1. Press Start



Press Start — Hotline Miami Collection and Video Game Origin Stories


Smitty and Erik join Producer Dan to kick off the podcast (and quarantine!) by talking about their video game origin stories and the Hotline Miami.

Games You Deserve is a weekly podcast from Special Reserve Games that celebrates the digital art of video games. Join us for gaming industry interviews, insider perspectives, and interactive content. Production by Dan Vadeboncoeur. Music by Jesse Hamel. New episodes drop Sundays at 9:00 a.m. CST.

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Erik: I'm Erik, and this week on Games You Deserve, we talk about Coronavirus and how it's affecting the games industry. Plus...

Smitty: I'm Smitty, and we'll be taking a deep dive into our video game roots. Plus...

Dan: I'm Dan. Join us as we take a trip to Miami with the Game of the Week.




Smitty: I've actually been in the video game business for a couple decades. My first publisher was pretty well known back in the mid-90s. We were making games for Mac and porting them to PC. This was well before consoles were really even a thing. I'm not talking about Atari 5200s or anything, we're talking about Sega Dreamcast. That was coming out during, I don't know, probably the beginning of my career in the video game business. I think we'll be able to talk some old man references, some current gaming, things that, I don't know, unless... We're all over 20 here. 

Erik: Well let's not give that away this early. Let's not give that away this early.

Smitty: There's not going to be any Generation Z talk here. 

Dan: Well I've got kids, so I can speak to my kids’ experience with video games as well. It certainly has evolved over the last 40 years or so.

Erik: Well to be fair, I think all of us do, and I think we've all got that type of experience, which is really great. Before we move too far forward, I just want to say that I've heard of video games. I know what they are.

Dan: That's good.

Erik: I've pretty much put hands on nearly every single video game system that's ever existed as a big collector. One point in my collecting history, I had over 40 different systems in hand.

Dan: Wow.

Erik: Not at the same time. I wasn't holding them all at once, but they were all in my house at the same time.

Dan: We’ll get into the collecting in a different episode I think, but what was the... these are all games you played or you had them to display or how'd that work?

Erik: I had them all for all the reasons.

Dan: Okay.

Erik: I loved to play them, hook them up, check them out, try different games on them. I have definitely had my favorites and some not-so-favorites. I couldn't even tell you how many actual games, over time, that I've owned. At one point, and this sounds like something we should also explore at some point, and I'm sure we will, I liquidated and went into whole a different realm of gaming and I built myself an arcade cabinet that I designed. And I think that there's a ton of people with arcade love too that we should definitely talk about at some point.

Dan: Yes.

Erik: I think that comes in so many people's histories with the arcade. But really the point of me saying all of that was to show that I have this deep, deep, deep love for video games and I feel like when I look over the room that I've probably passed that on to somebody else here. I've got a little one who's sitting on a couch right now, and I think he's playing Sonic Mania on his Switch which is great. This is something that means a lot to me. The digital preservation aspect, the gaming aspect, pretty much all aspects of it. So much so that I started doing things like this, like creating podcasts and I run a number of communities surrounding this. Really trying to bring everyone closer together and bring the industry and fans closer together, which is actually how Smitty and I met.

Smitty: Mm-hmm.

Erik: And I'm sure he deeply regrets that.

Smitty: It's a virtual relationship.

Erik: Well, we've got to maintain social distancing.

Dan: Nice segue. Speaking of which, it's something we're going to get into — probably a new segment most episodes, where we start the episode by talking about something that's happening in the world. And there's only really one thing happening in the world today and that is the Covid-19 outbreak or pandemic or whatever you want to call it. We are all stuck at home right now, basically, podcasting from home, but also working from home, I think. Are you guys working from home?

Smitty: Oh yeah.

Dan: Okay.

Erik: I literally, today was my last... As I'm recording this, today is my last day having to go into the office for a while. Starting tomorrow I will be working from home. What a crazy scenario.

