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Jeremy LaMar: Doodles, Dawdles, and the Creative Cycle [Interview]

bernard1 Jeremy LaMar (aka SnigWich) is renowned as one of the best designers of the ZZT/Megazeux community. Before Bernard the Bard, though, he cut his teeth on a series of games that earned him an intense and loyal audience.

LaMar produced his Blinky games with Recreational Software Designs‘ Game-Maker, then moved on to other design platforms. Some while later, the games found their way to a games section on AOL, where unbeknownst to him they became cult favorites, subject to fan fiction, dedicated websites, and tribute videos.

Following his MegaZeux work, LaMar retired from game design, changed his name, and returned to his original calling as a cartoonist. We tracked him down to chat about his body of work, both known and missing, his experiences with various game design platforms, his other creative projects, and, following a long hiatus, his planned return to game design.

Your Blinky series seems to have attracted something of a loyal following — rather unusual for a Game-Maker game. If it’s all cool, I’d like to ask you a few questions about the games, your experiences with Game-Maker, and your broader creative and professional life.

I agree that the popularity of the Blinky games is very strange, especially considering the number of DOS games around at the time. Honestly I don’t even remember uploading these games, but somehow they spread and attained a sort of cult following. There was even some very baffling fanfic written about the characters at one point, but I don’t think the site exists anymore. It’s not like they’re even very good games, especially the frustrating jumping mechanics of Blinky 3… I really can’t explain why these games keep popping up!

Normally I’d try to separate myself from something I created so many years ago, and under a different name no less… but the continued and persistent popularity of Blinky 2 and 3 really has to be addressed… so ask away, I’ll provide answers as best I can!

I saw a couple of references to that fanfic, but as you say the site no longer seems to exist. Did you save a copy of it? It’s a bewildering development, and seems worth preserving somehow.

Actually, turns out the Wayback Machine had it. Check out the other two Blinky stories as well. It’s really strange stuff. I’m still not sure what to make of these, but evidently somebody was a big fan.

That is indeed fascinating. For the other two fics I’m just getting about a paragraph of text. Is that all correct, or am I missing something?

Nope, that’s all there is. I couldn’t begin to explain those fanfics.

Going by what you’ve said elsewhere, I take it none of your Game-Maker work still survives in your hands?

Sadly, no.

Tell me more about the original Blinky, and how it came about. I understand that the first sequel is more or less a remake.

The very first game was the first thing I did with the Game Maker utility… as a result, it had a lot of flaws. Gameplay was nearly identical to Blinky 2.

In the second game you do some slightly complicated things with the engine, like the one-way cliffs, the multi-segmented bosses, and those spore clouds. How many of those tricks are in the original?

Almost none, to my recollection. The only boss was the final boss, Shnookwad, but I’m pretty sure he was just a normal-sized monster that took multiple shots to kill.

It sounds like the second game is much more advanced than the original. How long would you say passed between the first two Blinky games? Did you work on any other projects between the two, to practice or develop ideas?

It was definitely a lot more polished. Blinky 1 was the first thing I ever did with Game-Maker, so it was pretty rough around the edges. I’m not really sure how much time passed between the first and second games… probably not a lot, to be honest. Couple months at the most.

I think it was only a couple months between finishing Blinky 2 and the beginning of work on Blinky 3. Blinky 3 was one of those projects I picked up and put back down several times, however. I always had several games going at once. I remember it sat unfinished for quite a while before I decided to just sit down and put together the last couple of levels, and finish the damn thing.

It’s interesting that you went for such different game concepts with the two surviving Blinky games. Return of Blinky clearly owes a bunch to Link to the Past. Was Blinky 3 influenced by anything in particular?

link-to-the-past

Not that I recall. I think I just wanted to make a side-scrolling platformer, to see if I could pull it off under the constraints of the program. Trying to play it now, it’s an exceedingly difficult game… and the between-level art is just horrendous. I remember I was using an extremely limited paint program at the time, but it’s still pretty embarrassing. Still, it seems like the Blinky games hold some nostalgia value for other people as well, so I’m glad they’ve been recovered.

So where does Blinky come from? Did the characters previously exist?

The characters were created specifically for the game. I used to draw little comics all the time as a kid, most of them really off-the-wall and fairly nonsensical… Blinky had his start there. Not sure why I settled on the color scheme I did, or why the doughnut obsession, I guess it just seemed like a good idea at the time!

Do any of the characters have a life outside of the games?

