Let’s Interview: Mario Kart YouTuber TWD98!

Over the years, we’ve interviewed a fair few famous YouTubers here at Gaming Reinvented. We’ve talked to Guru Larry about his videos on retro gaming and gaming trivia. We’ve discussed the state of the industry with SidAlpha, and we’ve spoken to more music remixers that possibly imaginable, with everyone from Loeder to BlueJackG and Tater Tot Tunes getting their own interviews here on the site.

And today, we’ve got another interesting YouTuber interview for you! Yep, as the title suggests, today’s interview is with TWD98, a YouTuber most known for his videos on Mario Kart Wii custom tracks, shortcuts and challenges!

So if you ever wanted to know what makes a good Mario Kart custom track, how the shortcuts for the shortcut challenge were picked or just how different the Mario Kart Wii online scene is now that Nintendo’s official servers are a thing of the past, keep reading!

Starting off with a personal question. Who are you?

My name is Troy (TWD98 on YouTube), I’m 24, I live in Southern California and I’ve been running a Mario Kart based YouTube channel since 2007.

And what’s with your username? What does TWD98 mean exactly?

The Walking Dead and born in 1998 obviously!

Nah, not really. It’s actually my initials and favourite number! I have a video on my channel describing why the 98 is my favourite number. Long story short.. it stems from a karaoke high score I had when I was 8 years old.

How did you get into video games anyway?

My older brother had a Super Nintendo and we used to play Street Fighter ALL the time. I played as Ryu and he used Ken. Occasionally, I switched to M. Bison. We also loved to play NBA Jam, Super Mario Kart and then I played Tetris and Pokémon Blue/Red on my Game Boy!

What about Mario Kart? Where did your history with that series begin?

I was 4 or 5 years old, and played Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo. However, it wasn’t my favourite game or anything. I didn’t even get the N64 one.

No, it was Mario Kart Super Circuit that really got me interested in Mario Kart. I used to play it on my Game Boy Advance non-stop, I loved all the crazy shortcuts that game had and it felt like a better version of the SNES one!

Double Dash was a game I loved to play for fun with friends but I never got into playing it solo because I wasn’t a fan of the lack of the “Jump” button and lack of shortcuts. The DS one came out when I was in 5th grade and I played it non-stop until 8th grade, I was addicted. So many Multiplayer matches with the neighbourhood kids.

Did you play the games on a serious level before Mario Kart Wii?

Not at all really. I was in a Mario Strikers Charged clan very briefly at one point, but that’s about it.

For the matter, what were your thoughts when Mario Kart Wii was first released back in 2008?

Well, it was the first game I ever actively followed prior to its release date. From the moment it was announced at E3, I looked online for new info for it every day back in middle school because it was the successor to my favourite game ever, MKDS (SM64 was a close second).

Initial thoughts: This is the greatest thing ever. 12 player online that works well, weekly tournament competitions, time trial leaderboards and WR ghost download options, a growing online community etc.

On the other hand, after 2-3 months, I completely lost interest in the game and returned to MKDS. The drift bothered me because I couldn’t manually charge mini turbos. At the time I was extremely casual with Mario Kart Wii so I was using Dolphin Dasher during the summer of 08.

Dolphin Dasher

However, that all changed when I came across a YouTube video with really catchy music titled Top 10 Mario Kart Wii shortcuts by Rolation in like November 08, and that really peaked my interest in the game.

That’s what inspired me to give Mario Kart Wii another go, and it all went up from there. Sadly I can’t find the video now though, and I think it may have got taken down. Do remember he was using the Bullet Bike in it though.

Anyway, when I came back in December 08, I began using Mach Bike, started downloading WR ghosts and practicing the shortcuts and lines and then by spring 09, it was the only game I was playing.

That’s how it went from ‘this game is pretty fun (but not on par with MKDS)’ to ‘this game is even better than MKDS.‘

Onto a few mod questions now then. How did you get started with Mario Kart Wii mods?

When MrBean35000vr released the first batch of playable custom tracks and a tutorial on how to mod the Wii. I remember my excitement when Mushroom Peaks loaded on my game. It opened up a world of possibilities to me for MKWii.

What were your thoughts when you discovered CTGP Revolution?

CTGP Revolution may have only been in its beginning stages at the time, but I saw the potential immediately. Since then, I can say with confidence that it’s surpassed even my wildest expectations.

It’s certainly come a long way, haha!

Favourite Mario Kart Wii custom tracks included there?

Concord Town, Lunar Lights, almost all the Retro courses, Dragonite’s Island, Candy Coaster is a guilty pleasure haha

Any you don’t feel should have been accepted?

Plenty. Mainly the ones that have confusing layouts, are visual eyesores and don’t cater to new players/vehicles that aren’t the Mach Bike.

Either way, Mario Kart Wii mods have come a long way. Are you surprised at how far the scene has progressed? Or how much more professional the custom tracks of today are?

As far as clans go, the scene is still mostly the same. In that sense, it hasn’t seemingly changed much in a decade.

Still, it’s alive and pretty active, so that’s nice to see.

As for custom tracks, well those have surprised me immensely. So many talented creators are making them now, and I hope to make a track or two of my own in future as well!

Finally on the modding side of things, why do you think Mario Kart Wii has gotten so many mods anyway? No other games in the series have gotten nearly as many custom tracks or characters…

It sold the most (37.10 million copies) and its irreplaceable. No other Mario Kart game will be this popular, so it’ll live on for quite a while.

Onto YouTube stuff now. What made you decide to start up a channel?

