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A Homebrew Draws Near! A blog series by @Scrobins Episode 17: Roniu’s Tale Introduction: As kids, we dream of growing up to learn how to make our own version of those things that made our childhoods magical. For many of us, responsibility and practicality obscured those old ambitions. But for some the dream never faded, and in finding other like-minded children at heart with complimentary skills, they tapped into those good memories to cast new magic. Like the electric energy that glows around the spellcaster, the anticipation surrounding the launch of a new game is palpable. Will gamers flock to this latest title? Will their pledges bring them that same magical, nostalgic feeling that animated its creators? For this entry, I’m covering Roniu’s Tale, a top-down action puzzler for the NES developed by Kunjee Studio and published & distributed by Mega Cat Studios and DragonBox. As of the time of this writing, Roniu’s Tale is active now on Kickstarter here until September 16, 2021, and can be found on the Evercade Mega Cat Studios Collection 2 multigame cart available for pre-order here in advance of its August 27, 2021 release. Regular and Limited-Edition CIBs Development Team: Fábio Florêncio: producer Rafael Valle Barradas: game designer, artist, producer Diogo Bazante: music/composer Valdir Salgueiro: programmer Mega Cat Studios: publication & distribution DragonBox: distribution (EU) Mega Cat Studios Collection 2, featuring other homebrews for the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis Game Evolution: The story behind Roniu’s Tale technically begins as far back as 2011, when the game was originally conceived as a mobile game. Ultimately that plan was discarded but the underlying elements remained, resurrected in 2019 with the formation of Kunjee Studio to develop Roniu’s Tale for the NES. Kunjee Studio’s people actually came together beforehand for a different project in 2013, when they were hired by Musigames. The group worked so well that getting the band back together for another project was a no-brainer. Roniu began building its hype slowly, launching a dedicated Instagram page and making its first post on March 4, 2020, and a sister Twitter page with its first tweet the next day. Gaining momentum, more concept art was shared alongside pixel art, gameplay screenshots and gifs, and music samples as the game steadily grew a following. A July 5, 2020 tweet advertised the formation of the development team more formally as Kunjee Studio, and made the first mention of their partnership with Mega Cat Studios, joining a community of brewers for whom Mega Cat helped with publication. Concept art of Roniu, impatient to be finished and become a real boy On August 17, 2021, Mega Cat Studios launched Roniu’s Tale’s Kickstarter campaign, meeting its initial fundraising goal of $10,000 in its first 6 hours! Backer tiers include an array of options for supporters, offering the game’s rom, a cart-only copy, a CIB, and a limited-edition light-up CIB with collectible box, which can come accompanied by other goodies bundled in, such as a digital/CD/vinyl soundtrack, posters, postcards, stickers, keychains, badges, artbook, comic book telling the game’s prologue, statue, and even the opportunity to have a custom pixel portrait made of you to include in the game’s credits. The campaign also presents a few stretch goals such as having Mega Cat learn magic and post a how-to video at $15,000, a second run of limited-edition carts at $25,000, and a Nintendo Switch port at $45,000. The campaign will continue until September, 16, 2021. Every fiber of my being screams letting cats learn magic is a horrible idea Gameplay Overview: Roniu’s Tale describes itself as a top-down puzzle game with action elements. You play as Roniu, a young magician bored with his life’s lack of excitement until he sees a strange light beyond the city walls. As Roniu jumps over the wall, he falls into a magical dungeon where he meets Ouisa, a ghost who died long ago when she too fell into the dungeon. She pleads for Roniu's help: if Roniu can collect all the orbs scattered throughout the dungeon, he will be granted a wish, one that might help them both escape. Your quest will lead you through the dungeon’s 43 levels, filled with ghosts and goblins determined to keep you prisoner forever. Screenshot from Roniu’s Tale Each level features a room Roniu must navigate, some of which contain the orbs necessary to make his ultimate wish, and the key to reach the next level. However as Roniu steps off each tile it disintegrates behind him into the void below, meaning his path must be carefully considered before taking each step. Meanwhile monsters and obstacles further complicate your planning, in addition to the occasional boss to really raise the stakes. As you progress, Ouisa will share her insights from her time in the dungeon, letting you know of the powers at your disposal and how to use them in your adventure. Roniu’s Tale also includes a password system, so if you are able to tear yourself away from the game you can revisit the world you left off on without losing your progress. Roniu’s Tale’s controls are easy to learn: move Roniu around with the d-pad, attack with the A button, and scroll through your powers with the B button. Roniu begins with the ability to shoot 3 fireballs that can vaporize monsters and break certain blocks. As