A “Classic” Approach to Game Dev

QuangDX is one half of the brother duo team behind Asobitech. Asobitech’s first title released was MaoMao Castle, a fun take on the “on rails” shooter in the style of Space Harrier while using motion controls. Their latest game, Super JetPack DX, was made for Game Boy with GBDK, and saw a successful physical production run. We chatted with QuangDX about their experience creating games and releasing a homebrew game.

What got you into game development and then developing for Game Boy?

I have been making games as a hobby since my first computer, a Sinclair ZX Spectrum +2 with BASIC, progressing to an Atari ST with STOS, then to a PC and Turbo Pascal. My brother and I made a few small games together on each of the systems, none of them ever released. Then around the time I had progressed to a 486 PC and started learning to code in C, Bung Enterprises had released their GBXchanger and GBCard Game Boy flash cart. I also had discovered GBDK (Game Boy Development Kit) which allowed you to code Game Boy games in C. So now with the ability to test my code on real hardware, I was excited to see what I could create. I have always had a love for portable computers/consoles, especially the Game Boy. I was the first in my school to get one, as my father brought one back with him from a trip to the USA, and it had yet to be released in the UK.

Tell us about Super JetPak DX, and how it was created?

Jetpac, by Ultimate Play the Game on the ZX Spectrum, was the first game I saw run on that computer. It enthralled me with how smooth and fast the gameplay was. It was like an arcade game at home. So when I started learning to develop for the Game Boy, I thought it would be an ideal candidate to try and port over. In 1999 I put together JetPak DX, using a K instead of a C, to differentiate my version, and adding DX as I made it run on both Game Boy Color and original DMG systems. This was only ever released as a ROM file to download. Fast forward to 2020, having been made redundant from my day job, I decided to give game development full time a go. I recalled how much I enjoyed doing Game Boy homebrew, and thought it would be great to have a physical version of JetPak DX. I set about updating it, taking on feedback I had received over the years, and the new improved Super JetPak DX was created.

Super JetPak DX running on a Game Boy Color

Can you tell us why you chose to use GBDK as opposed to ASM or perhaps GB Studio?

I went with GBDK, as at the time I had been literally learning to code in C, and I felt that would be the easiest transition for me. My comprehension of ASM was minimal at best, and GB Studio had not yet been conceived when I started this project. I found the old source code in 2020 and it just made sense for me to continue using GBDK to update the game and release it.

How do you feel about GB Studio as a game development tool?

GB Studio is wonderful. Any tool that lowers the barrier to entry for game development is a good thing. It is very possible if it was around in 1999 I would have used it to start with.

What was the experience like for the physical release of your game? Did you have any help producing it?

Doing a physical release of my game came with a steep learning curve. From logistics, handling customers, marketing, and more. I drafted in the help of ZombiWorkshop to make art assets for the packaging, TristaBytes to design the manual, and GameBoyGray to do box and label design.

The physical box for Super JetPak DX

Do you have any advice for our readers who may be considering making their first game, and which tools they should use?

Keep things simple, start as small as possible, make that first and learn from it. As for what tools to use, go with whatever you feel is in your skill level. If you are not a programmer, GB Studio is a great way to go, and if you find ASM too advanced use GBDK. To get the most out of the Game Boy hardware, you’d want to code in ASM – but it is not easy, and definitely not necessary.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know?

Making video games is a process of iteration. Start small, and keep working on it, improve it, and learn more. And remember, you all stay awesome 😀

You can visit Asobi.tech to find out more about Super JetPack DX and team behind them.

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