Archive for February, 2006

An Interview with DahrkDaiz, Creator of Mario Adventure

Monday, February 13th, 2006

Mario AdventureJust yesterday I had the opportunity to conduct an email interview DahrkDaiz, creator of the impressive hack Mario Adventure. Mario Adventure is a completely new Mario game made from modifications to the Super Mario Bros. 3 game engine for the NES. The game was the subject of a recent piece on VC&G and has proven to be quite popular now that it has been given wider attention on our site.

Vintage Computing and Gaming: Thank you for agreeing to this interview. First off, where are you from?
DahrkDaiz: Knoxville, Tennessee

VC&G: What do you do for a living?
DD: I’m currently a student at ITT-Tech and working full time at a fast food restaurant.

VC&G: Do you aspire to be a professional game designer?
DD: I hope so one day but in reality I know game design is a tough field to crack, so I’ll continue to pursue the dream in my spare time while focusing on a realistic programming career, working for businesses to make a living.

VC&G: What’s your favorite video game? Favorite Mario game?
DD: A tie between Sonic 3 & Knuckles and SMB3. [Favorite Mario Game:] SMB3, no surprise there.

VC&G: What inspired you to make Mario Adventure?
DD: The total lack of a proper Mario sequel. I was disappointed with the Mario Advance series and I saw other people’s attempt at creating a new SMB3 experience and decided to take the matter into my own hands.

VC&G: Mario Adventure has been very popular on VC&G. It been downloaded over 11,000 times from our site in the last few days. Is there anything you’d like the players of Mario Adventure to know or keep in mind while playing?
DD: This hack was made with the hardcore SMB3 player in mind. I could practically beat the original with my eyes closed and figured it was time to up the difficulty. However, I tried to include ways to pass hard obstacles easily. Use your power-ups to their fullest abilities and you should do fine getting through the game.

Mario AdventureVC&G: What’s your favorite new feature of Mario Adventure? Also, what’s your favorite world in the game?
DD: Definitely the key collecting idea. I always liked having to back track through levels or world to get something out of the way to continue in a game. Point A to point B grows old quickly. [Favorite World:] Colossal Classics. The giant nostalgic look just has something about it that pleases me. Though I thought I could have a slightly better job with it.

VC&G: What development tools did you use to create Mario Adventure?
DD: FCEUd (emulator with an excellent debugger), YY-Chr (graphics editing), Mario 3 Improvement (archaic SMB3 level editor), Hex Workshop (hex editor).

VC&G: How long did it take you to complete Mario Adventuree?
DD: Approximately 16 months.

VC&G: Was reverse engineering the Super Mario Bros. 3 Game engine and implementing new rules, power-ups, etc. difficult? Tell us more about how you made changes to the Super Mario Bros. 3 game itself.
DD: At first it was very difficult. I slowly began to see a certain logic used behind the game. However, when reprogramming the code, I had to find unused space in the ROM, so that was pretty much hit and miss. Admittedly I did a poor job at coding it, hence all the bugs and glitches, but I did what I could with what knowledge I knew. A lot of time stepping through code and even writing code out on paper while at work during my break was required.

VC&G: Did you do all the level design in Mario Adventure yourself?
DD: Absolutely everything was done by me in this.

VC&G: Do you think Mario Adventure would work properly if somehow put on an actual hardware cartridge and played on a real NES/Famicom? Have you ever attempted this?
DD: Unfortunately, it will not. I reprogrammed the game to take advantage of a bug most emulators have, however, I did not realize at the time that it was a bug. The hack would work on a real NES, but not properly all time. The main bug being the status bar moving up over the screen at certain times.

VC&G: Have you ever heard from Nintendo about your Mario hacking exploits?
DD: Surprisingly, no.

Mario SeasonsVC&G: Have you done any previous game hacking projects? If so, tell us about them.
DD: Before Mario Adventure? No, but there were a few things I did while working on Mario Adventure and afterwards. Most of it is unknown unfinished test projects. I created a cool parallax (SNES style) background scroll in Mega Man 3 for Snake Man’s stage. I hacked Castlevania 3 to start and stay as Alucard. I completely hacked Ms. Pac-Man to have 32 unique levels, a mode to play levels at random and a pellet counter. This hack is known as Pac-Man 3 and will be available on my site once it relaunches.

VC&G: What can you tell us about your next hacking project? When will it be ready?
DD: I can tell you now the next big project is another SMB3 hack. Most people may sigh at this, but I took a different approach with this hack and differs from Mario Adventure. The scale is that, if not more than Mario Adventure. It makes Luigi and Mario be separate characters with each having special powers of their own for different gameplay, including Luigi’s floaty jump and slippery control and a new item box for Mario found in Mario Adventure. Each character has their own separate 8 worlds to play through, so this is literally two hacks in one. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.

