Retro game development is experiencing a resurgence. It’s the golden era of NES homebrew, and the Game Boy seems to just have really come into its own. Salt & Pixel is one studio that is riding the wave. I recently discussed the developer's work with its creator, Brandon.
Brandon got into game development around 2012 as a hobby, using "Construct 2" - a game-making software - to start learning.
“It was something I always wanted to learn. But to be more precise, it was game design that interested me most,” he said. “I don’t really know, but something about having different parts working together to create another subjective thing… ‘fun’. I think it’s the exploration.”
From here a few paths led him to GameBoy development. At first he studied the limitations of different consoles in an effort to understand how the art in retro video games worked. “I also got a few jobs doing authentic retro art, that peaked my interest a little more,” he added.
He was also “bored with modern game development. I’m also a sucker for game dev tools.” GBStudio caught his eye and he “had to try it out.”
“I connected with another GBStudio developer (pearacidic) while streaming. He invited me to do a Game Boy game jam and now I find it fascinating.”
Night of the Living Dead (Game Boy)
Coming soon to Kickstarter is Brandon’s adaptation of the 1968 horror film Night of the Living Dead. It’s a linear story game, with side-scroller and top-down elements, “with a few bosses and challenges thrown in.”
“I was wanting to make a game like Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion. The IP is well known and seemed like a good fit for that style of gameplay. It’s a movie to game project I’ve been thinking about a while. After I did a Game Boy mock-up for it, it was obvious it needed to be made.”
Brandon went on to say: “I’m excited to be making a game that created the most cliché genre in games. I just hope people enjoy the game and feel proud to have it in their collection.”
Bringing such an iconic movie to video games has come with its challenges. Brandon described it as aiming to create something on par with the film.
“Adapting a game from a movie is hard by default. Even if you get all the aesthetics right, you still have to make a fun game. NOTLD also has a cultural issue attached too, like Ben, a black man, going through the apocalypse in era where a majority of whites wouldn’t respect him on a good day. Whether intentional or not, or pronounced by academics after the movie’s release, it’s important to pay some acknowledgment to that conflict.”
Bringing a Game to Kickstarter
But making the game is only half the story, as Brandon explains: “Setting up a Kickstarter and everything that follows is a pain. Creating a pitch deck is a lot of work, but with Kickstarter you have to create products too and find sources for manufacturing. You have to market the Kickstarter and get people to care. Estimating the cost of everything drains my energy. There’s also the added pressure of the deadline and the possibility that after all that work, it won’t get funded.”
He has been through this process before, as a part of his attempt to get the PC version of CRUSH funded a few years ago. On this, Brandon said to me “patience is my guide for this new one [...] For every part of the process really.”
The Arcade Philosophy
Brandon’s philosophy on games is encapsulated in their work on custom arcade machines. In an unnamed café in Virginia lives some of his cabinets.
“I grew up going to the arcade, and it's sad that they are gone. Personally speaking, I think digital distribution killed the attraction that video games used to be. That's really my angle with game development in general. I don't want my games to be consumed and buried in someone's digital library like butts in an ashtray. With an arcade, you can touch the game. The cabinets are designed specifically for the game. It has a home.”
“They came about, out of a want to value my own work. After I figured out my system, I started offering to house other developer games. Like the new NES and Game Boy games that have been emerging lately. I'm hoping to start an indie arcade of never-before-seen games.”
Brandon explained on Twitter that many games are unable to get the arcade treatment.
“I would like to change that.”
It all feeds back into Brandon’s philosophy, and by extension his plans on distributing Night of the Living Dead. Cartridges are “for sure decided”, but the idea of limited availability is also an option. “The limited quantities thing is undecided. But there is something about it, I like. Like this is the only chance of getting this game and playing it. I wouldn’t sell the rom.”
Salt & Pixel Going Forward
The Game Boy may have been first released in 1989, but it's far from running out of new experiences in 2022. While not on Kickstarter yet, keep an eye on Brandon's Twitter to see if the home his game might find is your Game Boy's cartridge slot once his Kickstarter is live!
Sign in or become a SUPERJUMP member to join the conversation.