Monthly Archives: December 2012

Nintendo 64 Analogue Stick Replacement

Worn out thumbstick piecesEDIT: Jump’nshoot 9000 has moved to a dot-com domain! Find us here: jumpnshoot9000.com

This forum thread post (full thread here) contains a really useful comparison of the various third-party N64 controller-stick replacements that are currently being developed. While the N64’s controller assembly was prone to wearing out after long-term use, in terms of the history of video gaming, it stands out as important for innovating the way the players could interact with the games of the first generation of 3D gaming. The N64 controller was particularly deftly designed (compare the threshold-angles of the various controller-sticks under the heading Sensitivity), and it allowed for the revolutionising of video game concepts by facilitating a precise level of control–think Super Mario 64.

One particular analogue stick replacement that shows a lot of promise uses an assembly not dissimilar from that used in GameCube controllers. This replacement has the long-desired feature of long-term durability, but it isn’t as accurate (in terms of step analogue step-skipping, response-time, and being far too sensitive relative to the controller’s dead-zone–see the data produced from the poster’s fantastic trials) as the official OEM N64 controller-stick.

Partially worn N64 Analog Thumbstick Assembly

Despite the fact that none of these replacement analogue sticks are perfect, the amount of money you would spend giving them a trial shouldn’t really exceed the risk of them not meeting a satisfactory standard.

Spelunky

Read this fantastic review about the brilliant game Spelunky. I reckon the substance of the article hits the right tone so well that I think you should direct yourself to the author’s profile, where you’ll find a list of the articles she’s written for the website Eurogamer.net.

Glover 2 Prototype

Just to postpone the article on Gex 64 and ports, this surfaced on NESworld last year: a prototype cartridge of Glover 2. Glover itself suffered from a terrible port to the PlayStation in 1999, so this post may bear some oblique relevance to porting in general.

Aside from its porting history, Glover was another one of those overlooked late-90s puzzle platformers that didn’t deserve its descent into obscurity. Admittedly, it was the product of Hasbro Interactive’s then high-flying video game corporatism — and not the result of a more altruistic artistic initiative — but, in itself, it is a pretty solid game.

The major difference that the cancelled sequel seems to harbour over its original is that it focuses more on NPC interaction and direction, rather than stripped-back abstract puzzle environments. It also appears to demonstrate environments that are more approachable and dynamic in terms of design — also a turn away from the abstractness of the original. To my mind this is a watering down of a game that had some fairly strong conceptual coherence into something more approachable to the general public (read: child audience).

Really, what we have with Glover is another example of how games are (evidently, sometimes unsuccessfully) ported and turned into franchises through sequels.

Gex

A pretty wise interview from the lead programmer of the original Gex game:

Mira had already been working on the graveyard art set and it became clear that 32bit art was a much harder process than 16bit art. Here’s an example why. On a Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis, most side scrolling games use 1000 8×8 pixel cels or less. 1000 8×8 pixel cels all will fit on one 320×200 pixel screen. In other words, go into any paint program, make a 320×200 pixel document. Fill it with graphics. You’re done! You’ve just drawn all the graphics you can have in one level of a 16 bit game. Now go to a 32 bit system. We now have memory for 6 to 12 320×200 screens of graphics per level and we have a CD so we could have even more graphics per level if we loaded graphics from the CD or at least we could make each level use a different 6 screens of graphics.. In simple terms that means each level has at least 6 times the work of an 16bit level…

 

Soon to come will be a post on Gex 64 and the pitfalls of game porting.

Classic NES Game Hacks

Three years old now, but still worth your time. Click here for the YouTube link.

Battle Kid 2

After a long and frustrating release process, Sivak’s long-anticipated Battle Kid 2 was unveiled on Nintendoage on December 14. Printing issues postponed the release, but fortunately that had no lasting effect on the popularity of the game.

A mix of Metroid and Mega Man, the game is–like its predecessor–brutally tough, but not wholly unfair. The original game was famous for its blind jumps and pixel-perfect shooting, and while these qualities are likely to have been carried over to the sequel, YouTube footage reveals that Battle Kid 2 certainly executes a demonstrably more developed and nuanced execution of the two games’ core ideas.

Besides being a well thought-out and all-round intelligent game, the importance of Battle Kid 2 is that it is further evidence of the growing legitimacy of independently-developed video games. With people like Sivak sitting down with the intention of coding rewarding games with nothing but assembly language and low-level C, and people receptive and appreciative of such efforts, one can confidently say that the future of video games in good hands.

To read about the unfolding of BK2’s development, click here for the Nintendoage forum thread.

Those wishing to be better-informed of BK2’s content should direct themselves to this Let’s Play:


And a message from the YouTube celebrity James Rolfe: