had taken a lot on my shoulders that in hindsight I probably shouldn't have, so the rest of the team had to wait because we had designed a workflow initially that required me to complete a pretty large chunk of the visual world before they were able to move on in a lot of other processes. What was initially supposed to have been a very short development time grew exponentially because of the difficulty I was having managing my work in addition to the rest of my life. I assumed that it would be an easier process than it was, and I couldn't have predicted the mental fatigue and exhaustion that would come from me pushing myself creatively while at the same time dealing with some undiagnosed mental health issues. I think I was really hard to work with at the time, but everyone was really wonderful and encouraging throughout the process. That isn't to say that arguments didn't arise, and certainly everyone was fighting to have their ideas and opinions heard, but in the end, I'm really proud of how we all came out of it, and I really miss those days of meeting every week at Greg's house to share what we had done throughout the week, and drawing on a the massive piece of design vellum that would become the overworld map of Full Quiet.


-What new challenges or surprises surfaced in working on Full Quiet, compared to, say, the Haunted Halloween games? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps?

Jeez, I feel like everything was a surprise. We were starting with an engine that Damian had built over the course of the Haunted games, but as I understood it, we kind of had to work in a way that we hadn't before to attempt this new, open-world structure we were envisioning for Full Quiet. We had seen NES games that had attempted what we wanted to do, and we knew what didn't work with them, so really it was about trying our hardest to make things make sense not just to us, but to an audience of first time players.

In terms of my work, I was doing everything I could to make sure our directional system made sense. I studied animation backgrounds, trying my best to make sure each turn the player took made sense visually; whether or not it was completely successful is up to the player, but I know that we kicked and screamed our way through the process on our end.

To make something as large as we were shooting for, we really had to scale down the detail I was used to putting in the backgrounds. We had to change our visual style to make up for that. Something that was tough at the time was looking at the work of other people and trying to compare myself to them. Frankengraphics is an artist that I really admire. She does unbelievable work on the NES, and is just a terrific artist all around. She is so much more knowledgeable about what she does than I am, and seeing her constantly create in the way that she does made me really feel sad about my own work for a long time. Ultimately, that isn't anyone's fault but my own, but learning to be happy or content with the work that I was creating was also a part of the process of Full Quiet that I didn't ever see coming. It was difficult for me to separate myself from my own expectations of my work when what I should have been doing was listening to the team more. I think that's the biggest advice I could give to anyone aspiring to make games; there are people who can do it all, for sure, but when you enter into a collaborative process, please be sure to listen to and value the opinions of the people around you. It can only make you all better at what you want to accomplish, and honestly taking into account other people's feelings will make you better and more empathetic for your future.


-What aspects of Full Quiet are you most proud of?

I'm so proud of the entire team. I'm proud to have been even the tiniest part of the lives of the people who came together on this project. It's an achievement that can only make us better people and stronger creatives. Whether we hit every pitch out of the park or not, we swung with everything we had, and I'm proud to say that we tried with all our hearts.


-Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon? Any dream projects?

I've had an idea in my head for a long time now, and I've been prototyping and building visuals for it for while, but we'll see where that goes. I'm on board for our team, so we'll see what the future brings. Other than that, I'm always drawing, and I'm trying to focus on getting a couple fanzines made this year with some other friends of mine.


-Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play?

I've been really bad at keeping up with any new game releases these days, homebrew or otherwise. I've been using my free time lately to play older games that I love; I'm very seasonal in that respect. I've mostly been reading a lot and trying to catch up with all the movies I've been putting aside and meaning to watch.

I would recommend that anyone interested in Homebrew games just do a quick search on twitter; there are so many wonderful people that share their games and the games of others. The whole indie games scene is really terrific.


-I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans?

This was really fun to do. Sorry for my unbelievably long answers to such perfectly written questions. Anytime anyone thinks of me makes me feel so nice, so being asked to participate in this was a real joy.