There was a little comic I had drawn that more or less followed the games, but they’re long-lost by now.

What was your design process like? Did you tend to plan projects out extensively beforehand, or did ideas arise more as a result of experimentation?

Blinky3Integrator

I did very little planning ahead of time with my Game-Maker games, mostly I just sort of made things up as I went along. It was a lot of experimenting and spur-of-the-moment decisions. I may have drawn out a map ahead of time for how the levels link up, but that’s about it.

How many games did you make in all, if you can recall? The latter two Blinky games are polished enough that it seems like you must have spent some time experimenting.

I had over a dozen unfinished games, and a handful of finished ones as well. One involved driving a tank, another had a jetpack guy… I even had the first level of Blinky 4 finished. It was a side-scroller like Blinky 3, but had a greatly improved jumping engine.

Jetpack games seem like a popular theme for some reason. I take it that must have been side-scrolling. What about the tank game? What was that, top-down?

Yeah, Jet-Pack was a side-scroller. The tank game was top-down, and was sort of like a Space Invaders style game, pitting you against waves of enemies before you could progress to the next stage. As I recall the last enemy would drop a key that let you progress.

I’m surprised I haven’t seen more games like that. It’s kind of unusual to find Game-Maker games that use the built-in rules and counters to do more than establish face-value properties. Did you hit on any techniques that you never worked into a full game?

Nothing too noteworthy that I can recall.

Did any of these games have titles?

Not that I can remember… they were probably pretty generic titles like “Tank Battle” or something.

How did you come across Game-Maker? By the looks of it, you were using version 3.0 — so that’s pretty late on in its timescale.

I believe it was a Christmas present one year.

Did you interact with any other Game-Maker users?

The only interaction I ever had with other users was among my own groups of friends. The Blinky games were never designed for a larger audience, so their apparent popularity is definitely surprising. I had downloaded and played a handful of games created by other users, but was never really part of the community at the time.

What do you remember about the games you found? Did you learn anything from them? And do you recall where you downloaded them?

I found a bunch on some BBS… I remember Peach the Lobster and a couple others. It was interesting to see what other people had done with the tools.

So your friends also used Game-Maker to some extent? What can you tell me about that?

I’m pretty sure none of their games ever made it online. At least, I’ve never seen any. We’d create games and pass them amongst ourselves, but most of them were not even finished.

Did they have their own copies of Game-Maker, or was this more of a shared resources thing?

I don’t recall… it was most likely a shared resource.

How much influence would you say you and your friends had on each other’s design process? Was there any kind of collaboration or competition going on?

We definitely learned techniques from each other, but I’d say I spent a lot more time with the program than anybody else I knew. I did some collaborative work with Megazeux, but not with Game-Maker.

About this AOL Kids area, where it seems most people encountered Blinky – do you have any idea how this worked? How did the games get on there?

AOL_kids_main

I’m really not sure, I think there must’ve been a way to upload games, but I never really spent any time in AOL Kids. I honestly don’t recall if I had uploaded them or if somebody else did, but either way the Blinky games somehow made it on there, and evidently a lot of people had played them.

I know your ZZT/MegaZeux work is also pretty popular. Did that come before or after your time with Game-Maker?

I recall working with ZZT around the same time, and sometime after as well. Later I got into Megazeux, and it was very much the same situation as with Game-Maker; A couple of my games made it online, but I had a great deal of unfinished work that never saw the light of day.

Does that material still exist somewhere?

It would’ve been nice to have saved those old games, and all the missing material from my ZZT/MZX days. I’ve lost of lot of data to various computer crashes and hardware mishaps over the years… suffice to say, I’m very careful about backing things up these days.

How would you compare the experiences of working with ZZT/Megazeux and Game-Maker?

zeux0

I was much more of an active part of the community during my MZX days. I’d say I spent a lot more time with ZZT/MZX than Game-Maker. Being able to code objects opened up a lot of possibilities

Are you still involved in game design now?

Yes, but not in a professional capacity. There’s an indie project that I’m creating the graphics for, but it’ll be awhile before it gets off the ground. I haven’t created anything game-wise since my Megazeux days.

Can you say anything more at the current stage? What flavor of game is it? The other team members — have they worked on anything else before?

It’ll be a Web-based RPG set in a post-apocalyptic earth, and it involves big robots. It’s just me and another guy, and neither of us have put something like this together before.

Is this a console or PC-style game with full avatars and exploration, or is this more of the Facebook-style stats-and-inventory game? Is this for a single player?

2008_07_02_kingdom

Closest genre I can lump it in is a roguelike. Basically a turn-based dungeon crawl with many random elements. It’s a “light” roguelike in that there’s no permanent character death. It’s essentially single player, but the economy will be global… You’ll be able to buy from or sell to other players. In execution it’ll be sort of like
Kingdom of Loathing.

What platform are you using for this? Flash?

AJAX… essentially PHP and Javascript. The goal is to have it be accessible from as many platforms as possible, and keep server strain to a minimum.

That does sound super portable. Do you have plans to specially tweak and adjust it for different platforms? I’m thinking of how a Roguelike might play on, say, an iPad.

The beauty part is that anything with web access that can handle javascript should run it just fine. It’d actually work wonderfully on an iPad.

I’ve noticed that lately you seem mostly to have circled back around to comics again. Was this something you rediscovered, or was it always going on in the background?

I’ve always had some comic projects going on in the background. Mechageddon is going to feature a lot of comic-related content… when I get around to doing some finished work, anyway. I’ve definitely been interested in getting back into game design lately, especially after the frustrations of trying to compete in the webcomics arena.

A friend of mine keeps joking that we should create Blinky 4… but that’d just be ridiculous.


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The Game-Maker Archive – Part 20: Blinky and a Small Kind of Fame

blinky2bossJeremy LaMar is perhaps best known under the handle SnigWich, for his Megazeux games such as Bernard the Bard – often ranked amongst the best games ever produced under Gregory Janson’s engine. More recently, under his new name Otto Germain, he has returned to his roots as a cartoonist. Before any of that, he was renowned for his RSD Game-Maker work – and he never even knew it.

At some point two of LaMar’s early Game-Maker games, The Return of Blinky and Blinky 3, made their way to a section of America Online known as AOL Kids. There, they gained a small yet fervent cult following. In the following years, a Blinky wiki and fanfics and video tributes would spring up around the Web. Even years after the AOL Kids area vanished, LaMar’s fans kept up the devotion. At least one poster to a DOS games forum claimed that the Blinky games inspired him to pursue game design.

When you consider the obscurity of most Game-Maker games, indeed of Game-Maker itself, this level of enthusiasm is remarkable. To be sure, LaMar’s games are amongst the most polished produced with RSD’s tools, both in terms of the design sensibility and in their mastery of the materials available to them. One does wonder, though, how much circumstance and exposure play in a game’s fortunes. One also wonders what other small communities might even now be obsessing over even less likely games, and to what extent those players might be inspired to greater things.

The Return of Blinky (1994)

The original Blinky, LaMar’s first Game-Maker project, is now lost to time and computer failure along with half a dozen other games. Its essence lives on, though, in The Return of Blinky. This first sequel, which LaMar classes as a near-remake, is heavily inspired by Link to the Past, with its exploration-based design and pseudo-3D cliffs.

Blinky, the pink dinosaur, sets out to save Funky Forest from the evil Schnookwad. He does this primarily by wandering through forests, caverns, and factories, tossing doughnuts at enemies, and bribing his cat (also named Doughnut) to clear a path.

LaMar got the basics down just fine – admirably, even. The presentation is clear and appealing, reminiscent of a late-era Sega 8-bit game. Controls are simple and very responsive. The actual design, from level to level, flows smoothly with few moments of outright confusion. Where the game excels, though, is in the flourishes – the conveyor belts, the amorphous spore clouds that the player can whittle away, but only so far.

Game-Maker’s biggest limitation and greatest potential is in its monsters, and here LaMar uses them about as well as PPP Team at their best. Feeding the cat a doughnut briefly focuses its attack pattern. Aside from the spore clouds, there are complex multi-segmented threats like Zelda-esque snakes and Mario-style firebars. Every four levels the player faces an enormous boss, often with long multi-segmented limbs and complex attack patterns.

As with Badman 2, even the ending credits are something special, with a monster roll against a miniature scene of victory.

The Return of Blinky is earnest, well-judged, and well-implemented. It is works well not just as a Game-Maker game or as a shareware game, but as a children’s game – amongst the hardest of games to get right. It does make sense that if any Game-Maker game were to develop a cult following, it would be this one.

Blinky 3 (1995)

The next sequel is a bit more convoluted. At some point, he said, LaMar stopped development and let the game sit on the shelf for a while. That makes sense, in that Blinky 3 is perhaps more ambitious than it is joyous. It’s still amongst the upper echelon of Game-Maker games, and an impressive work on several levels; it’s just that you can feel the work behind the design.

