HBL Interviews: RetroWorks.

RetroWorksHere we interview some of the the guys from dev group RetroWorks, they have published many games across the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and MSX computers, so read on and enjoy.

HBL

Thank you for agreeing to our interview, please take a moment to
tell us a little about you and the team?

utopian

RetroWorks is a group of friends who enjoy their 8-bit machines and make games for them. Most of us have been creating games for many years, although RetroWorks as a group was created back in 2009. Since then, we have published games for the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and MSX computers.

All our games are available to be downloaded for free from our webpage: http://www.retroworks.es, and many of them have their source code available. We also create physical editions of our games, which we well in our online store.

HBL

What was the first game you created?

Pagantipaco

The first Retroworks game is the Sir Fred Remake by LordFred (Daniel Celemín) but the name was only a way of emulate the old 80’s software companies. RetroWorks was created as retro software group when people from Computer EmuZone Games Studio moved to create a new team. So the first retro game from RetroWorks was “Gommy, medieval defender” that it’s my first ZX Spectrum game too.

Benway

My first actual game for Spectrum was BeTiled!, and before that, I made Captain S PC remake with LordFred drawing the graphics, both published by CEZ Games.

utopian

My first game was Cannon Bubble, a Puzzle Bubble clone for the ZX Spectrum published by CEZ Games.

HBL

What do you for a living away from game creation?

utopian

I work as a developer in the Open Source world, creating a distribution for cloud management.

Pagantipaco

I’m a developer in a software enterprise. All of us have their own jobs for living and most of them aren’t related to computers.

Benway

I’m one exception in what Paco says: I’m a midwife, and in my current work I manage the Nursing Human Resources in a Hospital in Madrid.

HBL

What’s the idea behind the name RetroWorks?

Pagantipaco

Retro Works is in fact a group of friends sharing the love of 80’s microcomputers, living the dream of making games as the old companies did. We don’t want to make money or be famous, we just want to make games and make them with the highest possible quality.

HBL

What is your mission statement for RetroWorks?

Benway

To make games in which we enjoy the creative process itself, because when the developer enjoys making a game, the audience will value it, and will enjoy playing it. The “love” placed in the development of a game is felt later in each point of the game.

HBL

Any thoughts about doing games on other systems? Megadrive, Dreamcast or SNES.

utopian

This is something we talk about from time to time. I will not say “never”, but in general we are aware that moving to more complex systems would require a much bigger effort, so for now we have no plans to move away from the 8 bits. I guess it would be easier for us to do some retro-looking game for a current platform than learn all the tricks of the SNES, for example.

HBL

Are you surprised with the resurgence in retro gaming?

utopian

Not really. There is now a whole generation of people who have grown playing with older platforms, and we all enjoy getting back to those happy times. Retro games give us a more direct gameplay, and this is something we appreciate in the times of AAA games.

Pagantipaco

The problem of this resurgence of retro gaming is that it’s mostly sustained by people from 80’s. The big companies as Nintendo, Sega, etc., have a big retro past but this is basically on consoles and they always will make money with his legacy. But the microcomputers live in another world, a world that is ignored by most people. We need to pass this passion to the next generation because this microcomputer world is not maintained by big companies, it’s alive with the effort of people. On the other hand, there are games with pixel aesthetics that emulate old games, but in their core they are modern games. This is only a way of expression of art, it is 100% valid but it is not really retro gaming.

Benway

Sometimes I even feel that retrogaming is becoming a mainstream trend in gaming! I came here looking for an underground software development ambience, and now we, the 8bit people, are under the spotlight! LOL

HBL

Which one of your games are you the proudest of and why?

Pagantipaco

At RetroWorks we love all our games, they have their own histories and are the result of a lot of effort from several members not only the programmer. We are proud of all of them but if we need to choose one the result is two games: “Los amores de Brunilda” and “The Sword of IANNA”. These two games are unique in our catalog in terms of effort, aesthetics, gameplay, push the limits of the machine, music and show that it is possible to create a game like those on such limited computers. We are very proud of the result and the user feedback we got, who after all are the final target of our games.

Benway

Brunilda. It made me to really deal with Speccy limitations (memory, speed, etc…), and make me learn a lot about ASM coding, while I was looking for a solution to every problem I found. Also, it was the first game I made with a detailed planning actually written before I start to code, and it became a great tool to be efficient. Also, I feel proud of that code itself.

utopian

In my case, it has to be “The Sword of Ianna”.

HBL

Which game caused you the most headaches?

utopian

In my case, it is definitely The Sword of Ianna. The game was bigger and more complex than anything I had done in the past, so it took me a lot of effort. It was specially hard to stay focused during the long development process, and I had to be quite stubborn to get it done :).

