NESmaker is a software tool for creating brand new, hardware playable, cartridge based games for the Nintendo Entertainment System...without having to write a single line of code.
A few years ago, while developing our NES game engine in the archaic 6502 Assembly language, our team (made up of mostly non-programmers) realized that we needed a much more efficient method for rapid prototyping and testing. Instead of digging into the assembly every time we needed to make changes, we conceptualized wysiwyg tools for common tasks that would output, reorganize, and manipulate the underlying code; developing screens, building animations, altering AI...things like that. We recruited Josh Fallon, tool developer extraordinaire, to help realize these tools.
Before we knew it, we had inadvertently created NESmaker.
Currently, what can you do with NESmaker?
- Design sprite graphics and color palettes that are automatically constrained to the NES limitations.
- Create assets with properties and behaviors to give developing for the NES an object-oriented feel, similar to modern tools such as GameMaker and Unity.
- Use a text editor to create text strings for NPCs or other narrative devices your game might have.
- Create *special screens* like start screens, end screens, menus, maps, and more.
- Customize AI
- Set initialization parameters (items obtained, player strength/defense, starting screen, etc) for easy testing.
- Use the base engine to create adventure games, basic RPGs, basic platformers, basic brawlers, and several other types of games.
- Assemble with one click for testing in an emulator.
- Flash to cartridge in one click for play on actual hardware.
Additionally, you can check out videos of us walking through the basics of NESmaker on our website at www.TheNew8bitHeroes.com
So why do we need Kickstarter?
- NESmaker is currently a little rough around the edges. It was originally designed to meet our needs, but now that we're attempting to expand it, it needs some UI work and a bit of streamlining. This will require a joint effort between our artist/designer, Josh our tool developer, and myself (the ASM programmer).
- We want to build upon the tool to expand its current capabilities. One of the core ways we intend to do this is by building genre modules, which will optimize the tool and the core ASM for that style of game. We will use stretch goals to work on adding optimization for each genre. Below are our target goals.
NEW GOAL ADDED**:
**One of the most frequently asked questions has been about creating music and sound effects using NESmaker. Up until now, my answer has been that it is one element NESmaker is lacking natively, and that we create music using FamiTracker. I promised that as part of the project, I would give an in depth look at how we integrate new music / sfx using FamiTracker, but that I'd love to add support for in-tool music creation that aims to create music in a more musical way (whereas FamiTracker, awesome as it is, is more like a spreadsheet generator). Well, with the overwhelming support from you amazing backers, and after some long conceptualizing with Josh, I'd like to propose that our in-engine music creation environment be our next stretch goal, so that one never has to leave the tool to create basic music and sound effects.
NEW GOAL ADDED***!
***Many of you have been having a blast with the Troll Burner mini game we have released. We are so close to the next milestone, we decided that if we are able to hit it, we will give all backers a full suite of Troll Burner assets in a demo project to snap together their own Troll Burner game to help learn the tool (and have a blast). It will include many, many, many more types of placeable assets, graphics, and capability, along with the ability to customize just about everything. Since you guys are already familiar with it and seem to be having so much fun with it, it would be a great way to learn the tool, would't it?
NEW GOAL ADDED****!
****This wouldn't be a NES inspired project if we didn't give it 8 levels to defeat! And it wouldn't be an 8-bit project without being nerds and including the number 256 (each byte has 256 possible values). So, we've included the Mother of All Goals. Josh and I have conceived of a way that we could handle some of the core memory remapping from the GUI in an intuitive way (as intuitive as this sort of thing can be), without ever having to go into the code. What does this mean for you, the user? You would get to make some broad decisions as far as how many memory banks to use for graphics, how many for music, how many for levels...etc, and would be able to custom organize them to fit your exact needs, similar to some of the decisions we're making in code for many of the modules. For those of you asking for FPS and point and click adventure games or big cut scenes, this stretch goal would go very far in creating those, which have wildly different graphics needs. There are a million other reasons why this would be useful for advanced users. It's something that we'd like to include. However, it will take a lot more time, focus, and testing. This may not be ready by the time the tool is released, and may be an update a few months later. But if we can hit this stretch goal it will give us that much more time to work on it, and everyone who is a backer will have access to this update.
These base engines cover many genres. For instance, with tweaking to the base module, both the adventure game engine and platform engine could be utilized to create a "Metroidvania" style side-scroller. A shooter could be cleverly modified to create a runner. A brawler could be manipulated to create a versus game. Additionally, for those who are interested in really digging in and playing with the ASM, we'd like to offer a blank module that has only the necessary tethers to make the game function alongside NESmaker, but will allow the user to completely program his or her own module.
FEATURED ADD ON: A NESmaker Strategy Guide - in the spirit of those great strategy guides from the days of yore, this companion (art is mockup only) will be a fun, limited physical artifact, but also be a valuable tool to help newcomers get started making games with NESmaker. Sure, there will be great and endless support on line, but it just won't be as pretty as this guide on your shelf! The more people that order this add on, the more intricate we can make it!
MAY BETA TESTER: The most common thing we've been asked is how a software-only backer or NESmaker Toolkit backer can become a beta tester. While we wanted to preserve the bonus of March beta testing to our beta tester tier, we worked our a scenario where the second wave of tool enhancements will be done on or before Memorial Day weekend. So we've now included a way for you to become *MAY* beta testers, if you can't wait until August, but also don't have $256 for the beta tester tier (or, maybe, already have a kazzo flasher).
ECONOMY FLASHER HOUSING: For anyone getting the Toolkit with the Kazzo, the device is as pictured in our video. Some people may want a little protection for their device, but possibly not need the laser cut NES styled casing that comes with the Beta Tester tier. Here is a solution - an economy flasher housing, which we will be working with Infinite NES Lives to provide.
Where will the funds be going, exactly?
We'll keep it incredibly simple. Just about 30% of funds raised through this crowdfunding campaign will go towards Kickstarter fees and taxes. A small portion (less than 10%) will be relegated towards further marketing. The rest will be split between paying our team and hardware rewards. We can't make an accurate prediction at this time, because we're not sure how many people will pledge for just the software (no hardware rewards) versus pledge for the software plus cart flasher and blank cartridge.
Still Have Questions?
There are a lot of logical questions one might ask at this point on a project such as this. We polled our supporters and got a list of questions they wanted answers to, and compiled this video response. See if your question is answered here:
Risks and challenges
I know more than anyone that developing for the NES takes time. We've spent an unexpected three years developing and refining our current engine, and have continually had to morph it to work with an evolving tool. This is one of the reasons that Mystic Searches itself is still in development! It is possible that each genre module presents new challenges to tackle that take more time than anticipated. However, since the engine and the tool are digital deliverables, and are able to be patched and updated, we will be able to deliver the tool in the state that it's in at the time of expected delivery, adding potential genre modules and updated features as they are completed.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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