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Episode 30: Jessie Jaeger in Cleopatra's Curse


Scrobins

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A Homebrew Draws Near!

A blog series by @Scrobins

Episode 30: Jessie Jaeger in Cleopatra’s Curse

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Introduction:

Franchise opportunities in Hollywood may make us cynical, but when they appear in gaming, we fans still get excited. Maybe it’s a reflection of video games as a younger medium that audiences aren’t yet turned off by the notion of a creator tapping into a winning formula with a new character or gaming mechanic that is immediately fun and which teases hope for more. Even when that formula is an old one, sometimes a new concept can reinvent the classic look and feel of yesteryear, giving us what we really want and need, like the debut of Indiana Jones dusting off the serials of decades before.

For this entry, I’m covering Jessie Jaeger in Cleopatra’s Curse, a Metroidvania adventure developed by Bold Game Studio for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Turbografx-16, and Turbografx Super CD. As of the time of this writing, Jessie Jaeger is reaching initial Kickstarter backers, and physical copies will be available in their store here soon, with a Game Boy port also on the way.

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CIB plus the all-important dungeon map

 

Development Team:

@DarkKobold (Kyle Thomson): programming, game design

Michirin: pixel art

TenNoKoe_: music

RetroStage: production

 

Game Evolution:

Jessie Jaeger first set out on her adventure when her Kickstarter campaign launched on September 16, 2020, with an accompanying thread on Sega-16 started that same day. Backer tiers included roms of the Sega Genesis or Turbografx iterations of the game, cart-only options, CIBs, special edition CIBs with reversible box art and a game map, the CD soundtrack that is playable on the Sega CD, combination packages, and the opportunity to design an in-game hieroglyph. By the end of the campaign, 345 backers pledged more than $27,000, receiving their rewards as early as July 2022 for special editions, and December 2022 for regular editions.

 

Gameplay:

Jessie Jaeger describes itself as a Metroidvania adventure. You play as Jessie, granddaughter and protégé of famed explorer Dr. Jaeger. Sadly you learned that Dr. Jaeger was turned to stone during his latest journey to Egypt, when a resurrected Cleopatra attacked him. You must take the lessons grandpa instilled in you as you make your way through Cleopatra’s crypt and rescue him.

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Screenshot from Jessie Jaeger in Cleopatra’s Curse

Gameplay consists of screen-to-screen adventuring. Controls are easy to learn: use the D-pad to move left, right, or press down to duck; the A-button uses a selected item; the B-button makes Jessie jump/dismount from a whip swing; the C-button toggles through items in your inventory; and the Start button opens the game menu, where you can view the crypt map, your coordinates on the map, your inventory, stats, game timer, and completion percentage. Items include weapons, tools to better navigate the dungeon, keys, and artifacts.

 

Review:

Jessie Jaeger is an addictive adventure, one that will require you to set an alarm or else risk realizing you were playing far longer than you intended. It’s great to have such a fun game, and wonderful to see a well-made, franchise-able game led by a female protagonist, adding some much needed diversity to the library. The dungeons are well-designed to facilitate exploration, and backtracking never feels tedious as you struggle to identify what you need to do to open more of the map. If anything, there is a burst of excitement whenever you obtain a new key or item that allows you to go back to a place you couldn’t enter before. The various screens offer a good balance of fun and challenging, where death is common but never to the point I felt tempted to rage quit. The placement of statues of the gods as doors to locked areas is a clever touch, and I love the idea of having a statue’s corresponding key appear fuzzily above their head to clue you into which key you need to access the next area. Combined with the placement of switches and whip holds, Jessie Jaeger gives you the ability to explore freely but with enough guidance to give you something to seek in order to progress. This game is also deceptively large: I thought I was about to beat the game, having nearly explored the entire map, only to learn it was merely the “Horus” sector, first of several more areas. Fortunately, there are a few shamans ensconced in the dungeon’s depths where you can save your game and purchase items, so you can explore further. Of course, having the safety of a save point increases the temptation to keep playing; I kept telling myself just one more screen over and over, trapped forever in this crypt.

