Many game consoles have received a steady stream of after-market releases since their official retirement. Some, like the Genesis and Dreamcast, have seen games released at a decent clip. These efforts have given us gems like Pier Solar and Beggar Prince, and they’ve opened the door for emerging companies to dedicate themselves almost exclusively to this market. Even more prolific is the homebrew scene, in which scores of programmers and artists have modified existing games (such as Pyron’s incredible color improvements) or released entirely new titles.
Enrique Ruiz falls into the latter category. Over the past year, he has done several Master System titles, and his latest, Silver Valley, is his most ambitious. An old school action title with various gameplay styles, it’s sure to cause many Master System owners to fire up their flash carts.
We recently spoke to Enrique about his new game and his plans as a game developer.
Sega-16: How long have you been involved in game programming?
Enrique Ruiz: Since the day my parents bought me my first computer. I was twelve, and the year was 1986. I think I was a lucky guy, as it was an MSX computer. I remember a book with a dog teaching you basic. I made several little games for myself in Basic. Years later, I switched to a 486dx and began with Assembly, C, and Pascal. It was a time of low level development, mainly 3D engines, using Opengl/Directx. The last few years have been the best for me, as I see myself capable of finishing a project, which is not an easy task. I had been doing mainly little games for computers, until now.
Sega-16: How did the decision to make a Master System game come about?
Enrique Ruiz: This is my third Master System game. One year ago, I wanted to do a little game for the January Ludum Dare competition, which required you to do something with a old system. I tested NES tools, but I liked the tools on SMSPower page more. I like the challenges related to the limited hardware and need of optimization, versus the unlimited power on today’s hardware. Each one of these three games (Baluba Balok, Astro Force, and now Silver Valley) began as a new technical challenge. I first tried to make a Master System game. In Astro Force, I tried to develop a scrolled engine with many objects onscreen. Silver Valley began as an improvement of the Astro Force engine in the form of platformer with gravity.
Sega-16: How many people were involved in the project?
Enrique Ruiz: The game was made by me in my free time, after work and weekends, but I cannot forget the help from Sverx, Albert, Kagesan, and Centrale, and the rest of people in the SMSPower community who are great! Also, my five-year-old cousin played the game for several weeks over the summer. Many ideas came from her!
Sega-16: Did you use any special or custom tools to develop Silver Valley?
Enrique Ruiz: I had to make an CSV->bin converter for the maps, but the tools and libraries in SMSPower are more than enough to do everything you need for all types of game. The people at SMSPower are great. If someone knows C language and want to make games, I don’t know a better place to begin.
Sega-16: What was the development process like? Did any particular aspect present a challenge?
Enrique Ruiz: The project began in May 2018. The first two months were focused on the engine development. Also, I made some music at first. The music is an important part of the game for me, I often write the music before the game. From July to October, I made all of the game’s stages. I only tried to put gameplay ideas onscreen without a story. In October, I began to insert the dialog and reorder the scenes. Finally, in November and December I got help with translation and gameplay testing and began to redraw the graphics. The game was finished on about December 20th.
A particular challenge I had was with code size, which caused a lot of trouble. By August, I had filled all the available ROM space. From there, I had to do a lot of optimization and code rewriting to keep the code below the max ROM size.
Sega-16: You got lots of great feedback from the community on SMS Power. Were there any suggestions that you felt greatly improved the gameplay?
Enrique Ruiz: Well…. I make the games I like to play, and I like really hard games! Kagesan (from the forum) played the game from begin to end and made me some suggestions which made the game a lot easier. Mainly, I made the player’s hit box smaller. It seems a different game than it was back then.
Sega-16: People compare Silver Valley to Castlevania, but the game has several different gameplay styles. Did you have any particular games as examples to follow during development?
Enrique Ruiz: Of course. I am not trying to be original. There are so good games from the ’80s and ’90s, and I love them all. At first, I did want to do a Black Tiger clone, but I found this was difficult task because of sprite limitations. So, I though on making smaller rooms. There are ideas from Sunsoft NES games (Batman, Journey to Silius), Wonder Boy in Monster Land, Mystical Ninja, and many others.
Sega-16: Is the game completed, or is there anything else you’d like to add to it?
Enrique Ruiz: I don’t feel the game is completed, but my compiler says it is (there’s no more code space available). Also, I think having a graphic designer could have been a great thing. Maybe I will search for one for next game…
Sega-16: Do you see a commercial release for Silver Valley as a possibility?
Enrique Ruiz: I only made it for fun. On the other hand, I have played so many freeware and homebrew games that I am happy when someone writes that they liked the game. That is the best reward for me.
Sega-16: What’s next for you as a developer?
Enrique Ruiz: As game developer, I am beginning a new little project for the Master System for the march SMSPower competition (only two months). It is a short arcade game. After March, maybe I will jump to Genesis development, which was my 16-bit console when I was a child.