Dan: It's really unprecedented. I've never experienced anything like this and I believe nobody has, really.

Smitty: No.

Erik: Well I have to tell you that I am hating this sequel. Covid-19 is the worst sequel ever. I think the whole franchise jumped the shark after Covid-3.

Smitty: Absolutely.

Erik: I do think one of the worst parts about this though is that there are these events that are being canceled.

Smitty: Oh my Gosh.

Erik: Things like... I'll just put it on the table. The biggest one is obviously E3. That has such an impact every year on the fan’s side. We know what E3… you and I have been at similar events here. We've been to the same E3 for a long time. And we know that's changed over time, but from a fan standpoint, everybody knows every year when that's going to happen. And then GDC.

Smitty: And I was going to say, from an industry standpoint, GDC is much more of a business show and of course there are multiple GDCs, but the GDC in San Francisco is the OG one and that's the one… when it gets canceled… And a bunch of our friends got hung on the hook with airline flights and hotels they couldn't cancel because GDC was not canceled, it was postponed.

Erik: And it was last moment too. This wasn't something that anyone saw coming. At least E3 had some time in front of it. That doesn't happen until June.

Smitty: And then… I'm in Texas and I gotta mention the good old SXSW.

Erik: Yup. Got an axe into that.

Smitty: That is… God. And that was canceled by the municipality. The City of Austin canceled that. And so then you've got the promoters, the poor promoters there, that are then forced to look at their own cancellation policy and they have to look at everybody that bought badges. Some of them are $1,000, $1,500 badges. And say, "Sorry man. No refunds, because you can clearly see on our refund policy it states no refunds." They didn't cancel the event. The city canceled the event. So it's quote, 'Act of God' almost. But let's bring it back to games. What did we have? Didn't we have, what'd they say, 20 million concurrent Steam connections? How many concurrent Steam connections?

Erik: We're seeing some record numbers across the board. It's not just something like Steam. GOG is having all kinds of users just jumping on. Nintendo had an outage with their online service.

Smitty: We had a problem with Discord because...

Erik: Oh, a massive outage.

Smitty: Just a massive outage with Discord just a couple days ago.

Erik: Everybody's home. They want to play. They want to do stuff online because they can't go outside. They can't be with their friends so they're going to jump on and play games, right?

Smitty: And communicate. That's the other thing.

Erik: Mm-hmm.

Smitty: It's one thing that people are failing to understand. Say I have an uncle or somebody that doesn't understand video games and they’re like, "Kids are all in their momma's basement playing games." Well, I bet you they're connected to about 100 people through those headphones over the course of that night. They may never actually know their name or whatever, but they're not alone sometimes.

Erik: No. They're sharing a story.

Smitty: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It really is. It's a theater of the mind in a lot of ways. The way that we communicate now through Discord. Because even how we're sitting here talking, we can't see each other. We certainly sound like we're in the same room with each other though, and it's very strange.

Erik: I just wish that you would put some pants on.

Dan: Can you hear that? You can hear that he doesn't have pants on?

Smitty: Yeah, yeah. I'm not even going to start.



Smitty: I went to Overland Trail Arcade in Enid, Oklahoma which was conveniently located right across the street from Putt-Putt. Did anyone have a Putt-Putt? Those little outdoor putting green things. And that Putt-Putt also had a little arcade inside of it.

Erik: Oh yeah.

Smitty: And a robot that delivered pizza.

Dan: Oh I had one of those.

Smitty: The robot was controlled by a dude.

Dan: I loved that thing. Yup. It's a guy with a remote control in the back of the kitchen.

Erik: I wish I had one of those. We never had one of those.

Dan: Yeah. It's pretty cool.

Smitty: Yeah. You had to have some rich oil people in your town.

Erik: Well probably. We weren't special enough for robotic pizza delivery.