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Turbografx Super CD Edition with Tomb Map

Jessie Jaeger’s graphics are colorful and elaborate. The entire game has a cutesy Saturday morning cartoon feel that makes it something players of all ages can enjoy. It’s impressive so many otherwise similar looking gods can be somewhat easily distinguished despite the graphical limitations of the 16-bit console. Jessie herself is well-designed such that her sprite jives well with the controls and her hitbox doesn’t require her more perilous jumps to be pixel perfect. Even the enemies are fun (even when they are chasing you), with bats, snakes, mummies, and more obstructing your progress with their playfully creepy Scooby Doo vibe. The screens are carefully crafted that you always know what you need to do, or whether it is an area you aren’t meant to cross yet. Meanwhile Jessie Jaeger’s music might best be described as charming and atmospheric, effervescently pushing you forward with its adventurous thrill. The music perfectly fits the pace of the game, neither plodding nor frantic, this is the rhythm of someone fearlessly probing the unknown. The bits of voicework feel like hard-earned milestones, like Jessie’s exclamations when you find a key or other important item. You feel her victory and pride as though you were in the crypt yourself on the cusp of saving your family.

 

Interviews:

Before I journeyed into the depths of Cleopatra’s tomb with Jessie Jaeger, I studied the folklore surrounding her story, learning from the foremost experts on the subject…

 

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Kyle Thomson

@DarkKobold

-Before we dive into Jessie Jaeger in Cleopatra’s Curse, I would love to talk about you background. What first inspired you to become a homebrew game developer? What is your origin story?

I have been a programmer for years, not a particularly excellent one, but enough to get by when my day job requires it, or I want to code something fun. Around 8 years ago, I discovered a C compiler for the TG16, called HuC. I followed the excellent tutorial on ObeyBrew.com. It’s a “down-to-basics” tutorial that is perfect for getting started, with no nonsense. From that I was able to program a really basic prototype of a boss that will be in Catastrophy, another in progress homebrew for the Turbografx-16.

If you compare these two videos, you can see how the concept was there early, and eventually became a reality.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol9uKeTwSOk&feature=youtu.be

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxUaDkSGRnQ&feature=youtu.be

 

-What is the story behind the names DarkKobold and Bold Game Studio?

I had to come up with a name for a D&D campaign, and I wanted to lampshade the typical 90s usernames which added Dark to cool sounding things to sound badass, like DarkDragon, DarkShadow, DarkSword or DarkBlazeIt. So I took the weakest, stupidest creature out of Magic: the Gathering, the Kobold, and added Dark to it. I didn’t enjoy D&D, and never played again, but the name stuck permanently. It’s really nice, because I can often get darkkobold as a username as it’s fairly unique.   Bold Game Studio was just taking the end of Kobold to come up with a catchy name.

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A name worthy of the Hellfire Club

 

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

I find Battletoads for the NES to be the pinnacle of gaming. Rash, Pimple and Zitz are my muses. So, in short, my games are difficult, brutally so. The released version of Jessie is considered fairly difficult, and that was after toning down the difficulty many times. Catastrophy has also had to undergo continual revision to remove my preferred difficulty level from the game.

 

-What tools do you use to code and create?

I’m primarily a C coder, my ASM skills are very lacking. Thanks to the hard work of many people, C compilers are readily available for so many retro platforms these days. I specifically used HuC for Turbografx consoles, SGDK for Genesis, and GBDK for Gameboy. I also want to give a shoutout to Cosmigo ProMotion, which has enabled the pixel art for all of my creations. I know a lot of people use Tiled, but I’ll swear by Promotion for its tile/pixel art capabilities.

 

-What encouraged you to make games for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Turbografx-16, and Turbografx Super CD?

