This episode breaches the peace treaty with Tetsuya Nomura
If you’ve entrenched yourself in game culture at all, you know how bad video game cover art can get. Looking at NES era box art is an exercise in how much second hand embarrassment you can deal with, with such classics as Mega Man 1 and Shatterhand springing to mind immediately. But in designer Tyler “drak” Bryant’s opinion, the silliest NES box art is Wrecking Crew’s.
His admiration for the confounding box art somehow transformed into an adorable and hilarious pet simulator game called Wreckboy, where you “feed” your boy bricks which in turn produce currency for you to spend on him. I shot drak a few questions over email, and here are his responses, unedited for your viewing pleasure.
John: What’s your game dev history? Give us an introduction, an intro-drak-tion if you will.
Drak: Hi there!! I’m drak. I’m a 20something indie game dev!! I have a rich history of thinking very hard about making video games. Like many, I started messing with the actual making part using programs like RPG Maker 2000 and Multimedia Fusion back in the early 00s. Some of my biggest inspirations back then – stuff that made me think “oh, I could actually, like, make games” – were fangames created by people in the Kirby and Sonic the Hedgehog communities. The first actually finished game I contributed to, though, was a small game I made for a contest with my friend Tim Jenkins called “Spectrum Spelunker: Shoot The Blocks To Win The Game, Also Jump and Run: Starring Hue” back in, like, 2008. It’s a cute puzzle platformer! I did the character design/graphics and some of the gameplay design on that project. Since then, I’ve mostly just been toying with different engines and prototypes in my free time between jobs and school stuff. wreckboy is the first thing I’ve released publicly since Spectrum Spelunker! It’s… been a while…..
As for my taste in games, uh, phew! I probably love platformers and RPGs the most… Kirby games and Mario RPGs occupy many high-ranking slots in the drak fav hierarchy. Let’s see… the Mother series is super great… Live-A-Live on the SNES is amazing… Oh, Smash Bros!! I’m heavy into Smash Bros!!! I also really like games that aren’t quite RPGs, but have a lot of opportunities for exploration, worldbuilding and dialogue… stuff like Brave Fencer Musashi, Mega Man Legends, and Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon. gosh, I dunno. I could probably sit here all day and list off game after game and STILL forget a ton of great stuff!! It sounds a little simple, but I guess I love games that provide you with a) player characters that are fun to control, b) worlds you want to “hang out” in and explore and c) charming npc characters that you want to get to know. If you hit one or two of these notes, you’re golden in my book!
J: Was there a specific train of thought that brought you to turning the lil Wrecking Crew guy into a pet? If so, what was it?
D: IT’S, UH. So, basically, I’ve always really loved the Wrecking Crew boxart. The little dude is so horribly off-model and the graphic fidelity is just, like, EVER SO SLIGHTLY above what the NES is capable of producing, but not in a way that makes it look?? better?? But he looks really cute! In a weird way. I dunno. But anyway, I just super love that boxart, and one day late last year I was sitting around thinking about it and decided to animate a walk cycle based on the lil guy… and from there I think I literally just… thought “hey, what if i made a game where you had to take care of this awful little knockoff mario,” and some friends were like “oh that’d be cute and weird”… and that was all I needed! THIS IS, HOW A LOT OF MY IDEAS HAPPEN,
J: How did your patreon assist the development of the game, and how did audience participation help/hinder the experience?
D: It helped me out in a few ways! I think this first way is maybe something people w/Patreons don’t always touch on, but it’s a huuuge moral support boost to know there are people interested in the stuff you’re making, especially when you’re just starting to put your stuff out there. Beyond that, I was working retail when I first launched my Patreon and trying to scoop up as many hours as I could to pay bills and stuff… and getting a little bit of money from my game dev work made it a lot easier for me to think to myself “ok, I can devote this day to development, it’s fine, it’s still technically work” some days. I still don’t make nearly enough from Patreon to live on, but every dollar brings me closer to that dream! It’s a really huge motivator.