Smitty: Yup. But the video games at home, once Atari came in, I had a 2600, I had a 5200. And of course the trackball for the 5200 was just revolutionary because I wanted to play Centipede . Then I could actually have the same experience that I could at the arcade and I could also practice at home, kind of on the same equipment, if you will, that I had at the arcade. I think there were some evolutions where I started seeing, not competitive gaming — but when we went to the arcades, man, that was the original competitive gaming. You put your quarters up there and you got to play until you lost. And then when you lost you didn't get to play again. And then it was all about the high scores. Your three-digit high score. Or three-digit initials for the high score.

Erik: Yeah.

Smitty: So I was JTS. If anyone saw me out there on Galaga , out there in Enid. Anyway, I think that the way that I look at things, when I look at the current state of gaming, is I love where it's at. I think the evolution of what gaming is — it has stayed true to its original origins more than any other entertainment platform. Period. Music, poetry, movies, stage, even magicians. You can't just have a simple magician. You have to make a building disappear or you suck. So I just love the way that gaming has kind of stayed true to community and rewarding excellence in a lot of ways and then also, just one of the greatest gatherings of artists and smart people I've ever seen in my life to actually make these games. I always consider myself just crazy, crazy lucky to be really one of those kids that sat and played Joust until I broke the buttons on my Atari 5200 controller because those buttons sucked.

Erik: I was going to say, let's not blame you playing it because those controllers were terrible.

Smitty: God, those little tiny red buttons on the side sucked.

Erik: The 5200 was not the best Atari ever did.

Smitty: No, it wasn't, but it looked cool.

Erik: It looked cool. That thing was a honker, dude. That thing was way bigger than the 7800, the 2600. That thing was giant.

Smitty: Yeah. But it was just a... The game was always... Gaming was an escape for all of us.

Erik: No doubt.

Smitty: And it certainly would allow you to be what you wanted to be if you spent enough time with the game. Gaming is kind of one of those things that... You can go out there and throw that football 100 times and never be able to throw it 100 yards or... Well of course you're not going to throw it 100 yards, but throw it 50 yards.

Erik: But load up a game…

Smitty: But load up a game and you can, over and over and over and over. Muscle memory, whatever. So it's not kids who can't play sports, I'm not trying to make that parallel, but it's just one of those few things where it's kind of brain exercise in a lot of ways.

Erik: All right. So that brings to mind — because you said brain and you said exercise. So I'm going to make you exercise yours.

Smitty: Okay.

Erik: What is the first memory of a video game that you have?

Smitty: Crying a lot.

Erik: No. Not after playing it.

Dan: Which game?

Smitty: I will tell you the truth. It was my dad, he brought home Pong when it was just a big, weird, round controller thing and it plugged right into your TV.




Erik: And you had to tune to channel three.

Smitty: That's correct. Yeah, you had to tune to a different... I didn't know it was channel three because I wasn't allowed to touch the TV. You had to tune to a specific channel or do something. And then it had a Y connector or a Y splitter or whatever and then there were two paddles if you will. And I just remember my dad brought that home and said, "This is amazing." And then he was no good at it and then he said it was shit. And he told me not to play with it because it was shit. So that was my first gaming memory.

Dan: Now was this the one with a bunch of different versions of Pong where you play with different numbers of paddles or lines?

Smitty: No. It was just black and white.

Dan: Just basic, basic one line on each side and one ball in between them and that was it.

Smitty: Yeah that's right.

Erik: That's all you needed though.

Dan: Well I know, but I know there were different versions of it.

Smitty: Nolan Bushnell. It was Nolan Bushnell's Pong .

Dan: Yeah, I remember that. I have a similar memory to that where my dad did a similar thing, he brought it home and we had it a couple of days. I think he must've bought it from a friend or something. But just the idea of being able to control something on the screen. That was just such a cool idea to me. Having that interaction with my TV, which is something you were never able to interact with. It was always just a passive watching stuff on TV. This way, you could actually make things move on the screen.