Thomas Cippollone


-It’s great to interview you yet again! Last time we chatted about Chumlee’s Adventure, and I’m excited to catch up with your dev work. This might be our third interview! How have you been since then?

I've been doing well! I'm working on a lot of music both for games and just for my own entertainment.  Cannot complain.


-How did your relationship with the people at Retrotainment Games come about? Where did this game begin for you?

I have been with Retrotainment since Haunted '85. As far as Full Quiet goes, I was there from the start to finish, working on a lot more outside of just the Music and Sound.


-Full Quiet, in addition to the Haunted Halloween games center around horror, either silly spooky or just plain eerie. Are you a horror fan? Where did you draw inspiration from in your compositions for Full Quiet?

I wouldn't claim to be a big time horror fan but I am into the genre. I just don't like to be jump-scared. For the Full Quiet soundtrack, I wanted to create a lot of atmosphere which is particularly challenging on the NES. The Shadowgate soundtrack is a pretty big influence on this one, which I feel has a really great vibe to it. I learned the pseudo-delay type effect from that game.


The influence of this game is more than…skin deep


-What was the working dynamic like in your collaboration with Retrotainment Games, how did it compare to your other collaborations?

Greg and I work really closely on all the Retrotainment projects, I am doing level design, boss design, and all types of stuff as well as music and sound effects. With most projects outside of Retrotainment, I'm almost exclusively writing music and nothing more.


-What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing Full Quiet’s music?

The ongoing challenge for me with writing music for the NES is making it as dynamic as possible while using the smallest footprint possible. I re-wrote the soundtrack 2 times to free up more space for the overall game.


-What aspects of Full Quiet’s sound are you most proud of?

I am really proud of how I managed to capture the atmosphere. We really wanted to make sure that players didn't feel rushed while exploring and wouldn't get tired of the area themes. It came together pretty nicely, I think!


-Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, NES or otherwise? Any dream projects?

Currently, we are just in the pre-planning stages for the next project. I can't really go into details yet because I don't even know what it is yet, haha.


-Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play since we last spoke?

Honestly, I am totally out of the loop right now, but please feel free to throw me some recommendations.


-I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans?

Sure thing! I have nothing else really going on so if anyone needs a soundtrack or even just a few tunes feel free to hit me up. Thank you!




Jim Rugg


-Before we dive into Full Quiet, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to be an artist generally, and more specifically how did you break into homebrew game art?

I’ve always loved drawing. When I was 10, I bought a comic book and decided that I wanted to be a comic book artist.

A friend of mine was working on the game, and I guess he showed my work to the team. They asked me to do some art, their terms sounded good so that is how I got involved.


-Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now?

Most of my influences are comic book artists like Frank Miller, Todd McFarlane, Jack Kirby, and Dan Clowes. I studied graphic design in school so designers like David Carson, Saul Bass, Paul Rand…I also liked wrestling and movies growing up and I think those influenced me as well.


Frank Miller, a familiar name in art to be sure


-What in your opinion makes art compelling? What grabs your attention? And what kind of video game box art would make you choose one game over another?

Bright colors, contrast, and being different are the things that grab my attention.

I’m not a gamer. The last game I remember buying was NHL 94 for the Sega Genesis.


-You've also worked on mammoth projects like Hulk: Grand Design, Street Angel, and more with Cartoonist Kayfabe. Do you feel that your art has any qualities that are uniquely you? How would you describe your aesthetic?

One unique part of my comics is that I usually handle the lettering, design, and color myself. Traditionally, those roles were done by a team. By doing it all myself, I think I’m able to create comics where those various elements complement each other and service the story in ways that can’t always be achieved through collaboration.

My aesthetic…pop art, graphic, direct, colorful.


-What tools do you use to create your art?

Pencils, markers, ink, sable brush, crowquil pen nibs, rapidographs, iPad, ProCreate, rulers, french curves, templates.


