Jump to content

Episode 16: Eyra-The Crow Maiden


Scrobins

340 views

 Share

A Homebrew Draws Near!

A blog series by @Scrobins

Episode 16: Eyra-The Crow Maiden

image.png.18ca38c194a427fd7341d9d43fd6bcff.png

Introduction:

Developing and releasing a single homebrew game is an immense undertaking. It’s no wonder some brewers either work on one project at a time or chip away at multiple projects over a long span of time. Or if you’re Second Dimension, you assemble three separate dream teams to develop a game for three different consoles and release them almost simultaneous to another game they developed. Fortune truly favors the bold.

For this entry, I’m concluding my 2-part series on Second Dimension, highlighting Eyra-The Crow Maiden, a sword and sorcery action platformer for the NES, SNES, AND Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. As of the time of this writing, the cartridge release for the NES version has been fulfilled for Kickstarter backers, and the 16-bit versions continue to progress in development. You can order/pre-order the cartridge releases or the digital files for the NES release here, the SNES release here, and the Genesis release here.

 

Development Team:

NES:

Adam Welch: project lead, story

Jav Leal de Freitas: graphics, story

@Vectrex28(Antoine Fantys): programming

@Famicuber(Myles Davidson): music

 

SNES:

Adam Welch: project lead, story

Jav Leal de Freitas: graphics, story

Alek Maul: programming

Sebastian Abreu: music

 

Genesis:

Adam Welch: project lead, programming, story

Jav Leal de Freitas: graphics, story

Sebastian Abreu: music

 

All 3:

Jav Leal de Freitas: case art (regular & deluxe editions)

Luis Martins: case art (limited edition)

 

image.png.ff3e9381d5d1f078c361d45786545c97.png

NES CIB

 

Game Evolution:

As Second Dimension continued its work on The Curse of Illmoore Bay, it began teasing another game: Eyra-The Crow Maiden. The Kickstarter campaign for Eyra launched on February 15, 2020. Like Illmoore, Eyra met its initial funding goal in its first 24 hours. By the time the campaign concluded, 435 backers had pledged more than $32,500, smashing several stretch goals. Although the original Kickstarter revolved around the NES game alone, unlocked stretch goals expanded the campaign’s scope to include development of Eyra for the SNES and Sega Genesis. Additional stretch goals brought in extra levels, power-ups, and promised a vehicle stage for the 16-bit versions of the game.

Backers were presented with a wide variety of tiers, featuring no less than 40 options. At their center, the available backer tiers included digital, cart only, standard edition CIBs, deluxe edition CIBs (which included accessories with the game), and limited edition CIBs (featuring translucent carts with LEDs embedded within) for each version of the game across the NES, SNES, and Genesis, and every conceivable bundled combination between them. As an extra special option there was a Super Tribe/Mega Tribe tier that offered to include backers’ names and faces in the SNES or Genesis versions respectively.

 

image.png.7c499ee03b13e8348668fd4c62d84138.png

Screenshot from Eyra-The Crow Maiden (NES)

 

Gameplay Overview:

Eyra-The Crow Maiden describes itself as a swords & sorcery action platformer. You play as Eyra, a young priestess of the jungle dwelling Koruhaurus. Your people enjoyed an era of peace until the Infernal Marauder abducted your tribe’s warriors in order to transform them into his own dark army by way of ancient, forbidden magic. You must journey across the world with your trained crow, Nunkamah to defeat this evil and rescue your people.

Gameplay consists of tried and true platforming as you fight monsters and avoid obstacles while rescuing your kidnapped kinfolk scattered across each stage. For now I’ll stick to discussing the NES game’s controls, where you can expect the A button to jump and B button to attack. The D-pad will move you around while pushing down allows you to duck. You can attack with Nunkamah by pushing the B button and up on the D-pad simultaneously, which is extremely helpful when you need to fight from a place of cover. Be mindful though that Nunkamah, like our own real-world animal sidekicks, won’t do your bidding for nothing, so don’t count on a crow charge attack if you don’t have any more crow treats on hand.

image.png.6358d944a2b27a414d19bc84dd1cf547.png

My cat is the same way, even when she does get treats

You’ll find plenty of crow food laying around levels in addition to some meat to boost your own health. Coins will boost your point total for all you hi-scorers out there. And watch out for weapon upgrades hidden through the level; but beware that if you can’t hack it with better blades and instead get cut yourself, your weapon will get downgraded in addition to you taking damage.

