A few years back, I had heard of the HomeBrew video game market where people were creating new games for retro consoles like the NES, SNES and Sega Genesis. I’ve been wanting to learn more about this scene for years, and this will be the first chat in my series of retro and retro-inspired games series.
I had the chance to interview Tabique Malevolo and David Martinez Canales from Mexican indie studio Carmelo Electronics, about their upcoming Game Boy Color game Pine Creek (incube8 Games). Tabique is responsible for story, art, music and programming, while David worked on programming, gameplay and story. Pine Creek is a retro-style game that you can play right now in your browser on itch.io or order a physical Game Boy Color cartridge (with box, booklet and all) if you still have your old GBC laying around.
Tabique and David were nice enough to answer some questions about their gaming habits and early memories, the retro games market and more. You can catch our conversation below. But first let’s check out the trailer for Pine Creek.
myVGBC: What are some of your early gaming memories?
David: I remember playing Mario Kart with my cousin and Super Smash Bros on his GameCube when I was 6 or 7 years old. Also, I remember once playing a first-person shooter on his PC. I don’t even remember the name of the game but I liked it a lot. It awakened my love for FPS games.
My first console was the original PlayStation. I remember having Disney adventure games like Hercules and Tarzan, then I got a PlayStation 2 and had games like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. After that, I bought an Xbox 360 and returned to playing games like Gears of War, Halo, and other tactical shooters. Then I bought a PC and started playing some Real-time Strategy (RTS) and FPS games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO).
I have loved Star Wars games since I was a kid. Jedi Academy was the first Star Wars game I had on my PC. It will always be in my heart. Dark Souls and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice are also some of my favorites. I love the mechanics and level design in those games. They’re always an inspiration to me.
Tabique: My earliest gaming memory is playing Super Mario World at the local drugstore with a cousin. I was so young that I couldn’t even reach the controls. You see, gaming addiction is a family heritage, LOL. I would need my own blog to talk about my gaming memories but what’s funny is that when I was a teenager online gaming was so exciting! Now as an adult I just want to play alone and sleep early haha.
myVGBC: Where did you grow up and what was the gaming scene like?
David: I was born in Mexico City. I grew up in a city called Morelia in Michoacan and I still live here. I wasn’t part of a gaming community. I just bought games from the game shop or played the demos in video game magazines.
When I was younger I used to go to these places called “cybers.” There you could rent consoles or PCs by the hour. I prefer having my own place to play. I like playing video games at home and with my friends online. I also play tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons. Sometimes IRL (in real life), sometimes online.
Tabique: Same as David. Morelia isn’t a big city. When I was little a few kids had home consoles. Most of us went to the arcades but those were just bootleg drug store machines with King of Fighters and Metal Slug. I love Metal Slug to this day, that pixel art is a work of art.
Then those gaming PC rental places happened where I spent most of my high school time playing Battlefield 1942, Silkroad Online, and World of Warcraft. It was a blessing to finally be able to afford a gaming-capable PC after high school.
myVGBC: Was your education related to gaming or are you self-taught?
David: I quit college three years ago. I was studying Game development but the school and system weren’t that good so I started learning and working by myself. Yes, I learned a little bit in college but it is better to teach yourself this type of thing in my opinion.
Tabique: I studied linguistics and literature in College. You could say it is very much related to what I do writing stories for games now. My music background comes from playing in a synthwave band called Night Runner.
myVGBC: What are your influences — in and out of gaming?
David: Games, Movies, TV shows, Books, Comics, Art… I always get influenced by the souls games (I like fantasy), cyberpunk/sci-fi stuff like Blade Runner and Akira, manga, and anime like Berserk, Vagabond, and Cowboy Bebop.
Tabique: Pretty much what David said haha. Mainly books, music, and adventure games. I love story-driven games. I believe that in video games we will find the next literary classics.
myVGBC: What do you do outside of gaming to recharge and relax?
David: I always like to watch movies. Sometimes I make videos just for fun and I am the Dungeon master in a D&D campaign with my friends. That in some way keeps me creative.
Tabique: As an introvert, it is very important to spend quality time with family and friends to recharge my solitary gaming energy. I wish I could spend every weekend on the beach, but Carmelo Electronics isn’t that successful right now.
myVGBC: Why make Retro Games?
