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A fast-paced, twin-stick, homebrew shooter for the original NES and also PC, complete with Kickstarter-exclusive level editor.
A fast-paced, twin-stick, homebrew shooter for the original NES and also PC, complete with Kickstarter-exclusive level editor.
127 backers pledged $10,126 to help bring this project to life.

About

Spook-o'-tron: a Halloween-themed Homebrew Game for the NES project video thumbnail
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Spook-o’-tron is a Halloween-themed twin-stick shooter for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and PC. Recalling the arcade classics of old, it pits the player against a horde of enemies in a fast-paced race for survival. The game features:

  • 100+ levels of arcade action
  • 8 nefarious enemies
  • A custom level-editor (Kickstarter exclusive!)
  • Multiple modes of controller input (dual NES, SNES, even Virtual Boy!)
  • Save support for high scores
  • retroUSB AVS Scoreboard compatible (Demo as well)
  • Art by Chris Cacciatore
  • Music by Kevin Hanley (KHAN Games)

Download the 10 level demo here:

 

  

Like many who have finished school in the last decade or so, I left the halls of learning with a crisp sheet of paper but no real job. As I searched for further schooling opportunities and generally got on with life, I started learning NES programming in my free time as a way to realize my long held dream of making a video game. With a degree in the Humanities, I had never taken a programming class, but through a combination of dedication and community support I slowly learned the ins and outs of computer programming (6502 assembly). I knew that I would eventually need to find a way to get my projects to market, and along the way I started Sole Goose Productions with that intent. I produced a couple of projects for another programmer, and in doing so learned how to manufacture NES game cartridges.

You can see what I've been up to over the years on both Twitter and Facebook.

 

I began working on Spook-o’-tron about a year ago as a way to hone my skills working with sprites on the NES. I figured that the best way to learn would be to give myself the task of putting as many objects as possible on the screen at once, and decided that an arena shooter could be interesting challenge in that regard. This also allowed for the use of dual controllers, a neat but under utilized gameplay feature on the NES. By turning two controllers vertically, players can use the dual d-pads to move independently of the direction in which they are firing projectiles.

The "Controls" page from the manual. Note: if playing the demo ROM in an emulator, your controls will have to be adjusted.
The "Controls" page from the manual. Note: if playing the demo ROM in an emulator, your controls will have to be adjusted.

One of my other goals was to find a style of game that could make use of a modified Virtual Boy controller (instructions forthcoming). Long before dual-analog sticks would become the norm on controllers, the Virtual Boy came equipped with dual d-pads. To the best of my knowledge, Spook-o'-tron is the first game to fully support using this controller. In my enthusiasm to use this controller, I even had a 3D printable piece designed that slots into the back of the controller where the battery pack would normally attach (this is included with the Numbered Edition). A very special thanks to the good folks at Make South Bend, a local maker space dedicated to helping people learn new skills. I try to use each of my releases as a way to learn a new non-programming skill, and 3D printing was on the slate this time around.

An early prototype of the Virtual Boy controller back piece. The final version will feature the main character, and be printed in blue.
An early prototype of the Virtual Boy controller back piece. The final version will feature the main character, and be printed in blue.

Over the course of the project I also added SNES controller support via an adapter, thanks to the help of Membler Industries. This campaign serves as a way to get these adapters produced.

A prototype of the SNES-to-NES controller adapter.
A prototype of the SNES-to-NES controller adapter.

All of this allows the NES version of Spook-o'-tron to be played via three different modes of input: dual NES, SNES, and Virtual Boy. The ability to use any of those options is included in all versions of the game. For the PC build, the buttons can be mapped based on your controller to give an optimal input scheme.

Spook-o'-tron can use dual NES controllers, a single SNES controller (with adapter), or even a modified Virtual Boy controller! Why? Because we can.
Spook-o'-tron can use dual NES controllers, a single SNES controller (with adapter), or even a modified Virtual Boy controller! Why? Because we can.

