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Episode 13: What Remains


Scrobins

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A Homebrew Draws Near!

A blog series by @Scrobins

Episode 13: What Remains

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Introduction:

Video games can aspire to be many things. They can be a playful escape from the world, and they can be a new lens for seeing the world and how we exist within it. Not many games use their medium to weigh in on substantive political discourse, but today’s game, with its themes of health & environmental policy, truth & disinformation, and archival institutions and the protection of knowledge, reflects the maturity and imagination of its developers, and the pervasiveness of the political in modern society.

For this entry, I’m covering What Remains: a visual novel adventure game developed by Iodine Dynamics. With Earth Day having recently passed, What Remains seemed a perfect fit to reflect on the significance of the day, given the game’s themes of protecting public health and conserving the environment. As of the time of this writing, the rom is available for purchase here, and a limited run of 80 CIBs has been reserved, with a recent update as of April 19, 2021 that Iodine Dynamics will be partnering with perennial production savior Broke Studio to produce carts.

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Initial cart/box design, or corporate leak?

 

Development Team:

Arnaud Guillon: design (maps, sprites, and mazes)

Dustin Long: programming

Aymeric Mansoux: hardware, music, and writing

Chun Lee: music

Marloes de Valk: design (cutscenes), writing, and research

 

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Image from What Remains’ first tweet

 

Game Evolution:

What Remains began teasing its existence through its dedicated Twitter account, which posted its first tweet on August 25, 2016. Updates flowed on followers’ feeds, sharing progress on aspects such as sprite development and circuit board work. The end was in sight when a May 15, 2017 tweet noted the team had started “Day 1” of a sprint to the finish line.

In an August 30, 2018 tweet, the dev team announced the release of the game, with an invitation to a release party in Rotterdam on September 27. Soon after, pre-orders for a limited physical release of 80 CIBs opened on September 5, 2018. As gamers played the released game, the dev team continued to improve it, fixing bugs and sharing updates. On May 24, 2019, the final rom was released.

Given the significance of the themes permeating What Remains’ gameplay, it is no surprise that What Remains found places of prominence within multiple exhibitions, including the New Archive Interpretations exhibition at the Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam in September 2017, the UN/GREEN exhibition at the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga in July 2019, the ZKMCenter for Art and Media in Karlsruche starting in February 2020, and the Sonic game space II exhibition at Visningsrommet USF in Berge through April and May 2021.

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What Remains at the ZKM│Center for Art and Media. Finally an art exhibit I can touch!

 

Gameplay Overview:

What Remains is a visual novel adventure game. You play as Jenny, your typical skateboarding gamer, living her best life in Sunny Peaks circa 1986. On the way home from an afternoon on the halfpipe, Jenny observes a car chase and the driver of the front car tossing something out the window: an NES cartridge!

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Cart only, very good condition, some scuffing resulting from high-speed car chase

Bringing it to your friend Michael, together you learn this isn’t the latest game, but a sophisticated tool for leaking the secrets of shady corporate conglomerate DNY Corp. It’s up to you to open your community’s eyes to the misinformation they’re being fed by DNY Corp.’s puppets.

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Between the 80s graphics, green coloring, and lollipop eyes, you know he’s bad news…until he pulls an Elphaba and gets a redemptive book/broadway musical

What Remains’ controls are simple: move around town using the D-pad, talk to people and open doors with the A button, and blow the whistle (when you learn an important secret) with the B button. Additionally, when playing the mysterious NES cartridge, you are treated to a mini game that hacks DNY Corp. with a mechanism that bears a striking resemblance to Arkanoid.

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Is this what showed up on the screen for those kids in Hackers?

Sunny Peaks is a bustling community, with more neighborhoods available to you as the story progresses. And the streets are filled with people that are fun to talk to. Each person has 2-3 different things to say in each level, whether it’s relevant to the plot or a silly non sequitur. Each level revolves around a new morsel of information gleaned from the cartridge and finding a way to counter DNY Corp.’s misdeeds. How you play the game from one level to the next is largely consistent, but includes some variances to keep things fresh, whether that’s trying to talk to as many people as possible, or carefully avoiding certain others…

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Stranger danger!