 

Writer’s Review:

Like The Curse of Illmoore Bay, Eyra-The Crow Maiden is a game simple in design, but rich in execution. Learning how to play is easy but playing well is a taller order. The first enemies lure you into thinking the game is a cakewalk, providing a good tutorial to ground you in its gameplay. But once you encounter the Acolytes and their magic projectiles or the Woken Souls who seem to hover right over the platform you need to jump to next, you realize careful timing and second guessing every jump is essential to defeating them without taking damage. And yet each level’s design feels carefully crafted to be fair enough that you will keep blaming yourself instead of the developers every time you die. My only criticism of the gameplay would be that on platforms near the top of the screen, your jump is diminished as you bump up against the game’s HUD display, making it more difficult to move around on higher planes.

Graphically, Eyra is a colorful delight between the animated sprites and lush backgrounds that seems to push what the NES is capable of. The dev team may not be thrilled that the first word that comes to my mind when describing their hearty swords & sorcery game’s color palette is “sherbet”, but I love love LOVE to see something this different and beautiful in a new game. I’m reminded of the backgrounds for Tanglewood, one of the most beautiful homebrews for the Genesis, which could have sold prints of its backgrounds on Etsy, and I would buy them in a heartbeat. I feel the same way about Eyra’s graphics, so bold and beautiful that I might come back to play again and again just to progress and see what the next level looks like.

Meanwhile Eyra’s music channels a classic 80s vibe that reminds me of the kind of adventure platformers I could sink into for hours on end. The soundtrack Eyra most reminds me of is James Bond Jr. for the NES, with a sense of ongoing adventure as if the music itself were cheering me on as a supporting sidekick (which makes sense given Famicuber’s admiration for Neil Baldwin). What is also interesting to me, and I don’t think I’ve noticed this in other games, is that the game’s sound effects, from taking damage to freeing one of your captured warriors, seem to mesh well with the game’s music. These sounds are not merely functional from a gameplay perspective, but in fact contribute to the soundtrack. This to me reinforces my earlier impression that the music in Eyra is a supporting character with sound effects joining the music to urge you on and confirm you are killing it with this game.

Even though the 16-bit Eyra’s remain on their quest to finish development, the teasers posted so far show these games are hardly just upscaled carbon copies of its NES sister, but lush adventures and experiences in their own right that can be genuinely considered as separate games.

image.png.b3b7e581b7f3bf990460ae18d33cb6fd.png

Screenshot from Eyra-The Crow Maiden (Genesis)

 

Interviews:

Interviewing the development teams for three iterations of a game across multiple consoles can seem like a daunting task, but fortunately I was able to chat with Adam, Jav, and Sebastian about Eyra when I interviewed them about The Curse of Illmoore Bay. For their stories about both games, you can read their interviews here. For the second half of my interviews with more of the talented folks behind Eyra, keep on reading!

 

image.png.b75d5af99345cb53ac6786bf02a55295.png

FG Software/Vectrex28

@FG_Software

-Before we dive into Eyra-The Crow Maiden, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer? What is the origin story of FG Software/Vectrex28?

I've had an interest in retro gaming ever since I was a kid. I grew up in the early 2000's so obviously, the NES was way before my time. However, I used to have the Mario remakes on the Game Boy Advance which probably ignited this passion for older games inside of me.

Later, after getting some pieces of retro hardware, my desire to actually make something on retro platforms was sparked by my first discovery of the Commodore 64 and its BASIC prompt. Unknowingly, while thinking it was very funny to print offensive words on the screen in various ways, I was learning how to program.

Around the same time, I also got into ROMhacking, and, being in my teens, the results were full of lowbrow humour as well. Those two hobbies ended up colliding when I found out about the Nerdy Nights, and that's where I realized I could create new games to draw dicks on!

So, because I thought it would be fun, I ended up porting one of the risqué Atari games to the NES (Beat 'em and Eat 'em), and ever since making that mess I wanted to make more, and that's where we are today!

Oh, and don't worry, I grew out of doing it just to draw dicks in a creative way........ Mostly 😛

image.png.92db41abead19871909c512803e5c8b7.png

Screenshot from Beat ‘Em for NES

 

-What is the significance of the FG Software/Vectrex28 usernames that you use on VGS and elsewhere?