you progress, Roniu will unlock new abilities such as levitation, turning into a ghost to pass through blocks, and use nearby tiles to fill a hole and create a new path. Some levels include scrolls that allow you to use a given ability more than you might otherwise, such as the ability to levitate twice as opposed to the single use you have to start with in each level. Writer’s Review: Roniu’s Tale is a charming puzzler whose simple gameplay and infectious soundtrack will make you forget you’ve been stuck on the same level for the past half hour. Channeling licensed era forebears such as Solomon’s Key/Fire ‘n Ice and The Adventures of Lolo, puzzle games are having a moment in homebrew right now, combining the cute, nostalgic atmosphere of beloved childhood games with challenges better suited to our now adult brains. Joining fellow homebrew games like Łukasz Kur & M-Tee’s Gruniożerca 3, Retroguru’s Xump 2, and Mega Cat Studios’ own Little Medusa, Roniu’s Tale offers a creative entry into the genre that will immerse players eager to see how far they can go before hitting their first wall. But the frustration is mild, as the game never feels unfair in its design. Each level feels like an accomplishment once beaten, with a strong sense of that all too familiar “just one more level” urge calling out to you. Screenshots from Gruniożerca 3 (NES), Xump 2 (Genesis), and Little Medusa (NES, SNES, and Genesis) Unlike Gruniożerca 3 and Xump 2, Roniu’s Tale includes moving enemies, meaning not only will you have to stop to ponder your next move, but you’ll have to be mindful where you can stop in order to take that breath. Also while you can use the d-pad to change which way Roniu faces if you want to turn to face a block, you cannot turn in place to face an enemy, meaning which way you want to face must also be incorporated into your strategy. At least there isn’t a time limit…right? The biggest challenge may come from a note on the game’s Kickstarter’s page, hinting that some levels may have more than one solution, promising to bring insanity to completionists who will feel compelled to find out which levels fall into that category, taunting them until they know for sure. The game’s art is classic 8-bit cute, where even the goblins could pass as collectible plushies. Across the pixel art, cutscenes, and box art, Roniu’s Tale conveys a fun, unintimidating, cartoony style that feels like the great games we loved from the licensed era. The soundtrack echoes the art’s lighthearted vibe, channeling the upbeat exploits of StarTropics and Kirby’s Adventure. After a few minutes enjoying the chiptunes on their own, I was ready to step outside in pursuit of my own adventure. Between the art and the music, the atmosphere of Roniu’s Tale reflects its protagonist: excited for adventure and without fear, hopeful of the fun that lies ahead. Focused more on its nostalgic charm and the feelings it evokes to carry the story forward from its premise through your imagination, this game is one you can lose yourself in, much like Roniu as he first leaps over the city walls. Just don’t call them cute to their face Interviews: Roniu’s Tale is a production of Kunjee Studio, which brings together a stacked team of indie gaming veterans from Brazil. I interviewed the folks at Kunjee Studio to learn more about the game’s history and development… Fábio Florêncio @faflorencio -Before we dive into Roniu’s Tale, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer and producer? What is your origin story and the story behind Kunjee Studio? Sure! To be fair, I spent most of my career working as a game designer because I loved to have ideas, create their structures, and see them come to fruition. I had the opportunity to explore different roles as a game tester, sound designer and game designer. This path wasn’t planned at all; probably it happened because I was curious about different things and had the opportunity to try things out. I noticed that I also liked to boost the team’s morale and would take pragmatic decisions to make things happen in a project. Many projects I participated in were drowned for a simple lack of prior planning, organization, and budgeting. This was when I shifted to become a game producer. However, by working in the game industry, you often see yourself working on a project that isn’t your passion, but you do because it is part of your job. I worked with Valdir, Rafael and Diogo previously in another company and our synergy was good. We would spend time together talking and playing retro games simply because it reminded us of our childhood time. I jumped late in Roniu’s Tale because the project was stalling for a long time and the team needed someone to find the rails once more. And it has been a really good experience to work again with good friends. