PROJECT BLUE december update

Stuff is really getting really into place! Most assets have been done by now – my graphics and donnys’ music. There’s a fair bit of level design, wrapping-up and programming tidbits left to do but we’re getting closer to feeling really confident about launching this game as a kickstarter campaign with the promise of a very short delivery cycle. Basically, we wanted the game to be fully playable (& enjoyable) before launching it so backers could feel confident, and so that you can have the physical cartridge in your hands quickly after backing. Also we don’t feel like sitting on a pile of other peoples’ money without having a product that’s already solid and shippable. But the campaign is supposed to go live in the first quarter of 2019! Hoping to announce a more set date soon. Anyway, here’s a few game content WIP shapshots i’ve been meaning to show off.

Here is some work being done to the later levels in the game. You there’s no traps,  enemies or other objects on these screenshots, but they’ll be there for you for sure. 🙂


Security desk and HQ lounge


Ride the streams in the underground sewer system… guck!




Catch your breath and get a look at the city centre from the HQ rooftop.


A labyrinthine section of the slummy ruins of neo hong kong. 

Some few animation guides for various objects in the game:



Saving the biggest part for last. Textile artist Per Fhager did this amazing cushion stitch in wool, 36 x 31cm, depicting a scene from level 1 as presented in an interim build of the game between the nesdev compo entry and where we are now. The meticulous stitching is just breathtaking to me. Fhager is mostly known from doing large-format scenes of some of his personally memorable moments from games of  the 80:s and 90:s. Some of them are done as-presented ingame, while others have been stripped from foreground layers and sprites to show off the nice but often hidden qualities of some of these games’ background art. Be sure to check out some of his works here.




HUD for Halcyon

For the scifi themed vehicular/planetary exploration game i’m working on with Nathan Tolbert, i started sketching a HUD. It’ll be wholly sprite layer based, except for any text boxes.

To the left is the first draft, and to the right is something close to what i want to be in the game. It exploits the fact that at least three of the sprite palettes are fixed during action oriented gameplay – since i know what the colours will be, i can use them to a colourful advantage even in the HUD, which usually tends to get a bit monochromatic otherwise in many NES games.  I’m especially happy with the flourescent effect on the ”piechart” gauge. It is making good use of the NES:s Horizontal and vertical sprite flip features, which minimizes the need for too many unique sprites, though unfortunately the machine can’t do sprite rotations, so it’s not quite as resource effective as it would’ve been on later consoles (and on those, you didn’t really need to be this resource effective).


For the font for text notices and such, i was looking for a rounded sci fi look that’d help the game gain its own identity compared to the historical nes library, but it’s still big mono-spaced, mono-coloured letters.



Next up is a long delayed update on Project Blue.





Project Blue goes Textile!

Here’s a sneak peek of a pretty special Work In Progress…


Per Fhager, textile artist, interpreting Project Blue!

Someone who’s making an art form out of taking his game related childhood memories and turning them into finely crafted, large scale needleworks is Per Fhager, whose work i first saw as at the textile museum in Borås, where i was freelancing at the time.

So when he agreed to needlepoint a scene from Project Blue of his choosing, i naturally felt both starstruck and privileged. His work is at this point not only fondly chronicling the history of 80s and 90s gaming, but also the still-going effort to keep these old consoles alive with new titles.

Textile arts, crafts, and methods of production on one hand,  and retro computer art and graphics on the other, has a lot in common, when it comes to techniques, limitations, and expressions. How an industrial weaving machine is producing its pattern is eerily similar to how background graphics work in old computers like the atari 2600, NES and c64, making use of patterns and palettes (or interchangeable sets of spools) and line-for-line drawing/weaving, and it’s perhaps not as surprising when you think about the textile industry being the first significant broad scale application for programming. Once you zoom in, you will also notice similarities in how a raster of threads or pixels can  create the illusion of a bigger, more coherent picture, using very similar techniques. Patterns for text and needlepoint and early raster fonts share a striking similarity.

When i held a workshop for kids in designing retro graphics and game concept, a lot of older folks asked where they could download shiru’s NES Screen Tool – they wanted to use it to sketch and share needlework patterns.


Next generation game designers? Photo taken for online publication with guardians’ permission


2001: A time odyssey

This particular song has been almost 17 years in the making. When i was about half my current age and still a teenager, i wrote a couple of songs on spanish guitar (with terrible playing technique) that were heavily inspired by how the castlevania franchise (especially earlier entries, and besides not too many were out back then) fused classical tensions and flavour with modern rock/blues sensibilities. I had noone interested in that type of sound to collaborate with in a band, so the songs got nowhere. Since they do me no good in the back of my head, i just recently elected to rearrange them for the NES. So in a way they’ve come full circle back to the musical medium that inspired me. Naturally, they’re for the gothic platformer project. This way, i’ve accidentally managed to expand the projects’ history retroactively from 2 to 19 years and going, haha.

The first rearrangement just got where i want it, so here it is.

As before, feel free to chime in with thematic associations and critique.

Edit: Replaced the old upload with a newer version which made a few things a bit clearer.

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