For all platforms I work on, there’s two key elements that make them feasible and enjoyable – a C compiler with all required features (graphics, controls, and sound), and a no-nonsense tutorial that gets you coding your first game. I’ve tried multiple times to port Jessie to GBA, but there’s just no easy to digest, get started quick tutorial. The “best” tutorial is a multi-page mess, where the author devolves into programming theory and philosophy. It’s impossible to follow, and it doesn’t build on itself at all.

Shoutouts to the Mega Pong tutorial https://www.ohsat.com/tutorial/megapong/megapong-1/ and Dan Cox’s GBDK tutorial https://videlais.com/2016/07/03/programming-game-boy-games-using-gbdk-part-1-configuring-programming-and-compiling/

 

-At the heart of Jessie Jaeger is its Metroidvania aesthetic. What about this genre resonates so strongly with you? What inspired you to make this type of game?

There’s a phrase “cute’em up” for cute shoot’em ups, but nothing for Metroidvania. Cutieroidvania? I have a particular affinity for games like this, such as Monster World IV, Shantae, Ufouria, and Adventure Island 4. The first two were the inspiration for Jessie as a protagonist.

 

-What elements are crucial for a good Metroidvania?

A reward for exploration, shortcuts for forced backtracking, and additional things to be found after you obtain new abilities through items. If anything, I wish I hadn’t forced so much of the map to be completed just to complete the main game. There needed to be a few indirect paths that lead to bonuses, rather than being only a screen or two away from the main path.

 

-How did you connect with the other members of your development team? What was the working dynamic like across your collaboration?

Cleopatra’s Curse was mostly my baby, so it was more me recruiting individuals to help with each aspect of the project. I don’t know that I ever had a “team meeting.” It was more just reaching out to talented individuals who accel at different aspect of retro games, and getting their help to turn Jessie into a reality.

 

-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 Jessie Jaeger’s design, and are there elements of yourself that you see in her or any other characters?

There’s very little similarity between me and Jessie. Her design was more a reflection of Michirin’s tastes. I made her female to pay homage to Monster World IV and Shantae, but the rest of her design was Michirin’s hard work. However, my other homebrew, Catastrophy, which has been in progress for years, is a complete reflection of my cat. Everything in that game is a reflection of her behavior.

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How about a crossover with all 3?

 

-What aspects of Jessie Jaeger are you most proud of?

The controls are almost always complimented. Getting the momentum feeling just right, so that you’re not on ice, but you also don’t stop on a dime, or have weird floaty jumps is just so important from the moment you turn on the game. The game is hard, but the player needs to feel it’s their own fault every time, and not the controls. The whip mechanic is divisive, but I do enjoy the learning part, and how by the end of the game, people feel like experts at it.

 

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

Things always take way longer than you expect. I thought I was going to have everything done in the first 3 months following my Kickstarter, and I thought that was generous. It’s been a few years now, and I’m slowly still getting pieces finished up. I’m doing my best at getting things out, and I’m 100% committed to filling every goal tier, as long as it takes.

 

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

For me, the excitement of making a homebrew is when someone completes your game and enjoyed the entire experience. One player, who goes by turbocr1k3t on Instagram is a huge fan. When you beat the game 100% with all gold coins, it unlocks a NewGame+ mode (sorry for the spoiler!). I intended NewGame+ to just be a speedrun sort of challenge, since it starts you will all the equipment and upgrades. He chose to attempt to 100% that mode, but due to the way it’s coded, 100% in NewGame+ is impossible, since you already have all the upgrades. It’s essentially a bug that I never discovered, but the fact that he played my game to that depth was one of the coolest things to come out of the entire project.

 

-Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, Genesis, Turbografx, or otherwise? Any plans for a sequel? Any dream projects?

I’m still working on the Gameboy/Gameboy Color version of Jessie. Thanks to GBDK, it should be “fairly simple” to port to Game Gear. Nothing is ever that simple, but at least the tile maps and code should be fully reusable. I’d love to make a Jessie sequel, but finishing these ports and Catastrophy are much more pressing goals!

 

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

I’ve got a stack of homebrew that I’ve purchased but haven’t had the time to dig into. Time is always the limiting factor. I’m a big fan of homebrew like Battle Kid and the Action 53 carts. It’s been too long since a new Action 53 cart was released.