My parents wouldn’t let me play video games anymore during the school week (in high school) because it was unproductive. My dad said I need to find a way to make it productive. I was like… “how?”. He came up with the idea to make YouTube videos so I bought a camcorder and shortly after, a Dazzle.

Did you have any other ideas for channels before this one?

Nope.

How confident were you that your channel would succeed?

I didn’t care if it succeeded or not, it was my ticket to be able to play Mario Kart Wii during the week while in high school and talk to my clan teammates! To be honest though, I found that I did enjoy making videos quite a lot and by 2011, I started taking YouTube a bit more seriously.

Obviously now we all know it did, with 114,000 people watching your videos as of this moment. How does it feel to have such a large YouTube following?

Humbling. I remember that when I had around 15,000 subscribers, I thought I was going to max out at only 30-40k subscribers (because I thought that was the number of people in the online community).

Let’s talk about a few of your series now. For instance, what made you decide to start Rate That Custom Track?

I saw Ray William Johnson with a show called “Equals 3” and he showed other people’s videos and made fun of them in a light humour kind of way. Justin and I were in the same AP Euro class and I was like, “dude I’m gonna do what Ray William Johnson does but for MKWii custom tracks, do you wanna be my co-star?” and he loved the idea.

How do you choose what tracks to cover there anyway?

I would pick random ones on the fly, at least for the first 7 or 8 episodes. Indeed, a lot of the time we actually recorded 4-5 tracks, with 1 or 2 being cut out because they were boring to watch.

But I started planning out the tracks I was going to cover later on.

Have there ever been ones you planned to make videos on, but decided against discussing for whatever reason? Maybe due to uninteresting track design or what not?

For RTCT? Probably, I can’t remember any off the top of my head.

And how have your standards there changed over time? I’m guessing your criteria for a good custom track may have changed a bit over the years…

Absolutely. I didn’t care about it giving good races before. In fact, I really enjoyed the more difficult courses because they were easy to win when you had practiced them.

Now though, I appreciate the more Nintendo like ones instead, due to how much less I play the game nowadays. For me, a good track is easy to complete a lap on but difficult to master, which is why I feel Sniki does a great job with his own tracks. They appeal to both casual and hardcore players in about the same way as Nintendo’s own tracks.

Any tracks you would have rated differently had you made a video about them today?

Yeah, I honestly didn’t take the ratings too seriously but I liked it that way.

There’s also Troy vs Custom Track, where you try and beat the staff ghosts for a custom track in order to master it. What inspired you to make these videos?

I thought it’d be easy to reach 9999 VR on custom tracks, but that wasn’t the case at all. Because of this, I felt I needed more to practice the more difficult tracks a bit more, since it’s hard to improve on them with only two Race to 9999 VR episodes a month. So I started the series to get better at tracks like Melting Magma Melee and Final Grounds in the hope of performing better on them online.

Similarly, how do you choose what tracks to take on here?

I choose the difficult ones. Especially those I know are complex and have strategies that can let you win online races more easily. For example, in CTR Cortex Castle, you can EASILY break away and win if you can do that shroomless cut.

So I wanted my weakest tracks to become my strongest ones.

Continue Reading…

Let’s Interview Mario Modder, Challenge Gamer and YouTuber Mayro!

Whether it’s Mario Maker levels or Super Mario Galaxy 2 hacks, Mayro has done a lot throughout his career on YouTube. Indeed, in a world where everyone else seems to be narrowing down on a niche, Mayro seems to be bucking the trend, offering a level of variety almost unseen in the world of YouTube gaming.

Mayro Photo

And it’s working pretty damn well for him too. With more than 20,000 subscribers (many of which only found his channel in the last few months or so), it’s clear his YouTube channel is going from strength to strength at the moment, with thousands of Nintendo fans finding his work every day.

But behind every creator is a story, and dozens of questions about their work. How does Mayro come up with the challenges he takes on? What does he look for in a video game mod or ROM hack? What inspires his own levels in Super Mario Maker?

Well, it’s time to find out! Because in today’s interview we’re talking to him to all that and more.

So if you want to find out what makes Mayro tick (or just what he thinks about all the games he’s ever played on his channel), keep reading!

It’s gonna be one hell of a ride…

Which all starts with the usual personal background question. So Mayro, who are you? Who is the person behind the Mayro pseudonym?

I don’t feel comfortable giving my legal name, but most people offline know me as “Sossie”. I’m sure you can find my legal name online with enough digging but uhh… please don’t. Anyway, I’m a Welsh student who studies Music Tech, Computer Science, and Mathematics and I spend way too long trying to master my favourite games for no real gain other than personal satisfaction. I also play classical guitar but I’d like to just learn some video game tunes instead if I’m honest.

And what does your username mean anyway?

Although people offline know me as “Sossie”, I wouldn’t call it my nickname. For years, my nickname has been Mayro. So when I created my channel I wanted to make sure my viewers called me the same thing my offline friends would call me. This would allow me to connect with them more easily. As for the “SMM” part, that stands for “Super Mario Maker”. When I first created my channel, I was super active in the Mario Maker community and I wanted my username to reflect that. Besides, “Mayro” is also quite the meme character and nobody would be able to find me if that alone was my username.

How did you get into gaming?

When I was younger, we went to visit family in Northern Ireland. My cousin was playing through Luigi’s Mansion for the GameCube and I remember being fascinated by it. I was too scared to ever try it but all I did while I was there was watch him play. Funnily enough, I’ve still not played that game because I’m still too scared to try it.

Luigi's Mansion Artwork

Or for that matter, the Mario series? What was your first Mario game?