 

Writer’s Review:

What Remains provides a fun adventure, bolstered by themes which render the story as relevant today as it would be in its actual setting. One might find it easy to dismiss some of the subject matter as dated, with debate over the dangers of cigarette smoking and pollution long settled; and one might be cynical and tired over the meaning of truth when today’s political discourse has become saturated with discussion of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, but standing on the bridge between them may be precisely where this game becomes timeless with a resonance that rises above the specific subject matter we may be fighting over then or now. Here is a game to remind you of the adage that "all politics is local" and that even the most daunting challenges can be overcome when individuals recognize their own agency and make the effort to be the catalyst for change.

The straightforward gameplay allows the player to become more immersed in the story, running around Sunny Peaks to spread truth and enlist allies. As Jenny you meet a wide array of helpful, hostile, and hilariously benign characters, from talking pigeons to step aerobics enthusiasts.

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Personally I think it’s making a comeback.

Talking to them all is an entertaining aside, even when it doesn’t advance the plot, but then again some of the most amusing moments of my favorite RPGs were the jokes found in talking to NPCs (such as the couple in Dragon Warrior’s Rimuldar who never seem to find each other for their date).

Interspersed among your efforts to fight corporate megalomania are cutscenes that add drama to keep you tethered to the game for just one more level (including one that might fool the impatient and easily frustrated), and the brief Arkanoid-like needed to hack the next tidbit of industrial espionage, which gets a little more difficult with each level. Put together, What Remains is an enjoyable adventure that can be beaten in a single, brief sitting because it believes its challenge lies not in difficult gameplay but recalibrating how you digest information and weigh the sources from which you obtain it when you go back out into the real world.

The game’s graphical art is ornate and colorful. The streets of Sunny Peaks are not an ongoing pattern of urban tiles, but a labyrinthine environment with character of its own across the streets and within each shop. The detail is incredible from the light reflecting off windowpanes to the readable titles on the arcade cabinets. Scattered throughout the city are the dozens of people you can talk to. Unlike most games where you can explore and chat up the locals, these NPCs are all unique sprites, an impressive effort given their number. On top of the overworld art, the cutscenes provide a comic book feel to the story that keeps you inside the action.

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The diner before & after the smoking ban

Meanwhile the game’s music elevates gameplay by bolstering the tone of each level. Whether it’s the “urgent” theme to alert you to a new development, or the nighttime music that conveys a sleepy, creeping mystery as you skulk from block to block, each track reinforces the moods that carry you from chapter to chapter in this visual novel. Each chiptune begins simply enough, with a distinct vibe that sets the emotional tone to keep you grounded in the story, but if you take your time and wait for the tracks to really get going, you can enjoy them for the elaborate songs they are. And yet What Remains also effectively uses silence to bring tension to a rolling boil, giving players a sense of dread for what lurkis just around the corner. But if there is a classic game that I can point to that in my opinion bears some similarity to the overall feel of this soundtrack, it would be StarTropics with its balance of thrilling and entertaining, tense but bubbly.

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Both games even have volcanoes!

 

Interviews:

Well, what remains now but to talk to the development team? Yuk yuk yuk…(crickets)…anyhoo…for this interview, the development team opted to answer my questions together, creating a great conversational feel to their responses, so let’s see what additional insights Iodine Dynamics can add to supplement our experience of the game.

 

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Iodine Dynamics https://iodinedynamics.com/ Twitter @remwhat

DL = Dustin Long https://github.com/dustmop Twitter: @dustmop

AG = Arnaud Guillon

MdV = Marloes de Valk https://bleu255.com/~marloes Mastodon: @l03s@post.lurk.org Twitter: @l03s 

AM = Aymeric Mansoux https://bleu255.com/~aymeric Mastodon: @320x200@post.lurk.org Twitter: @320x200

CL = Chun Lee

 

Before we dive into What Remains, I would love to talk about you and your various backgrounds. What first inspired each of you to become homebrew game developers? What are your origin stories?

