Porting in Gaming: A Creative Process or Just a Tool?
In a recent interview, gaming expert Randy discussed the role of porting in the gaming industry and its significance as a creative process. While translation is often considered a mere tool for a different creator, porting involves faithfully reproducing the intent of the original experience. Randy believes that porting should strive to preserve games and their unique qualities, even on newer systems with different capabilities.
The Importance of Game Preservation
Randy, who is currently working on a Jurassic Park retro-collection re-release for modern systems, also emphasizes the importance of gaming preservation. He is part of the Carbon Engine team, which combines emulators with older retro games and produces physical versions of these games to ensure their preservation. The Jurassic Park collection, for example, includes various games from different older systems and is now playable on the Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox.
The Process of Porting and Collaboration with Original Creators
When asked about the process of porting and working with assets from the original creators, Randy explains that they reach out to the current intellectual property holders and handle all the licensing and legal arrangements. They then license and publish the game, ensuring that the original code and assets are faithfully reproduced. Sometimes, they need to modify the ROMs to patch logos or copyright messages that are no longer applicable.
Randy also reveals that they are sometimes in communication with the original coders, either reaching out to them or being contacted by them. For example, they recently worked on making the Super NES version of Worms: Armageddon playable, even though the original company no longer exists. Randy describes the process as crazy fun and a challenge that programmers enjoy.
The Challenge of Programming for Older Systems
When discussing the challenge of programming for older systems like the Super NES, Randy acknowledges that it requires a specific skill set and knowledge of the technology from that era. He mentions that there are still a few people, such as Kevin Armstrong and Dimitris Giannakis, who possess this knowledge and work on retro game projects. However, he points out that the subset of people familiar with these older systems is relatively small in the grand scheme of the gaming industry.
Constraints and Creativity in Gaming
Randy believes that constraints can drive creativity in gaming, leading to unique and enjoyable experiences. He mentions the example of Mario’s design being influenced by the limitations of graphics at the time. The resurgence of older games is driven by their playability, fun factor, and the creativity born out of these constraints.
The Future of Porting and Gaming Systems
Randy speculates that gaming systems themselves may become less relevant in the future, envisioning a common ground where players can enjoy games regardless of the manufacturer. He hopes for an industry standard that allows more people to enjoy games, similar to the accessibility of DVDs or Blu-rays. While he acknowledges the unique potential of VR and augmented reality, he believes that a commonality across systems would be more beneficial.
Nintendo’s Approach to Gaming Experience
Randy praises Nintendo for its focus on creating a polished and enjoyable gaming experience. He mentions that when he picks up a Nintendo game, he knows it will be both stylish and substantive. He cites his experience playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, highlighting its technical achievement, fun gameplay, and layers of depth.
The Future of Motion-Based Interfaces
Regarding motion-based interfaces like the Wii and Kinect, Randy believes that as technology advances and becomes more accessible, games utilizing these interfaces will become more important. He mentions the gyro and accelerometer in the Nintendo Switch as an example of how motion-based technology can enhance gameplay and puzzles.
Favorite Ports and Closing Thoughts
When asked about his favorite ports, Randy mentions The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition and the Atari 50 collection. He expresses his love for the Lucasarts games and classic titles like Centipede, Xevious, Tempest, and Zaxxon.
In conclusion, Randy’s insights shed light on the creative process of porting, the importance of game preservation, and the potential future of gaming systems. His experiences and expertise provide valuable perspectives on the gaming industry and its evolution.