My cousin also showed me Super Mario 64 DS and that was the coolest thing ever. Being able to explore so many worlds was the most fun thing in the world for me. I never tried to get any of the stars – I just explored all the levels for hours and hours. Before I really got my own consoles, I also remember trying Mario Kart Wii when visiting different family and I loved shooting the items even though I never hit anything other than walls.

Mario 64 DS Artwork

For a bit of contrast, what about now? What games are you playing at this moment?

When I’m not working, I normally goof around in Super Mario Odyssey or play Minecraft with friends. I also love the Mario and Luigi games. Bowser’s Inside Story is my favourite game of all time, so I gotta get myself ready for the remake in 2019! Generally speaking, I don’t play much other than Mario games. Other platformers feel sloppy to me and I think I’m just too attached to the Mario series’ characters. Oh, and sometimes I practice Super Mario 3D World so I can play better in my Coinless series. Although its community has explored it pretty thoroughly, I have not so I would like to do that.

Okay, onto YouTube now. What made you want to start a channel there?

I used to watch Nathaniel Bandy and TWD98 a lot, and I wanted to be just like them. My early content blatantly ripped them off but that’s private now, bwahahaha. It wasn’t for fame, though. I loved watching back my own videos so the process became pretty easy for me.

And how did you choose what topic you were going to cover? Why Super Mario Galaxy 2 and the likes?

Back in January of 2017, I had a strange urge to play Super Mario Galaxy 2 again. I think it was the knowledge in the back of my mind that I had never unlocked the green stars and I had never attempted Grandmaster Galaxy. And as I was playing through, I uploaded a couple of small challenges onto my channel for fun. I never really took it seriously at first. In fact, I had absolutely no intention to focus on it at all. Instead, I wanted to focus on let’s plays. There was this custom “episode” for a fan game called “Super Mario Bros. X” which was basically a remake of the original NES Super Mario Bros but with added slopes, decoration, and themes to make the levels feel more modern. This “episode” was called “Super Mario Bros. 1X” and I wanted more people to be able to see it. So I decided to make a short let’s play on my channel showcasing it. The playthrough never really took off, though, but I decided to keep making more let’s plays on more mods rather than fan games. These playthroughs eventually took off and I started building my own audience. However, at one point I was going on a family vacation and there was no way I would be able to finish enough playthrough episodes to schedule over the week I was gone. So I went back to Super Mario Galaxy 2 and tried every challenge I could think of. Uploading 5-7 of these in a row sort of established challenges as a series and since I already had a backlog from the early days of my channel, people were subscribing for the challenges rather than the let’s plays. So I ended up doing both in the end.

Did you have any other ideas for YouTube channels before this one?

Oh gosh, do you really want to know? Yes, I’ve had channels before this one. A lot of them. My first channel was called “marionose1” and I still use it to this day. I’ve always been active on it but it never really had a theme until recently. Most of the old videos on there are private, and many more will be going private soon so browse while you still can. These days, I focus on ripping musical sequences from old games and using updated instruments to remaster them. Over the past few months, I’ve built up a small audience of Mario and Luigi fans so it’s been difficult having to be active on both channels at the same time.

I had various other attempts at channels over the years. I tried making a Minecraft channel based around blowing things up with TNT at one point but that failed after a week or so. I then tried making another Minecraft channel at some point where I just uploaded timelapses of me building things in building minigames. I killed that one off too. Then there were probably three separate spam accounts where I intended to post “behind the scenes content” but since marionose1 didn’t really have a theme, every attempt at doing that was just forgotten about. I also never even advertised these channels anywhere so nobody had a clue what they were for.

Lastly, there’s Soundfont Guy. I created Soundfont Guy to be an archive account showing various meme soundfonts I had made. If you’re unfamiliar, a soundfont is a bit like an instrument which can be applied to digital sequences of notes. Most programs have a soundfont with the same set of instruments, but on Soundfont Guy I would upload completely custom ones. For instance, when We Are Number One was a relevant meme, I created a soundfont out of Robbie Rotten’s saxophone. There was a time where I was posting actively to MayroSMM, marionose1, and Soundfont Guy at the same time. However, as my main account grew, I genuinely needed a spam account and I didn’t want a fourth channel to try and check. So I renamed Soundfont Guy to Special Mayro and that became my hub for shitposting. I upload random remixes of my friends to request while they’re streaming, raw footage from collab projects, random parts of my own videos (e.g. a full version of an acapella I did for April Fools’ Day), and more “great” content like that. I guess since this was made after MayroSMM, it doesn’t really answer your question. But it’s close enough, I suppose.

Still, onto Galaxy 2. What were your thoughts on the game before you made videos on it?

I remember liking it a lot but there were a lot of galaxies that I didn’t like because they were too slow or boring. Ironically, the transformations were probably my favourite part. I’ll be honest, though, I still think most of the game is boring unless you’re trying to completely destroy the level design. The first Galaxy game is far superior!

You used to make quite a few challenge videos for that game, and that’s become a sort of common trend on your channel in general over time. What made you decide to focus on that stuff?

As I mentioned earlier, I sorta created this massive backlog of challenges over time. When I realised there was interest, I wanted to impress my new audience so I would gradually try harder challenges. It felt good making those videos because honestly, I’ve never really been good at video games until I started making these challenge videos. It wasn’t even a full year ago that I unlocked Grandmaster Galaxy for the first time. I also got to meet great people through challenges such as DGR and FearsomeFire and since they ended up making similar content, seeing a fresh new take on the idea motivated me to keep going with it.