DL: Having always been interested in games and gamedev, I was really pulled into homebrew by witnessing the creativity in the chiptune scene, particularly by visual artists at shows in the New York area. A lot of them were using custom software on old consoles like the NES / Famicom and Sega Genesis / Mega Drive, which inspired me to learn how exactly that worked.

 

AG: I've been a gamer for a very long time and I've always had the desire to participate in the making of a game. When Aymeric and Marloes asked me to join the project, it was just the right opportunity.

 

MdV: I stumbled into it through a collab with Aymeric and Dave on a game called Naked on Pluto in 2011, and discovered I love writing dialogue and content for games. 

 

AM: Next to what Marloes said already, Chun, Marloes and myself were also part of an artist collective active in the 2000s, called GOTO10, working on experimental net/software art and music performance with Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS). Throughout the years we were increasingly drawn to using so-called obsolete computers and consoles to mess around with. For me it was also a way to reconnect with past interests in computer/platform centric subcultures and alternative modes of publishing/distribution like the demoscene.

 

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

DL: Aside from chiptune, I'm a big fan of many classic to modern games. I probably should give special thanks to Battle Kid, which was the first homebrew game that really caught my attention and pushed me to start making my own.

There are too many great developers that are out there right now to mention them all, but I'm especially impressed by the work coming out of groups like Mega Cat Studios, Broke Studio, and Morphcat Games.

 

AM: For the DIY/homebrew scene in particular, I'm always inspired to learn about projects that depart from nostalgia and try to build upon, expand, subvert existing computer/video tech that have lost their original commercial relevance. People/groups that inspire me in this context are Viznut's permacomputing principles, Little Scale's hardware hacking, the whole GB chiptune community, and communities like scanlines.xyz.

For the more political motivations/influences, the political theorist Chantal Mouffe is a big inspiration for me. For the art aspect, mostly artists and writers from the field of software art, culture jamming, and tactical media to some extent.

 

MdV: I'm going to throw in some interactive fiction. I loved You Are Jeff Bezos, by Kris Ligman and Queers in Love at the End of the World by Anna Entropy. Super inspiring how much you can do with so little: text and a counter for time or money.

 

How would you describe your design aesthetic, and what to you are hallmarks of a game designed by you?

MdV: The combination of quite disturbing topics with a good dose of humour, silliness mixed with critical observations and totally absurd dialogues. 

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No caption I write could improve on this perfection (chef’s kiss)

 

AG: For the in-game graphic part, I would describe the graphic style as "do as you can" ^^ I really started pixel art on this game, discovering in the process the specific constraints of the NES. It was initially very frustrating because all my initial graphic intentions had to be abandoned. Of course I knew these constraints would be very important, but I was far from it. So from my point of view, in-game visuals reflect more my learning than a clear and assumed direction from the beginning to the end. If I could work on a game again today, with the experience I gained on What Remains, I would approach it very differently. 

Before I even started working on the game, my fear was mostly about the top view of the game because I had the feeling that it would be more complex to get something visually appealing. Such a view needs a minimum scale to work and therefore a greater diversity of scenery elements in the image (to be successful in my opinion). Something sounding even more complex to achieve on a platform like the NES. I had in mind the old RPGs (Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest...) that I found particularly "stark" with differences in scale between characters and scenery that I didn't like at all, and scenery looking like maps. One of the few games that did the job very well in my opinion on NES (graphically) was TMNT, and it was my main inspiration for the scenery and the scale represented. For characters, I wanted to avoid SD or outlined designs. So they are very thin, and I was a little afraid that they were not visible enough in the picture. Generally speaking, I didn't want to imitate old games, even if quite often, after a few unsuccessful attempts, you find yourself applying proven recipes.