Unlike its predecessors, the third Blinky is a side-scroller. Rather like Sonic 3 (or indeed Badman 3), the game offers a choice of characters – Blinky, Doughnut, and a new character named Chum – each with unique abilities and a distinct path through the game. Furthermore, the levels are tightly wound together with several branching paths.

LaMar also hit on an interesting quirk, whereby for any given level neglecting to establish a character in Integrator causes the game to simply carry over the existing character. The knock-on effect is that once the player chooses a character, the game is free to direct that character into any level without need to establish a separate instance of the level for every possible character. It’s a simple trick, yet it greatly cuts down on the headache of advanced level design.

Blinky3IntegratorThere are plenty of other neat little tricks, like LaMar’s solutions for melee attacks or using text files over static images to generate dialog – and it’s these tricks that stick in the mind. The game itself is respectable. Unlike The Return of Blinky it’s tougher than it needs to be, and sometimes more frustrating than it is rewarding. Still, full points for trying something new and then finishing the job. It may also be notable that Blinky 3 appears to be the more fondly remembered of the two games, and indeed for years after AOL took down its kids section it was LaMar’s only Game-Maker game to remain in circulation. It’s only within the last year that someone found a backup of The Return of Blinky and began to redistribute it, to relatively muted fanfare. The third Blinky is what everyone seems to remember.

Before he lost all of his data LaMar also completed some small work on a fourth Blinky, which was to have followed in the model of Blinky 3, except with improved controls.

If you enjoy the two surviving Blinky games, you might also check out SnigWich’s Megazeux portfolio. After a long gestation Germain is also considering a return to game design, and has a few plans on the table. That, however, is a topic for another article.

You can download the two surviving Blinky games here.


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Lost in Space with Matthew D. Groves

groves

A few months ago we detailed some search methods for discovering unknown Game-Maker games in the wild Web; as examples we detailed two games: Roland Ludlam’s rather wonderful Hurdles, and Matthew Groves’ modestly charming Space Cadet. Since our interview with the one author went so well, we now turn our sights on the second, Web developer and aspiring Android coder Matthew D. Groves.

 


Hello! Are you the Matthew Groves who designed the Game-Maker game Space Cadet?

Wow, that’s something I haven’t thought about in a loooong time. Yeah, it’s me. I’ve lost all my copies, so if you have one could you send it this way?

Sure! You can download it here.

Oh my god, this is so cool. I haven’t seen any of that stuff in years! You are very generous with your review of Space Cadet. Even at 13 I had a sense for the limitations of Game-Maker, and looking back now, it was just not a good game. But thank you anyway.

Well, hey. It may not be the most ambitious or technically astounding thing around, but it does show a good sense of humor and judgment, which is more than you can say of many games. I don’t suppose that your other games still survive, then? Did you ever get around to the sequels?

I did, in fact, actually make Space Cadet 2 and Space Cadet 3, but no one ever paid the registration fee (not surprisingly). I also made both of those Mystery games, Mystery Mansion being shareware and Mystery Caves being the registered only. I also made a game called Jet Driver, which was, ironically enough, a very very primitive form of a Grand Theft Auto style racing game where you can run over pedestrians and what not, and I released that as shareware too.

Oh, and uh the Mystery games were very similar to Space Cadet. Overhead shooters, but the theme was that you were some sort of supernatural action hero in a haunted mansion with monsters and ghosts and what not. I believe at the end of Mystery Mansion, you found a secret entrance to a series of caves, which was the next game.

So I take it Mystery Caves was similar to Mansion, but with different backgrounds?

mmansion

Mystery Caves was the same sort of game with different monsters and backgrounds (rocks instead of bricks mainly, because it’s a cave).

I also remembered that my dad and friends would often sell stuff at Hamfest and computer show flea markets, and I brought along a dozen copies of my shareware games to sell for $1 each (this was very common at those types of events). I think I actually did sell a few copies, so I did make a few dollars after all.

Did you sell Caves and the Space Cadet sequels at your garage sales too, or just the first episodes?

The sequels were sold mail-order only, and I never sold a single copy.

One other tidbit: CD-ROM shareware discs were common back in those days, just discs full of shareware games for like $10 or so, and Space Cadet and Mystery Mansion were both featured on one of those discs (I want to say “Game Head” volume 4 or something like that). I wasn’t paid for it, but I remember being very proud of it at the time.