 

While working on the game, I realized that an in-game level editor would be beneficial to the design process. Besides reducing the time that it took to plan levels out, it would make testing and editing them easier. Indeed, it made it easy enough for almost anyone to create levels, and since they could be tested in-game the results could immediately be seen. Thanks to a small team of dedicated and enthusiastic testers, Spook-o’-tron quickly began to take shape as we came up with various configurations and designs. This also doubled as a way to test the game and shake out any bugs. The game currently sits at around 50 levels with all known bugs accounted for and fixed. It then occurred to me, what if we expanded this process to others? What would the game become if the tools were made available for others to use? This is where Kickstarter comes in, since it provides a way to allow backers to contribute to a project. Thanks to Kickstarter you too will be able to create levels that you and your friends can play in the final game.* Full instructions will be provided post-campaign, but as you can see from the screens below, building levels is a snap. As it is, the game is on its way to completion, but who knows what it could become through community participation. My game becomes their game, which becomes our game.

The level editor consists of two screens. On the first, simply move the cursor around to place coordinates.
The level editor consists of two screens. On the first, simply move the cursor around to place coordinates.

 

On the next screen, you choose which enemies will populate those coordinates.
On the next screen, you choose which enemies will populate those coordinates.

Then again, what if no one submits a level? That will just mean that the game gets released with levels done by the internal development team. Some people like to make levels, while some people just want to dive in and play them. A Kickstarter campaign allows for both kinds of people to sign up for the project.

*All reward tiers are eliglble. Submission does not guarantee a spot in the final build. Levels will be chosen in relation to the other levels that are submitted. If enough fun and interesting levels are submitted, different modes/sets of 100 levels may come to make up the final build. Credit for selected levels will be included in the manual (usernames or aliases are welcome, if and when appropriate).

 

Having helped a few projects come to market (Swords and Runes, 0-to-X, Sly Dog Studios 3-in-1 2P Pak), I have the experience and resources to smoothly manufacture Spook-o’-tron. Indeed, most of the parts are already on hand, waiting to be assembled. Most of the packaging is designed, and in a finished state barring minor tweaks. All SGP games use all new parts, including GTROM boards by Membler Industries.

 

  • April: Backers are sent a level-editor ROM with instructions for submission
  • August 1st: submission deadline
  • August – September: Review and ordering of submitted levels
  • Beginning of October: Copies ship to backers 

Within two weeks of the campaign ending, backers will be sent a level-editor ROM and instructions regarding how to create and submit levels. This will allow several months for people to experiment and become comfortable with the editor. The deadline for submissions will be August 1st, which will leave plenty of time for the testing and ordering of levels. Completed games will ship at the end of September or beginning of October, in time for the holiday season.

 

All Kickstarter copies of the game will include the level-editor in the final cartridge build of the game. This is a KS exclusive, and is limited to the rewards outlined below. In other words, it will not be included in any future editions of the game, if there are any (excluding any unsold copies of the Numbered Addition Edition, which will all be built at once).

Working examples of the Numbered Edition and standard Kickstarter exclusive cartridges.
Working examples of the Numbered Edition and standard Kickstarter exclusive cartridges.

$10 – PC version of the game

  • A DRM-free PC compatible version of the game, thanks to Gradual Games GGvm utility. *Please download the PC version demo in order to determine if the game will run properly on your system.

$38 - Cart Only Kickstarter Edition

  • Translucent charcoal shell
  • Brand new GTROM board
  • PC version sent to your email

$48 – Complete in Box (CIB) Kickstarter Edition

  • Translucent charcoal shell
  • Custom mini-box
  • Full color manual
  • Cartridge sleeve
  • Brand new GTROM board
  • PC version sent to your email

$63 - Kickstarter CIB + SNES-to-NES Adapter

  • All of the contents of the Kickstarter CIB plus a custom built SNES-to-NES adapter.

$85 – Numbered Edition

  • Numbered title screen (limited to 101 copies)
  • Translucent blue shell
  • Exclusive Numbered Edition art
  • 3D printed back piece that slots into a Virtual Boy controller
  • Full color manual
  • Brand new GTROM board
  • Custom box that houses all of the contents listed
  • PC version sent to your email

$350 - Test Cart

  • An "in development" build of the game
  • ROM revision indicated on the title screen
  • Test Cart box and label
  • In dev 3D printed back piece
  • All of the Numbered Edition tier rewards
  • SNES-to-NES adapter

 

For those who would like to catch up on some past releases from Sole Goose Productions, or add a controller adapter to their Numbered Edition pledge (due to the limited nature of the Numbered Edition, SNES-to-NES controller adapters must be selected manually). Please add the cost of any selections to your pledge.