Vectrex28? I just love the Vectrex, and 28 has always been my lucky number. As for FG, it just stands for *my family name* + Games, so F[*****] Games 😛

Pretty creative, I know 😛

 

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

My influences, at least in the overall mood of my games, are late 90's European microcomputer games (Amiga mostly). I just love that style! Sensible Software is a big influence, Henk Nieborg is another one, in terms of graphics at least. He's doing graphics for Bitmap Bureau nowadays, which coincidentally made my favourite Mega Drive game, Xeno Crisis. I'm quite excited for their next game, which was Henk's passion project.

image.png.93cf3e4287cbdf47de8089c39c5e0a47.png

Henk Neiborg

 

-You have developed several homebrew games for the NES such UXO, Rekt, Saturn Smash, and Brony Blaster. In developing your games would you say they have any qualities that seem quintessentially you that you have maintained across games? How would you describe your aesthetic? I’m in love with the neon retro font you’ve developed.

Hm, I think that would be just having fun with creating these games, and making what I want to make. These games may not have the quality of many of the games from back in the day, but I'm having great fun making them, and trying to make the coding and graphics better with every game.

The aesthetic is definitely inspired by this 90's Amiga style I mentioned earlier, and the demoscene in general.

 

-You have been programming for several years, do you feel your approach to homebrewing has changed in that time?

Not really, I've always done this for fun and wouldn't want this otherwise. Obviously the quality has improved over the years, but my core approach to making homebrew games always was to do it as a fun little hobby of mine really.

 

-What tools do you use to code?

Nothing fancy. All I need is Notepad to write the code, a tile editor like TileMolester, and an emulator like FCEUX. Everything else I make myself (Stuff like level editors and the like).

 

-Do you have a different approach/attitude toward the games you work on by yourself compared to those you are commissioned to work on? Is the experience of developing them different?

I'd say the experience is slightly different, but not that much. On my own games, I'm basically a one-man team, but for a commissioned project, I gotta work with a team. So far, my teams have all been fantastic (Well partly because I only really do this for people I know :P) and all I want is that me and the commissioning team share a common vision for the project.

 

-Tell me about the evolution of Eyra-The Crow Maiden. Any interesting stories on the game’s development for the NES?

The evolution was pretty straightforward. It started out as a concept over at Second Dimension, then I made tools for it and started making the whole engine. When that was complete, it was time for polishing and bugfixing the game. Just a smooth development cycle really.

I think the funniest story was when Adam launched the Kickstarted a day early and I had to scramble to have a decently playable demo hahaha!

 

-How did you first connect with Adam and Second Dimension, and what is the working dynamic like as you both work on your respective aspects of the game?

I had known Adam since the NintendoAge days, having been a regular in his tinychat that NA members used to go to before the advent of Discord (Gosh that feels like such a long time ago hahaha).

But as far as homebrews go, it all started when I was looking for a publisher for Family Picross, a little Picross game I made for the NES. Adam bought the game from me and he released it.

image.png.35821ee45ee1c674b0c7a202fb1b43f1.png

Screenshot from Family Picross for NES

Later, he was looking for an NES programmer for a commission project, so he hit me up and the rest is history!

As far as the working dynamic went, Adam was the project director/supervisor, while everyone worked on their respective tasks. Then Famicuber and Jav would share their progress on the game's development Discord, and I would implement their work in the ROM.

 

-What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing Eyra-The Crow Maiden for the NES? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps?

Challenges? Probably knowing that I had to finish the game since people already spent real money for the game, meaning I had a commitment to finishing the game, haha. Also, the mapper we were targeting (or rather the lack thereof) meant I had to be careful with ROM usage, as the whole game had to fit in 40KB or ROM!

As for the lessons I learned, I'd say that having a team to provide feedback as the game was being made really helps when making a game!

 

-What aspects of Eyra-The Crow Maiden are you most proud of?

Putting so much content in an NROM game, definitely. I managed to find creative ways to compress such a sophisticated game (for NROM at least) into such a small ROM. I've also managed to work on some compression schemes outside of level data, such as palette data, enemy metasprites, and text data among others.

 

-There is a lot of buzz around other projects you are working on: Space Soviets and Raycaster. How are those progressing? Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, NES or otherwise?

