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The creation of a new 8-bit game for the NES, a documentary about its creation, and tutorials to help others make their own NES games.
The creation of a new 8-bit game for the NES, a documentary about its creation, and tutorials to help others make their own NES games.
669 backers pledged $54,381 to help bring this project to life.

The Strange Lineage of *Mystic Searches*...

Posted by Joe Granato (Creator)

Everyone who is reading this is most likely aware that the game being created for The New 8-bit Heroes is entitled Mystic Searches.  I wanted to take a moment to share an anecdote that I think is ironic and validating about Mystic Searches' realization.  I don't want to go too deep...let's save that for the documentary.  But I thought this was neat and ironic and I wanted to share.

i first concocted the base concepts for Mystic Searches circa 1987, and ended up 'designing a game' in the summer of 1988.  A neighborhood friend and I spent our summer playing those formative NES games like Zelda, Contra, Megaman, Castlevania, but also sketching concepts for our own game.  If you've been following the project, this is all information you probably know.  But what you may not know is really what happened to the game-world in the time between then and now.

In 1992 (I remember Wayne's World being all the rage, for context), I wrote my first piece of *long fiction*.  I was twelve, and I adapted some of the ideas we'd had for Mystic Searches into a story for a class project.  This was around the same time that I was transitioning from reading RL Stine and Christopher Pike books to Stephen King and Tolkien.  I was compelled to tell my own narrative adventure, and I went a bit overboard.  Tucked away in the corner of my bedroom in my snowy pocket of Central New York, I etched out a *60 page* fantasy story that, in retrospect, had a flavor of steampunk long before steampunk was a thing.  The English teacher gave me accolades for creating the story, and even had me read it aloud to the class, chapter at a time, on Friday afternoons.  Predictably, this did not bode well for the growing nerd-stigma that followed me, but a few friends really latched on to this world, and they kept my interest in it and passion for it alive.

A few years later I was in my sophomore year of high school.  It was the mid-nineties. My passion for video games had pretty much completely yielded to my interest in music.  I'd been able to convert my nerd-energy to 'alternative'...whatever that meant, but it was a cultural shift to where Trek and RennFests were appreciated rather than laughed at.  Grunge was in full effect, and I'd say it couldn't have been too long after Kurt Cobain's death that I made the decision to redraft *Mystic Searches* update it to slightly more mature sensibilities.  Every stormy day that summer, I plugged away at morphing the iconography from a silly child's fantasy story to something more compelling.  My personal world experience had grown, and I started to work in some heavy handed metaphors, some characters based on friends, undertones of unrequited teenage love...and by 16, I had written my first novel, Mystic Searches.

A few years later I went away to college.  Three things happened in relatively quick succession.  First, the computer that stored the entire existing digital copy of Mystic Searches crashed.  Only one copy remained...a hard copy.  Two, I'd matured to a level where I considered the Mystic Searches novel juvenile and self in a fit of alcohol fueled, introspective vulnerability, I burned the last existing manuscript in a campfire at Darien Lake, destroying all but a few pages.  Three, I began taking a collegiate level fiction writing course with the enigmatic Greg Seagle, whose approach and guidance completely changed my perception of writing and what it could be.  

While I was neck deep in reading King's The Dark Tower series, I began yet again to reconstruct Mystic Searches, though the name carried almost no relevance anymore.  At 19 years old, in 1999 (which are both truly ironic dates for anyone who knows the Dark Tower series) I wrote a draft of a few chapters for a story called Beyond the Veil.  They were disconnected stories that sort of fit in this Twilight Zone like universe, but each carried familiar threads of Mystic Searches lore despite no longer resembling proper fantasy.

In 2004, I wrote what I consider to be my first work as an actual writer.  It was the autumn after I'd toured the country performing with the band Eat Your Neighbors, and three months of self reflection on long drives all over the country, surrounded every day by my creative brothers-in-music, sharpened my ambition to a fine point.  

What spilled out of me upon returning home was a strange fiction story set in a fantastic world (not traditional fantasy, but certainly a far cry from reality).  It was a redux to Beyond the Veil, and I was very proud of it.  In fact, to this day, I consider it as strong as I did then.   I had finally sort of grew into my own proverbial shoes.  I'd found my voice as a writer.  Unfortunately, I never got farther than the first 80 pages or so.  It was shelved, and I never got back to it with that same level of intensity.  Occasionally I'd pick at it, but honestly it was a snapshot of a certain place and time in my life, and I just could never recapture it to finish the story to my satisfaction. 

Years passed.  I became a "grown up", for all intents and purposes.  In 2011, life went through a major shake up, and it led me to a new environment.  I spent a lot of time writing during that period, and the nature of this story's purpose in my life became very evident to me.  In the fall of the next year, understanding what this story was really about on an emotional level for me, I set out to truly write Beyond the Veil.  

I finished the novel, or at least its first full draft, on February 4th, 2014.

Four months later, I returned to where the adventure started, dug up the 1988 concepts for an 8 year old's fantasy tale Mystic Searches, and began working on The New 8-bit Heroes.  

It's fun to see the blossomed narrative of Beyond the Veil that was seeded by an 8 year old kid in Mystic Searches, and how we've retconned this iteration of Mystic Searches to tie in some of the iconography and ideas that ended up making it into the various novel drafts throughout the years.

And just to add a bit of irony...I had a very particular soundtrack to writing the novel of Beyond the Veil.  On repeat during pretty much every writing session was a very obscure album by Folk Implosion titled simply "The New Folk Implosion".  Some may remember Folk Implosion as that band from the 90's that did the song Natural One.  Lou Barlow, frontman, put out an album called The New Folk Implosion in 2003, and it was critically panned, not received well by audiences, and disregarded by his label...and it became one of my favorite albums; personal, vulnerable, passionate...a unique sonic landscape that felt introspective and cynical and summed up my own creative journey perfectly.

Lou Barlow has, in turn, given permission to use songs from this album in the documentary soundtrack.  I can't quite articulate the interesting punctuation mark that puts on the strange lineage of Mystic Searches, but I think there is some cool relevance there.  I write a story, it evolves over almost 30 years, I finally find the sonic wallpaper that helps me realize the story in my adult life, I design a documentary about rediscovering the original story, and the sonic wallpaper used to finally complete the 30 year journey ends up at as soundtrack to the story of the rediscovery of that seed originally planted in my youth.  

Just neat.  

Anyhow, that's a little behind-the-scenes story that I thought some of you would appreciate.  I wonder, how many of you who support this project would be interested in someday reading Beyond The Veil?  


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    1. Daljit Chandi

      I'd be interested! It sounds like a pretty cool glimpse into something that influenced the current project through the years.

    2. Missing avatar

      Joshua Green on

      Definitely would be interested in reading it. These tidbits of info are really neat and I'm glad you're sharing them. Thanks!

    3. Nicolas Tremblay on

      I wonder how many of us actually dreamed of making a game in the NES heyday? I wonder if I could find our old maps we did for a Castlevania sidescroller?
      Continue your good work, can't wait to get the results.
      And yes, I think I would like to read Beyond the Veil.