Tabique: It isn’t really about making retro games. To me, it was just making Game Boy games. I only have four consoles: a Nintendo 64, a Dreamcast, a GameCube and a PS3, and of course a couple of Game Boys. Except for the PS3, those are the consoles I wanted as a child and bought as an adult. But the Game Boy was an obsession to me as a kid. I loved it. It’s perfect from a design point. Add an IPS (in-plane switching) display and it’s ultra perfect.
Thanks to GB Studio, making Game Boy games is relatively easy. You just need a cool idea and the time and will to work on it. Publishing and printing the game is another thing that thank the lord we don’t have to worry about now, thanks to Incube8 Games and Spacebot Interactive. Making the game is hard enough for us as developers.
myVGBC: What are your favorite types of games to play?
Tabique: Now I play everything but competitive gaming because Esports require a lot of training and I’m too old for that, maybe some Call of Duty: Warzone or Titanfall 2 now and then. Retro games, adventure games, visual novels, obscure and popular indie games, AAA games, FPS, RPGs…
I like to be open to all kinds of experiences but that’s hard to do considering games are too long now and there are gazillions of new games every hour. My favorite games are the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series and Kentucky Route Zero. You can say those are kind of new and kind of retro.
myVGBC: What’s it like to make the games of yesterday with the knowledge
and technology of today?
Tabique: I’d say more opportunities than anything else. In terms of gameplay, Pine Creek is more Night in The Woods than Pokemon.
We are now free to tell the story we want without Nintendo censoring our game to keep it kid-friendly. Now the censors are the gamers themselves because some hate my characters saying bad words haha.
myVGBC: Do you ever look at the story/mechanics of a big new AAA game
and attempt to simplify it’s essence into a retro-style game?
Tabique: Not really. AAA games to me are stuck into big Ubisoft-like open world games and battle royale. Those games are too long and full of crap to keep you busy. They could learn a thing or two from indie games that deliver a great experience and don’t suck up all of your time. I sound like a “busy boring adult,” don’t I?
myVGBC: What are some parallels you see between modern games
and your favorite retro games?
Tabique: Hard to tell. For example, my favorite N64 game is F-Zero X. I believe that’s a game you wouldn’t see released today as a AAA title because, maybe, it wouldn’t sell nor do I see new big games inspired by it.
There are few interesting new IPs in the AAA realm. Just a lot of remakes and franchises updating their formula slightly. But maybe that happens all the time and I’m seeing things through nostalgia glasses.
myVGBC: Are you part of a Retro games community?
Tabique: Not really. We pretty much work alone. On the other side Incube8 Games, Retro Modding and our followers are the real workforces preserving and giving new life to retro consoles.
We just provided a game out of nostalgia and discovered there’s a huge community of retro gamers modding consoles and making them look like art pieces.
myVGBC: Is Pine Creek your first game release?
Tabique: Pine Creek is not my first game but the first one commercially available. It was supposed to be like a practice game before we started our big serious project. But it turned out to be a complete adventure.
At first, we just charged for the color version of the ROM, but now that we have a publisher that’s taking care of the printing and distribution process we offer the full game playable in browser as a way of promoting the physical copies.
myVGBC: Can you give a short summary of Pine Creek and its influences?
Tabique: Pine Creek is a story about a group of kids trying to solve the disappearance of their friend. The game is (obviously) inspired by Pokemon because that’s what triggers my nostalgia. But in terms of story and mechanics, it takes elements from games like Shenmue, Night in the Woods, Gabriel Knight to the Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson and Umberto Eco’s books.
myVGBC: Is there anything you think people should know about the retro game scene?
Tabique: I want people to know that game preservation matters. And by making new games for old consoles we bring new life to them and it’s a motivation to keep the hardware shiny.
Any retro console is as capable of delivering a great experience as a PS5. What matters is human creativity, and for the sake of the history of human creativity, we must preserve the history and the relics that these machines are.
Thanks again to Tabique and David for answering my questions.
A physical version of Pine Creek is currently available to pre-order until August 9th and ships in October 2021.
You can also play the game on itch.io.