The raycaster was supposed to be a "because I can" thing where I wanted to see if it was possible to make a decent raycasting engine on the NES. Well it ended up blowing up on Twitter so I just had to make a little game with it, which culminated in a little proof of concept (which I also used as this year's April Fools' game) called Los... I mean Horror Hospital. I've since written a thread on it on Twitter which has a lot of details about the making of the game :).

I might use the engine again in the future, but for now I want to focus on Space Soviets.

image.png.0ed772c2ca419b8bf0a8b0e3a7ec360b.png

Screenshot from Space Soviets for NES

Speaking of Space Soviets, now that I'm done with my April Fools' raycaster project, I'm once again focusing my attention on it. I'm currently working on a new level for it. I'm almost done with all of the tilesets I need for it, and most of what I need to do now is adding levels, enemies, and bosses. The engines themselves only need bugfixing and polishing really... So yeah, I think it's progressing quite smoothly 🙂

As for projects on the horizon, I want to make a Metroidvania on the PC Engine/Turbografx-16 once I'm done with Space Soviets. I'm doodling some art assets for it every once in a while, and I just really want to make a game for this console I fell in love with as I started living most of my life in Japan.

 

-I remember you also developed a Nintendo-themed homebrew of Deal or No Deal. Have you thought about reviving that project with homebrew characters similar to how Super Homebrew War used homebrew characters for its take on the Smash series?

Oh, that game haha. It's the second game I ever made, and quite frankly, it kinda sucks. The concept just doesn't work all that well as a game. That one is definitely canned I'd say, unless someone sends me Magical Chase and Coryoon for the PC Engine or something 😛

 

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

As I mentioned before, Bitmap Bureau's next Mega Drive release! I'm excited to see what they'll cook up this time!

 

-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?

Stay awesome, and keep retro alive by supporting your favourite homebrew creators 🙂

Peace!

 

image.png.c639897ad649af787c6e312e36128a08.png

Famicuber

@Famicuber

-Before we dive into Eyra-The Crow Maiden, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to be a musician? What led you to compose music for homebrew games? What is the origin story of Famicuber?

My father was also a musician and a guitarist back in his day, when I was young, he would teach me how to play piano and let me play some of his guitars he has, I also attended some music lessons when I was in high school. Truth be told, I was always more intrigued by the sound of 8-bit consoles and computers than musical instruments, even at a young age. More often, I would mess around with music tracker programs that emulate certain sound chips and make either original tracks or covers from games or cartoons in my free time.

When I started using the "Famicuber" name back in 2013, I was originally going to make gaming reviews that's all over on YouTube, but that never surfaced beyond some scripts which I still had lying around. I then tried doing flash animations which never really went anywhere and wasn't really proud of them looking back. Eventually I've lost interest in making animations, stopped caring about YouTube and started focusing entirely on making games.

When I started making games at age 14, I wanted to make games for older platforms like NES and wondered if such a thing was possible, that's when I discovered NintendoAge and its Nerdy Nights tutorials upon researching. It took me a few years to learn how opcodes, assembly, compiling, or even just coding in a text editor worked, because my only experience with game development prior was with Game Maker, I would eventually make my first and very simple NES game from these tutorials which was "Rookie Egg Jugglers".

image.png.fa503a71297d4cc160317d10a7ed7b5b.png

Screenshot from Rookie Egg Jugglers for NES

Around 2018, when I was looking for some work, I figured I could do some music commissions for NES programmers as well and around that time, Vectrex28/FG Software was looking for a musician for Space Soviets. So I messaged him and asked if I could do some tracks for it, he responded that he already got someone for it but told me to send him some sample tracks for future projects, so I did and he was impressed with the work I've done. When he released a demo of Family Picross, I messaged him again with feedback of the game along with a minor nudge, opening to do some music work, this time he asked me to make a track that fits with the chill theme of the game. So I made a demo track (which would be Music A in the final game), converted to the sound engine as requested and made a test ROM out of it, he loved it and asked me to make a couple of more tracks for it, and that's how I got my start in composing music for projects.

 

-What is the significance of the Famicuber name?

It's just a dumb mashup of my two favourite Nintendo consoles with an extra "r" I came up with when I was 12/13, there's no real significance behind it, haha.

