Sunday, 11 September 2011

Developer Interview: Mojon Twins

(Further to RGCD's recent review of the recent ZX Spectrum release Fundamentally Loathsome, Nathan of the Mojon Twins development team kindly took the time to answer some of our burning questions.)

Would you please take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who may not be familiar with your name.

We are The Mojon Twins, a small group of individuals who just wanted to code Spectrum and CPC games when we were little kids. Now we are doing just that, just for fun.
Fundamentally Loathsome is part of the 'Phantomasa' series - a series where the common feature seems to be naked ladies. Erm ... do you just like doing games with naked ladies?

The Phantomasa series is a huge mock on the 80's gaming industries. It was a time when, out of nowhere and completely "Just because", you could see an incredible amount of female nudity almost everywhere when talking about videogames. Well, at least in Spain. Most new game releases contained a half-naked girl in the cover. This series is a completely parody, and the sexploitation aspect had to be included.

What are the Mojon Twins' distribution of roles in the production of a game like Fundamentally Loathsome?

Well, the way we work is not really working. Somebody has an idea, some other likes it and makes a bit of graphics, everyone talk about this and that, and finally stuff gets done. This game, in concrete, was just a tech demo. One day I was bored and had an idea about how to simulate a proper scrolling engine using just visual tricks, I grabbed some old graphics we had lying somewhere, and built it. Then my pal Anjuel liked it and created more content. I didn't want to release it, but my pals, specially Anjuel, kept trying to convince me that it was a good idea. I finally agreed.

To make things short: we are pretty anarchic, we are switching projects continuously and, eventually, games get finished and released from time to time :-)

From your website, you highlight that you are using Fundamentally Loathsome to showcase the 'splib2' routines, and C coding routines (to produce the fullscreen scrolling). To what extent is this to be considered a 'tech-demo' rather than a game?

This is 100% a tech demo, but it's playable. That's how we usually work. Every time we have a new tech gadget we create a game around it. For example, last year we were creating a complete framework (engine + tools) to easily create several kinds of platformer games. Instead of perfecting it and then using it to create a game, we kept releasing games everytime we added something to the engine. At the end of the year we ended having 7 full games (the "Pretujao Collection") and had lots of fun.

Anyways, FL is just a "fiddle" we made into a game. Nothing serious, really. 'splib2' is a library designed by Alvin Albrecht to create flick-screen 2D games, mainly, and we gave it a twist and used it for something completely different.

How much further to you feel the Spectrum can be pushed - surely the height of programming prowess has been neared? What do you think a developer/programmer can offer the Spectrum scene in 2011?

I believe that we have seen pretty interesting stuff which I'm sure nobody thought it was possible to do on the Speccy. And I'm quite sure that people will keep pushing the system further and further. I believe that there's no real limit on what you can do with something. But I also believe that most of the innovation we are going to see in the near future will have more to do with new gameplay and design features. Paradoxically, after 30 years, there's still a lack of games covering many genres. And you can also come up with a new interesting puzzler. And we need Graphic Adventures. They were born on 8-Bit computers like the C64, why not on the Speccy?

You credit 'Sgrizam' as an inspiration on your website - would you care to explain what game that is, and how it has influenced Fundamentally Loathsome for those who have not heard of it.

It was part of the joke. Sgrizam is an old Spanish game, released in 1985 by Dinamic Software for the ZX Spectrum. It showcased big, nice graphics but the gameplay was pretty shallow. Even shallower than that found on FL. As the method we had devised to create the impression of a full-screen scrolling was somewhat similar to it, we joked about creating a more playable revision of the same concept. In Sgrizam you had a key to advance, a key to jump crawling enemies, a key to crouch and dodge flying enemies, and a key to do a sword attack for to kill the swordman who appeared from time to time. Pretty shallow. This game is famous in Spain 'cause it looked really impressive on magazine pictures, but once you bought it and played it, it was so simple it hurt.

You have generously made your source code available, and are a regular World Of Spectrum contributor (especially on the development forums). Aside of Mojon Twins games, which other games have excited you in the z80/retro scene?

On the ZX Spectrum, pretty much everything by Bobs and Joefish, to name a few. I've also developed a following on Jonathan Cauldwell's works. Our fellow Spanish developers Retroworks are always an inspiration, as many other individuals and coding groups. I'm sure I'm forgetting many people. Lately I always keep an eye on what Timmy or R-Tape have in store. I'm forgetting a lot of developers, I know, but that's good 'cause it means that the scene is healthier than ever. So many people are developing new stuff, and new developers appear continuously. It's like heaven.

What projects have you got upcoming? Can you reveal what you are working on next?

We always have many things going in parallel. As I explained before, we don't follow strict workflows and we like to switch projects whenever we feel like. We have, I believe, 10 ongoing projects. But right now we are concentrating our efforts in two main projects: I'm the lead coder in a nice Gauntlet clone with a twist and the guys who brought you Subaquatic a couple of years ago are working on a very nice action/adventure game with a top-down view. We have been pretty dormant for the first half of 2011, but it seems we are getting the grip again. Expect several releases before the end of this year.

Is there anything else you'd like to say to the RGCD readers?

Well, I've always found overwhelmingly awesome the fact that the old machines are going this strong. A big part of it is thanks to the people who are there playing the new games and enjoying a bit of nostalgia. Keep going and this will last for decades!

Thank you to Nathan for taking the time to answer these questions.

(Visit the Mojon Twins website for more information on their games).