Oi! No talking at the back...
This is the Indie Portal and everybody knows RetroGameGeeks don't get hype, they stay hype and so the hype machine hypes up once more to tingle your excitement tanglers and whatnot with a hot new interview with one of the most fun devs on the indie scene today giving a slice of retro glory to the current gen...
This is Nostatic Software! On RetroGameGeeks! What more do you need and/or want? Not a lot, I'd say... If ever a series of games screamed retro then this is the purest example.
Now shush and read/watch, it's magic time!
Pixels, Puzzles, Christmas, Zombies and silence...
If like us you scour XBLIG or the PSMobile network then this developer will be very well known to you however for those of you who have lived under that rock for the past few years here's the guy who is going to give you all those point 'n' click style games, puzzlers and platforming thrills you all grew up on. Whilst his 'Quiet Please' series is for us his crowning glory we won't be shushed on our love for this man's work!
Imagine if all those Atari 2600 games and Jet Set Willy had a baby, how great would that be? Now mix in Loom and the rest of the LucasArts set of puzzle style adventures and you will finally be getting there. Nostatic games are from a design brief all of their own.
You see Atari games didn't have detailed backdrops or layers and layers of bright vivid colours, point 'n' click didnt have platforming, Nostatic games have all this plus Kung Fu and sometimes Zombies and once you whack in old men in Speedo's and a need for peace & quiet then you know your gaming evening just hit factor 10 on the awesome scale.
Cutting through the background noise...
RGG: Please allow you to introduce yo'self, yo' name is..? Or, to quote RoboCop; "WHO ARE YOU!?"
Mike: My name is Mike Oliphant. I'm a long-time gamer and all around computer geek. I am the sole proprietor of Nostatic Software, under which moniker I make games and put them out into the world on as many platforms as I can. I like big, chunky pixels.
RGG: What's your beef with static anyway?
Mike: Who doesn't have a beef with static - its annoying! The name comes from when I first registered my web domain, nostatic.org, and I was writing digital audio software (mostly notably, Grip, a CD ripping and MP3 encoding application for Linux back in its early days). The name just kind of carried over when I started making games.
RGG: No one likes peace and quiet more than RGG's own Megatrons_Fury, which amuses me greatly that I shot gunned this interview away from him. Fancy letting the RGGers in on the ins and outs of your Quiet series? What games inspired and how the heck did you come to decide on a blocky point n' click quest for peace unlike one ever seen in a Superman movie?
Mike: The first game in the series, "Quiet, Please!" was written over the course of a weekend for a Ludum Dare game jam. The theme of the jam was "Alone", and while most people made games where solitude was a negative state of affairs, I made a game where the goal was to just get some peace and quiet. A lot of the core gameplay came together in that first weekend.
RGG: Delving more on that inspiration route...When was it you first felt it was time to be a developer?
Mike: Computers have been a big part of my life ever since I was a kid in the early 80's. Messing with computers quickly turned into programming them. My first computer, a Commodore Vic 20, dropped you into a BASIC interpreter with blinking cursor that just invited you to start typing stuff. So I did.
And of course, when I started programming, the programs I made were more often than not games. Later, programming turned into a career and making games faded into the background. Until several years ago when I quit my job and starting making my own games full time.
RGG: Now a quick one or the other in relation to one of the fine titles in the Nostatic catalogue...BLACK BELT or KUNG FU KID? (Master System, standard.)
Mike: Although the gameplay is different, the game I had most in mind when making "Kung Fu FIGHT!" was Kung Fu Master. I spent quite a few quarters playing that game in the arcade when I was in college. I also fondly remember playing Karateka on the Apple II.
Hi-res sprites for retro lo-res nights!
RGG: What do you personally feel is the biggest draw for indie devs (such as yourself) to pick up where retro left off by revisiting styles, looks and feels of the glory days of close-quarters gaming? This is a question we here at RGG tend to ask a lot, but one I feel the best way to gather a consensus if any...
Mike: I think there are a lot of reasons, and not all Indie devs have the same ones. Nostalgia is certainly a factor, but by no means the only one. For me, a big appeal of a retro style is that it is personally achievable. Of all of the many different things I do when making games, programming is what I do best and have the most experience with. Making art assets is an area I am much less skilled in (although I'm getting better!). The constraints of lower resolution art help me a lot, and let me convey a consistent style that works for the games I make.
RGG: So, what was your first console? Lay down some of your favourite games and fondest memories, baby!
Mike: My first console was actually the GameCube (Wind Waker!) - I never had any of the consoles as a kid. One of my friends had an Atari VCS, though, and we played the hell out of that. Lots and lots of "Combat" - tanks with bouncing shots FTW!
I fondly remember playing tons of Ultima II - a friend and I would play it during lunch hour on the solitary Apple II that sat in the back of the school's typing classroom. I also played several of the later Ultima games, but Ultima II is what I remember the most.
I had Commodore computers growing up - Vic20, C64 and Amiga. I don't remember much from the Vic20. Some favourites from the C64 days were Impossible Mission ("Stay a while... Staaay FOREVER!"), Lode Runner, Spy Hunter. From the Amiga - Another World, Dungeon Master, The Bard's Tale, Faery Tale Adventure, Marble Madness, Lemmings, Stunt Track Racer, The Settlers, Monkey Island. Lots of good gaming memories.
