Project Blue: the wastelads of neo hong kong

This month and the previous have been slow going, NESdev-wise. But here’s an almost finished concept for the ”dystopian wasteland of neo hong kong” that Project Blue is set in.


Level 2 concept. Subject to change. Click to view full size.

Far background tricks
Due to the screen-flicking mode of camera movement (as opposed to scrolling), you’re afforded a bit of leeway when it comes to positioning the far background as you see fit – as long as the next screen hide the discontinuation (which is the function of the lower right quarter). Another trick (not shown here, but i aim to return to showcase it) is how you can achieve a sense of elevation by reusing the same piece of far background set at different heights on screens following each other vertically. That’s what the far background in the upper right corner is for.

The creative process behind it
This scenery follows the creation formula i wrote in the article ”making worlds alien” somewhat. First off, the history was first imagined before i went on to draw the blocks. Note that the following is just part of the process and not necessarily the story the game will officially adopt as-is, but we’ve worked out the boiler plate nonetheless. Basically, the fictional city of neo-hong kong is loosely based on an extrapolated subset of features of real-world current mega-cities; among them of course also the original Hong Kong. In this fiction, the quick growth of economy and population combined with a difficult terrain to zone/exploit (lots of mountains  on a peninsula) leads to high rents, cramped living spaces, and informally converted offices turned into black market squats (cubicle homes), sometimes even in unfinished or disused projects. There’s just no room for unexploited real estate. Because of the illegal status and sub optimal living standards, OMNICORP, who in this cyberpunk fiction is an entity already extremely influential in official policies, maybe even acting as a parastate, were at some point in the future able to dezone this particular area for their highly  lucrative military/security research complex. I imagine most squatters were forced into terrible sweatshop contracts moving into OMNICORP owned coffin hotels elsewhere. There are still dwellers living in this institutionalized drone-warzone, however they’re essentially guinea pigs for post-genève experiments. Adopting the mentality pf rodents to survive, they quickly scurry underground or into crawlspaces whenever they hear the hum of a hoverbot. At the event of Blue’s escape from the lab, this zone is now bustling with automated security detail. Because of the hot weather, there’s a lot of makeshift electrical installations for fans.

I tried to make the tileset reflect on the disuse, military testing, and squats. You’ll find DIY electrical installations, makeshift plank bridges, and crawlspaces. The level is intended to have the thematic structure of a series of ruined office buildings, with varyingly wide gaps between them. This to present as many opportunities as possible to make use of it’s slightly aerial-themed new mechanisms: there’s fans, parashutes, rotor blade-carried sentries, and moving platforms(tm).

Things still missing:
Some mechanisms aren’t drawn yet. Instead of the lasers from the first level, we’re looking to have little electric zaps from faulty wires, and sharp rebar spikes instead of the slime pools. Both these give material reason for more liberal placement, opening up the possibility for some new puzzles.

Three intentionally de-titled tracks



(Picture not descriptive of any of the tracks, either).

So, here’s track 16, 9, and 8 from the gothic platformer project as they currently are. They loop once before fading out. All are intended for levels.  I’ve chosen not to disclose working titles to free them of pretext. If anyone is taking the time to listen to them, i’m eager to hear what your associations are regarding theme, locale and setting to see if they match my intentions.

Below is a form to let me know directly what you think of each song. If you take the time to fill it out, i’m obliged! Many thanks.

Isometry should lend itself well to horror…

I’m happy and proud to say that i’ve started working with Orab Games on something that should be a bit of a rare bird to the NES library in two regards: A survival horror game… in isometric view!

You’ll explore the nooks and crannies of an institution for the criminally insane, uncovering bad things they’d rather keep away from public awareness.

Here’s a WIP preview of a few patient rooms. patient2_variant2b200patient1_new200

There are more or less a coat of paint over Tims’ original in-game graphics:

Demo of Project Blue RELEASED!

Finally i can proudly say that a demo  is out in the wild!

Download it today from the top of this forum post!

Thank you for playing!


Quick Facts
Title – Project Blue (NesDev Compo Edition)
By – Toggle Switch & Frankengraphics
Developed – 2017 (and ongoing)
Number of players – 1
Number of bosses – 2
Total level size counted in screens – 64

In the dystopian wasteland
of Neo Hong Kong, help Blue
escape from the evil
clutches of the Omnicorp

Avoid robots, lasers, pools
of toxic waste, and more as
you fight your way out of a
research facility and exact
revenge upon your captors.