$15 – Custom built SNES-to-NES adapter

  • SNES-to-NES Adapter: This device allows for a SNES controller to be plugged into the NES.

$40 – Swords and Runes Regular Edition

  • Swords and Runes RE: A regular edition copy of Swords and Runes, the first release from Sole Goose Productions.

$48 - Spook-o'-tron Kickstarter Edition CIB

  • For those that selected the Numbered Edition but want to complete the collection.

$75 – 0-to-X Numbered Edition

  • 0-to-X Numbered Edition: A Numbered Edition copy of 0-to-X, the second release from Sole Goose Productions (limited quantities remain).

 

Stretch Goals!

8k: Play Choice 10 (PC-10) version add-on. Memblers has designed an NROM PC-10 board, and is working on a GTROM version of it. Like the SNES-to-NES adapters, this campaign can serve as a way to help us get these into production! Costs for the add-on are still being explored.

10k: The Making of Spook-o’tron booklet. A small booklet to be included with pledges ($85 and up) that documents the making of Spook-o’-tron. It will also be available for other tiers to purchase at a minimal price, post-campaign as costs are figured out. I enjoy reflecting on the process of homebrewing, and exploring the community in general (beginning with the history of the retroUSB AVS), so I am pretty excited about this goal.

12k: KS Box upgrade. The standard CIB mini-box will be upgraded to a full North American-sized box.

 

Risks and challenges

Small scale manufacturing brings with it many risks, the biggest simply being all of the unknowns in terms of quantities. While I have a majority of the parts already on hand, and most of the packaging designs complete, issues could always crop up. Perhaps the most time consuming risk is if backers become overly enthusiastic about submitting levels, but then again, that is a good problem to have. With all of that in mind, the timeline above provides what I firmly believe to be a safe course through these various unknowns.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    PC version of the Game

    A DRM-free PC compatible version of the game.

    Includes:
    • PC version sent to your email
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    Cart Only KS Edition

    A cart only copy of the game exclusive to Kickstarter

    Includes:
    • Translucent charcoal shell
    • Brand new GTROM board
    • PC version sent to your email
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    Pledge $48 or more About $48

    Boxed KS Edition

    A complete in box (CIB) copy of the game exclusive to Kickstarter.

    Includes:
    • Translucent charcoal shell
    • Custom mini-box
    • Full color manual
    • Cartridge sleeve
    • Brand new GTROM board
    • PC version sent to your email
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $63 or more About $63

    Boxed KS Edition + Adapter

    A complete in box (CIB) copy of the game exclusive to Kickstarter + a custom built SNES-to-NES controller adapter.

    Includes:
    • SNES-to-NES controller adapter
    • Translucent charcoal shell
    • Custom mini-box
    • Full color manual
    • Cartridge sleeve
    • Brand new GTROM board
    • PC version sent to your email
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    25 backers
    $
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    Pledge $85 or more About $85

    Numbered Edition

    This special edition is numbered on the title screen and includes:

    Includes:
    • Numbered title screen
    • Translucent blue shell
    • Exclusive Numbered Edition art
    • 3D printed back piece that slots into a Virtual Boy controller
    • Full color manual
    • Brand new GTROM board
    • Custom box that houses all of the contents listed
    • PC version sent to your email
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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 43 backers
    $
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    Pledge $350 or more About $350

    Test Cart

    A development version of the game (normally reserved for testers and other contributors for their help with the project).

    Includes:
    • An "in development" build of the game
    • ROM revision indicated on the title screen
    • Test Cart label
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    Pledge $350 or more About $350

    Test Cart (Revised)

    Two games: a development version of the game (normally reserved for testers and other contributors for their help with the project) PLUS all of the rewards of the Numbered Edition tier and a SNES-to-NES adapter.

    Includes:
    • An "in development" build of the game
    • ROM revision indicated on the title screen
    • Test Cart box and label
    • In development 3D printed VB controller back piece
    • All of the rewards of the Numbered Edition tier
    • SNES-to-NES controller adapter
    Less
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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 2 backers
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Funding period

- (31 days)