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? Solomon’s Key and Solstice are the big influences for this game. As per life, I like to listen and read the Japanese game masterminds as Shigeru Miyamoto, Keiji Inafune, Tomonubu Itagaki, Satoru Iwata, Hideo Kojima and Koji Igarashi. I’ve been following closely some folks from Supergiant, Dotemu, Phobia, Moon Studios and Chucklefish. -In addition to your homebrewing, you are a game producer by profession, working with companies such as Sumo Digital, XR Games, and Rovio Entertainment Corporation, and have worked on games for franchises such as Sackboy, Angry Birds and Zombieland. In what ways is your professional work similar to or different compared to your indie work? To be honest, the work per se is the same, the scale changes drastically. As you add in complexity, resources and pressuring deadlines, the producer needs to have a good perspective of eventual problems and come with possible solution-scenarios beforehand. In a big or small project, the team needs to rely on someone to help them foresee eventual bottlenecks, resolve conflicts and structure(re-structure) the game. I understand, that on smaller projects it isn’t possible to have someone focused exclusively on it and some projects “survive” until the end, but that adds pressure on other members of the team that could be focused on their specialties. Screenshot from Zombieland VR: Headshot Fever by XR Games -Do you find your professional work informs your approach to homebrewing, or vice versa? It helps a lot, but the demands are different. Flexibility is required when doing homebrewing, having the plan reworked several times (the ego killer). -What was the working dynamic like across the development team and in your collaboration with Mega Cat Studios? How did you first connect with everyone? Before I joined the project, the team had a clear vision of what they wanted to deliver, and my role was mostly to clear the path to them. One initial clear problem we had was the language barrier: we aren’t native English speakers, and from the team, I was the one with more exposition to the language. Some messages exchanged with our friends from Mega Cat were lost in translation. My initial mission was to absorb, plan and deliver this communication that could serve for both listeners. Lucky enough, Mega Cat folks were super comprehensive and walked the extra mile with us. -With Roniu’s Tale, you’re working on a game for decades-old hardware. How does producing a game for the NES compare to your experiences producing games for more modern hardware? Nowadays, there are good practices, books, GDC talks, forums to learn about how to conduct well a game project in theory. From a production perspective, the odds are in our favor because the modus operandi was refined. Every platform from iOS to UE5 and from NES to VR, have their own limitations that need to previously be assessed and mitigated. -According to its Kickstarter page, Roniu’s Tale’s history actually begins in 2011 as a mobile game. What is the story behind the game’s evolution from a mobile game to an NES game? I wasn’t part of the project at this time, but for what I can tell, the team really had the desire to create a true retro game experience, and this would only be accomplished in a NES platform. -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing Roniu’s Tale as opposed to previous projects? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? The hardware limitations are the elephant in the room that needs to be addressed. Only 4 audio tracks, there is memory space restriction, amount of objects per room, pixel count, color palette… all elements that are competing for attention in a pixelated thug-of-war that one will affect the other invariably. The team learned quickly about it and scored the most important elements in a table; then would be deducting from that as you ration food during a catastrophe. Limitation normally teaches us important lessons to keep only the essential there, leaving few spaces for polish. I guess this is one of the difficulties to develop games for retro consoles: find the fun with so few variables. This is almost a game jam exercise. In modern games, you can continue pilling up more game modes, more levels, cutscenes, narrative, pour more money, etc. to try to salvage the game. Retro game is the opposite works in a deductive synthesis matter. -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon? Any dream projects? In many aspects Roniu’s Tale is already a dream project for everyone. Obviously, we have dreams, ideas and a good friendship to cultivate new projects, but for now I would rather conceive well this game. -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Sure: The Adventures of Panzer, Lawless Legends, Carpet Shark and Retro League GX. Screenshot from The Adventures of Panzer by Dave Nemeth -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? As Satoru Iwata said in at GDC 2011: “Trust your passion. Believe in your dream. Make the impossible possible.” Rafael Valle Barradas @rvbns -Before we dive into Roniu’s Tale, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer and artist? What is your origin story, and what is the origin of Kunjee Studio? I grew up with an Atari and then an NES, I always liked creating stories and drawing. In 1999 I started working professionally as a 2d animator and illustrator, but I soon realized that my other passion was creating and developing games. In 2004 I started working with games, working with several companies such as Preloud, C.E.S.A.R in Recife, Daccord / Musigames...In 2019 I decided to create a game studio, so I called my closest friends who also have experience with game development... Diogo Bazante, Evandro Lins, Cristiano Santana and Fabio Florêncio. In parallel I was talking to Valdir Salgueiro, a friend of years who had started a project with me in 2011 for Android (Roniu's Tale), but we decided to cancel due to lack of time. Musigames, where it all began… Years later Valdir and I decided to come back with