VC&G: Is there anything else that you’d like our readers to know?
DD: Mario Adventure is a real gem, but I’ve listened to a lot of good and bad feedback on it and this new project I’m working on addresses those issues. But I like to thank everyone who’s played this hack and given so much praise for it. It’s really inspired me to take game development as a serious career.

Retro Scan of the Week: “The Next Step in Nintendo Entertainment!”

Monday, February 13th, 2006

This 8.5″x11″ fold-out flier probably came with a Game Boy game, circa 1990 (My brother bought Ishido back then, which is on the flier, so that’s probably it). The Dominator controller looks pretty mean, doesn’t it? I saw one of those only once in person, at a local Hamfest. I would have bought it, but it was beat up pretty badly and covered with 10 years’ worth of kiddie-grunge. The Dominator had the unique ability to turn all NES controllers into “wireless” controllers — you could plug them into the sides of the stick and the Dominator’s infra-red link with the NES (courtesy of a special IR receiver) would do the rest. Anybody have one? I’ll buy it from ya.

Contributing Writers to Vintage Computing and Gaming Wanted

Saturday, February 11th, 2006

This is just a quick note that I’ll probably expand later, but I’m currently looking for writers who might like to contribute articles to this “blogazine,” Vintage Computing and Gaming. If you have a passion for old computers or video games and like to write, then you’d be a great candidate. Of course, it’s not a paying job…I don’t get paid and I run the place. It’s a labor of love — for enthusiasts, by enthusiasts. If you have any unique ideas or insights about computers or gaming (especially the vintage kind) that you’ve always wanted to share with the world, now’s your chance. If you’re interested, email me and we’ll talk. Thanks!

Mario Adventure: The Best NES Game Hack of All Time

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

Mario AdventureIn a way, I think we all thirst for a new 2D side scrolling Mario adventure. It’s some sort of basic human need, along with eating, sleeping and reproduction. Why, just last week I was about to keel over for want of Mario when, at the last minute, I found the greatest NES game hack of all time, Mario Adventure. But this isn’t your usual game hack, mind you. You’ll find no giant buttocks glued onto Mario’s forehead, no nude Mushroom Retainers, no Super Tokin’ Brothers with Luigi replaced by a white Rastafarian with a cannabis leaf for a hat. Nope, this is a real game — a new game, crafted with care and aplomb using the Super Mario Bros. 3 game engine. Who executed this masterful feat? Look no further than intrepid homebrew coder “DahrkDaiz,” who completed the game over the course of sixteen months, sometimes coding on paper during his breaks while working at a fast food restaurant (check out our interview with Mario Adventure’s creator here). Now that’s what I call dedication. This man deserves serious recognition for the creation of this masterpiece.

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Retro Scan of the Week: “Presenting The IBM of Personal Computers”

Monday, February 6th, 2006
Presenting the IBM of Personal Computers.

A vintage IBM PC Ad from Time Magazine (October 26th, 1981). I am always surprised at how much verbiage magazine advertisements used to contain. If you look back in magazines from the 1960s to the early 80s, most of the ads have lots of text, expecting you to stop and read all their sales jive. Now I guess people are too impatient, so if an ad doesn’t poke us in the eye immediately, we pass it over. Words make Grog head hurt!

Deadly Towers Tool-Assisted Time Attack Video

Thursday, February 2nd, 2006

Deadly TowersThis is sort of a follow up to my last feature on Deadly Towers. I stumbled upon this speed run video (78 mb, requires Xvid codec) of a guy beating said game in 18 minutes and 46 seconds on the site NES Videos (scroll down to Deadly Towers on that page). NES Videos is a cool archive of tool-assisted console game movies. What are tool-assisted game movies, you ask? Well, they are attempts to find the quickest possible way to complete a game, but they use emulator save states to achieve as perfect as possible a performance, and clever video editing to present a seamless viewing experience (making it appear that the entire run was done in one sitting). Ideally, I suppose the time-attack competitors that make these movies are looking for the theoretical “best” or “fastest” way to complete a given video game, sometimes with different constraints. They’re lots of fun to watch, so check out some more on the NES Videos site.

Anyway, as I mentioned before, all the dungeons that Ben Johnson mapped (presented in our last article) are completely superfluous to successful Deadly Towers completion. And as a great illustration of this fact, the player in the video doesn’t enter any one of them at all. This video makes it look like DT is way easier than it is. But give it a play yourself and get frustrated / mystified like the rest of us. 🙂