 

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

The biggest would be just about every British/European composer from the ZX Spectrum and C64 scene in the 80's, whichever one comes to your head is likely on my list. NES Sunsoft games are another massive influence with not just its use of DPCM bass samples but just kickass tracks in general... and sometimes a bit of Marshall Parker just for a laugh, haha. Honestly, I listen to so much game music that the work I watch or listen changes all the time. One day I could be heavily listening to NES music by Neil Baldwin, then SMS music by Matt Furniss the next day and then a variety of SNES music next and so on and so on. It would be impossible to answer who's work I watch now because of how often it changes.

image.png.e6bf7067cb4c95a3d18bc505512987e7.png

Neil Baldwin

-Tell me about the development of Eyra-The Crow Maiden’s music for the NES, what is your composition process? Is the creative process different compared to when you compose more traditional music?

For Eyra specifically, the process went like this:

I'd ask the others at the team on the description of the game from the likes of genres, themes and characters to get the idea of what tracks I'm making, along with how many tracks to compose and other technical stuff, I'd also receive some source material from them, like concept art and mock-up shots to help out with ideas, whatever inspirations the project has, I do some research on them, if it's from another game, I'd check out a clip from that particular game.

Once that's done, any details I've gathered is then written down into a little notebook I have as a reminder while composing music and creating sounds.

I then start brainstorming and make the track in OpenMPT, when I start making tunes on trackers, I focus entirely on the track I compose and don't listen to any other music. This process usually takes a day or two for a track to complete, sometimes longer depending on my brainstorming or satisfaction.

After it's complete, I send the finished track to the team for their opinion and approval, once the tracks are approved, I move on to the next track.

Once some songs are made or when I can't think of new tracks, I start converting them to FamiTracker to emulate the NES's sound capabilities. Squeezing the multi-channel tracks down to its 4 channels isn't difficult once knowing how its instruments and note patterns are planned out, turning any chords into arpeggios (hence the term, "broken chords") and some echo leads being fused together into one channel if needed, sometimes I put a bit of my own magic to the tracks when converting. This conversion process takes less than a day to do, after it's done, it goes through the same approval process again.

I then reconverted the emulated tracks to the NES itself with FamiTone, I'd make a new FamiTracker file and manually recreate the songs to carefully fit within the limitations of the sound engine. Once recreated, the file is exported to a text file which FamiTone takes and converts it to code as data if there aren't any issues. The data is then placed to my music development ROM, "SECT" to test out if the converted tracks play properly on an emulator and actual hardware. After the tunes play correctly on hardware, I send the converted song data to the programmer to put into the game.

Creative progression-wise, the only massive difference between Eyra and other NES music I've composed was that I didn't used a sample tracker when making the music.

 

-What tools do you use to compose, generally as well as for games?

I use FamiTracker to compose NES music and FamiTone to convert it to hardware along with a music development NES ROM I've programmed myself to test out the converted tracks called the "Sound Engine Compatibility Test" program or "SECT" for short. I sometimes also use a sample tracker called OpenMPT to have a bit of freedom from the limitations when composing.

 

-Tell me about the evolution of Eyra-The Crow Maiden. Any interesting stories on the game’s development?

It started around the end of December 2019 when I was wrapping up on projects for the year to take a Christmas break. As my break began, I received a DM from Adam asking if I was interested in doing sound for an NES project. After some discussion back and forth along with agreements, I was invited to a dedicated Discord server for development of the game. It was around that same time when I, along with the help of my aunt, purchased a new PC that's worth updating since my other PC was at that point nearly 9 years old. Eyra became the first game-related project to be developed on that PC.

image.png.3848f97de699453352903cd1545434c3.png

Second Dimension’s Discord is definitely a friendly communi…oh would you look at that? #shameless

I think the most interesting part of the story was how I got involved in making the limited CD soundtrack, I was contacted by Adam about making a Kickstarter tier for it, we were discussing back and forth about how he was going to do the tier, but as we were discussing, before any agreement was made, Adam accidently launched the Kickstarter earlier than attended, making a bit of an awkward situation since he wasn't able to edit the tiers. Eventually an agreement was made where I can make the tracks for the CD which included the originally composed MIDI tracks and the uncut versions of the NES tracks.

 

-How did you first connect with Adam and Second Dimension, and what is the working dynamic like as you both work on your respective aspects of the games?