-Tell me about the development of the art you created for the limited edition box for Full Quiet, what is your composition process? Is the creative process different compared to when you create character designs and illustrations for other projects?

I did a series of sketches and shared those with the team. Then applied their feedback and revised the sketches into final art. It’s been a while since I did the Full Quiet art…I may have used Photoshop and a Wacom pad. I think it was before I started using an iPad.

The creative process is different for every project. If it’s collaborative, it may depend on client. The things that stay the same are usually that I create a lot of sketches and ideas – rough, fast, and loose. Then I’ll revise my favorites and share them with the client. That’s true of illustrations, covers, character designs. I try to be as creative as possible in the beginning and then when I’ve spent some time just playing around and thinking about the project from different angles, I switch to assessing the sketches and determining what suits the job. Most of my work is about communication so I’ll look at my sketches and review the original goal. Sometimes a great idea doesn’t fit the project so that is something I try to consider at this stage. Then when I’m happy with a couple of ideas, I send those to the client.


-How did you first connect with Tim & Greg from Retrotainment Games, and what was the working dynamic like?

A friend of mine was working on the game, Zach Curl. He showed them my work. We were all in Pittsburgh so we met in person. They showed me the game in-progress. Told me what they planned to do. I think they had some of the music so they shared that. I asked them a bunch of questions. They had some ideas for the cover art so I went home and started sketching. Emailed them sketches. Then we talked about the sketches and applied their feedback. Pretty standard.


-What new challenges or surprises surfaced in your work on Full Quiet? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps?

Drawing as if we’re looking in or out of a window was fun and different for me.

The lesson is always that communication is key in collaboration. Ask questions. Make expectations clear for you and your collaborators. Clear communication is a valuable tool.


-Is there another project after Full Quiet on the horizon? Another dream project that you hope to bring into existence, video game or otherwise?

I just published a comic book called True Crime Funnies. It features 2 wrestling stories, Andy Warhol, and a true crime story about a rookie narcotics cop and his violent first day on the job.

I also just made a zine called 1986. It’s all about comic books in the year 1986. Dark Knight Returns, Maus, and Watchmen came out. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles inspired hundreds of people to create their own comic books. Marvel created the New Universe (haha). Comic books changed forever that year. So I made a zine that collects articles, art, ads, covers and more chronicling 1986.

These new works go on sale October 26th jimrugg.com.


True Crime Funnies by Jim Rugg, on sale now!


-Are you a fan of homebrew games? Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play?

I am not a gamer. Games scare me because I find them addictive! So I try to avoid games unless I’m being paid to play them!


-I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans?

Make stuff. Create. You don’t have to be a professional to make things. The most inspiring part of working with Tim, Greg, and Zach was seeing their creative process. Because game design isn’t something I do, it gave me a new perspective on storytelling, character design, setting, color…I think there’s great value in spending time making something – alone or with other people. So don’t just play games, make a game or a story or a comic book! If I can do it, you can do it.

Go subscribe to Cartoonist Kayfabe. It’s a daily YouTube channel about comic books where Ed Piskor and I talk about comic books, artists, how we make comics. We also have guests like Todd McFarlane, Gerard Way, Scott McCloud, Eastman + Laird, Robert Kirkman, Mark Millar, Rob Liefeld…


But wait, there’s more!!!

Since Full Quiet’s release, something really interesting happened: a Discord channel about the game turned into a sort of help line in which players could reach out to each other and collectively work through the various moments in which they got stuck. This Discord belongs to a fellow set of homebrew fans, the guys of the Homebrew Game Club! As a special addition to this post, I interviewed this club’s members to learn more about their podcast as well as this beloved homebrew hotline.




Homebrew Game Club


-Before we talk about the podcast and its recent significance related to Full Quiet, I would love to talk about you and your backgrounds. What first attracted you to homebrew? What is the origin story of the Homebrew Game Club?