How did you come up with the challenges you were going to take on anyway? Like Flipswap Galaxy without red panels or Super Mario 3D World while not collecting coins?

As I said, I’ve never been that great at video games. When I first played this game, I really enjoyed it but it took a long time for me to beat it. When I got stuck on a level, instead of sitting down for a few hours trying to beat it, I went back to my favourite levels and just played those again. I probably played levels like Chompworks dozens of times which led to me wondering if I could do them without the powerups provided by the level. I would say that 80% of the challenges I uploaded before that batch of scheduled uploads were just stuff I did goofing around when I was younger. Doing stuff like this definitely made me better at the game, though, and I started learning tricks which I previously thought would only be possible through TAS (I’m not calling myself a God, I was just clueless about how to do certain things like cloud jumps without the cloud flower). I still have a lot to learn, but my number 1 goal for Super Mario Galaxy 2 is to beat the game without touching a single powerup. So far, I’ve made it to World 5 but I need two more stars to unlock the boss level.

As for not collecting coins, it all started with New Super Mario Bros. Wii. This was another game I played around the same time as Super Mario Galaxy 2 and I remember being somewhat good at it. I wanted to take it to a similar level that I took Super Mario Galaxy 2 to but I couldn’t really find any interesting challenges. For instance, in 2-1 there are sand geysers which are the main gimmick of the stage. I tried beating the stage without them but at the end they became the only thing to stand on and I had to conclude that the challenge was impossible. This happened in almost every stage I tried. A couple of people in the comments suggested that I tried doing stages without collecting any coins, so I gave it a shot and the series took off. I ended up completing every level in the game without coins. This is really great way for me to combine let’s plays and challenge videos since I’m both progressing through the entire game and doing so in a much harder manner. So I decided to do the same thing with Super Mario 3D World. Not for any reason, really. I just wanted to play Super Mario 3D World again because it’s been a while.

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Let’s Interview; 8-bit Game Music Remixer Tater Tot Tunes!

Wow, it’s been a while since the last one of these, hasn’t it? Indeed, ever since we posted the second part of our interview with Randy Linden back in June, interviews have been pretty thin on the ground here at Gaming Reinvented, with the last two months having none whatsoever.

But that’s now all over, since today we’ve got another exclusive interview for you all.

This time, it’s with a YouTube video game music remixer called Tater Tot Tunes, known mostly for his 8-bit remixes of classic Nintendo songs. So without further ado, let’s get started with the interview!

So, first things first… who are you?

My name is Adam, I’m a musician and a retro gamer at heart. I’m currently in my senior year of high school, where I’m a trumpet player in my school’s concert band. I’ve constantly been surrounded by music for my whole life, so I thought I’d put my talents to use online.

And where did your username come from? Why Tater Tot Tunes?

I had been thinking of creating a YouTube channel for a while, but I didn’t really have many ideas on what genre to pursue. I chose Tater Tot Tunes because one of my friends suggested making the channel’s character a tater tot (I think we might have had burgers and tater tots for lunch that day). I liked it because it was a unique choice and didn’t restrict me to one genre of music.

According to your bio, you had eight years of trumpet playing experience and four years’ experience as a songwriter before staring out on the site. What kind of songs did you create then?

I had the Garageband app on my phone and used it to create music during my spare time. Most of it was going to be used in a game that I was making, but never finished.

Did you ever share those online anywhere?

The decent ones are up on my SoundCloud account, also called Tater Tot Tunes.

Clearly, you’ve got quite a lot of interest in games too. How did you get into gaming anyway?
I was introduced to gaming with the Nintendo 64 back when I was very young, with my first game being Diddy Kong Racing. Even back then I remember certain songs that would get stuck in my head.

Regardless, you’re obviously most known for your video game remixes. What made you decide to start a channel about that?

I started a channel about video game remixes mainly because I’m so familiar with them. There’s also not much risk in covering video game songs because the developers usually don’t bother you. With movies and popular songs, however, companies usually eat up all the ad revenue.

Were you inspired by any other video game remixers out there? Which ones?

I was originally inspired by remixing communities like OC Remix, and I wanted to try putting jazz styles on certain songs from gaming. The first remix I posted was the only one that I ended up finishing, as I quickly found an interest in chiptune afterward. As my channel grew I also took inspiration from some of the other channels that make chiptune music like Bulby and Loeder.

And why 8-bit versions anyway? Are you a huge fan of the NES era?

Definitely. I’ve collected NES games for years and I really enjoy the simplicity of the gameplay and the music. I didn’t mean to make 8-bit remixes the focus of my channel, however. I was originally inspired by the 8-bit sections in Super Mario Odyssey and wanted to try transcribing some of the music from the E3 demo. People requested more, so I continued.

Did any games from that era inspire you more? Like say, ones with a certain composer or music style?

Absolutely. Composers like Hirokazu Ando (Kirby’s Adventure) and Takashi Tateishi (Mega Man 2) inspire many of the styles that I choose. I usually choose to remix songs from a series in such a way that they sound like they could fit into their NES originals.

You also seem to focus a lot on remixing songs from the GameCube era and beyond? Why?

With GameCube era games and beyond, the songs got a lot more complicated in their instrumentation. In this way, they’re more interesting for me to remix, since they require a lot more creativity. My preferred era of songs to remix is the DS/Wii era, though, since it’s the era that my audience connects with the most.

There’s also a huge Nintendo focus when it comes to your song choices too. Have you ever remixed any songs from non-Nintendo titles?

A few. I’ve done a bunch of Star Wars remixes in the past to keep things fresh, but I like to keep things consistent which is probably why I’ve mainly stuck with Nintendo and Sega stuff.