The first time getting in touch was from a project he was working on years ago, I'm however not allowed to go into detail about it. When Vectrex sold the publishing rights of Family Picross to Second Dimension and I spoke with Adam about shipping, I also started a discussion about sound for Sega Genesis and shared some samples made with trackers associated with its FM sound chip.

Working with Adam was fun, we both have a sense of humour (as same goes with the others at the team) and he's a cool, talented bloke based on the casual talk we had during development of Eyra.

 

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

One of the challenges was composing tracks in OpenMPT as I haven't made heavy use of the program prior to Eyra, I actually didn't even realize that I can use custom samples in the tracks until after I've finished doing Eyra, hence why all the original tracks make use of MIDI instruments, the outcome of the challenge was positive though as I've enjoyed making the attempt at "modern" sounding tracks and I've learned a lot from using the program since then.

The other challenge would be dealing with the limitations of FamiTone which isn't a surprise since I've worked with the engine before, the more of a surprise (to me at least) was how the team dealt with the limitations. You see, when Eyra would make use of NROM (containing 32k of code), the programmer assigned the music data to the size of only 8k, and considering that I was given nine tracks to compose, two of them being boss themes, it's a lot to ask for size that small. I'd already have to remove the bells and whistles in the songs during the conversion process along with other attempts of compression to save space, but that still wouldn't be small enough to fit, so of course in this situation, sacrifices are expected to be made. When the 8k limit is being reached and we started discussing a solution through cuts, one of the ideas I proposed was to scrap one of the two boss themes and reuse the other, Adam however, instead suggested to scrap some portions of the song in the level themes. I was at first opposed at the idea as my concerns is that cutting it may destroy the flow of the songs, but eventually I gave in and made some cuts, just barely fitting all nine tracks in 8k. Listening back to what's in the final product, the song cuts weren't as bad as I'd feared to be and I'm still happy with how the tracks sound at the end, so I guess not all was lost.

 

-What aspects of Eyra-The Crow Maiden are you most proud of?

This is going to be a bizarre answer for me, but I'm proud of the catchiness with the temple theme I've composed, because every now and then, whenever I take a break from technology and do other things like weekend chores, I'd sometimes hum or whistle music from other games, and recently, I would out of nowhere hum that temple theme, I don't typically hum to my own songs as I'd think it would be narcissistic of me to do so, but I think at that moment, that's when I've realized that I've composed a good track. That's not to say that I'm unhappy with the other tracks of course, but something about that temple track makes it feel special.

image.png.9ddc493bc1ab33b0d2ec36db45b02a1a.png

I mean, if that’s what you mean by weekend chores I’m not surprised (art by VGS’ own CasualCart)

 

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

Since the completion of composing for Eyra, I've been programming my own NES sound engine and been making good progress on it, I'm currently working on a second revision along with a demo ROM which hopefully should be released ahead of time. Along with that, I'd like to eventually compose music on other platforms as well, such as the Gameboy and Sega Master System.

 

-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?

Thanks for the interview, doing this is admittedly a first for me, but I've enjoyed and appreciated answering questions. I don't often hang around on social media, but I do post on Twitter every now and then there @Famicuber, If any of you folks are a homebrew developer for whatever platform and looking for a musician to compose for whatever project you're working on, feel free to shoot me a PM there as well. Cheers, take it easy, and stay safe!

 

image.png.d42f4cb76f9807d0b0ddc25d7c5fe90c.png

Alekmaul

@Alekmaul

-Before we dive into Eyra-The Crow Maiden, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer, creating games for old consoles?

Well, you know, when I was young, I loved playing a lot with friends on their Intellivision or ColecoVision consoles but my parents were not rich enough to buy me such consoles.

It was really great to see such games on ColecoVision for example. During my childhood, I couldn’t imagine one day I will develop for such consoles ^^.

Now I’m old (more than 50 years old), and when I was around 30-35 years old, I took a look at devkits for portable consoles because I wanted to reproduce games for consoles I had, like the GBA.

It is great to see your own games on such consoles and be able to say “It’s me who made this game 😄 !”.

It started like that.

 

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

I have no particular influences; my goal is to give people fun games and also games with a good gameplay.

It’s great to see people playing your games and saying “I like to play this game”.

But, if I consider more deeply your question, one of my influences is to make games I played when I was young or when I was a student. Yeah, it’s nice to see again some games I played on AtariST or Amiga with our retro consoles like the SNES or the Genesis/Mega Drive.

