For John Roo, his journey into game development started with his father and him programming microcontrollers. ‘I started by making small projects like working with tiny sensors and physical LED lights with my dad.’ He continues with, ‘We would team up for small projects, bringing us closer. I have always taken an interest in video games. It was very natural to switch over to programming for video games.’
It wasn’t just LEDs and sensors that filled his childhood. John’s love for the Game Boy was also cemented during these formative years and he explains that he ‘grew up playing Game Boy and now working with it is a dream come true. I went in with one goal and that was to finish a game. It quite simply just needed a beginning, middle, and an end. This is when I created Quest Arrest.’
His first game was a success on release and John explains the idea came from growing up ‘with Pokemon and Police Quest and loving them. It was a perfect match to put together. I also took some inspiration from the Mario RPG games. I like the simplicity and the idea that it’s an RPG game that anyone can play. Even if you are not a fan of the genre.’
As he thinks further on the gameplay for Quest Arrest, John says that he ‘absolutely loves games that involve multiple endings. I gained a lot of inspiration through the early Fallout games. The idea of karma is a beautiful thing to me as well. If you’re a bad person there should be consequences, so I created multiple endings for those who choose one way or another. I wanted to give the player a choice.’
Quest Arrest is a dialogue-heavy game and John feels that ‘coming up with dialogue is not easy because you want your town to feel alive. You need a variety of personalities. I reached out to my audience on Twitter and asked them if they wanted to be in the game. It was a cool way to get involved with the community, and I am so very grateful to have such cool people around me to participate. It would also be nice to have spelling and grammar check in GB Studio.’
John’s second GB Studio game is Gelatinous and he ‘teamed up with platform veteran and pixel artist Steven Long for this game. I had never really played many of the Metroid or Castlevania games. So it was fun to team up with someone who lives for the genre. That was a concept that ended up going into play when we started development. It gave me a lot of appreciation for the genre and I loved the idea of keeping it hard just like games were back in the 90s.’
Gelatinous has interesting mechanics such as climbing up ceilings and walls. John explains that ‘these ideas are difficult to achieve. They may be rare to see in a GB Studio game because it isn’t conventional use of mechanics in the engine. Steven would feed me an idea and I would just try to bring it to life. We used a beta version of the engine to make some of these functions work. It was quite the challenge and tough at times, but I am glad for the experience.’
The game’s cutscenes are breathtaking and John was grateful for some help. ‘We worked with pixel artist Burak Conga on the cut scenes. ‘I have to hand it to him for bringing such great visuals to the cutscenes. His art mixed well with Stevens’ art.’ And on using GB Studio he feels ‘I love the availability of the engine. Anyone can pick it up and learn it within a few weeks. We get to see so many awesome new games and I absolutely love to see them!’
John was quick to say why he feels the Game Boy is so special. ‘A game just needs to be fun. That’s the goal. You never know what you will enjoy. Game Boy has an illusion of simplicity, but it can be complex. It’s a really powerful console with lots of potential and it’s just waiting for developers to find it. If you are thinking about making a game, the Game Boy is a good place to start. If you are thinking about making a game and are a pro, Game Boy is a good place to end up!’
Thanks to John for speaking with GBS Central. You can check out John’s site, The Retro Room for games on both the Game Boy and other platforms.
Happy go lucky game journalist, write for print mags, books and online. Love my retro and have a taste for new GB games.