Old School Gamer chats with Flap Happy developed Ryan Carson, who discusses the game’s development cycle and current Kickstarter.
Old School Gamer: How was this game born?
Ryan Carson: Initially, Flap Happy came from a simple decision, “I reckon I can make this as a NES game” After having made a couple of false starts with 6502 ASM coding for the NES ( one being the beginnings of a port of a game I made for the OUYA, the other being the “get something on the screen”) I asked a friend of mine if he was cool with me attempting to take my own spin on one of his games, but, for the NES.
Old School Gamer: What is your role in the game?
Carson: Developer, Designer and I was able to stretch to making Sound Effects, but, when it comes to music, I needed a lot of help for that and Jayenkai was kind enough to help me out with a lot there, I feel bad that my sound engine doesn’t really do it full justice, but, it’s the best I can do with the space available.
Old School Gamer: What has development been like?
Carson: It’s been quite the learning experience. I did consider at times just stopping Flap Happy and Carrying on with other projects I had started after gaining more experience with Assembly Language and making something simpler
Old School Gamer: What makes this game special?
Carson: I chose to make it around the NROM model for the original NES Black Box games. But with some more modern practices, such as implementing procedural level generation, in an effort to see how much game I can fit into 32kb of code. I did a similar thing with my gameboy game release in terms of space used, also published with Megacat, called Infinitron. To me there’s something really cool about making games for the original specs of the cartridge where possible. It’s akin to game jams but your limit is space, not time!
It’s also fairly tough, no continues! I want proper old-skool difficulty here!
I chose to make it suitable for quick play sessions,you can beat easy mode in ~4 and a half minutes with practice and I feel that it’s a fairly speed-runnable game, there’s some mechanic abuse you can use to help skip cycles, deciding when and where dying to restart can also help with beating certain levels a lot quicker, learning of certain techniques is essential to beat tougher levels on normal and harder settings.
Old School Gamer: What games influenced this one the most?
Carson: Jay’s original game Flapadiddle was a major inspiration for this both myself and my kids enjoyed playing through and it looked like it would be a good challenge to port across to the NES without being impossible for a first game.
Old School Gamer: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Carson: Aside from it getting close to a race against the ROM space available to me towards the end of development, not really and wild moments, but it was always un seeing how my friends and family got along with Flap Happy, I sometimes got worried that I’d made it too easy or too hard but watching them play through it was fun to see and I was relieved that none of them completed easy mode very easily 😀
Old School Gamer: What were the major lessons learned?
Carson: Mainly to become better organized with my code and, particularly in later development, optimizing subroutines for less ROM usage. I shaved a few kilobytes last month whilst trying to save space for extra features which was a tough challenge but, ultimately worth it for future games also further down the line.
That and procedural generation sure can allow for a lot more game to be squeezed into a smaller space!
Old School Gamer: Are you excited for launch?
Carson: Absolutely! I have dreamed of having a game I made released on the NES since 8 years old, before I even owned the console, just playing it over at my cousins house got me incredibly psyched about the idea, it’s one of those game dev ambitions I’ve had for a while, so the moment when I’m holding my own copy is going to be particularly special!
Old School Gamer: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Carson: I think it depends on the player, some players will consider it important, others not so much, I think it depends on the genre of games you’re interested in mainly. Some such as platformers and shmups will lend themselves to older gameplay mechanics more so than maybe FPS games. I think I’ll have to make my next game something that can be more couch co-op as that’s always good fun, but I think that has been overlooked since the rise and death of the OUYA.
Old School Gamer: The marketplace is crowded. How do you think you stand out?
Carson: I could cheap out here and say the difficulty but, the NES was and still is renowned for having it’s large share of tough games, so I’m going to say the simplicity of the challenge, it’s using simple controls and is still a fun pick up and play game for myself despite the long development time. Sometimes the simpler games are the more replayable as the mistakes are your own, with a fairly quick gameplay loop, you get that, “ohhh, just one more try” that keeps going even after beating the game, there’s always opportunities to beat it faster or on a tougher setting.
Old School Gamer: How have your previous experiences in industry helped this game?
Carson: Gosh, there’s a question. NES development in Assembly Language is just so different to anything else I’ve experienced. Whilst I have made games for other systems, oddly enough, those experiences have informed my day job in application & web development.
I wouldn’t have attempted this without having previously made games in higher level languages though, going from making games inBasic as a kid and teenager, venturing into Unity for a while, back to C, then down to the baremetal of ASM is quite the progression, so yeah, it’s certainly helped with aspects such as re-organising code, although my code is quite messy for Flap Happy with it being my first game on the platform, it recently went through the code and refined a lot of it in an attempt to save space, so, I guess it’s always going to be an iterative process!
Old School Gamer: How do you want this game to ultimately be remembered?
Carson: As the start of Refresh Games releasing games for the NES and the first part of what I hope will be a trilogy of “Happy” games.
Old School Gamer: What’s next?
Carson: There’s work on Bee Happy for the NES and gameboy going on in the background and I look forward to having them released in the future, ideally again with Mega Cat Studios