How do you choose a song to remix anyway?

I usually choose songs from requests or from games I’m playing at the time. Sometimes I also hear songs in videos or other covers that inspire me to create a remix.

Do you ever decide not to make a remix for whatever reason?

Sure. I try to keep my remixes consistent, so I usually won’t choose remixes that most people wouldn’t find an interest in. Sometimes, I get really far into a remix and just decide that it’s not working, so I set it aside and pick it back up later. Other times, I realize that someone else has made a remix exactly like mine, so I decide that I’d rather work on something new and unique.

I’m also guessing you get a ton of requests too. How you deal with all of those?

I consider all requests, though obviously I can’t take them all anymore. I’m much more inclined to take certain requests if they’re from the same game that I’m currently working on. Also, the earliest requests usually get prioritized, since I typically haven’t picked my next song yet.

Onto a few taste related questions now. First up, were there any songs you just knew needed a remix the minute you heard them?

Recently, I’d say Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s theme. The second the song ended on the live stream, I downloaded the MP3 and began working. I think I got it done in just under two hours. It was funny, a lot of people thought that I had somehow gotten ahold of the song early.

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Let’s Interview: Bleem!, Kinect and Cyboid Developer Randy Linden (Part 2)!

As you know, back in December we interviewed a video game developer called Randy Linden about his work on various games for the NES and SNES. These included Where’s Waldo for the former, the official port of Doom for the latter and various other titles from the 8 and 16-bit era of gaming. It was a well received interview and got quite a bit of coverage elsewhere as a result.

Unfortunately, that was just part 1 of the full interview we had prepared. Indeed, for various personal and logistical reasons, the interview had to be split up into two parts, with the former covering the 8 and 16-bit titles and the latter covering those which came later. It wasn’t meant to be a huge deal, just a way to keep things going for a few days or so.

Then six months passed, and with life getting in the way at all times, everything just kind of got stuck in limbo. Would we ever get to read the second part of the interview? Would Linden’s experiences developing Bleem! Or Cyboid ever see the light of day? It was impossible to tell, and many people just assumed the article was dead and buried.

But now the wait is finally over! After six months of waiting (and various real life issues getting in the way), the second part of our exclusive interview with Randy Linden is up and ready to go!
And well, if you thought the last one was interesting… Just wait till you read this. Because whether it’s Bleem!, Cyboid or game development as a whole, this interview is filled with titbits about the games industry and how it works.

So, if you’re interested in knowing about said projects (or just how dire the world of smartphone game development can really be about now), keep reading!

Starting with a question about the former, an interesting PS1 emulator for PC that was actually sold in shops back in the day. So how did that idea come about? After all, it’s not often that emulators are made by actual companies.

Bleem! Emulator

A few years ago, I looked back at my career and realized there was a pattern to the projects and work I’ve done and finally understood what it is that “drives” me as a programmer: Typically, there’s a complex technical challenge, something large in scale or intricate with many details and interrelated components, and there’s always some aspect which makes the project both unique and difficult to accomplish … Bleem! fits that pattern exactly.

We’re going back about twenty years and at that time, the PlayStation was inexpensive and had a huge library of beautiful 3D games, some of which even had movie clips… remember: this was before watching movies on a PC was something typical – or expected!

In comparison, PCs were expensive and the vast majority had graphics cards that didn’t “do” 3D – at all!

The few PC graphics cards that had 3D hardware were very limited and even basic capabilities, like alpha blending (i.e. “transparency”), were rare. I’m not sure you could even find a 3D chip today that didn’t support alpha blending!

Of course, there were a handful of truly excellent 3D games for the PC which rendered everything in software, so I knew the average PC had enough horsepower for Bleem!, but it wouldn’t be easy.

The “company” came about later on when it was obvious that Bleem! was actually going to work and something I thought people would want.

And what was it like coding the thing? Must have been pretty hard getting PS1 games working in such a program, since emulation is one of the trickiest things to really ‘nail down’ in the games industry.

I had experience writing emulators before (“The 64 Emulator” for Amiga), but the hardware for those systems was well-documented. In this case, pretty much everything was a “black box” – well, “grey” actually!

When I first put a PlayStation Disc into my PC, I was surprised that it wasn’t ejected right away and began exploring what was on the disc – lots of files and it looked like nothing was hidden, encrypted or obscured in any way.

The core processor was a MIPS RISC CPU, so that’s where I started… I went to the local bookstore (yes, I’m dating myself a bit here…) and bought a reference manual for the processor.

I looked at some of the files on the disc again and, sure enough, it was MIPS code.

Two of my engineering strengths are reverse-engineering and optimization, so little-by-little I figured out how the hardware and software operated and wrote the code accordingly.

I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time I saw a PlayStation game running on my PC; it was so early in Bleem!’s development that very little code was actually written (for example, most of the MIPS CPU opcodes weren’t even supported yet!), but there it was on my screen … and I knew that exciting times were ahead.

It’s taken years for me to recognize and appreciate the once-in-a-lifetime experience that was Bleem! – not just the development, but every aspect of the entire project: Bleem! was exciting, challenging, frustrating, annoying, fun and pretty much every other emotion all wrapped up into a few years of my life.

Unfortunately, it seems Sony didn’t quite like Bleem! All that much, leading to a court case against your company. How did that feel? Were you surprised Sony was willing to sue over this?

Yes, it was an unexpected surprise initially – I truly believed the huge number of people who owned a PC but not a PlayStation would be a massive market for Sony.