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Soon…

 

-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?

Watch for Catastrophy, it’s going to be a banger of a Turbografx-16 homebrew!

 

 

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Michirin

@Michirin

-Before we dive into Jessie Jaeger in Cleopatra’s Curse, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a pixel artist? What is your origin story?

I've always wanted to be a game developer, art is just what came to me naturally, it's what I've taught myself and have been doing since age 10, but I can do way more stuff than just pixel art, if anything, at this point I'm most known for my chiptune covers, though I'm not really that active anymore on that front cuz I wanted to focus on game development.

 

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

Too many influences I'd say, just about anything I thought looked good on the 3rd and 4th gen systems, and also handhelds up to GBA... And no one? Like, I'm so out-of-the-loop with regards to anything new coming out...

 

-Do you feel your artwork has a signature aesthetic that is uniquely you? How would you describe the feel of your work?

Not sure I'd say the art itself is particularly unique, I just try to make stuff look good and cute. It's very cutesy girly anime, with a pinch of fantasy here and there I think...

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Screenshot of Unwieldy Wand by Michirin

 

-In your opinion, what makes good pixel art stand out?

It really depends on what the game in particular is going for, I feel readability is pretty important, though I personally tend to go for cramming as much detail as possible into very small sprites and tiles...

 

-What tools do you use to create?

MS Paint. You'd be surprised how good it is for pixel art!

 

-Tell me about your creative process while working on Jessie Jaeger? How did you transform the concept art from the page to the screen for this game? How do you maintain the important details of that art given the limitations of coding for decades-old gaming consoles like the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Turbografx-16, and Turbografx Super CD?

There wasn't really much in the way of concept art, literally just one character design, which was of my own making, everything else was made in pixel art first, and when I started working on the game I had no idea there were gonna be other versions besides the TG-16/CD one, I'm not sure they were even planned, I only started working on the Mega Drive version after the PCE CD version was near completed, and given how many extra palettes I'd been using to cram in loads of ultra-subtle detail into the PCE tilesets, I had to make a few compromises for the MD version, given it's got way less palettes... But I did my best and I'd say I managed to make it still look pretty close!

 

-Do you have a preference creating for a particular platform? Does your process differ when working within a different set of limitations?

I think the PC engine is pretty easy to make graphics, sound and music for, but right now I'm actually most interested in working with the GBC, it's pretty similar to the PCE, but more limited, and I like to try and push hardware limits with my work. My process is roughly the same on every platform.

 

-What was the working dynamic like with the rest of the development team?

I pretty much just waited for DarkKobold to ask for more graphics, and then drew the graphics, that's kinda it... But I also did playtesting on the game whenever he sent me a ROM.

 

-What aspects of Jessie Jaeger are you most proud of?

The tilesets, particularly the PCE HuCard version. Not sure if that one is out yet...

 

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

In general it wasn't very challenging, the most difficult part was whenever I had to work with ProMotion NG to make sure all the palettes were right... I'd just say, to anyone making pixel art for homebrew games for pre-3D systems, just make sure your palettes don't exceed the colour count, and also be aware of how many palettes you have to work with...

 

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

I already worked on another one for the PCE, Strife Sisters (I think that's what it's called), Not sure if it's out yet... But right now I'm hoping to work on my own projects, PC games though (Windows) it's what I'm able to do on my own...

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Title screen from Akumanor Escape DX by Michirin

 

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

Not really, like I said, I'm really out-of-the-loop on anything new coming out...

 

-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?

Not ready to announce anything right now, but keep an eye on my itch.io: https://michirin.itch.io/ And on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsCaF6H613kkLK4h6pFpJwA That's how you'll know when I actually release a game of my own, Hopefully this year.

 

 

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TenNoKoe_

-Before we talk about Jessie Jaeger in Cleopatra’s Curse, I want to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to be a musician? What led you to compose music for games? What is your origin story, and what is the significance of the TenNoKoe_ name?

