Friday, 25 October 2013

Ninja Boxing - a BLOG of a few parts....

With the new Ninja Boxing game in our hands at GamesYouLoved we thought it only right to get under the heart of the inspiration behind the game and why videogames mean so much to the inventor and inspiration
Richard Pearson.

This was a in depth interview with some really interesting retro gaming insights as well as the development detail behind the game... so we are publishing this in several parts


My earliest memories of gaming probably go back to the age of 4: playing Ozma Wars on an Arcade
 table top somewhere in an Australian outback. Friday night dinner at the Boat club in Hervey Bay playing Space Invaders, Galaxian and bootleg Donkey Kong (Crazy Kong). We used to get a lot of bootleg arcade games down-under. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, so I got to see lots of different arcade games & pinball machines in Bowling Alleys & fish 'n chip shops - games were everywhere back then. Williams Flash pinball was definitely my favorite (that thing always seemed to give you replays!) & Moon Patrol and Asteroids were a big deal. 

My Auntie used to give the greatest christmas gifts - this is how I got into handheld gaming - perhaps when I was 8? It started with a little LCD game called Space Shuttle (at least I think that's what it was called) - for the life of me I can't find this game on google or anywhere! Controlling that little spaceman and running the gauntlet until you clocked Game A... well there was nothing quite like it. I was hooked. I also had a handheld called Alien Invaders & a random Tennis game (VFD’s); but these paled next to Game & Watch fire: and my absolute favorite - the Casio BG-15 boxing calculator!

From handhelds I graduated to home computers. A birthday gift from my parents started the real trouble: the Tandy TRS-80 Colour Computer 2 when I turned 10. The trash-80 as it was called was where I started programming in Basic; typing games out of magazines and the like. I loved Canyon Climber from James Garon. I imported BIG-K magazine (and Whizzer & Chips) from the UK & learned the hard way that C64 type-in programs weren’t compatible with the TRS-80. BIG-k gave me Spectrum & C64 lust big time, but also established role models for me: I wanted to be like the rockstars of the era: Tony Crowther, Jeff Minter, Archer Maclean, Andrew Hewson and Matthew Smith. So I threw myself into making games on the trash-80.

It didn't take long & I complained enough to my folks to get me a C64. So it was only logical that they gave me a Amstrad CPC-464 (yes, the green-screen version to boot). It wasn’t all bad news though: this is when my love for fighting games really took off. Way of the Exploding fist  blew my mind & in the Arcades Yie-Ar Kung Fu and Karate champ set the standard! I wanted so much to write fighting games, but at that age I lacked pretty much every skill required. At the time I remember trying my hardest to write ghosts & goblins! I'd go to the arcade & record the music on my micro cassette recorder, study the game play and come home and code something that didn't resemble it at all. I actually submitted my Ghosts & Goblins clone to an advertisement for the Cascade Cassette 50. It was so bad they scribbled a rejection note on the same letter I wrote to them.

Following the Amstrad my parents finally listened to me & opened the door to the Amiga platform. I remember that Christmas day so clearly. The Amiga 500 was in another league - it had arcade quality potential! So many amazing games - so much power! I started making stuff in  AMOS, doing graphics in Deluxe Paint & actually doing stuff that was 1/2 decent (according to my friends). Panza Kickboxing was revolutionary! My bedroom walls were covered in ads I'd cut from magazines. I got heavily into the Demo scene & collected demos from all the big groups (Northstar / Fairlight etc.). My teenage years were I was basically concerned about two things as a teenager - martial arts & computers (if you don’t count girls!). I got my black belt in TKD about the same time I wrote my first demo for the A500. Looking back, all these things were connected.

The Amiga died about the same time the real world dictated I needed to get a real job (I left home at 15) & I did my own thing making display systems for real-estate. I remember Doom & Wolfenstein when I finally got my life organised enough to get into University. I was heavily involved in my own startups in the dot com book & this took a toll on gaming except for PS1 & Soul Blade. I moved to Silicon Valley & the Dreamcast & Gamecube rocked my world amidst all the start-up pressure: PowerStone, Rogue Squadron and Dead or Alive stand out in my memory. Did I mention mortal combat & street fighter? So many games… so little memory of it all!

I remember about this time the emulation scene took off and the world of retro exploded underground - these were such amazing times for retro gaming! This is when I really started writing games, because I had some references to study. I chose 80 of my favourite arcade games - starting with Pong - and ending with Capcom Commando & started to write them. I figured that I'd learn the black art by rewriting them in Chronological order. I released Retro Power Pack and about 10 other games on the net back then. I also wrote a 3D multi-user arcade which emulated Donkey Kong, Space Invaders and a few other games running on similar hardware. I had big plans to release this & I even had some support from the emulation community but then the dot-com crash happened and I had to focus on survival. 

Years later I revisited game coding & released a few shareware games, before I realised that there was something missing in my path. Somehow I’d missed some crucial point. I wanted to truly understand what makes great games - not just clone stuff all the time. I realised that in order to really understand what worked, I needed to take a step back. I remembered how much I used to love handhelds & how addictive they were. At this stage my girlfriend told me she thought I’d only be happy in life if I had the courage to follow my dreams. She assured me that she was 100% behind me - and that I needed to give it everything I had. So with her support the daily cheerleading began. I thought the best place to start was in handhelds.If I could truly understand the gameplay dynamics I could abstract and make something original, or at least something that isn’t just a clone. So this is basically how we ended up with Ninja Boxing Calculator. It’s based on the solid work that Casio did on the BG-15, however I’ve focused on not cloning - but advancing this genre. I’ve started on something simple I can manage as in individual developer. Gaming history is filled with advancements built upon previous work (e.g. Street fighter built on Karate Champ, which built on Yie Ar Kung Fu etc.) - I’m doing the same thing, but in a realm I can manage. 

Next we talk to Richard Pearson about why boxing..Ninja Boxing! and his martial arts inspirations..

Check out some cool video previews here:

GamesYouLoved Preview

Ninja Boxing! Preview video - 'Trouble Brewing'

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