What other interesting projects did you work on between Bleem!’s shut down and your current company? Any major franchises a lot of people would recognise?

I worked at Microsoft for almost ten years on a number of different projects you’d probably recognize… Kinect and Microsoft Band, for example.

Microsoft Band

Onto R and R Digital now. What made you decide to become an indie developer here?

A couple years ago I was working at Microsoft on Band and when they decided to stop further development I realized it was an opportunity for me to return to my ”roots” as an indie developer.

And how did you come up with the name? Seems like an unusual choice of branding for a game development company.

The company name had to be something simple and, importantly, wasn’t already taken… so all the various domains, social media accounts, etc. all had to be unused and available.

R and R – as in “Rest and Relaxation” – actually, it’s for Rand and Robert – my husband of 22 years.

As does the somewhat retro style of the site in general. Is it meant to be a call back to the days of Doom and 1996 game developer sites?

r and r digital site

Not really … although if that’s a good thing, then “Hell, yes! Absolutely that’s the design!”

It’s more along the lines of “I’m not a web developer” and don’t know anyone who wants to do all the work to make an awesome website for free!

As you know from running your own site, it takes a huge amount of time and work to make and keep a site up-to-date – even something as “basic” as ours!

I’ve also learned that web site development can be as complex and challenging as software development; for example, something as “simple” as making a drop-down hover menu that “works” and displays properly on the majority of browsers isn’t nearly as easy or simple as I expected… and don’t get me started on the whole “favicon” thing … sigh.

Seriously, if you know anyone who wants to redo the site (and works for free), let me know!

Still, the website isn’t the important thing here, the game is. So, what’s the story behind Cyboid?

My intention was for Cyboid to be something fast and fun that you play for a little bit and come back to again and again…

Basically, a quick 3D “shoot ‘em up” that you install and leave on your device because it only takes up eight megs of space – which is really tiny compared to games that take up hundreds of megabytes these days!

There really isn’t much of a backstory per se — humans vs. cybernetic monsters/enemies was an obvious, if overused, theme.

Why did you decide to create a Doom like FPS game?

I’ve always been a huge fan of FPS games, although I’m not a particularly good player…

Actually, that’s true in general: I’m a fairly awful player at pretty much every type of game!

Surprisingly, the game seems to come with quite a few neat options, including full-fledged multiplayer modes! What made you decide to go the extra mile with all this?

Cyboid Multiplayer

I suppose for the same reasons I added Mouse, Super Scope and XBand support to DOOM for SNES … basically, if it’s possible for me to add a feature or option that people would like, then I’ll do it!

I’ve always worked hard to do the very best I can – that’s something that our Mother taught us and it runs in our family – so while I’m certainly proud of my accomplishments, I also recognize it’s always possible to do better and it’s really a matter of balance … which is sometimes hard to achieve.

Since Cyboid was first released there have been more than a dozen updates to the game: I’ve added new levels, new weapons, new features (like VR support) all of which have been free updates.

I really see this as a “win-win” all around: the game is better, customers like it more and I’ve learned new things that’ll be useful in whatever comes next, too!

It also includes achievements and leaderboards, which are quite interesting in a game like this. What made you decide to include these in Cyboid?

As above, I wanted to support as many features as possible and Achievements and Leaderboards seem really appropriate for a 3D FPS game.

More controversially though, the game offers in app purchases and advertisements as well. What was the reason for including those ‘freemium’ design trends in a game designed to feel like a home console title?

That’s a tough one… I’m not sure it’s controversial, though…

I think most developers face a difficult decision when it comes to advertising and in-app purchasing – it’s a lot of work to implement either (and double that amount if you want to support Amazon and Google because their APIs are so different from each other.)

The question basically boils down to this: How can I earn a living and put food on the table?

If you look at the advertising numbers, it basically takes a few hundred thousand downloads before any potential ad revenue might actually be worth something – the per-ad payment is fractions of a cent – so until you’ve shown many, many thousands of ads, you’ve earned nothing… and annoyed every single customer along the way.

When Cyboid was released there wasn’t any advertising because I expected game sales to more than make up for any potential revenue from ads.

Initially the game was launched on the Fire TV Stick and Fire TV – There were (and are) very few 3D FPS games that even run on the Fire TV Stick, and Cyboid still stands out as something unique and different that you rarely see on a $30 device, never mind running well!

After a few months of slow sales, I reluctantly added advertising – and, fingers crossed, hoped that would generate some income.

Then, after countless annoying issues with the advertising support (you wouldn’t believe the complexities and incompatibilities across various devices, OS versions and vendor ad logic!), I removed all the ads again about six (or eight) months ago.

For Cyboid, Advertising was a huge loss for (at least) three reasons:

  1. The total ad revenue after many months was still way below the minimum threshold
  2. The huge amount of work required to get (and keep) everything working properly on all of the various Amazon and Google devices
  3. Everyone hates ads (more in this below…)

Here’s another way of looking at it – from a “time investment” perspective:

If I could have done all the work to support advertising in under an hour (yes, everything … all of it … in a single hour) … and, if we were actually paid for that one hour (remember, we still hadn’t hit the threshold after many months, so we’ve never received anything from anyone for all the ads that were actually shown!) … then I still would have earned less than the lowest minimum wage in the US – which is $7.25/hour.

For a bigger picture, take a look through the reviews of many games and a few things stand out in common – “freemium” or paid – it doesn’t matter:

  1. Everyone hates ads
  1. There are way too many ads
  2. The ads interfere with gameplay
  3. Few people are willing to pay to get rid of them (but happy to post a 1-star review for a game they’ve played for dozens of hours and paid nothing)
  • Everyone hates In-App purchases
  • Sure, the first level or two are free (and that’s usually including the “training” or “intro” level) and they’re great – but you reach the third level and the enemies or monsters are stronger, so it takes you a dozen or so times but you finally get through.