the project. We decided to make the new version of Roniu's Tale for the NES, because of the challenge and affection we feel for the 8-bit Nintendo console. Diogo Bazante da Kunjee joined the project to compose and produce the songs in 8 bits. I rethought the whole game, took my initial idea and adapted it and turned it into a NES game. Valdir had to learn to program for the NES, and with a lot of speed he managed to make the game come to life quickly. Later we needed to associate the game with a group name, and Kunjee's name seemed appropriate, so we've attached the project to Kunjee Studio and now we're pretty close to completion. We have other projects in parallel and pre-production and others in conception, we are happy with the Kunjee and Mega Cat partnership and we are rooting for the Kickstarter to be a success. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? My main influences are some NES games: -Solomon's Key -Solstice -Little Nemo -Gauntlet -Gremlins 2 I'm not following a specific job closely, but I'm always impressed by the technical demonstrations for the NES that people post on Twitter, like Matt Hughson's Witch n’ Wiz. -Do you feel that your art has any qualities that are uniquely you? How would you describe your aesthetic? I believe so. Despite being influenced by Japanese style, I believe my style is a mix of manga and European children's drawing style. -Have you noticed any changes in your style or game development preferences over the years? I was more careful of what the public wants. I listen more to people's opinions, but without letting the main idea of the game be changed. -What tools do you use to create your art? I sometimes use pen and paper for initial concepts. Later… Photoshop, Krita, and the Aseprite. -In your opinion, what makes good pixel and game art stand out? -Clean trace -Color palette that's nice, but it's important to choose colors that make the player stand out from the BG. -All elements in the games must belong to the same style, same artistic identity. -Tell me about the development of the art you created for the game, what is your composition process? My process is: -Sketch on paper (preferably listening to music); -Mockup in Photoshop, Krita or Aseprite... several tests are made with colors; -Production of assets and compatibility testing with specific tool for NES "makechr.exe" -How did you first connect with Mega Cat Studios? It was a coincidence. Valdir had started an old project with Mega Cat that didn't progress, and just when we were starting pre-production on Roniu, James contacted Valdir asking about the news. It was great, we took the opportunity to talk about Roniu’s Tale and from this first contact with him, the partnership grew. -How did your relationship with the other members of Kunjee Studio come about? We were hired by the same game company (Musigames) in 2013, we became close friends and never stopped talking. In 2019, they were the first people I thought of calling to create Kunjee Studio. -What was the working dynamic like in your development of Roniu’s Tale? It's been very nice. Everyone is very proactive. -Valdir is a very experienced and talented programmer, he can solve bugs quickly and create solutions. -Diogo Bazante is one of the best game composers I know, Diogo learned and mastered the FamiTracker, creating the beautiful music of Roniu's Tale. -Fábio Florêncio is an experienced producer who advised us and gave us valuable ideas for the group. I believe we are on the same wavelength and that's great. -Ever since my first episode, M-Tee planted this idea in my mind that a game’s protagonist serves as the player's point of immersion in the game, informing how we understand the game's world. I also believe that the protagonist’s design serves as a reflection of its designer. What was the intention behind the design of Roniu, and do you see aspects of yourself in him? Sometimes we find ourselves imagining fantasy worlds, dungeon adventures, monsters etc. Roniu is tired of the routine and wants a change in his life, something that makes him feel alive, something that makes him grow and feel that he has done something important. I believe most people have this feeling, and I'm no different from them, hahaha -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in working on Roniu’s Tale? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? First: Whenever you think the NES is limited think again, hahaha. We have to be very careful all the time with any modification we are going to make to the game. At Roniu's Tale I learned how difficult it is to develop something for a school from the 80's, I learned to give MUCH more value to games developed at that time. If anyone reading my answer is thinking about developing a game for the NES or other 8-bit console... For your first game keep in mind that the most important thing is to make the game visually pleasing, mechanical minimalist and make game elements easily recognizable. -What aspects of Roniu’s Tale are you most proud of? The mechanics and gameplay. The idea of walking and not being able to go back is something I don't remember seeing as the main core of another game. I think it's fun and appropriate for a puzzle game. -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon? Any dream projects? Roniu's Tale is part of this dream, it has always been a dream to develop a game for the NES. Besides Roniu's Tale we have "Go Mikura Go!" which