I've been into art & music as long as I can remember. My parents were always very supportive of my interest in music, and that eventually led me to start Piano lessons at 7, Viola at 8 in school, Electric Bass when I was 13, and drums & guitar at 14. Once I knew I wanted to pursue music school in university, I started taking my music studies a lot more seriously. In high school I'd learn to play my favorite records by ear and play the occasional gig with friends. By the time I was a sophomore, I had developed a really good ear and began approaching video game music from a listening perspective.

I grew up with consoles and a Gameboy Pocket in the house, and like many other teenage millennials you end up finding sites like Zophars domain and VGM rips etc. to listen to VGM and discover new stuff. Excited would be an understatement!! At the time I wasn't aware of trackers, but I would often come across covers on the web and was fascinated by this "mysterious" process *laughs*. In early 2016 I had renewed interest in trackers and stumbled upon Deflemask. By the end of the year I had messed around with the Genesis a bit but wasn't getting very far. It wasn't until 2017 that I really started to become obsessed with FM sound and digging deeper into sound design.

There's no special origin story here *laughs*. In 2016 I had acquired a PC Engine Duo with a modest collection of CD-ROM2 & HuCard games. Among those games was a memory card called the "Tennokoe Bank". I just went with it because I though it sounded cool.

 

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

There's too many to list. I'm a big jazz/fusion and soul music fan so that tends to find its way into the VGM. Herbie Hancock is a hero of mine. On the VGM side I really enjoy the music of Toshiya Yamanaka, Keishi Yonao, Tamoyo Kawamoto, Hitoshi Sakimoto, and Shinji Hosoe. As far as new stuff, I love to find individuals looking to push FM sound/chiptune capabilities further; people like Savaged Regime, JGVex, Abstract 64 and many others.

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Herbie Hancock

 

-In addition to your musical work on video games, you are an avid composer. Does your experience performing provide inspiration for your game music, or vice versa?

I'm into all kinds of musical genres, and I feel that being an avid listener and well-rounded musician goes quite a long way in many different work scenarios. It's definitely more of a symbiotic type of inspiration when I go to write music these days. I'm really fortunate to be musically active outside of chiptune, so my other projects also a big source of inspiration for me!

 

-Do you feel that your music has any qualities that are quintessentially you? How would you describe your aesthetic?

I feel like because of my listening background and musical training, my aesthetic involves a lot of Western Classical harmony mixed with more contemporary Non-functional harmony, not to mention Jazz harmony and lots of syncopated rhythm! I consider my approach to FM sound to be a eclectic variety of new sounds, ranging from more nuanced timbres to gritty distorted sounds. Some instruments are intentionally made to approximate the real thing while others are meant to be more of a "hybrid" FM sound.

 

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

Right now I use Reaper as my main DAW for digital recording/mixing with a set of AKG headphones and Event TR8 studio monitors. For chiptunes I use Deflemask, hugeTracker & Furnace Tracker.

 

-What qualities do you look for in order to feel like a game you’re playing has good, engaging music?

In my opinion, video game music itself elevates the art and vice versa. I feel as though having a visual reference early on has a crucial impact on the final product. Pacing and mood is so important to the feel of games. Most importantly, the music itself needs to have a direction and momentum. Exploring different rhythmic meter, changing keys, and developing ideas on a theme are all things I look for and strive to achieve in my own work.

 

-Tell me about the development of Jessie Jaeger’s music, what was your composition process? Is the creative process different compared to when you compose your own chiptune?

The creative process for this game was quite different compared to most game projects. The soundtrack is usually developed for the cartridge first and then later to other platforms. But with Jessie Jaeger, I was tasked with arranging themes written by the Fietchers, including writing my own original tune for the game. My process began with listening and transcribing each theme, by ear. After the transcription, I'd usually start working on the instruments for each part in Deflemask from scratch. From there it's a matter of putting in the right notes and rhythms in the tracker software. After that I have more freedom to add effects and various techniques to get a bigger sound. Once I'm happy with the arrangement I start to mix it and make tweaks wherever necessary. The mixing process can take a while at times. When I'm composing original music, I have instrument patches (presets) that I can drop in and experiment with. That makes the creative workflow a lot easier.