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Screenshot from TMNT

 

MdV: For the cutscenes and the cartridge PETSCII-style graphics I can only echo Arnaud's words. It was a (really fun) learning process. The constraints on resolution and palette felt brutal at first but triggered a lot of creativity as well. 

 

DL: I enjoy when games develop a central theme, either narrative or mechanical, then perform acts that twist or subvert it in clever and interesting ways. I feel like What Remains has quite a bit of that, which is especially fun!

 

AM: I also like games with a twist, with a little something that manipulates the player's expectation! Design wise, for What Remains specifically we also tried to make sure the overall design was not flat and uniform. By flat and uniform I mean that we worked very hard to make sure there was diversity in the visual language for each part of the game (cutscenes, top down views, non-interactive animations, faux-PETSCII interface for the "in-game game" sequences, etc.), and same for the music (making sure the soundtrack is there to set the mood and that sometimes less is more, whether it means that the composition needs to be more subtle, or that a location or scene simply works best with no music at all). This required a constant attention to detail and some extra work to make sure the overall experience remains fluid (an example would be how in some places the background music does not restart when you change location, but actually resumes from the last measure before you left its location).

 

What tools do you use to code and create the overall game as well as its music and art?

DL: The game software was created using a language called "co2", a lispy language that was started by Dave Griffiths, which I picked up and developed further. It has some nice features that help with writing larger homebrew projects, and the source is available on github for the curious. It's not yet documented well enough to be easy to pick up use, which is something I'd love to fix in the future.

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Dave Griffiths

 

MdV: For the cut scenes I used Gimp, for the secret cartridge PETSCII-style graphics I used NES Screen Tool. 

 

AG: YYCHR for sprites and tiles design, NES st for level design.

 

CL: for music, we used FamiTracker to make all the compositions. By breaking down the game into sections, we were able to make the necessary arrangements, as well as working out some of the main themes that may be heard throughout the game.

 

AM: Let's not forget Dustin's makechr! This helped so much when working on the cutscenes. And maybe a nice anecdote, it is through this tool that we first met, Dustin gives more details in the next question 🙂

 

MdV: Yes!!! makechr saved my life multiple times 🙂

 

How did you first connect with each other as the team came together?

AG: I’ve known Aymeric for more than 20 years (and then Marloes :). We were students at the same school. I met Dustin and Chun on this project.

 

DL: Aymeric and Marloes contacted me asking about NES graphics, which I believe was shortly after I had released The Wit.nes (a demake of Thekla's 2016 game "The Witness"). After chatting for a bit about what they had been working on, I agreed that working on What Remains sounded especially exciting, and the rest is history.

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Screenshot from The Wit.NES

 

AM: Ten years ago, I had been working a lot with Chun making and teaching live electronic, experimental music with a software called Pure Data. Since then whenever one of us is busy with a sound or music project we try to collaborate on that. So I told him about the project, and the rest is history.

 

MdV: I knew Arnaud, Chun and Aymeric already, and met Dustin for this project.  We organized a week when we'd all be together in The Netherlands to brainstorm, start the project and get to know each other (and the local cats). The rest of the project we collaborated remotely. But the history of the game goes back a little longer. It was Aymeric and Arnaud that started dreaming of making a game all the way back in art school. The first prototype of the game was made together with Dave Griffiths, who we worked with on Naked on Pluto. This was back in 2014 when we were commissioned by Annet Dekker to make a demo for Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. Unfortunately Dave was unable to continue working on the project, and that's when we asked if Dustin would be interested. The knowledge and experience (and cats) he brought to the project were invaluable!

 

What was the working dynamic like in your collaboration?

MdV: It was so nice to work in this team, it was a pity we couldn't meet IRL more often though. We had quite a good workflow and ways to coordinate through a self-hosted wiki, bugtracker, git repository and XMPP chat. 