Do you recall exactly when you designed Space Cadet? Presumably it was between 1991-1996, but could you narrow it down?

gm-1

I actually still have my original Game-Maker box, so I dug it out to see what I could find. I have a couple letters of correspondence from Recreational Software. One of them is dated June 15, 1993, the other is February 15, 1994, which would put me at ages 13-14 when I did these. There’s also a receipt still in the box (why did I keep all this stuff?) dated 4/29/93.

What sort of correspondence did you have with RSD? Someone else recently suggested that the box contained a slip or letter soliciting responses from users. Do you recall how you encountered Game-Maker in the first place?

I believe I sent them a letter suggesting some new features, at least that’s what the response letter seems to indicate. I remember I had attempted more ambitious adventure games with dialog, inventory, voice acting, etc and what not, but Game-Maker was just not having it, so all I could think to do was send them a letter.

Did you have any contact at the time with other Game-Maker users, or encounter other Game-Maker games?

I remember finding a bunch of other Game-Maker games at some point, maybe when I first got an Internet connection, maybe on a BBS somewhere (maybe I convinced my parents to let me call the RSD BBS?), I forget, but I never had any contact with those authors. I remember I was hoping to learn some tricks on how to overcome Game-Maker’s limitations, but never really found anything.

Do you remember anything about the games that you stumbled over?

jetdriver

No I don’t really remember anything about them, other than I think they used some of the assets that came with Game-Maker (which I think everybody probably did). I burned through a lot of shareware in those days, so nothing is really springing to mind.

I notice that you’re still in software design in some form. Have you at all pursued game design since your Game-Maker years?

I am a programmer now, though I mostly lost interest in writing games as I matured and learned what professional game development was really like (and I also had no interest in moving to New York or LA or wherever). I mostly work on web applications and web sites, though I have been toying with mobile phone development, and I have an idea for an Android game that I’ve been toying with.

How far have you come with the Android design? Is it anything you want to talk about publicly?

I’ve only just recently gotten an Android phone, and I’ve been playing with some development tools (MonoDroid and PhoneGap), but as far as the game goes, it’s really just an idea at this point, and nothing more. Nothing earth-shattering, just a rehash of some other games that I enjoy. I would probably get a normal “app” done first, and then consider doing a game. I actually have an old friend from a previous job who is a great artist and designer, so it’s possible we could work together on something but it’s far far too early to say anything more than that.

so what led you back into game design (provisionally as it may be)?

Well, I just got my first Android phone, and I get hyped up whenever I get new gadgets. Though I’ve been very disappointed with the dev tools, Windows Phone 7 is so much easier to dev for (but I like Android as a platform better).

What’s frustrating you about the tools?

android-phone-survey

Well, I’m not a Java developer, but the Android SDK is Java-based. I have no desire to really learn Java, so I’m using other tools like PhoneGap and MonoDroid, but those tools are still in early versions, so they aren’t quite there yet. Sometimes there’s an error, but it doesn’t really identify what the error is, the debugging doesn’t work, or some feature really isn’t fully supported, etc. It’s a similar story for iPhone and Objective-C: developing is a painful process, not to mention I don’t own a Mac or an iPhone. Windows Phone 7 has the best dev story by far, in my opinion, but who knows if anyone will actually buy a Windows Phone, right?

And I suppose it’s more efficient to write directly for the phone’s specifications, rather than layer something like Flash on top of it. What attracts you about Droid in particular, compared to the other mobile platforms?

Well, a lot of reasons. I’m not an “Apple” guy, I really don’t “get” it, I guess, but I imagine that’s related to my thriftyness (or cheapness as my wife would say). I just don’t understand paying that much for a phone or PC, even if it never crashes or has some fancy industrial design. Windows Phone 7 is attractive, but ultimately it will be a similar thing: overpriced phone and/or contract with expensive data plan, plus it’s playing a lot of catch-up with the other OS’s in the market.

I’ve been using a Windows Mobile phone for years now, but its just too slow and outdated. Virgin Mobile just came out with these super cheap $25/month plans with no contract, and a mid-range spec Android phone to match. I’ll save close to $80 a month with Virgin (which covers the non-subsidized phone price in 4 months), and I’ll have all the features I need. So I guess it just comes down to me being a cheapskate.