RGG: If you could port anyone of your titles to a retro system, which would it be and why?
Mike: That would be pretty difficult for me to do. While my pixel art is even chunkier than what you saw with most of the retro systems, I definitely don't try to conform to any particular constraints. I use whatever colours I want, for example. A version of "Quiet, Please!" using the ZX Spectrum colour palette could be fun, though!
RGG: I aint gonna lie, I think Tunescape is one of the coolest and most underappreciated games to hit the indieverse in recent years. What was the thought process behind it and don't you just love Rez and Vib-Ribbon!?
Mike: Some Tunescape love - nice! Tunescape was the first game I released commercially. I really like music-driven gameplay, and with Tunescape I wanted to make an immersive experience where you could chill out listening to music while still being an actively participating in gameplay. I think it turned out pretty well. I've been toying with the idea of bringing it to new platforms for a while now. We'll see...
RGG: Being a XBLIG veteran, have you signed up with ID@Xbox at all? What's the next gen outlook from your view point?
Mike: I signed up, but haven't gotten past that initial stage, yet. My games aren't very "Next Gen", so I'm not in any rush :-) I'll definitely publish there (and on PS4) if and when they establish an open self-publishing model. So far, though, I haven't even purchased a PS4 or Xbox One.
RGG: Speaking of next gen, how do you see the future of handheld gaming going? Being a contributor to mobile platforms, do you think they can really take over from the traditional form? Is it better now that the world of on-the-go gaming is so much more open for indies?
Mike: I really don't know where handheld gaming is going. It seems pretty clear that phone-based gaming has taken a big chunk out of the traditional handheld market. I understand why - people don't want to buy multiple expensive devices - but it I think it is a real shame. Lots of games work well with touch controls, but for some things there is nothing like physical buttons and thumbsticks. I really wish the PS Vita had been more successful - it is such a fantastic handheld gaming device.
So, Mr pixel Man... What's 'your' Game?
RGG: Switching it up, what's your top 3 point n' clicks of the golden age?
Mike: Grim Fandango
The Last Express
I also loved playing the Infocom text adventures. I even made one...
RGG: Following that question, lets get all desert island-y...You lock yourself away in a private sanctuary to get some quiet(, please) from the noise that comes with the end of the world. Troubz iz? Only five games (from five systems of any retro period, granted) to keep you busy (possibly on mute)...what are they?
Mike: Let's see...
An Asteroids cabinet.
Ultima II on Apple II.
Lode Runner on C64.
Dungeon Master on Amiga.
And how about an N64 running Super Mario 64.
RGG: What has the general reaction of the retro community been to your work? Also, is there more in general sites like us could be doing for folk like Nostatic to gain exposure across said community?
Mike: Generally, reaction has been very positive. Not everyone loves my art style, but that's ok - if everyone had the same preferences all games would look alike. As for exposure - every bit helps. Discoverability is a big problem for indie devs - particularly in the mobile markets.
RGG: Anything in development right now? What's next for Nostatic?
Mike: I'm actually working on some fancy schmancy 3D stuff. Don't worry, though, the art is still all chunky pixel stuff. I'm being inspired by old-school dungeon crawlers like Dungeon Master.
RGG: Thanks for taking on this interview with us, now go get your plug on in the following virtual space...Your time to chat and self-hype, playah! What you say?
Mike: Anyone reading this probably has at least one device that can play my games. Go try them!
RGG: Final question: Maniac Mansion or Enchanted Scepters!?
Mike: Maniac Mansion. It marked the start of the LucasArts SCUMM point-and-click adventure engine that spawned so many great games. Thanks for the questions as well, they were loads of fun to answer!
RetroGameGeeks Final Thoughts...
And that's Mike...of Nostatic! In RetroGameGeeks interview form! Boom n' ting! No need to clap, it's how we roll.
While we all may be in slight shock (perhaps some awe thrown in) at the idea of the GameCube being his first console (on a personal owner level at least), we at RGG love any man, woman or child (not the Jimmy way, I thank you) raised on Commodore. Because, y'know. Amiga. Win.
It sucks the retro community have seemingly given Nostatic's output an up-turned nose of snootiness, a true shame when the catalogue of releases has some true gems as discussed in the interview above. Mike was a pleasure to chat with and is undoubtedly a great guy that we'll be looking forward to seeing what he does next. Megs especially, that utter fan boy.
As mentioned above you instantly know a game from Mike, it jumps right out of the screen in a way the classic old games of days long gone used too and as such leaves such a warm feeling in your heart. The genres he covers are also a perfect mixture of old meeting new and in some instances these colide all under one roof of a single game which is a master stroke of design and implementation.
The two things that are on show here in everything this man does is so clear, one of which being that he clearly loves old school gaming, a person can't fake or emulate this so Nostatic games all feel completely authentic as well as the second universal factor...FUN! So what exactly are you waiting for people? Get out there and experience what happens when quiet and noise combine, plus you know those zombies!