Can you make a new game that looks and feels retro? Justin Bender, a guitar player for the bands Third Ion and Sorceress, thought he could. The 38-year old received a Nintendo in 1989 and thus developed a passion for video games. In the last few years, he started to tinker with creating his own game. His first brainchild, “Xero Hour,” is now available as a mobile app for Android and iOS.
Past and present have a way of intertwining and sometimes exchanging roles, when gaming is involved. Technology helps to erase time barriers. See what is happening with the World Series Of Poker, which has just celebrated its 50 years of life: its roots are in a decidedly retro gangsters story, but in 2021 it will live on the Internet and survive the pandemics online. You can grab a WSOP promo code and make the most of this unusual season, even if the live events are off.
With your other hand, you can download Bender’s “Xero Hour” and get addicted to this most classic two-dimensional action platformer. The game is free to play and recreates for you the style of eight-bit retro games from the era of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Doctor Xero is an alien who has crash-landed on a hostile planet. His task is to collect minerals to create parts for his spaceship while fighting enemies and avoiding obstacles.
Justin is a Canadian artist living in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. His different passions have been pushing and pulling him in different directions, he says. So Doctor Xero had to wait several years to see the light while his “father” was busy performing as a guitarist for progressive metal bands, such as Into Eternity and Third Ion. Bender is also the owner and head audio engineer at Divergent Sounds, his audio production and sound engineering home business.
The soundtrack for Xero Hour is a remix from Third Ion’s songs, with each track converted into an eight-bit format. The game’s main character is inspired by a mascot that the band developed for its album covers. The controls are simple, to make the game easy to play on mobile devices. Despite its simplicity, Xero Hour offers a lot of space for exploration. “It’s been really well-received and that’s just all I can ask for. People have been pretty stoked about it,” the author said. And judging by the swathe of five stars and enthusiastic comments on the Play Store, Justin did create a little gem.
One interesting consequence of this little adventure is that the musician-turned-developer has discovered the value of sharing. He now recommends joining Regina GameDev on the Discord server or its social media pages to anyone interested in creating video games and looking for support.
While making his game, Justin realized that people should share their work in the early phases to acquire feedback. His mistake was to avoid sharing in the beginning. In the music world, musicians don’t share their work until it’s finished, he confessed. “Don’t be like me. Do what I’ve heard everybody else say: share your work (and) get feedback,” is Bender’s lesson-learned. “People aren’t out there to steal your ideas.”
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