The audience participation stuff didn’t really come in until near the end, and I was floored by how much fun it turned out to be! The “stattribute” system wouldn’t have nearly as many possible goofy combinations without the contributions of my patrons, and I’m super thankful. For those out of the loop, there’s basically a system ingame where each wreckboy you hatch is assigned a bunch of random goofy attributes at birth. I put a suggestion spreadsheet up on Google Sheets, free for all patrons to edit and add stuff to, and it was a hit!! I got hundreds of really great additions. This decision didn’t introduce any hindrances, to be honest – initially I was a little worried about getting a lot of inappropriate/unfunny suggestions, but basically I ended up combing through the suggestions and manually picked the ones I thought were best and fit the tone of the game. It was a great time and it seemed like everyone had a lot of fun making suggestions and seeing their writing in-game! Totally worth it.
J: Can we expect to see updates to Wreckboy besides bug fixes?
D: HONESTLY… probably not! At the moment, I’m planning to do one more bugfix update with a couple small features added. (namely some volume control options!) I think it’d probably be easy to keep tweaking and working on wreckboy for ages, but at its core it was a learning project for me. It’s the first completed thing I’ve made in Construct 2, and its foundation is hilariously wobbly, both in code and design. I think… with something like this, you kinda gotta know where to draw the line on adding new features. I’m ready to work on my next project! But, of course, I also don’t wanna release a completely broken thing and just leave it that way – so I wanna address the most egregious bugs that prevent people from actually playing the game, or lead to people getting confused about whether things are bugs or features. I’m also gonna put up an FAQ on the site to address some common questions! Basically I’m just gonna tidy up a little bit and move forward.
J: What other projects do you have in the works?
D: OHOHO… so, I have a few irons in that particular fire moving forward. Before starting wreckboy, I was working on a cutesy, high-res 2D platformer called Hatchling Hero – but I ended up running up against a lot of limitations, some of them skill-related and others tech-related… so that’s on the backburner until I’m a little more powerful!
The next thing I’m committed to working on, though… I haven’t really talked about it anywhere yet, but. My next solo project is a lighthearted, dialogue-heavy exploration platformer called Item Haver. In working on wreckboy and Hatchling Hero, I learned a lot about what’s fun for me to make – not necessarily what’s easy for me to make, but the kind of things I get so fired up about that I’m excited to work hard on them. Item Haver is gonna be kind of a perfect storm of these aspects! I’ve been working on it here and there in secret during wreckboy’s development, so I’ve got kind of a lil headstart on it. I’m gonna do a writeup on it pretty soon and toss it up on, uh… well, I’ll put it up somewhere! Patreon, definitely. I’ll tweet about it wherever it ends up!
J: Do you expect the general gaming media to “get” Wreckboy? Is widespread appeal something you worry about?
D: Not really!! To be honest, I’m not even sure it’ll show up on what you could call the “general gaming media’s” radar. I don’t think it has yet!! With wreckboy, my goal was to make a charming, silly toy with a really basic social aspect to it – not necessarily, like, social media integration, but I was hoping people would see funny stuff in the game and wanna tweet about it, and get attached to their “pets”. If you look at the actual gameplay, it’s not actually that interesting… it’s a very barebones virtual pet with dubious mechanics! But it’s fun to mess with, kinda cute, a little funny, and it’s got a certain vague “NES game” mystique. To be honest, every time I added something, it was something that was either super funny to me or something I thought my friends would get a kick out of… so I guess more than anything, I’m relieved that Literally Anyone Outside My Circle is having fun with it too! I’ve seen people not just using the ingame tweet function, but also just like. Tweeting about how much they love their wreckboy, and drawing fanart of their ingame boy and stuff… and it just melts my heart. I’m so glad I could find a way to trick people into feeling empathy for the Wrecking Crew boxart.
J: This isn’t a question but I laughed so hard at Music 3, it’s truly the most wonderful song choice. Thank you.
D: HAHA THANKS. I feel a deep, dark satisfaction in the song choices for set 3. Some folks have told me they keep getting midi versions of Let’s Hear It For The Boy and Photograph stuck in their head and all I can do is smile serenely in response.