Nick: I started collecting retro games several years ago as a hobby, but stayed clear of homebrew for a while because I found it difficult to know where to start. Eventually I stumbled across the Assembly Line podcast and got excited about playing the games talked about there, and I built up a reasonably large NES homebrew collection in a short time.

A watershed moment came when I got my copy of Micro Mages in the mail after backing the Kickstarter for it. I had the game, a NES, a huge old CRT, and a Four Score with enough controllers for it, but I needed friends to play it with. So I invited Conor, Bart, and another friend over for a game night. I doubt they believed we were actually going to be playing a brand-new NES game until we were all sitting in front of the TV. Everybody had a great time, and after that, we started meeting up once a month to play different homebrew games from my collection. Eventually I got the idea to turn our meetups into a podcast, and here we are.


Conor: I was vaguely aware that homebrew console games existed through Twitter and other social media channels. This was mostly as it overlapped with my interest in tech more generally. Looking back I would say I mistakenly believed all homebrews were cracks/hacks of existing games, or very proof-of-concept tech demos.

Playing Micro Mages at Nick’s was a seminal moment. I had so many questions going through my head from how the cart was manufactured to how Nick even knew about the four-controller attachment 😄 The podcast really felt like a natural extension of our playing together.


Wow the number of times I’ve heard someone note Micro Mages was a seminal moment for them


-Do you listen to any podcasts, gaming-related or otherwise?

Nick: I drive a lot for work, so my podcast library is huge. I subscribe to around a hundred podcasts, although I obviously don’t listen to anywhere near that many. Believe it or not, relatively few of those are gaming podcasts! The Assembly Line is always a classic, but I’m also a fan of Hardcore Gaming 101, The Collector’s Quest, Homebrews In Focus, and anything featuring Jeremy Parish. Besides gaming, my favorite podcast topics are media, technology, and politics.


Conor: I used to listen to a lot more podcasts when I had a car, pros and cons of public transport life 🙃 My favourite gaming-related podcasts are those that have a slightly tangential view on gaming. VGMpire is no longer active but was one of the first content creators I encountered taking game soundtrack analysis more seriously. I loved their style of emphasizing their personal connections to the music, with the more technical analysis (whether musically in terms of chord progressions or the hardware instrumentation choices) serving to provide context rather than the core discussion. Tech, politics, business and music are the main categories of podcasts I listen to.


-What makes for a good podcast episode?

Nick: I think the most important thing is keeping the conversation reasonably organized and moving forward at a good flow, which is the host’s main job. Our first numbered episode (Lizard) had no outline, because we thought it would sound too scripted – we just went in excited to talk about the game and assumed our enthusiasm would make great content. So we got almost four hours of audio, and it was rambling, repetitive, inconsistent, and in the end practically unlistenable. It was an editing nightmare. I managed to get a decent episode out of it by chopping out over two thirds of the audio and heavily rearranging the rest, but I told the guys afterwards that if we wanted to put out more than a handful of episodes a year we would need to go in with a better plan, because otherwise this amount of editing would eventually drive me crazy. So now we have a relatively structured podcast, which I think you can easily hear if you’re paying attention. Now that everyone’s used to it I think we’d all agree this is a better way to record.

Besides that, I’d say the most important thing is to remember to have fun. It’s a lot of work to make a quality podcast, but if you’re not enjoying yourself, that’s going to come across in your performance. No matter how much work we put in before or after a recording, once the mic is on I try to remind myself that this is a space for hanging out with my friends and talking about games, so it’s time to relax and enjoy it.


-How have your tastes in games changed over the years?

Nick: My enthusiasm for video games has waxed and waned over the years. I was a console gamer until high school, when I discovered PCs. Throughout the 2000s I only played a few big-name AAA games a year, but the growing indie scene got me interested in the hobby again. Then I started building Retropies for myself and friends around 2016, which (ironically?) got me into collecting retro games, and eventually homebrews.