    Eventually, the difficulty ramps up to the point where it’s unlikely you’ll be able to continue playing without actually purchasing an add-on weapon or armour or whatever.

    This is also known as “hitting the pay wall” – and every “freemium” game with in-app purchasing is designed and adjusted carefully with that in mind.

    IMO, if you get an hour’s worth of enjoyment from something that cost you nothing (or next-to-nothing, like say $0.99), then that’s awesome and it’s rare and should be celebrated more often than we see these days … at least going by the general reviews and comments for just about anything and everything online – not just apps and games, but anything.

    Instead, it seems that some people aren’t nearly as generous themselves as they’ve come to expect from whatever game they’ve downloaded for free, played for dozens of hours and finally posted a 1-star review because there are too many ads … seriously?!

    It’s hard to me to imagine how someone justifies that kind of review … unless … maybe the game somehow stole their contacts, spammed their friends and then melted their phone – in that case, I get it: 1 star for sure!

    Otherwise, how much do you really expect from something that costs 99 cents? … and is that actually reasonable?

    Here are some examples from reviews of popular games, all of them have an average rating of 4 stars – so they’re all great games – the quotes are from the 1-star and 2-star reviews.

    Review Examples

    1. This game has over a million downloads.

    a. Was 5 stars. Not anymore. Sadly, another company where greed took over. When will people learn to leave well enough alone and to stop being driven by greed.
    Always looking to squeeze that extra penny, at any cost.
    b. The game itself is like a 4 or 5-star worth game but every time after completing a board, the next board button is at the same spot, so, of course, I get used to clicking at the same spot. Well then, every once 7n awhile at that exact spot, a ‘watch ad’ button appears and the next level button gets moved so I every now and then, accidentally click it. I feel like this is done intentionally.
    c. I liked the game for my kids a lot it has very nice reasoning technique but today I saw ads a lot… And few of ads were very unpleasant, there for I have to remove it from my phone.
    d. It’s a fun game but it has way too many full screen ads which takes away the fun I’m uninstalling it
    e. So many add in this app

    2. This game has 500,000+ downloads.

    a. I would like the game more if the adds would not pop up every 5 seconds and if it would keep working every time I kill him.

    b. Absolute cash grab, constant ads.
    I have never left a review before but I played this game as a kid and seeing it like this is sad. Turning blood on is $6? That’s ridiculous, you can unlock weapons by spam watching ads or paying $28 a month for some subscription.

    c. I would give 0 stars if I could. Way too many ads and half the weapons require you to watch ads or do some other stupid stuff.

    d. There are far too many in game purchases and ads to enjoy this game anymore. I remember how you used to be able to enjoy this app a long time ago and it was so fun. But having to pay or watch ads for a majority of the weapons makes this game not worth the download. You would think with all these bad reviews involving ads they would do something about it.

    e. Everything has to be paid for or watch videos for. I miss when this game was just the easily obtainable in-game currency. Now you can’t do anything without a bunch of gold, videos, or the diamond membership.

    3. This game has 30,000 downloads.

    a. You can tell by how simple it is, that they put no effort into this game. It’s just a get rich quick scheme.

    Because they layer it with advertisements to drain the people they advertise of money then charge $5 to get no ads. I get that it’s a free game but if you make a game with barely any effort then don’t layer it with ads.

    The ads aren’t even just a trigger it’s just a 3 second – 1-minute timer. “Haven’t had one ad in a while? Here’s a thirty second one”

    It’s not one ad every 10 attempts, it’s just one ad every time the system sees the average $ per millisecond go below the ‘requirement’ usually the ads are about 30-50 seconds or 1 minute.

    b. Too many ads. Will not reinstall.

    c. There are way too many ads for this game.

    d. Waste of space that has no skill requirement and is just some easy money for the developers. More playstore trash

    e. I only have it 2 stars because I beat all the levels until you updated it and when you updated it, it added levels and I was happy so I started right away.

    f. I beat a few levels and then when back to the main page because I missed getting 3 stars on one but when I went back all the levels that I beat from the new update disappeared so I did it again and they disappeared again. please fix this because I really liked the game.

    4. This game has 700+ downloads

    a. I really wanted to like this game.

    Definitely hit a paywall during the second campaign and conquest becomes grindy playing with any country as the other countries are able to push out generals constantly.

    I’d say 2/5. Very disappointed you need to pay to AFC advance in a game that was already bought.

    The first two games can earn income through ads because they have enough downloads … the second two don’t have a chance.

    How do you feel game design (and development) has changed over the last 20 years or so?

    Game (and app) developers have it really tough these days because there are few choices when it comes to earning a living and none of them are easy.

    If your game is free, your only potential income is through advertising or in-app purchases – both of which people hate.

    If your game isn’t free, you’re at least guaranteed something for your time … well, 70% of something because the other 30% goes to the app store selling your game.

    But it turns out that the biggest challenge for developers is simply “getting the word out” … at that’s so much harder than any other aspect of development.

    But hey, enough game design questions for now. What have you been doing to market Cyboid and R and R Digital online?

    Over the past couple years, I looked at sales numbers, reviews, ratings and many other aspects of mobile games and IMO, the most difficult challenge for developers is marketing.

    … and unfortunately, based on what I’ve seen, 99% of us are failing miserably – either people know about you, or they don’t – and if they don’t, chances are that they never will.