I hear you about the apple thing. I always feel claustrophobic in their environments. So aside from Game-Maker and this new project, have you done any other game design?

questmaker

Game-Maker actually wasn’t the first game-making program I used. I also bought QuestMaker, which was a Sierra/LucasArts style game-making program, but I had lots of trouble getting it to work very well, so I never released a game with that. I believe I found both of these programs through magazine advertisements, though maybe QuestMaker had a shareware demo or something. It must have been Compute magazine, which was my favorite magazine. I might even have that magazine sitting around somewhere too. I also wrote a couple games for ZZT, which had a *very* extensive gaming “editor” with it’s own object-oriented programming language. I did a lot of that sort of stuff, which is probably closer to “modding” as it’s called today than it is programming. Though ZZT definitely involved programming.

How would you compare your experience with Game-Maker to those other design tools?

zzt_3

Out of the ones I mentioned, ZZT gave me the richest experience as a designer/developer. The fact that the canvas was limited to ASCII characters and colors actually worked in my favor, since I’m not really much of an artist. The programming language, dialog options, level designer, etc, were very rich. Game-Maker was probably the best one I used with real graphics, and I had a lot of fun just playing around with pixels and sound effects. QuestMaker was pretty weak, and I don’t recall it being much fun.

I can actually see a bunch of ZZT in Space Cadet. Something about the use of space, and the flavor of exploration involved. What effect, if any, do you think your experiences with these tools may have had on your later software work?

Well, gaming was certainly a big part of what attracted me to computers and computer programming in the first place, but other than that I don’t think ZZT or Game-Maker really influenced my work today. If you mean what effect did ZZT have on my Game-Maker games, well I think I tried once or twice to “port” stuff I had done over to Game-Maker, but never really got anywhere. Other than that, the style of game was slightly similar (in that they involved shooting sometimes), but other than that pretty different.

PCF227.feature3.spacequest-420-90

What traditional videogames would you say had the biggest influence on you? You were fond of Space Quest, apparently.

Oh, probably the same stuff everyone played back when I was a kid. Sierra/LucasArts style games were my favorites (including Space Quest, of course) on PC, and I played a lot of NES/SNES games too (Mega Man, Mario, Zelda, etc). I played/modded a lot of X-Wing on PC, cuz I’m a big Star Wars nut too. Doom, Wolfenstein, all that stuff. I played pretty much anything that could run on my old 386 PC.

So cool. A pretty rounded picture, then. Do you have any final thoughts about your experiences with Game-Maker?

My only final thought is that while it’s kinda embarrassing to have these games around again 15+ years later, I had a lot of fun making them and using Game-Maker.

Following the interview, we received in the mail a bundle of floppy disks containing all of Matthew Groves’ surviving Game-Maker material. Amongst that material are two of the games we discussed. Following some adventures with ancient computer hardware, we managed to extract the data for preservation. Come back later this week to see the results.


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FiNCK thrown into the Web

finck As of yesterday, Within a Deep Forest and Knytt designer Nifflas has unleashed his briefly-awaited, user-supported, toss-’em-up FiNCK. As reported earlier, the game’s abrupt announcement and release are due to an impulsive yet inspired development cycle, brought on by affection for the odd man out of the NES Marios.

FiNCK (“Fire Nuclear Crocodile Killer”; yes, it’s nonsense) has the same grab-and-toss mechanics as Super Mario Bros. 2 and a few other gems like Rescue Rangers, and Pastel’s much longer-coming Life+. Perhaps understandably enough, considering the free level editor and Nifflas’ existing fanbase, the game only comes with five (in effect) demonstration levels.

Of course if you want to play your custom levels, that’s four bucks; if you want a copy of the soundtrack, that’s another three. Again, with the development scene around Nifflas’ earlier Knytt Stories, which one might compare to a modern-day ZZT, you can see the reasoning here. I guess time will show how that pricing model works out.

The game is as elegant and simplistic as all of Nifflas’ work, if maybe a bit more rudimentary than usual — deliberately so. The mechanics feel a bit floatier and less refined than in, say, Knytt. The visuals are pared down and a little rougher than they need to be. And again, the levels are barely there, and seem mostly to exist to demonstrate the mechanics for future level editors. And yet the enhancements and additions to the basic Doki Doki ruleset are seamless, and you can tell he’s been thinking about a game like this for years.

Oh, the music is as atmospheric and nifty as ever. Thus the extra soundtrack option.

All in all, FiNCK comes off like a neat little experiment that Nifflas whipped up and then tossed to the community, to see what happens. (The controls are even set up like an NES emulator.) Given the tools and motivation, maybe they can make him the SMB2 sequel he’s always wanted to play.

You can download FiNCK here.