Conor: I would say that I’ve also had my level of interest in games vary over time. I’ve always enjoyed puzzles, story-heavy or offbeat games, with strategy & first-person shooters taking over my brain a lot in high school. I didn’t play much in college but then I moved to the US and started working in the casual/mobile game industry. It became a new challenge to not just play and win the games, but learning how they get developed and what separates a good game from a great game.


-What tools and equipment do you use to record and post?

Nick: We record on Shure MV7 USB microphones via Zencastr, which is like a tricked-out Zoom for podcasters. I do all of our editing in Adobe Premiere. I realize that’s probably not typical for audio podcasts, but I already have an Adobe subscription through my job, and it’s an interface I’m extremely familiar with from my days as a media producer. I don’t know if I’d recommend this for other podcasters – Premiere is a professional video suite, so using it for audio podcasting is like the editing equivalent of driving a semi truck to work every day when you’re only a 10 minute bike ride from the office – but it gets the job done. For some last-step audio leveling, I run the final cut through Auphonic before I post the file to our feed on Anchor.fm.

I probably still do too much editing for a podcast, but as a former professional media guy I can’t help myself. It takes a lot of polish for me to feel satisfied with the final product.


-What lessons have you learned that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps?

Nick: Don’t be afraid to stick to a narrow focus. The potential audience for a game club podcast about homebrew was always going to be tiny. But regardless, we’ve tapped it, and we’ve gathered a small but dedicated group of fans in a very short time. I don’t know if we could have pulled that off if we’d tried going with a more general focus, like a podcast about modern games that just occasionally covers homebrew. There are hundreds of podcasts like that out there, but our specificity made us unique – as far as I know, there’s only one other podcast taking a remotely similar approach to what we’re doing now. That helps us stand out.

It also helps to have a modest vision of “success”: I told the guys from day one that I’d rather have a dozen fans who listen to every episode when it drops than a thousand casual listeners who only ever listen to an episode or two. And that’s the kind of community we’ve started, so I guess we’re doing something right.


Conor: There is a balance between quality/quantity that is hard to strike when you’re creating content. I like where we have settled on with the “mainline” episodes focused on specific titles that our community can play along with. Then there are “spinoff” episodes where we discuss other topics that people can easily opt-out of. The episodes with other topics are probably a little rougher, but they help us learn how to be better hosts.


-(At the time I’ve interviewed you) [Y]ou have produced 10 main episodes and 13 extras, interviews, and recaps in a little over a year, not counting episodes that are in-development. Have your interests and goals for the podcast changed over time? Has making the podcast had an impact on your interests and goals?

Nick: Well, I’ve definitely been playing a lot more homebrew, so I guess that goal has been met! I always had modest goals for the podcast in terms of audience engagement, so I’m glad to see them come to fruition. As for future goals, I’d like to make more content – but unfortunately I’m at capacity for what I’m able to produce (I handle almost 100% of episode production myself), so we’re probably going to maintain our current output for the foreseeable future.


-What is something your co-hosts uniquely bring to the table?

Nick: Neither Bart or Conor were fans of the homebrew scene (or even retro gaming) before we launched the podcast, so it’s been fun to watch them get introduced to new developers on platforms they may not have been familiar with. Conor in particular has an interesting background to me, since he grew up in a different region of the world and is several years younger than Bart and myself. I also appreciate how their professional backgrounds influence their tastes in games – Bart as a 20 year film industry veteran, and Conor as a programmer and casual game developer.


Conor: Nick and Bart are both hilarious to chat with, which straight away makes me so energized for each recording. Bart’s film and media experiences are a great counterpoint to my music interests, so I always like to hear his perspectives on game direction. Nick is a font of knowledge and continuously finds new and interesting areas of the homebrew scene to explore. His appreciation for the hardware in particular, which I saw firsthand when we played in person more regularly, really helped me understand the appreciation in the community for the tangible/tactile parts of the hobby beyond emulation.


-On average, how much time passes between the initial planning for an episode and posting it for listeners?

