Interview: Gelatinous co-creator Steven Long talks upcoming Game Boy game

Gelatinous: Humanity Lost

Last time we checked, the calendar said 2021. Still, Nintendo Game Boy is all the rage these days with new games like Gelatinous: Humanity Lost.

We’ve covered several examples of modern Game Boy and Game Boy Color games from indie developers. Genesis is a new bullet-hell shmup for Game Boy. Meanwhile, an unfinished Game Boy Color game is getting a second life.

So when we heard about Gelatinous: Humanity Lost, we wanted to reach out to the game’s co-creator, Steven Long to learn more about this upcoming physical release on the original Game Boy.

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Tell us about Gelatinous. What is it and why should gamers be interested?

Honestly, Gelatinous is just a good ol’ fashioned platformer like you might have played in the early ’90s. I’ve tried to keep the look and feel as true to the classics as possible but with some new mechanics thanks to Roo (John Roo, developer for Gelatinous and Quest Arrest and generally awesome guy), which will be handy because the game is also quite challenging.

Besides that, I’m doing my best with the graphics to create really unique environments for the player to explore. At its core, Gelatinous is an exploration game. Each area is different, but they’re all connected and can be explored more than once. It’s sort of a Metroidvania lite, I guess.

We’re really excited about Gelatinous and I think that excitement will be evident when you play the game. I hope retro fans love this project as much as we do.

How did you come up with the idea for Gelatinous?

Haha, funny story. I was working on a pretty cool sprite for our protagonist: a young badass with a ball cap. But he was, I think, 24 pixels tall and 16 pixels wide. John asked if I could make him a 16 pixel square with a 16 pixels square hitbox. I was like…um, no? What do you want me to just make him into a blob?

And that’s exactly what I ended up doing. The whole game was built around the fact the protagonist is a blob. We ran with that theme and I’m so glad we did!

How do you plan to run the project on Kickstarter?

We’re planning to have the game at least 95% done before we even launch the Kickstarter. As of now, I’d say Gelatinous is about 92.5% done. We’re targeting a launch date in late September or October and trying to build an audience ahead of that.

Think of it like this: We’re using Kickstarter as a way to take preorders and fund the actual manufacturing and shipping process. That’s it. Building the game is a labor of love, and it’s just about finished. But putting it into players’ hands costs actual money. So that’s where Kickstarter comes in.

But before we even launch the Kickstarter, the game will be completely playable from beginning to end. Even right now we have a complete prototype with sounds and really great music. We’re just fine-tuning the last bits of the game.

What was your first experience with video games?

When I was a kid, my family would go to Dairy Queen on special occasions. I must have been about 4 years old. They had a single arcade cabinet with Super Mario Bros.

I remember my whole family gathering around that bad boy, slurping ice cream and poking that machine like a pack of cavemen seeing modern technology for the first time. 

We put in a quarter and started puzzling through what the buttons did, what the power-ups did, freaking out every time we encountered a new enemy. It was surreal. And after a lot of play sessions, I accidentally discovered you could drop down those green pipes into a whole underworld. It was mind-blowing! I felt like a hero.

Is Game Boy your favorite handheld?

My favorite handheld is probably the 3DS. Lots of great games on that system with good controls and great graphics. But in terms of sheer charm and nostalgia, nothing beats the original gray Game Boy brick.

Could you tell us how you first got into game development?

I should definitely mention that all actual development credit belongs to John Roo. He does all the backend stuff and I’m doing art, level design, and directing. But this whole thing started with some pixel art I posted on Twitter. I’ve been doodling and goofing around for years, but I had only just started dabbling in pixel art. 

I did a series of adventure-game-inspired environments and one of them was this provocative skyline view of a jungle with mysterious ruins peeking above the treeline. (See image below.) I made it using the Game Boy color palette.

Roo had just released Quest Arrest for Game Boy. I guess my Game Boy art caught his eye. He contacted me to see if I’d be interested in making a game together.

I said no at first, knowing the commitment that would entail. But I changed my mind pretty quick.

What does Milo think about you developing video games?

Milo is a bigger game fan than me. And creating Gelatinous may be the coolest thing I’ve done, as far as he’s concerned. He joins me sometimes when I’m mapping out levels and has even tried his hand at making his own. He loves Mario Maker and is really good at making cohesive levels. He’s about to turn six, so there’s no telling what he’ll be creating over the years.

He’s also my main playtester and will play the Gelatinous prototype for hours on end. Of course, he’s raging for most of that time. It’s a fairly tough game!

Here’s a post featuring Milo “helping” me design a level:

Do you have other projects in the works?

Nothing official right now. I’ve been playing around with NESMaker and we’re tentatively targeting the NES for our next release. It’ll probably be an original title. After that, if Gelatinous does well, we’d be very interested in making a Gelatinous 2 or Super Gelatinous or… and this is a long shot… Gelatinous 64

I’m also closely watching this Virtual Boy development kit that is nearing release. I think developing for Virtual Boy would be awesome and a game like Gelatinous would be perfect for that format.

Roo and I are having a lot of fun making games and plan to continue our partnership for the foreseeable future. I think Gelatinous is just the beginning. Stay tuned!

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