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Derek & Brandon Fietcher, whose music was licensed for Jessie Jaeger

 

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

As with any new retro game, there's lots of limitations to consider when developing music for these old consoles. I didn't grow up with a Sega Genesis, so I wasn't familiar with a lot of the technical nomenclature when it came to the YM2612 & SN76489. Much of that needed to be learned through research as well as testing on hardware. Another big limitation for me still is the file format in which my chiptunes are typically exported. Each note and effect I add to the music routine takes up a certain amount of data, and with the .vgm format file sizes can get quite big if you use a lot of samples. In Jessie Jaeger I used no samples for the music whatsoever which cut down on file sizes considerably. If anyone's looking to pursue sound programming, be prepared to test often and always double check your mixes, get second opinions. I would say my biggest piece of advice is to stay confident/focused and to not be concerned about comparing yourself to others.

 

-How did you first connect with DarkKobold and what was the working dynamic like as you worked on the game?

DarkKobold initially reached out on a Discord server I was in. Once I saw his message, I immediately sent him a replay saying I was interested. Later that week we linked up and discussed the details of the game in its stage at that point. The working dynamic was rather easy going, I would usually take a few tunes and send frequent updates after a week or so. DarkKobold would respond with feedback and we'd go from there onto the next stage themes of the game. He helped me a lot with more system-specific issues and taught me various things throughout development. I'm not really the programmer type so it was very much appreciated!!

 

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

Yes, I have a few other retro projects on the horizon. One of them is a Genesis/Mega Drive First-Person Shooter engine called PortalView by Erik Haliewicz and the other is Pigsy's Castlevania Symphony of the Night demake. Another chiptune project is a music release for my duo called Intelligent Terminal which will be released on music platforms later this year. The last project and certainly not least is Astebros, a roguelike spinoff for the Genesis/Mega Drive/Switch/Steam. So be on the lookout for that!

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Screenshot from Astebros by Neofid Technology

 

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

Sure! I'm really looking forward to playing Final Fight MD, Darkstalkers MD, Demons of Asteborg and ZPF from my friends JGVex & Gryzor! There's others I'm forgetting but this is one of the best times to be playing homebrew.

 

-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 so much for having me! Keep on gaming and support indie games and your favorite artists 🙂

 

 

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RetroStage

@RetroStage_PCB

-Before we dive into Jessie Jaeger in Cleopatra’s Curse, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to design circuit boards and manufacture cartridge shells. What drew you into the homebrew community? What is the origin story of RetroStage?

"RetroStage" started as a project between my brother and I, where we were making stages for a fighting game called MUGEN, that I'm sure many people are familiar with. We started a website that users could download our stages from, and since our stages were all from the retro era, we coined "RetroStage". It just stuck, and transferred over into my love of retro game consoles. I got drawn into the homebrew and dev community through the NESDEV and NintendoAge (RIP) forums, where many users helped me throughout the early days as I was learning how these classic consoles worked.

My first inspiration into circuit design was about 15+ years ago when I stumbled across a "Secret of Mana 2" reproduction cartridge at a second-hand game store. I was perplexed, as I'd never actually seen a reproduction game at that point, and had no idea how they'd managed to get a translated game into a SNES cartridge. That kick-started my interest in designing my own SNES boards, which then lead to my dabbling in just about everything from NES to N64. Eventually that led me into creating easy-to-program cartridges - the Blaster series of products - so that people can make their own games playable on real hardware even if they don't have any electronics knowledge.

 

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

My influences are probably RetroUSB, Kevtris, and infiniteNESlives, all of whom were deep into developing for retro consoles before I was. I view them all as giants in the field, and something to aspire to. I still keep my eye on all of them, but infiniteNESlives is probably the one I keep track of the most. He's an all-around awesome guy, easy to talk to, and I can bounce questions off of him from time to time. Plus, he's always dabbling in something new, mainly for NES, and I always like seeing what he comes up with.