Nick: We don’t plan out episodes much – we often don’t know what game we’re picking for the next episode until we actually announce it on the podcast. Once we have our game selection, we budget some time to play it (usually 2-3 weeks), then get a Google doc going to outline the episode and hit some notes that we want to talk about. Scheduling the recording can be a challenge, since Bart and I are in Missouri, Conor is in the UK, and we all have kids, jobs, and all the rest to work around. After the recording comes editing, which is all on me. That can take anywhere from 1-2 days to much longer, depending on my schedule (and how off-topic we got when recording the episode).


-What is your favorite segment to talk about in an episode?

Nick: I love when the discussion about our Game Club selection ends up going in directions I didn’t expect. I usually assume I can guess what my co-hosts’ reactions are going to be to a particular game, and it’s a lot of fun when I realize I’m wrong, especially when it leads me to look at my own experience with the game in a new and different way. That kind of thing is what the Homebrew Game Club is really all about.


Conor: Whichever section gets Nick the most riled up.


-I’m curious about your thoughts regarding the various people you’ve interviewed and the games they’ve developed, so I’ve got a bit of a rapid-fire gauntlet of questions:

·        Favorite interviewee?

Nick: Well, we’ve only done a couple of interviews so far, so we don’t have much of a sample size to draw from. I will say that I enjoy a sit-down, relaxed interview setting more than the live, on-location, standup interviews like we tried doing at last year’s Midwest Gaming Classic.


·        Favorite homebrew?

Nick: For me it’s a tie between Lizard and Twin Dragons, both for NES. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Micro Mages though, especially since it helped spawn our podcast.


Conor: Böbl is probably where my head would go, since the technical achievement in it is often so good you don’t even notice it’s there. Alfonzo’s Arctic Adventure might be where my heart would go. It’s got a unique graphical style, fun to play, and sentimental value as it was another one of the first homebrews that Nick showed me.


·        Favorite homebrewer?

Nick: I’m going to turn the question on its head a bit and say my favorite homebrewers at the moment are the folks working with GB Studio for the Game Boy. That tool has lowered the barrier to entry for Game Boy development to such an extent that you’ve got this crazy explosion of creativity happening on that platform right now, and it’s been so much fun to dive into those titles.


Conor: Do fantasy consoles count? Devine Lu Linvega is doing some amazing stuff with uxn right now that always leaves me fascinated at how vibrant a 2-bit graphics display can be.


·        Best graphics?

Nick: There’s so much out there worth mentioning. Frankengraphics is doing incredible work on NES. Amaweks has put out some brilliantly surreal visuals for Mega Drive. And I’ve been so impressed with what devs are able to do with the Game Boy’s limited palette that I wouldn’t even know where to start with praising that scene.


·        Best chiptune

Nick: Tui! I don’t know how many times I’ve walked around humming a chiptune melody for days that I just couldn’t place, until I realized it was from some soundtrack by Tui. His tracks for Tapeworm Disco Puzzle and Witch n’ Wiz are especially good. (He also did the excellent opening theme music for our podcast.)


·        Most difficult?

Nick: We did an episode about Xeno Crisis (for the Mega Drive) that set a new bar for what the three of us consider a “hard” homebrew game. I put around 20 hours into that one before I couldn’t play it anymore – I felt completely demoralized, just ground into the dirt. Before that, Nebs n’ Debs for NES really kicked my butt. A very tough platformer.


-Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play?

Nick: In fact… I’m currently a beta tester on The Storied Sword for NES by Nathan Tolbert and Jordan Davis, and it’s going to be amazing. The entire game is built around tight, fluid platforming mechanics, and I am absolutely a sucker for that kind of game. It’s been a real honor to playtest it.


Screenshot from The Storied Sword


-On to Full Quiet, how are you guys enjoying the game?

