Handy Harvy & Curse of Illmoore Bay - Interview with the Lead Developer, Adam Welch
How were Handy Harvey & Curse of Illmoore games born?
Handy Harvy is a copy-left version of Fix-it Felix Jr., so there’s not much to say about that besides the team and I were huge fans of the first movie.
As for The Curse of Illmoore Bay, Jav and I were talking one day about the ’80s and '90s music and cartoons, since that’s what we grew up with, and it just sort of became a thing. We started brainstorming different concepts, and eventually came up with the idea for a Halloween inspired game.
What was development like?
Handy Harvy’s development was kind of a pain. I first started programming Harvy in Basiegaxorz (BEX), but I hit a point where the code would fail to compile due to a technical limitation. This was somewhat resolvable by having a secondary program run in the background to capture the ASM source that dropped out of BEX to update a certain opcode. Then I ran into another bug. It was that bug that caused me to create SecondBASIC. Don’t get me wrong, SecondBASIC has its own set of problems, but at least the option to resolve a problem is there, whereas BEX has been unsupported for a long while.
Aside from that, though, the rest of the development was fairly smooth. There were a few hiccups along the way, a death in the family that I had to learn how to deal with (still am learning), but overall it wasn’t one of those difficult projects where something was always going wrong.
The Curse of Illmoore Bay is currently in development, and it’s going well! It’s a much larger project than any game I’ve done in the past, and it’s exciting to see where things go. I’ve ended up having to develop a few more tools to help with the development process, but that’s par for the course.
What did you learn about yourself through this game?
Well, Harvy was released with the Socks the Cat Kickstarter, so while development itself was fairly smooth, my personal life wasn’t. I had to learn how to cope with the loss of a parent while dealing with upset backers who have to wait even longer for their games, and most importantly, I learned to not use the Second Dimension name so freely on another person’s campaign. A LOT of confusion came out of that mistake and still carries over today.
Illmoore is a bit different. I’ve had to learn how to be a project manager, boss, and collaborator. With Harvy, it was a fairly straightforward concept – a legal version of Fix-It Felix, so there wasn’t a whole lot to plan and create. With Illmoore, we had to create a theme, plan the direction of the game, figure out how we wanted to model the characters and levels, and so on.
And, of course, I’ll continue to learn more about myself as the Second Dimension continues to grow.
What makes these games special?
This is probably one of the most difficult questions for me to answer because I feel like anything I say is going to sound biased since I’m so close to these games, but I’ll do my best.
Harvy marks a special time in my life, so it’ll always hold some strong emotions for me (both good and bad). From the perspective of the player, though, this game is inspired by a fictional game in a popular movie, and also offers 2 player co-op. It’s also very easy to pick up and learn and is overall just a lighthearted game.
Illmoore, on the other hand, is going to offer a brand new world for folks to explore and engage themselves in. It’s Halloween/Horror themed, and inspired by the cartoons of the ’80s and ’90s, so it has the humor and aesthetics that help shape the world we’ve created.
How does the sound play a role in the game?
Everyone on the team grew up and loves the rock, metal, punk, ska, grunge, and nu metal sounds of the ’90s, so you’ll hear those styles intermingled throughout the soundtrack. A lot of the music is also tailored to the scene/actions/theme of the levels, so it makes it so the final product feels complete and everything makes sense.
What games influenced this one the most?
Harvy was inspired by Fix-It Felix Jr., so there’s not much else to say about that one.
Illmoore is inspired by games like Super Mario Bros. and Mega Man.
Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Well, there was this one time when the team took a trip to… just kidding, the team lives far away from each other, so if anything it would just be inside jokes and silly chat logs.
What do you think has created the fantastic quality level of new aftermarket MD/GEN games?
That’s a really interesting question! I don’t think this can be answered without first mentioning Watermelon and Pier Solar. They were the first, at least in recent history, to put out something so beautiful on a retro console since the ’90s. I don’t think it started there, but that was the stepping stone for the rest of us that showed the retro world that new games for these consoles still had a home. They made a ripple in the puddle that grabbed the attention of other developers and future developers. The puddle grew to a pond, and now you have people competing to make bigger and better games.
But what created it? The desire for a game to come out that never did. The guys at WM wanted a game like Pier Solar that didn’t exist. The void of these older style games was growing since all modern games have moved away from the traditional style of simplicity, for the most part. Some modern games fill some good ol fashion gaming, like Cuphead, Child of Light, and Scott Pilgrim (when it was available), just to name a few.
Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Preservation is always a good thing, but games need to evolve. I feel like it’s also a case by case basis, and it also depends on where you define the cutoff for “older” mechanics.
Take a game like Mortal Kombat – it started off as 2 players beat the pulp out of each other and execute a fatality. Where is it today? Well, pretty much the same thing, just with a more involved story and unlockables. In that sense, the core mechanics of Mortal Kombat have pretty much remained the same. Mortal Kombat is a good example of a game evolving while maintaining its roots. Not every game needs to do that, though.
I think the problem with mechanics, though, is that aside from technical limitations, there’s only a finite amount of them like there is with storytelling. There are only 7 basic plots to any story – everything else is a derivation, and I feel the sample applies to mechanics. There’s only a handful of mechanics at the core of gaming, and the rest are derivatives of those mechanics.
What's your favorite memory as a gamer?
There’s so many to choose from, so let’s go with the one that started it all – opening the NES control deck on Christmas of 1987. I woke up everyone in the apartment complex at 4:30 AM with the screams of disbelief and joy.
Who will enjoy this game the most?
Anyone who likes the arcade feel of console games will definitely enjoy Handy Harvy.
Anyone who enjoys games like Mario World, Mega Man, and any other side-scrolling action/platformers will definitely enjoy The Curse of Illmoore Bay.
Bottom Line, why must someone play these games?
The games are fun and takes you into a new world of their own.
How do you want this game to be remembered?
When I think back to the times when I played games for the first time, I don’t necessarily remember what I was doing in the game, but the events around that time of my life. For example, I would borrow Mega Man 2 from my neighbor when I was super young, so whenever I think about that, I think about my best friend at the time, as well as the antics between my brother and I, as well as remember my fondness for the game.
I hope that anyone who plays these games has that kind of memory associated with it, because the game itself, while fun, isn’t what’s truly important, but the memories it helps you relive.
Affinity Sorrow is next up on the chopping block, though there’s like a 0.00001% chance it may get delayed. If it does, though, it’ll be worth it!
Anything else you'd like to add?
Do what you enjoy in life folks. It’s a short journey, so be sure to take every opportunity to enjoy the company of friends and family.