A to jump
B to fire projectiles

Ladders can be climbed, latched onto, and dropped from.

Programming – Toggle Switch
Music – Toggle Switch & Frankengraphics
Level Design – Toggle Switch & Frankengraphics
Graphics: Frankengraphics


Here’s a little time-glimpse of some of my recent work.

Like a piece of wood to carve, or musical tune to write, everything you do is quite shite on your first go at it. And i don’t mean it like the first time you try something, but rather – regardless how many times you’ve done something – the first draft often looks disappointing and discouraging to your eyes. At least it does for me. The trick (which i learned way too late in life) is to not stop there. Continue carving. I like to think that each good song written started out as something banal or broken A clumsy tune piano keys, and worked from there into something interesting. Quality takes labour. Just sometimes you can get away with less, but for yourself, you know. Satisfaction comes first after you’ve tried, failed, and returned to try again. Before i continue sounding like an inspirational quote machine, here’s what i mean:

I had this giant/were-rat design which i was pretty satisfied with. It just needed to be able to jump & run.


First draft at a different pose:


I can’t decide if it’s sniffing the air, is dead or needs to pee

At 1-10% of your work: YUCK. Typically when i draw tiles for NES, something this icky always comes along first. Then it’s just a matter of chipping away, making better outlines, poses, masses, directions. But it starts with something simple – putting a few pixels in place. Doesn’t matter what it looks like, just put something there to improve on.


Second & 3rd draft:


It’s alive! …but, ugh. no.

Finally got all the tilework in place which is about 50% of the work, but the drafted animation is off:

The rat is stiff like and it looks a bit like it is jumping in its place. The timed duration of the cels were all over the place to compensate for the lack of proper tile placement and pixel pushing, and even then (or perhaps because of, it’s jittery.



75%: A movement to suggest a push

Sure, NES graphics _are_ jittery most of the time and thing would work well in most games. But it’s for an RPG so i’d really like to bring out the most of it. Let’s continue:



Fourth draft:


90%: Almost there

90%: A lot smoother, and to think – it is using one less tile than the 2nd draft. I’t all about placement and timing. It meant a near tripling of animation data, but it runs at a smooth 30fps over 11 cels & a consistent 2 frames per cel. Thinking of the spine and tail as a whipping chain; set in motion by two sets of pistons in the form of the rats’ legs. Once the body got fluid, the tails’ jitteryness really got noticable. We can’t have that.
Fifth draft:


99% – because nothing is ever done.

Done? I think so.. we’ll see tomorrow with fresh eyes. Just wanted to show how something you eventually can be satisfied with often starts its life as an abomination.

How about CIB:s?

I’m having this little auction over at Nintendo Age where a few cartridges with concept art i’ve made are given to the three highest bidders. I thought i might go the extra mile and at the same time brush up some format ”skills” i haven’t used in a long while. test

PROJECT BLUE coming for the NES

Good news:

We’re announcing Project Blue (a joint effort between me and Toggle Switch), a game that will enter this years’ NES dev competition which ends in January, 2018.


Help Blue through up to 64 screens of high-tech action platforming and measure your skills against combinations of a dozen or so different enemies, a big bad boss, and various traps and obstacles.

Disclaimer: What you see here is still subject to some changes

The in-game end result will look something roughly between this…
(the game in its actual current state)

and this…

(early concept screen not taking into account all the software priorities made both before and since).

Maybe the coolest thing, although it stays out of the compo itself, is the custom level editor application that toggle switch did, with which one can design levels for Project Blue without needing to know the first thing about assembly, or programming in general. I’m personally amazed that he made a tool that will let gamers modify this coming NES game relatively easily.

What’s up next?
The plan after the compo is finished is to expand this game to make it larger, to justify a commercial standalone release on a physical cartridge.

Who wants a gothic action platformer for the NES?


Just something i started working on in advance the other month. In advance, because we still have an unannounced game to finish before this can get serious.

On the other hand, not being too deep into the production yet allows for another type of creative flow. These make ample use of unique characters/tiles and the cartridge hardware will just have to comply (ie have a rather big prg-rom). For example, the parallax effect in the second screen requires x8 as many tiles as normal for the treeline background. Thankfully, the cost of a 512kB prg-rom NES cartridge is close to that of one with less. Program size is not even the most significant cost factor, up to that point.