Nick: Honestly, I’ve barely started it! When I first got the game, I immediately plugged it into my NES to check it out. But after the first couple of hours in, I realized it would be the kind of thing I’d want to clear out my schedule and really devote some time to, and I haven’t been able to do that yet. Eventually I hope to find a decent gap in my calendar to finally park my butt in front of the CRT and take it on.


-On January 10, 2023, you created a new channel in your Discord that began as a discussion thread for Full Quiet, but quickly turned into a sort of crowdsourced helpline. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first helpline for homebrew (aside from some brief conversations on Morphcat’s Discord). What prompted you to create the discussion thread?

Nick: After my first couple of hours with the game, I knew it was going to be uniquely challenging. Right off the bat it comes off as a very deep, complex experience, and from what I’ve seen of the gameplay I can already tell it’s one of the most ambitious homebrew titles ever created for the NES. I could also tell it was the type of game I would never beat without some help. Nearly every difficult retro game has some way to find tips on the internet, from an old FAQ to a YouTube playthrough, but homebrew fans don’t always have that luxury because the games are so recent and the audiences for them are so small. So I got the idea to start a channel devoted to sharing secrets and advice, in order to help people playing through the game right now. We already start new community channels for every game we play on the podcast, but I knew this one would take longer than the 4-6 weeks we usually allow to play through our Game Club selections, so with that in mind I went ahead and launched it with the expectation that we’ll probably do a podcast on it a few months from now.


-Did you anticipate the channel would serve this purpose of allowing people to work together through its more challenging aspects?

Nick: That was my hope! I’m sure this game will eventually have other online resources to help folks get off the ground with it, but until then I’d like to think there’s quite a lot in the channel to help already.


-Have you found the advice helpful to your own gameplay?

Nick: Since I haven’t really started the game myself, I’ve mostly been staying out of the channel and letting it do its own thing. It’s amazing how vibrant the discussion is there without any prompting from myself or the other guys who host the Discord – it’s all grown up organically. I have seen comments from several people who say it has helped them beat the game, which is great!


-If you could award MVP status to anyone in the thread, who would you want to recognize and why?

Nick: Again, I haven’t been in there enough to award that honor to any one particular user, but I want to give a shout out to Metal Beast for being a huge inspiration to get the channel launched in the first place. I followed his tweets about his initial playthrough of the game, and his comment that it took over 26 hours to complete it was one of the things that encouraged me to start the Full Quiet channel. He even joined our Discord to help other folks get through the game!


The Metal Beast is one of the coolest homebrew fans I’ve met, props to him!


-Do you think you might create similar channels for other homebrew games? Are there any you can think of that might warrant one?

Nick: We already have channels for every monthly Game Club selection that serve a similar purpose. Full Quiet was different in that I knew it would take a long time to beat, and that there were already a lot of people trying to take it on now who wouldn’t want to wait until we pick the game up for our podcast. If another game comes along that we know we want to cover, but that would take a similarly long time to complete, we might launch the channel for that game a few months early so our fans have plenty of time to play through it. I can’t think of any game like that off the top of my head, though – maybe a particularly long RPG? We’d love to get recommendations if anyone has one!


-I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans?

Nick: Yes – subscribe to our podcast so you can hear our Full Quiet episode when it eventually comes out! We’re on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, all the big ones. You can find all of our podcast info and social media links at http://homebrewgameclub.com, where you can also sign up for our Discord and check out the Full Quiet channel for yourself. Finally, we’re always looking for new games to cover, so if you have one in particular that you’d like to hear us talk about, you post it on the #nominate-a-game channel on our Discord, reach out to us through our forum post on Video Game Sage, or shoot an email to homebrewgameclub@gmail.com. Thanks!



Thanks for tuning in to this latest episode of the series that adds to the lore of your favorite new homebrews. What are your thoughts on Full Quiet and its development team? Would you play a sequel called Fuller Quieter, or do you want Haunted Halloween ’87? What homebrews are you eagerly looking forward to? Perhaps you’ll see it here soon when…A Homebrew Draws Near! Command?



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