 

AG: We all have a job that we were doing at the same time, which logically led to more or less pronounced phases of involvement. But the project has never had a major downtime in memory. We had a whole pipeline set up so that everyone knew what they had to do, what elements were ready, what needed to be reviewed... it worked pretty well.

It should also be noted that we benefited greatly from Dustin's experience on this project.

 

DL: It was a great team for making What Remains! Everyone was able to bring something unique to the project, and with everyone's individual perspectives and ideas we were able to make something that I feel is really quite special.

 

AM: It was just great. The discussions were super generative, everyone was committed and dedicated. I hope we can find a framework one day to work together again. Everything clicked.

 

At the heart of What Remains’ story are the efforts of Jenny and Michael to make a difference in health and environmental issues plaguing their community and the world writ large. What inspired you to make this game and focus on these themes?

MdV: There were two parallel tracks happening back then. Aymeric and Arnaud were thinking about making a NES game together, and I was researching the origins of today's climate change disinformation campaigns and ended up with a lot of links to the campaigns of the tobacco industry in the 80s. These two tracks merged beautifully once we started brainstorming for the game. The plot is heavily inspired by the characters and events that surfaced during my research.

 

AM: I think for all of us this led to this great balance between doing something very indulging and exciting to hack on, yet not gratuitous at all. It captured our excitement and joy to make something playful, technically exciting to produce, all at the service of telling a story about issues that we all deeply care about, using a medium and format that resonate with our concerns.

 

What Remains takes place in 1986. Beyond the nostalgia factor, do you find looking to the past offers a meaningful resource to advance conversations about the future, or is the look backward more to highlight our lack of progress?

MdV: Both, what we had in the back of our minds was this Chinese proverb: "What's the best time to plant a tree? 30 years ago. What is the second-best time? Now." It's no use crying over spilt milk, best take action now, so that we do not have any regrets in 30 years’ time. We can look back and learn from the roots of the problems we are now facing. People are being distracted with disinformation and clever PR tricks from the oil industry (and other industries for sure), many of which are featured in the game and were first tried and tested by the tobacco industry in the 70s and 80s. The strategy of the game is to "inoculate" people against fake news, to let players experience disinformation campaigns so that they become more recognizable. This approach was inspired by research at the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Laboratory (Jon Roozenbeek and Sander van der Linden), who have tested if so-called 'pre-bunking' helps people resist disinformation and fake news with positive results.

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Jon Roozenbeek (left) & Sander Van Der Linden (right)

For additional reading of their academic work, see Inoculating the Public against Misinformation about Climate Change & Good News about Bad News: Gamified Inoculation Boosts Confidence and Cognitive Immunity Against Fake News

 

DL: The context of the past informs our understanding of the present, and hopefully teaches us how to approach the challenges we face now. Especially at a time like this, where the world's future is so uncertain, and in a large part due to the internet's ability to research history, there's a lot of interest in connecting what has come before to help comprehend how we got here.

 

Your interview with Annet Dekker is a fun read: a sort of choose your own adventure interview covering environmental issues, archival institutions, and access to information, among other issues, with readers getting insight into themselves based on which answers they selected. Have you found that people who read that interview fall into a particular category? What next steps do you recommend to people when they learn what kind of archivist they are? 

MdV: Hmm... we haven't reviewed experiences of readers I must admit. The multiple choice was more a way to discuss different aspects of our thinking on the topics of the questions by Annet. We'd recommend people to be content with whatever type of archivist they are. All archivists are committed to long-term thinking, which is what is needed to limit the damages done by <whatever flavor> of capitalism.

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Annet Dekker

 

The Iodine Dynamics website features the essay “How to Escape Reality in 10 Simple Steps”, originally published in 2017. The past few years have certainly brought this issue of everyone trying to manage their own narrative into higher profile between “fake news” and “alternative facts” overwhelming substantive policy discussion. How does this essay inform What Remains?

