Monday, 22 August 2011

An Interview with Dan Fornace (Super Smash Land)


The Super Smash Bros. series has long held high spots in my favourite games of all time chart. The chance to fight alongside friends as a host of memorable Nintendo characters, for me, it is a game that never grows old.

I was pleased to find out that Dan Fornace, an upcoming games maker, has created his own version of this classic series. Entitled Super Smash Land, Dan adopts the Game Boy graphics and creates a retro spin on the classic Nintendo tunes that feature in Smash Bros. 

Dan has just finished a trailer to promote the game, and I am pleased to announce that the game has been completed and is ready for download. More information can be found at the Super Smash Land site

To mark the completion of Super Smash Land, I chatted with Dan Fornace about his game, his favourite games and more. 

Q. Welcome Dan! Could you briefly introduce yourself to my audience?

A: Hi fans of all things 8-bit and retro! I'm Dan Fornace, a recent graduate from Drexel Univeristy in Digital Media and an indie developer in my free time. At school, I learned skills like web design, 3d animation, flash and unity. However it was the projects that I created in my own time that would always hold my attention the longest. Since a young age, I've spent many hours on the internet researching different game creation tools and learning the tricks of the trade such as pixel art, Game Maker and more recently HTML5 and Javascript.
Q. You've made a variety of games, such as Elementimals on the iPod/iPhone, and your Super Smash Bros demake, Super Smash Land. How did your ideas come about?

A: Elementimals evolved out of a school project. I had 10 weeks to make an HTML5 iPhone game and I had always loved Final Fantasy VIII's card game and had been itching to do my own version. I ended up going with it because it had been in my head so long. Its a lot like picking a song for a video you are editing. Once you have a song in mind then you can't really envision it any other way. I had a card game in mind so I didn't have other ideas floating around that week. 

Smash Land is easy. My favorite game is Super Smash Bros. for the N64. Since first playing it, I have made many attempts at my own take on it. It dates back to middle school creating levels in Jazz Jackrabbit 2 (Bonus points if you know this series!) Once I found Game Maker, I went through many awful, terrible clones trying to create my own Smash Engine. Of course my first attempt had all sprites found online (think Super Smash Flash) and wonky controls. This is where many fans would stop, but as I was getting older (into High School) my time and interest designing and creating art took over my time playing games. Later I created a game with more consistent characters (editing Dragon Ball Gameboy sprites) into a Lord of the Rings Smash Bros that I created entitled The Lord of the Smash! (creative i know!) Next came my own take on the series, Smash Bots, which I am proud to say had all original graphics and design, but still has not got too far. Smash Bots is my dream game - a fully customizable Smash experience where single player and multiplayer are one in the same. (You can find some early tests on youtube these days) However, once I realized that Smash Bots would be not be possible as a hobby project along with school, I moved to Smash Land.

Q. What made you decide to remake Super Smash Bros. with a Game Boy style?

A: Well first I made a simple mock-up inspired by an old pixellation contest where they made gameboy style mockups. I really did love the look of it, but I was just starting my senior year of college and didn't want a new game project. But then I really thought about it. I looked at 4 colors, the small sprites (20x20 or less) and the limited buttons. I thought, hey... I might actually have time to make this! So i started with Mario and kinda just went from there. I was really lucky to be in college at the time because my buddies and I would always play it versus each other in the labs. When Kirby was added he was totally overpowered! Smash Land was also a chance to make my own movesets for a Smash series while still attracting people to what they love about smash.
Dan emailed me a screen from his original mock-up, as detailed above.
Q. Have you got any helpful advice for anyone thinking of making a demake?

A: Yes! Learn Game Maker, Flash, or whatever tools you think you want to use. Then jump right in and try to make a really simple version of the game you want to make. Don't worry about graphics just yet. Rip them for now if you want. Just make it, have it playable. Show your friends. Then trash it. It probably sucks. You need to start over. Your code is too repetitive. It's messy, you never commented. It's impossible to add new features without changing everything. Do it again. Rip sprites again if you want. Start editing them into closer to what you need. 


Get your engine a bit cleaner. Then work on a few small projects in your code of choice(GM, Flash etc). Enter a competition or something. Make space invaders. Read some books/blogs on game design. Anything that is not your dream demake. Then trash your second game! It STILL sucks! That's okay. Now you know pixel art. Start making those sprites. You know what you'll need this time around and what you won't. Start your new engine. Hopefully it won't suck. And then you can start telling the internet how your NES Uncharted is the best shit ever! But really, my best advice is don't be afraid to let your shitty code or shitty graphics go. I am not the best programmer, but I do eventually get the computer to do what I want through trial and error.
Q. Could you recommend a game or two that my readers should play?



A: Hmmm... Yes! I have 2 games that I tell everyone to try recently. The first is Tower of Heaven, which actually plays a big role in Super Smash Land. Tower of Heaven is originally a Game Maker game created by askiisoft with amazing songs by flashygoodness. The game inspired Smash Land because it is what first attracted me to the Gameboy style. I even have a Tower of Heaven stage in the game and have been working with flashygoodness recently because he is a tremendous artist! Tower of Heaven is a short game that is tons of fun. You can play a flash version on newgrounds nowadays.

My other favourite game is also a Game Maker game-Super Crate Box. It is amazing. Great pixel art, and very, very addictive gameplay. I played it pretty often when starting out on Smash Land. And I knew I was going in the right direction when I had a moment or two that my game felt smooth like SCB. Super Crate Box just feels right. It's our generations solitaire!

Q. And finally, is there anything new in the pipeline for yourself?

A: Yes, something new and different! I just graduated a few months ago from Drexel, and the past few years I've been hanging around the indie scene a bit working on my hobby projects. But now I am proud to say that in a week, I will be starting at an AAA Game Company working as a Game Designer. This means for a few months I probably won't be on the interwebs as much, but I am very excited to learn how the big dogs work! I have a few small game ideas in my head if I do have spare time. I also have a feeling that I am not yet done with the indie scene. Hopefully you'll be seeing more from me over the years!


Super Smash Land Trailer:


Dan Fornace was also interviewed on App Kingdom & Retro Kingdom. Please check them out!


8-Bit Girl: Thank you very much for taking part in the interview Dan, and all the best in your new Game Designer role! 

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