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The man, the infinite legend

 

-What tools do you use to create?

I use Eagle and KiCAD for my PCB design work, and a mix of Altera/Intel, GOWIN, and Xilinx (and their corresponding IDEs) for the FPGA/CPLDs that go into some of my products. I don't code actual games myself, but I use VS Code for when I need to cobble a test app together.

 

-Your range of products spans consoles, including the NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, Game Boy, N64, and Turbografx-16. Do you have a favorite console to design for? How does your work compare across consoles?

My favourite console to design for is SNES - it's always been my favourite console. The actual PCB design process doesn't vary that much between, and I try to use similar parts across my product lines so that I can keep my inventory levels in check easier. The real differences lie in what parts are required for each, voltage levels, mappers (like for NES), different configurations in memory layout, etc. That varies for every console, with some being nice and simple (NES NROM boards), and some being super complicated (N64 boards).

 

-You are one of few platforms for the production of others’ homebrew games, helping to grow the community and with all new parts. How did you develop those relationships, both in term of building a customer base for your products, as well as establishing the supply chains to make your store possible?

Relationships with other members of the homebrew and dev community have taken years to form, and even then I feel like I'm not really a household name yet. A lot of my connections started out as a simple email, and grew into partnerships and friends. One of my closest partners is Mega Cat Studios, who I've worked with for a number of years now, providing them with hardware and know-how for a lot of their own projects. It's been a lot of fun!

 

-Have you ever taken on any additional roles in game development beyond hardware? Would you ever want to create your own game?

I'd love to create my own game, eventually, and even have some ideas on what I want to make! The problem is that I just don't have the time to devote to it, at least right now. Perhaps in the future I'll be able to sit down and actually put together some of my ideas. Until then, I'm happy to just be the man behind the hardware.

 

-What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing new HuCard molds for the Turbografx-16 edition of Jessie Jaeger, as well as the cartridge shells for the other iterations of the game? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps?

Developing the HuCard mold, and the mini PCB that holds the game data, was a real challenge. I'd never done 3D modeling before, so jumping in with both feet was a bit daunting. However, as with all my projects, I just continually threw myself at it until things finally started to take form. A dozen revisions later, and then another dozen once the plastic injection mold company was brought in, and a brand new HuCard was made! The PCB itself was another story, because the requirements for sizing didn't leave any room for error. The PCB is less than 0.3mm thick, and has very limited room for parts to go, so designing and routing everything was VERY time consuming. In the end, I'm extremely happy with the final product, and can't wait to see Jessie Jaeger get a HuCard release. I don't manufacture the cartridge shells myself, I have a supplier for that, but the PCBs in the Sega Genesis/MD version of Jessie Jaeger were designed and manufactured by me, though I did outsource some of the assembly to another local company.

 image.png.8255864942861193274f69d026a67f10.png

RetroStage’s Turbo Blaster: the first reprogrammable HuCard

 

-Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon? Any dream projects or experiments in hardware you’re willing to share?

Future "dream projects" I'd love to make would be inexpensive USB development carts for all of the consoles I support. I know that lots of people in development use Everdrives, but the cost of those can be a bit much for someone just starting out. I've also experimented with integrating new tech into retro games - but I can't say more on that yet!

 

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

I'm very excited to see "Former Dawn" for the NES by Something Nerdy Studios. The game looks incredible, and from what I've seen it's going to push the NES to the limit!

 

-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 inviting me to this chat. For all the great people that have bought RetroStage products, and to all the folks that have helped me out over the years, I express my deepest gratitude and appreciation. I wouldn't be where I am today without their support, and I look forward to creating more new and fun things in the future!

 

Conclusion:

Thanks for tuning in to this latest episode of the series that explores new games for old consoles that are the latest adventures you seek. What are your thoughts on Jessie Jaeger in Cleopatra’s Curse and its development team? Are you eager for a sequel? 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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