MdV: The essay describes 10 strategies used by the tobacco and oil industry to delay regulations aimed at curbing the harmful effects of those industries. We used a few, still used today, in the game. The essay draws parallels between disinformation campaigns from the 80s to those we can witness today, such as the overarching strategy: emphasizing scientific uncertainty. "With the idea of doubt in place, both public and government start to assess the costs, financial or personal, of taking action in a different light. Why take costly measures now, when there is still no conclusive evidence?" This works, we are still hearing so-called experts talk about the costs, economic costs and the cost of personal freedom to drive an SUV and fly all over the planet, combined with tiny seeds of doubt about the severity of the problem and if we puny humans can even influence the climate that has been changing throughout the existence of Earth. We can, and we are, in a speedy 100 years instead of thousands of years.

    

Do you have any new thoughts on the essay’s arguments in the years since it was published? 

MdV: I think the arguments are still very relevant. With the urgency of action getting clearer every hurricane, flood, forest fire and drought, governments are still taking microscopic and sometimes simply symbolic steps. There are very well funded lobby groups and think tanks spreading propaganda and disinformation through a network of alternative media, with talking points also leaking into mainstream media, spreading doubt about the severity of the climate crisis and the economic costs of attempts to mitigate it. If all else fails, xenophobia and Islamophobia are incredibly successful distractions fueling white supremacy and hate. My interactive fiction Villains and Heroes deals with these issues. Currently the pandemic provides all the distraction needed to grind action to a halt, with ever wilder conspiracy theories thriving. Who has time to care about a transition to a world running on renewable energy, to fight for degrowth, when theories about 5G spreading coronavirus, Bill Gates lacing vaccines with a microchip and the world being run by a sect of satanic pedophiles, are gaining widespread support?

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The onesie makes me feel safe and happy, but the font tells me I should be frightened.

 

Ever since my first episode, M-Tee planted this idea in my mind that a game’s protagonist, who serves as both the player's point of immersion in the game as well as a reflection of its designer. What was the intention behind Jenny and Michael’s design, and are there elements of yourself that you see in them?

AG: They wear lycra clothes! 🙂

 

DL: For me at least, they're both kids having a good time playing games and bonding over them. Definitely something I can identify with!

 

AM: Hard to go in-depth without giving spoilers, but let's just say that for me, Jenny and Michael represent the bitter-sweetness of activism. In that sense the game ending can be interpreted in different ways. And I think that this ambivalence is at the heart of the paralysis, lethargy, apathy we're often facing when it comes to responding to the many systemic societal and environmental issues we're confronted with today, and that may be linked to the increasing appeal of accelerationist ideologies, left or right, that are seen as a magical fast-forward that would allow us to escape problems we failed to solve as a society, so far. And yes, lycra too!

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Lycra: TNG

 

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

DL: We originally had plans for more content in the mid-game, that was cut due to concerns about development time, but I think the game we ended up with is better for it! It tells the story it wants to tell with exactly the right amount of time that it needs.

 

AM: Another thing we're taking away is that shipping hardware is a whole different story than shipping a ROM file! We have completely underestimated this. One of the important aspects of the project was that we would not use new parts. We wanted to recycle existing abandoned carts to demonstrate the potential of this approach and give a better purpose to many unpopular or overproduced cartridges rather than eventually becoming e-waste. This led to two issues. First is that with this approach we ended up bumping into bugs and compatibility issues that were never documented and unknown so far (namely how mapper chips, from the same type/model, but from different manufacturers, behave differently). Those are the kind of things that are hard to investigate and are slow to debug. 

