It gives me great pleasure to announce our latest RVG Interview with Second Dimension owner Adam Welch, Second Dimension now develop and publish games such as Get'em Gary, Handy Harvy and Bomb on Basic City.
Thank you for agreeing to our interview, please take a moment to tell us a little about you?Adam
Well, aside from programming and handling Second Dimension, I'm also a database administrator and developer for my day job. In my previous walks through life, I was a professional musician for a few years in the early 2000's. I also share a heavy interest in astronomy and other areas of physics.Greyfox
What kindled your interest to take up programming Console games? I assume that this has a big learning curve and specifically design and create a game on the Sega Megadrive?Adam
Back in 2010 or 2011, I saw people programming new games for these retro consoles. I think Battle Kid was just released, and Pier Solar was on the horizon at this point. I was surprised that there was so much interest in what looked like quality games for these old consoles, so I said to myself "well, why can't I do that?"
The learning curve really depends on the tools available. For the NES, the only thing I could find with documentation and tutorials was assembly based, which scared me at the time. SNES tools didn't really exist for development either, but Genesis had 2 familiar options available: Stef's SGDK and BEX. My familiarity with the BASIC language drew me towards BEX.
Since I was familiar with BASIC, BEX was pretty easy to learn. The biggest challenge was learning how to utilize a sound driver and tracker, but if you're familiar with programming in general, you'll pick most of this stuff up fairly quickly.Greyfox
What is involved in producing games on old consoles these days?Adam
I would say its probably similar to how they were developed back in the day. Sometimes you get a really gifted person who can do the programming, music, and graphics, but usually there's a team of 2 or more people. For the games I've worked on, it's always been a programmer, an artist, a musician, and the project lead (though sometimes this may be a dual lead).
So the first thing you need is a concept - what kind of story (if any) do you want to tell, and what style of game do you want it to be (action/adventure, rpg, strategy, etc).
Next, you need to detail your outline with the specifics such as sprite sizes, number of objects on-screen at once, etc. All of the blanks should be filled in as much as possible. Sometimes there's something that could go either way, or you'd like input from other team members, so there is some wiggle room, but you don't want too much.
From there, you put all the pieces together until it's finished. Debugging and testing has also come along way with emulation and flash carts, and while not perfect, do help tremendously with testing and debugging.Greyfox
Who do you admire in the homebrew scene that you'd like to work with?Adam
There's a lot of folks in the scene that just have some amazing talent - Shiru, gasega68k, Sik, and the list goes on. I've been fortunate enough to work with Gradual Games, Sly Dog Studios, and Retroscribe in the past and hopefully again in the future. I'm also hoping to work with Shiru in the very near future on a project, and he's also helped update some titles for me recently.Greyfox
The SNES being my personal favourite 16-Bit console, any RVG exclusive reveals you might be working on you'd care to mention on that system?Adam
The SNES is one of my favorites as well. One title that will be available on the SNES in the near future is Blow'em Out. Last year, I acquired the rights to all of Retroscribe's video games, and one was a version of Blow'em Out on the SNES.
I do hope to have another SNES project in the works in the near future as well, but I don't want to mention it in case it doesn't happen. If it does, though, I think you'll be surprised.Greyfox
Any plans to do any form of Action platformers like Rolling Thunder, Shinobi or Ninja Warriors style games? There is not enough of those types of games.Adam
I really enjoyed these games when I was a kid, so that style is on the bucket list of genres to make.Shadowrunner
Are there any retro systems that you haven't worked on but would like to someday?Adam
The Gameboy systems are ones I'm particularly interested in, but past that, I'd like to look into more modern consoles and platforms as well.Shadowrunner
Where did you learn how to make video games, and how long have you been doing it?Adam
When I was in high school, I programmed a Final Fantasy 1 in BASIC for my senior project, so back then I would be talking to a lot of people in the BASIC communities via forums and newsgroups, as well as IRC. We're going back to 1999 and 2000, so Google didn't exist like it does today, and finding resources was a challenge. That was my only game I did up until I started console development.
For console game development, I'd just keep reading and rereading forums, documents, and other sites dedicated to game development, and then just kept trying to make things happen. For me, it was a trial and error process. I started console development early on in 2011.Zapiy
Are you surprised with the resurgence in retro gaming?Adam
Yes and no. A few years ago I would've said "yes", because it was really interesting to see something I had been doing for a few years really become popular. But now that it's where it's at now? I'm not surprised at all. Very few current gen games stand out these days. Many titles share the same engine, so they act very similar. They're cookie cutter games with little variety. The retro games, though, you had variety. You had variety in the same genre. You don't get that anymore.Greyfox
What do you think of the homebrew community as a whole?Adam
There's a lot of knowledgeable and talented people. There's a lot of promising projects on the horizon, that's for sure!Shadowrunner
When you're not making games, which ones do you like to play?Adam
I just finished the main quest of Ni No Kuni 2 and am doing the remaining side quests, and before that was the Secret of Mana remake. Usually, though, it's Rock Band.TrekMD
What motivated you to make a real version of Fix It Felix Jr for the Genesis? How long did the game take to make? What were the challenges you faced when making the game?Adam
I thought the game would fit perfectly on a retro console. The whole process probably took 3 months in total, maybe 4. There was one issue while making it where the game would crash. I couldn't debug it as it was only happening when it was put on cartridge and not emulated or on the Everdrive. I ended up having to rewrite about 80% of the code, and while it wasn't fun having to redo all that work, it didn't take all that long since I already knew what had to be done.TrekMD
You made games of different types for the Genesis, NES and SNES. Is there a favorite type of game you prefer to develop? Is there a favorite console you like to develop for?Adam
I've actually only developed on the Genesis. The NES titles were done by Roth of Sly Dog Studios (Get'em Gary and NES Virus Cleaner) and Nemesis (AO). Shiru programmed the Retroscribe titles (except Beer Slinger on the Genesis - that was me).Zapiy
Which game gave you the greatest pleasure and which the most pain to create and why?Adam
The greatest pleasure would probably come from Handy Harvy or Get'em Gary. Both games share the same universe, and it was Second Dimension's first real releases. Both games were fairly smooth in terms of development, though Harvy was delayed due to real life issues.TrekMD
Would you ever consider porting any of your games to a console like the Atari Jaguar? How about making a new game for that console?Adam
For the Jaguar? Probably not, though I wouldn’t rule it out entirely.TrekMD
What is your favorite retro console to play?Adam
It really depends on what kind of game I want to play. RPG's will most likely be on the SNES, but action, adventure, and other genres I'll play on all of the consoles. If I had to pick the one I play most, that'd be the SNES, but that's because I love me a good RPG.
A massive thanks to Adam for taking the time to answer our questions.
Please follow Adam's games at Second Dimension.