    You basically get one shot when your game is first released, mostly because it shows up in the “new releases” area of both app stores … but there’s a limited window of time as new games appear and if you don’t generate enough sales to stay on the chart, you’ll eventually drop off … forever.

    Continue Reading…

    Let’s Interview; Zelda Conversion Project Developer Ainz!

    Recently, a new mod for the Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild start blowing up online. This mod made Zelda the main protagonist of the game and was designed to go further than most in changing everything from the text to the costume models to fit the new narrative.

    In other words, it’s an impressive piece of work all round, and one that’s arguably the most technically advanced mod of its kind available for the game.

    And just like many other interesting (or technically advanced) mod projects, this in turn has led to tons of media coverage. From Kotaku to IGN to My Nintendo News, dozens of publications have written stories or made videos about the Zelda Conversion Project, with the number growing by the day.

    But media coverage doesn’t automatically translate to accurate media coverage, and in this case, that’s meant tons of misleading stories about the project. From comments about how the game ‘shouldn’t exist’ to implications that text replacement is an easy process and assumptions that the mod is a protest about gender roles, almost every piece about the game made one or more mistakes in their quest to get out a story as quickly as possible.

    And so to fix this, we’ve decided to go back to the source. Yep, today on Gaming Reinvented, we’ve got an exclusive interview with Ainz, one of the mod’s developers and coordinator of the Breath of the Wild modding Discord as a whole.

    So, if you want to learn the real story behind the project (as well as what other plans the team has for the Zelda Conversion Project in general), sit down, relax and get reading!

    Starting with a bit of personal background for the project’s coordinator. Who are you?

    I am Ainz, sometimes known as CEObrainz. I’m the server owner for the Zelda Modding Hub and the coordinator for the Zelda Conversion Project.

    And how did you first become interested in video games?

    My first game was Ocarina of Time on the N64, ever since then I’ve been a big Nintendo and Zelda fan.

    Ocarina of Time Artwork

    What about the Legend of Zelda series? Which game was your first one in that franchise?

    Like I said before, Ocarina of Time was the first game I’ve ever played, which introduced a brand-new world to me that I found visually and thematically stimulating to my tastes.

    Either way, it’s clear Breath of the Wild is one of your favourite titles in the series, otherwise you wouldn’t be modding it. So, what are your thoughts on the game in general?

    Honestly it may shock you, but Breath of the Wild is my least favourite 3D game in the series. That isn’t to say it’s a bad game, I’ve certainly enjoyed my time completing it, including both DLCs but it lacks many of the features and ideas that I would have hoped to see on a game of this scale. Which is why when comparing it to the older games, they achieve more (for their time) than this game does, despite its achievements.

    Why did you decide to get into mods for the game anyway?

    The open-air nature of the game gave me the impression that it’d be a game that’s easier to mod than past Zelda titles and having seen such projects of the past I was pleasantly surprised when I found the relatively new modding community at the time.

    And what was the reasoning behind creating the playable Zelda mod for this title?

    After seeing the work that WilinZilv and Skriller did with the initial Zelda model I wanted to help in any way I could and as such build a team to make this possible. However, the reason why we’re able to back such a project is fairly simple, we just like the character Zelda and want to see her playable.

    Impressively, the mod goes a lot further than most ones for the game released so far, with new text content, models for various outfits and changes to the story and gameplay being considered. What made you decide to go this far with the changes?

    We simply want everything to mesh together, so that the idea of Zelda being the main character won’t feel out of place. However, we don’t want to change the core game, so many of the changes we’re implementing will be optional for those installing the mod pack.

    Going on from that, what challenges have you encountered modding Breath of the Wild like this? What aspects of the game have proven hardest to change and why?

    I’ve mentioned this before, but our biggest limitation is the lack of tools. Modding for this game is still relatively new and the tools needed are not the same as older Wii U games (the game uses an updated framework that the Nintendo Switch uses). Once we know how something is done we simply do it, of course ensuring that we have the right people to do so is an entirely different matter.

    Are there any aspects you’re reconsidering because the technology to edit them isn’t quite there yet?

    I’d love to give Zelda the ability to use magic, to integrate some of the rune abilities and elemental weapons into her basic arsenal that upgrades over time, however that’s something that’s far into the future and as such not within the scope of this project. If the technology was there, some of our ideas in regards to weapon integration may have changed.

    Onto the actual changes in the game now though. How are you and the rest of the team coming up with the designs for Zelda’s different outfits here? What’s the thought process behind them?

    Amiibolad is our concept artist, we as a community come up with ideas, he draws them and we tweak them if necessary. So far, it’s been a relatively smooth process with small hiccups every now and then but it has resulted in some really nice designs being made.

    How about the new story/text content? How is the story coming together?

    As we speak we’re making progress on replacing cutscenes to allow the story we have in mind to work. However, it’s important to note that we don’t plan on changing the main story just tweaking it so that it makes sense from Zelda’s perspective.

    I’ve also heard new voice acting and cutscenes are planned too. How are you aiming to create that stuff?

    That’s a stretch goal for us to be honest. It’s something that won’t be available with the first release of the mod and will come later on, but we believe that the finished product will really enhance the mod. As such we can’t really discuss the methods we’ll be using at the moment.

    There’s also a mod to make Linkle a playable character in development on the Discord too, and that seems to be progressing nicely as well. Are there any other plans for character replacement mods in the same style?

    Personally, the Zelda project is the only character replacement mod that I’ll be working on, but I’m certain that as the tools develop more mods of this type will happen.

    Continue Reading…