Pagantipaco

Yes, I think like utopian, IANNA was my torture, too. Not in the aspect of programming but in the level design and graphics. We had to make eight different levels with graphic coherence and with its own aesthetics and mechanics. The great game engine and workflow developed by utopian helps me a lot to make it real but I needed a lot of time to plan all the levels and details. I changed several times the sprites too, I’m very perfectionist and today we want to continue to change things but it’s needed to stop to finish things.

HBL

Do you have any games that are just sitting on your drives unfinished that you may release one day?

utopian

We have many ideas, mostly in the “Game ideas” area of our internal forum, but most of them have not been developed. I try very hard not to leave a game halfway through the development, because I feel demotivated if I quit.

Benway

Yes… there are some of them. Old projects begun very long time ago, that I hope to finish someday. My bigger Spectrum game, Brunilda, was an idea that I wrote as Interactive Fiction for PC in the 90’s and then rewrote for PC as an like_a_RPG game… So… Who knows? Probably some of them will be finished and released eventually.

HBL

Can you tell us what prompted you to get involved in Retro Game Development?

Benway

The Spectrum games made me as “Gamer”. All that I’ve learned about videogames was while playing at home, when I was a kid. So, my point of view about gaming is defined by retro games, and when I got interested about game development, it was clear that, sooner o or later, I would make games for retro computers and consoles.

utopian

I got my first Spectrum when I was 12, and I always wanted to make games for it. After my oldest daughter was born, I decided it was a good moment to revisit that dream, and started learning the ways of the Z80.

HBL

What games at the time (and now) would you say are your biggest inspirations?

Benway

Hard to say only a few… but I will try: John Ritman’s Batman, as a great and big game in which I loved to explore every room; Manic Miner, really addictive and fun to play game; and Exolon, an actual piece of art in every way. I have the feeling that every time I answer this question I say three different games xD

utopian

Prince of Persia has been a great inspiration for me. In general, I get inspiration from games that I find amusing: Target Renegade, Batman the Movie… And, about current games, those like The Legend of Zelda: BOTW can be a big inspiration to us, even if there is a huge gap in the hardware capabilities.

HBL

What is the biggest challenge you face with the limitations of the hardware, particularly as you continue to expand features title-to-title? (Memory? Graphical capability? Speed?)

utopian

I tend to have troubles with memory. Once you understand the capabilities of the hardware, it is not too hard to adapt your design and make sure the concept is achievable. However, I end up adding stuff during the development, and I always have to work extra hard to find the last few bytes to finish the game.

Benway

Like Utopian, I tend to struggle with memory limitations, and sometimes, also with speed, that make me to optimize again and again every routine… but, usually, when you get a faster routine, then you also get a bigger one… so, the memory limitation appears again!

HBL

Do you have timelines built into the management of these games?

utopian

No, there’s no way we can do that. We create these games during our spare time, and motivation comes and goes, so we never try to put additional pressure on us by setting timelines.

HBL

Are you doing all the development individually?

utopian

Actually, we work most of the time in small teams. We have an internal forum, where we share ideas and try to help each other. Since we are a large group, it is hard to have everyone working on the same game at once, so we end up splitting into smaller teams.

HBL

Whats next for you guys?

utopian

We have several projects in progress. The most advanced one is an MSX2 version of Los Amores de Brunilda, which we will be showing in RetroZaragoza at the end of September. Besides that, Augusto is still working on his CPC version of Street Fighter II. On the Spectrum front, sejuan is working on a new game, but it is still in an early stage. And finally, utopian and Pagantipaco are starting to work on another game (much smaller in scope than The Sword of Ianna), but it is also very early to tell anything.

HBL

Which is the most downloaded game you have created?

utopian

Unfortunately we don’t have detailed download stats, but judging from the reception of each game I would say the most downloaded ones are Brunilda and The Sword of Ianna.

Benway

I think like Utopian about Retroworks games, and about “my” games, I would add Captain S / Capitán Sevilla remake, published by CEZ Games.

Where can people get physical copies of your games?

utopian

We have an online shop at http://www.retroworks.es/shop/index_en.html. Right now it needs to be renewed, since most of our games are out of stock, so stay tuned for updates!

HBL

Do all your games have English translations?

utopian

Yes, we try to make all our games in English and Spanish, including the cover art and instructions. In some cases, when the game relies heavily on text, we get some help with native proofreaders. For example, for the English version of Nelo & Quqo, we got help from Winston for the translation, and he even took care of giving our characters a specific accent from a town in Yorkshire.

Finally

A huge thanks to the guys at RetroWorks for taking time to take part in this interview.

 

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