 

-You have developed several homebrew games for the NES, SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive, PC Engine, ColecoVision, Gameboy, and Gameboy Advance, such as Uwol: Quest for Money, Sydney Hunter & The Caverns of Death, and Deflektor. In developing your games would you say they have any qualities that seem quintessentially you that you have maintained across games? How would you describe your aesthetic?

No, I don’t think I have a specific “Alekmaul touch” in my games. I just try to use as best as I can each console to make the games nice, efficient and fast.

image.png.ecd5804de61b0e476921adc1085fc70d.png

Screenshot from Sydney Hunter & The Caverns of Death for SNES

 

-You have been programming for several years, do you feel your approach to homebrewing has changed in that time?

Yeah, for sure. Now, I’m more “professional” if we can say that for a job I do during my free time ^^ (lots of people forget that).

I developed some tools to help me for each console, I know better the consoles I’m developing on. So, it is really more efficient than I was when I started to develop on Gameboy for example.

 

-What tools do you use to code?

I’m developing my games in assembly and C language. Sometimes, I’m using some SDK if they are available (like devkitpro for GBA / NDS) or SGDK for Mega Drive/Genesis. With the SNES, I created my own SDK because no existed when I began to work on the SNES console.

 

-Do you have a different approach/attitude toward the games you work on by yourself compared to those you are commissioned to work on? Is the experience of developing them different?

For sure. When you are making a game by yourself, you are free to make it when you want. You have no stress trying to develop it.

If I think the game will not be playable enough, I stop it, and there is no problem (if you knew the number of games that are in my hard drive for several years without any release because I think they are not fully playable ^^).

When I am commissioned for a game, it is really not the same job, I need to make it, and make it really playable, with the stress of the deadline.

 

-Tell me about the evolution of Eyra-The Crow Maiden. Any interesting stories on the game’s development for the SNES?

Well, when I began the development, I had no idea about all the things Adam wanted in the SNES & Genesis version. Now, it is a little clearer, but I don’t know if Adam has new ideas for the game, regarding the NES version. We added lots of stuffs like a password management system for example, and also more levels than the NES version.

 

-How did you first connect with Adam and Second Dimension, and what is the working dynamic like as you both work on your respective aspects of the game?

Adam contacted me during the NES development of the game. He wanted someone to develop the game for SNES, and, you know, we are not so much developing games on SNES 😉.

 

-What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing Eyra-The Crow Maiden for the SNES? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps?

Well, doing a game for SNES is really something hard if you want to have a game smooth and fast. You need to manage with assembly code for critical parts (like the map engine in Eyra’s case). So, if you want to do a game on SNES, you need to learn how the SNES works and after, assembly language to be sure that your game will be great.

 

-What aspects of Eyra-The Crow Maiden are you most proud of?

Well, when I began to code the game, Jav (the graphic artist of the game) sent me the first map and it was horrible. I needed to manage more than 70 objects for each map! I knew that it will not be possible in C language … So, I wrote an objects engine from scratch in assembly language and it works fine. I’m really proud of that, it is a flexible engine who works great in the game.

 

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

I’m currently working on ColecoVision titles for Côté Gamers, a French company specializing in homebrews (https://cotegamers.com/shop/fr/).

I’m also working on a Genesis/Mega Drive game with an old French friend. You will have some news later this year about this game 😉.

No more stuff on SNES, I will see later if I can do a new game.

 

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

Well, I did lots of game for CollectorVision (https://collectorvision.com/)  that are not yet published like Bizbille or Jester. You will see, they are fun!

image.png.8f452ca42bdbecb7d4162cc201063a88.png

Screenshot from Jester for NES

 

-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?

I hope fans will like Eyra for SNES and Genesis/Mega Drive. We are working hard to try to make the game playable, nice and fun. And don’t forget, it is not our real job, we are doing that for fun 😉 !

 

image.png.4286f4003a531a5ea7b130a00af8f125.png

Luis Martins

@XLuis_MartinsX

-Before we dive into Eyra-The Crow Maiden, 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?