is being developed in 3D, but the game had to be restarted, we are starting from scratch. A collection of mini-games and a sequel to Roniu's Tale are in the future. Screenshot from Go Mikura Go, another game in development from Kunjee Studio -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Yes -Witch n’ Wiz by Matt Hughson -Super Bat Puncher from Morphcat (published by Broke Studio). -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 to the followers and supporters, THANK YOU SO MUCH! Keep supporting us, I guarantee that the full version of Roniu's Tale will challenge your minds and entertain for hours. Thanks and have fun playing!!! Diogo Bazante @DiogoBazante -Before we dive into Roniu’s Tale, 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 your origin story? Since I was a child, I was astonished by video game soundtracks such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Alex Kidd and Zelda DX Awakening. One day, though, I saw for the first time the Sega Saturn console with Nights Into Dreams and I got shocked for a few minutes, facing the TV with no reaction, hearing those fresh chords and magical atmosphere. At that moment, at the age of 10, I decided to become a musician just to feel that exact same excitement, but playing the keyboard instead of playing a video game. I have just kept studying and playing the keyboard with no expectations of working professionally with video games consoles until then when I noticed, at the university, that I was known in the hallways for the game songs I used to play through the class breaks. This fact made me meet some friends who were a bridge to my first job. Since then (in 2008) and so far, I have worked professionally in the gaming industry. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? In the very beginning I was mainly inclined to hear Sega’s composers such as Masato Nakamura, Jun Senoue and Yuzo Koshiro. After that I got to know other composers such as Koji Kondo, Manami Matsumae and Barry Leitch (from Top Gear). Those are the biggest musical influences in my career. Nowadays I am watching carefully (and playing) the Zelda’s DX Awakening, remade to the Nintendo Switch and Sonic Mania. Koji Kondo -Do you feel that your music has any qualities that are quintessentially you? How would you describe your aesthetic? Has your style changed or evolved since you first became a songwriter for game music in 2008? If we think about music as a nonverbal language, I can surely say that I am talking directly to the gamers (what an honor!). My musical style always seeks for simplicity but it is, most of the time, hard to achieve. Even if I feel that I have evolved my skills among the years, my journey, although, keeps going on. I am always trying to create memorable melodies that a person could easily whistle it. -Tell me about the development of Roniu’s Tale’s soundtrack, what is your composition process? Is the creative process different compared to when you might compose more traditional music? The Roniu’s Tale soundtrack was especially difficult. I have had experiences with chiptune in general, but this time I was focusing my attention not only on the songs, but also on the small storage space. In the end of the process, I had all the songs but no space remaining! So, I spent a lot of time trying to save some bytes to keep all the songs with no alterations in the melody and the harmony. Happily, my mission was fully succeeded! -What tools do you use to compose, generally as well as for games? Usually I use the keyboard and a tracker to sequence the songs. Sometimes I take a notebook to write my ideas or even a digital recorder (to sing some initial melodies and remember them afterwards). -Do you feel your work as a professor at the Pernambuco Conservatory of Music, where you teach Applied Theory and Harmony classes, as well as Musical Initiation informs your approach to game music composition, or perhaps your video game work informs your teaching? Working with kids demands us to be creative at all times. As a teacher I have to be prepared for uncommon questions and situations. This flexibility helped me so much to think outside the box anytime I was limited by technical questions. -Tell me about the evolution of Roniu’s Tale. Any interesting stories on the games’ development? In the beginning of the project, I honestly did not know anything about music programming for NES. My first song created took almost 50% from the dedicated space storage for songs. Months later, after readjustments, the same song got 9%. What a relief! -How did your relationship with the other members of Kunjee Studio come about? We have been friends for years. Our group has met in my first job, where I was sound designer in 2011, but the concept of Kunjee Studio has begun at my wedding! -What was the working dynamic like in your development of Roniu’s Tale? As friends and professionals, we were free to create and suggest new ideas. Most of the project development was made in our free time. -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing Roniu’s Tale? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? Roniu’s tale was completely developed in the pandemic. This project was like a refill to my energies and it proves that, even in times of difficulties, we are strong enough to move forward. It also proved that we can have fun working, despite the challenges. -What aspects of Roniu’s Tale are you most proud of? The game is well polished and every aspect of the game (code, art and sounds) are working together harmonically. -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon? Any dream projects? I would like to develop a game for Sega Genesis. It probably will be tricky, but a worthy experience. I also would like to do a Nintendo Switch game. -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? There is a Brazilian game called Odallus that I stayed tuned since the first release note. Screenshot from Odallus: The Dark Call by JoyMasher -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 all of you enjoy the game. We have put so much effort and love in every single byte of this project and the songs were made to be catchy and planned to bring the 80’s fresh mood back. We are also glad to share our dreams with you, proudly represented by the name of Roniu’s Tale. Thank you so much! Valdir Salgueiro @valdirsalgueiro -Before we dive into Roniu’s Tale, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer? What is your origin story? I always wanted to try new things and someday I found some homebrew games that were done for Gameboy Advance and that intrigued me. Since I was young I liked Gameboy and Gameboy Advance and used to play a lot of Gameboy games so I was curious to know how somebody could make a game for a console without Nintendo’s blessing. After that I saw some guy working on what turned out to be Tanglewood for Sega Genesis and I was interested again because it was said that it needed actual SDK from Nintendo - this information proved to be optional - but that caught my attention because the labor involved was very intensive and you had to go out to buy manuals and all that stuff. Nowadays I know it is entirely optional and we have great communities like NESDev and Discord for those who want to adventure in the field. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? For Sega Genesis my influence was Matt Phillips with Tanglewood that led me to know the homebrew scene more closely. Also there was a guy called djcc that did some games for Mega Drive like Pingouin Rose and was very kind to release the game source, it was one of the most advanced games made in C available at the time it was released, back in 2014. Looking on his source I had a lot of insights of how to organize my homebrew code in a way to be performatic and still have a kind of higher abstraction even for old consoles (a lot of modern techniques can’t be applied without penalties in software like this) so it was mind blowing at time, he made also a kind of level generator in Python which inspired me to make my own tools later on for graphics and level processing in nodejs. Screenshot from Pingouin Rose by djcouchycouch About NES I read a lot on nesdoug tutorials for programming with C and that got me going fast. Nowadays the community evolved a lot and it is hard to keep track of all games that are released, I keep a close eye to the NESmaker forum because there is always good content there and I love the creativity of some people from there, I also used to keep tabs with NESDev but it has been offline for some time… I also follow some people on Twitter like FrankenGFX and her work with the NES is from another world, I think we can always expect good things from her. I also love Morphcat Games and try to watch everything they do closely - if you guys are reading this please make sure to make Super Bat Puncher 2 -How would you describe your design aesthetic, and what to you are the hallmarks of a Valdir Salgueiro game? Hmmm this is a tough one. I only try to make my games fun, games that I as a kid would try to beat. Also hopefully games that can bring a smile to someone's face when they are playing. I think that us as indie developers have a great power in our hands so that we can make games that we truly enjoy and want people to play without having to worry about financial success too much. -What tools do you use to code and create? For NES homebrewing I like to go with C because it is what I found to work at the higher level possible without sacrificing too much performance and of course some 6502 mixed here and there on critical tasks like sprites and so on. For level building I use tiled and some personal tools built on nodejs. Aseprite to do some touches on art if needed and VSCODE as my IDE. -In addition to your homebrewing, you are a software engineer by profession. In what ways is your professional work similar to or different compared to your indie/homebrew work? I think it is very different and at the same time I can reuse some skills like the use of time boxing, control of scope and time management in general. I always try to produce quality code even though it is hard when you can't use oriented programming or at least it is prohibitively computational expensive. I also try to follow universal programming principles like SOLID and clean code in general even in homebrew if I can. I also can borrow knowledge about source code management with tools like git, working remotely with other people and so on. And on the other hand I work with business software in my day to day, so homebrewing is a way to have fun doing the same craft. -Do you find your professional work informs your approach to homebrewing, or vice versa? Oh yes of the reasons I stated above I think there are a lot of things you can use in both worlds like task management on Trello, collaborative work, making