 

Second, and this is unrelated to the fact we're recycling parts: logistics, logistics, logistics. We did not factor in properly the time for this. As it turns out, packaging, management of bills of materials, shipping, etc., takes an awful amount of time, even for a such a small scale as ours. We thought we could do that on the side. Not at all. Lesson learned. The good thing though is that early on we knew a delay would occur (even though we did not think it would be that much), so we decided to not ask for any money, we just opened a reservation list, to avoid the usual situation where you advance money and may never get anything in return, or maybe only your grandchildren may get something. Another thing we learned, and we were partly surprised about, was the strong split between those who totally understood the cart recycling concept and saw that as a natural extension of working on old computer tech outside of consumerist concerns with a strong position on environmental issues, and those who somehow struggled to see this effort as legitimate, or the right way to publish a new title, because it was not made of completely new parts, as if this was not worth engaging with as a result, somehow. We're still puzzling on that 🙂

 

There has been a lot of support and enthusiasm for What Remains on social media. How does it feel to see so many people excited about the game? 

MdV: That means a lot to us! The whole team put a lot of effort into the game, next to day jobs and throughout different time zones, spread over 4 countries. It is so rewarding to hear positive responses!

 

DL: It's great to hear folks' feedback and witness their excitement! It makes all the hard work that went into it feel that much more rewarding.

 

AM: Amazing. I can say without a doubt that this has been the most rewarding project I've been working on so far, precisely because of all the encounters, chats, discussions, IRL or online, this has created.

 

Some of the continuing enthusiasm comes from people hoping to purchase a physical copy. Do you have any updates on the cartridge release?

AM: The current pandemic has made our terrible handling of logistics even worse, and we really had to put everything on hold for a while. The good news is that we're going to get help from Broke Studio to produce it all, and that we're all motivated to make sure 2021 is the year where these cartridges are finally out 🙂

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I’m starting to think that yellow part might be a halo for this saint of a company.

 

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

AG: I would like to work on a shoot'em up !!!

 

DL: Recently, I've been heavily involved with a group in NYC called Death by Audio Arcade (see https://www.deathbyaudioarcade.com/). We make new arcade cabinets of locally developed games, and have lots of exciting stuff coming up in the near future!

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Now THAT is how you logo

 

AM: I'm enjoying working on LURK quite a lot recently. This is a small collective of sysadmins/artists/hackers interested in promoting alternative network infrastructures for groups and individuals active in the field of art and culture production. We offer email discussion lists, real-time chats, streaming services, and a federated social media platform, as a means to move contemporary discussions and production of net and computational culture outside of surveillance capitalism (see https://lurk.org). Chun and I are also slowly working on a small music software for the Game Boy, and like Arnaud, working on a shmup *with a twist* would be a cool thing to do! Maybe we can convince the others to make that a new Iodine Dynamics game 😄

 

MdV: I'm continuing my quest in text-based games and I'm looking into illustrating with ANSI art but haven't started anything new since Villains and Heroes. If the shmup requires any creative onomatopoeia or dramatic cutscenes AND has a mega twist, I'd be happy to help 🙂

 

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

DL: Dullahan Software has some projects coming in the future that I'm really looking forward to!

 

AM: Not all game related but, curious to see what will come up from Broke Studio + Sylvain Gadrat prototyping of networked games for the NES. Impressed by the sound and graphics effort put into the ZPF shmup on the Mega Drive. Wondering if the Hologon demo from TEK on Amiga is the beginning of new disk swapping and computer assisted correspondence art revival. Amazed by standalone devices like the MegaGRRL. Eager to try the LSDJ inspired M8 from Trash 80. Excited to see all the recent efforts to update GBDK.

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Screenshot from ZPF

 

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?

MdV: We will do the physical release, we promiiiiiiiiiiise!!!!! :)))

 

Conclusion:

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the series that takes deep dives into promising homebrew games coming across the finish line. What are your thoughts on What Remains and the folks at Iodine Dynamics? What are your thoughts about its themes on conservation, public health, truth, and protection of information? 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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Great episode!  Super cool that Broke Studio will be handling the physical production.

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Awesome interview. What Remains is one of my favorites homebrew games. Glad to read more from the creators ❤️
Great job, Sean! Can't wait to read the next Episode!

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