At an early age I was inspired by comic books and then Saturday morning cartoons. As time went by, I started drawing, wanting to reproduce what I was enjoying. Video games were of course a big part of my childhood as well, then came anime in my teens. That impressed me as it was something totally different in quality and maturity at the time. What we call now anime classics : ) Anime then became a huge inspiration. As for homebrew, this came later in my career but a huge interest to revive older consoles, create content for them was the idea behind my motivation. It's now a success, an amazing amount of talented individuals are working hard to create labors of love for these older consoles and it shows. Its honest and amazing thing. 


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

My main artistic influences vary, but I'd say that anime, manga have been my main inspiration. But that said I follow and enjoy many different artists with their different art styles. It's a huge inspiration to improve and do better for myself. I am amazed at the talent some individuals have, truly impressive.


-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?

The detailing, shading, linework quality, the dynamic of the composition, the lighting and the subject. As for game box art, I can say as an example that gaming box art from the 90's like the Sega Genesis have amazing art styles and imagery that captures our imaginations and alone can sell me on a purchase. Just beautiful, so you're hoping that the game itself is that good, haha.

image.png.3a8601cdbabd7ec26bcf7fb546408702.png

Box art for Paprium for Genesis


-You've also created art for other prominent homebrews such as Demons of Asteborg and Paprium. Do you feel that your art has any qualities that are uniquely you? How would you describe your aesthetic?

Well, yes I have done other art projects and still do. What's unique about my art? Well I guess that would be a question to ask those who enjoy my art ha ha!  But I think that my aesthetics and goal is to capture a specific 90's art style and aesthetics. I also mix in a bit of my own but the goal is to give a certain nostalgic feeling for those who enjoy it.

image.png.c7045b6954674a014dd8cf5d67a7d90a.png

Box art for Demons of Asteborg for Genesis


-What tools do you use to create your art?

Mainly Photoshop.


-Tell me about the development of the art you created for the Limited Edition for Eyra-The Crow Maiden, what is your composition process? Is the creative process different compared to when you create character designs and illustrations for other projects?

The creative and composition process isn't much different from piece to piece. It's quite simple in fact. I usually go over a few ideas with my clients, they literally become friends during this process, it's important to build a relationship with them. They are important.  They usually either share with me what they want or other times they simply ask me to come up with something. So far so good, happy clients. 

 

-How did you first connect with Adam and Second Dimension, and what was the working dynamic like?

I met Adam through another friend Javier who I worked with on another Sega Genesis project. Javier is a really talented and wonderful individual and so is Adam. It was very easy to work with them, I would love to work with them again for sure.


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

Working on the game covert art with Adam was great, he trusted my experience through this process. I also shared feedback with Javier on the cover. In the end the goal was to capture the essence of the main character, her sidekick, and the enemies she faces in the game and environment.  I think it came out wonderfully.  

image.png.1a5d9130892aa3fcbf36a5e79f184a01.png

Limited Edition box art for Eyra-The Crow Maiden


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

Sure, there are a few things on the horizon and yes I will definitely keep supporting the homebrew scene. 

 

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

There are many, but there is one I'm looking forward to play and it's my friends Tim Jonsson and Chris's (@pixelarcstudios) Bushiden game. Anything ninja, I'm all in haha.


-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?

Yes, if you have any requests for art, game covert art or anything related to art, gaming or anime, drop by my twitter, it will be a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you for sharing my work and your support, it means a lot to me. 

 

Conclusion:

Thanks for tuning in to part two of my talks with Second Dimension in this series that shares the stories behind the latest homebrew games. What are your thoughts on Eyra-The Crow Maiden and its talented development team? What homebrews are you eagerly looking forward to? Perhaps you’ll see it here soon when…A Homebrew Draws Near! Command?

 

image.png.fe8fda4aeebf2a73d1a525860e94f70d.png

  • Love 1
 Share

3 Comments


Recommended Comments

Great interview! And super cool to see some insights from other people who worked on the game. 

Funny reading about the state of Space Soviets in April, too! I'm now done with all of the tilesets (save for one I'm cleaning up a little, along with the level that comes with it), and I only need to add 3 more platforming levels (Sooooooo close!!!)

  • Love 1
Link to comment

Like what the others said, great interview! I did get a bit of chuckle with the shameless image of me posting your blog to SD's server, haha.

It's worth mentioning that since writing the answers for the interview, I have indeed completed the mentioned NES Sound Engine (Harrison), released a demo ROM out of it and now messing around developing stuff on the FDS.

Edited by Famicuber
  • Love 1
Link to comment
Guest
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...