sure everyone is comfortable with the game production pipeline and tools and so on. -How did your relationship with the other members of Kunjee Studio come about? I’ve known Diogo a long time. We met at some game jams. He used to produce music for everybody in the game jams, very generous. At first I thought he wouldn't want to work with homebrew but I’m glad he did give it a try! About Rafael we used to work close to each other, he is also very famous with his work on Little Prince drawings Some years ago we went to make Roniu for mobile. For some reasons we did not proceed with the project. Later on, I said I was working in some homebrew project and asked him if he wanted to partake in the adventure. He suggested we go back to Roniu’s idea and make it work on NES From there on I worked on creating an engine around it and building the game. I worked with Fabio at a local company here in Recife and he was very active in the local game jams too! Unfortunately for me and fortunately for his career he left Brazil and now is working abroad so we can only keep in touch online nowadays -What was the working dynamic like in the development of Roniu’s Tale? Even though we live in the same city or at least surroundings we did everything remotely. We used git and Rafael is used to working with teams so it was easy to organize what we needed regarding art etc. Diogo also learned FamiTracker very fast so it was easy for him to get it going. -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in working on the game? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? I think available space is a constant fight when developing for the NES. I used to joke that we spend more time removing things than doing them when developing for the NES. My advice is to get used to the system you plan to develop for and do something you enjoy doing and that will show up at the end result. -There has been a lot of support and enthusiasm for Roniu’s Tale in the leadup to its Kickstarter campaign, thanks to Kunjee Studio and Mega Cat Studio’s promotional work. How does it feel to see so many people excited to play your game? I am very grateful for the support! I hope we can meet the expectations and even surpass it -What aspects of Roniu’s Tale are you most proud of? I am very proud of some of the tools we developed to improve game development speed. Too bad they are mostly useful only to myself I plan to someday organize and release at least some of them. We have made scripts to parse maps from tiled direct into levels with enemy data, keys and orbs. I am especially proud of the “sprite parser”, since it made the pipeline more similar to something like say “unity3d”. We work with PNGs and use tools to validate and extract metadata information that is useful to NES automatically. This way Rafael can use his preferred tools like photoshop or Aseprite. There is also a cutscene parser where you input the music, text and which level it will appear and it compiles to C headers and you can build the game and test after a change, very useful. Also all the images are compressed to LZSS and nametable data is RLE’d so we can get around 7 cutscenes for each bank. I like to make tools that abstract complexity from the underlying architecture, and I think with Roniu we achieved a lot in this way increasing team productivity. -You also worked on Tapeworm Disco Puzzle with Lowtek Games and your own Wolf Spirit, how do those experiences compare with your work on Roniu’s Tale? Most of the code and tools end up being shared by these games and consequently all the improvements can be brought later on to other projects. For example, in Tapeworm I had to make all the level creation automatic so that Wallaster (the game designer) could work on new puzzles all by himself without me needing to interfere. This was an improvement since on Roniu there were still some tweaks here and there that had to be done to integrate to the game. For Wolf Spirit I tried to perfect sprite importing since in that game it’s very important to many tests with player attacks. We did many interactions until finding the perfect balance between number of sprites versus player movement detail. Screenshot from Wolf Spirit by Valdir Salgueiro -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon? Any dream projects? I have some projects that I want to do but my focus is to finish what I started first it is very easy to get lost in new projects so I prioritize getting those done first, but dreaming is free so why not With that being said, we (me and Lowtek) want to make another sequel for Tapeworm, maybe another genre, not sure about it yet! -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Project Borscht and Full Quiet. Both for NES. Screenshot from Full Quiet by Retrotainment Games -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 really hope that you enjoy Roniu’s Tale. There is a great adventure coming on your way and I can assure it will be very rewarding to those who make it past the end Conclusion: Thanks for tuning in to this latest episode of the series that highlights the most promising homebrew games coming across the finish line and shares the stories behind them. What are your thoughts on Roniu’s Tale and its talented development team? Will you back them on Kickstarter while you still can? What homebrews are you eagerly looking forward to? Perhaps you’ll see it here soon when…A Homebrew Draws Near! Command?