Smitty: Oh yeah, yeah. Yeah, unbelievable. And when I had the Nintendo, the NES Duck Hunt , that Duck Hunt game, that gun, that white gun was... Of course it was the only stupid game that really played well with it, but they had a balloon pop game and whatever. That was also... I remember my mother specifically being mystified by how that actually worked.

Dan: Oh, the white gun. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Smitty: It was so cool.

Dan: What about you Eric. What was your first gaming memory?

Erik: Oh man. So when I think about this, I think about two different things. I think about my first game console and I'll get to that for a second, but honestly the thing that I remember were these, not even the good ones, the dumb little handheld electronic games that came out before things.

Dan: Oh, like the football game? The little green football game?

Erik: Yeah. Yeah.

Dan: Yeah.

Erik: And to me that's kind of the first video game experience that I had because parents could be like, "Here kid. I threw some AA batteries in here. Go play." So you take that, you go off on your own and little do you know that although you're having the time of your life with this thing, they're just getting you out of their hair.

Smitty: I just want to say, your mom had a really deep voice. Geeze Louise. If that's how she talked.

Erik: Yeah. Heavy smoker.

Smitty: Yeah. She was like, "Go play this game so I can smoke."

Erik: Yeah. "Go over there kid." Sounds like somebody from Jersey.

Smitty: Well look at you. You're trying to one up all of us here with your coolness. You said video games and now...

Erik: That is a video game though. It had a screen, it had controls. You got to do that. But really, if we want to talk about what everybody traditionally thinks of as a video game, the first experience I had, I was on a family trip and we went to visit other family. I grew up in Southern California, and just because you worked in Dallas I had to talk about it.

Smitty: Enid, Oklahoma.

Erik: Yeah. I grew up in Southern California, but we had family that lived across, up into the Northern Midwest in Wisconsin and Michigan, and so we were at an uncle and cousin's house, and they had just bought this system that had been out for a little while and rivaled the 2600, the Magnavox Odyssey 2.

Smitty: Yup. Magnavox.

Erik: Not as good as the 2600, but still amazing. And to me, because that was the first one, and then everybody loved it. You see these ads from way back in the day where the entire family's huddled around a TV with somebody at the controls. That's what it was like. We were all staring at whoever was playing the game while they're sitting in front of this 20-inch television that's barely in color.

Smitty: 20-inch CRT that was inside of a 1500-pound wooden box.

Erik: A wood box. That's right. Absolutely.

Smitty: That was a Magnavox, baby.

Erik: Oh yeah it was. And we're just huddled around this thing in awe of this four-color game that doesn't look anywhere as cool as the arcades, but guess what? You have it at home.

Smitty: Yup.

Erik: And you think the 5200 had some limitations. The Odyssey 2 was definitely tough.

Smitty: We had friends that we would get mad at and we ended up having little clubs, if you will, of people who liked to play Coleco, ColecoVision, Intellivision.

Erik: Intellivision. Yeah.

Smitty: So I just remember... It's fun. This is our podcast, right? We can talk about it. A guy named Greg when we grew up, he had Intellivision, and I remember Richard and someone else, we did not agree with that because we were Coleco guys.

Dan: The fact that he had one?

Smitty: Yeah. We didn't think that... Well number one, we didn't want to go to his house because we didn't want to play stupid Intellivision because those things sucked. If you want to have fun you come over here and play Coleco. There's a Mario game. We have Mario .

Dan: Didn't the Intellivision games work with the Atari anyway?

Erik: Yes. There were some cross compatibility there.

Smitty: Yeah, yeah. I don't think we were smart enough. We didn't care. But the important part was, Greg lived next to Jenny who was my girlfriend in fourth grade. So it made it really rough for me. I had to stay in my neighborhood.

Erik: It feels like you're still holding on to a little something there.

Smitty: I am. I am. But I still talk to these people on Facebook. If anyone listens to this, they're going to really enjoy it.

Erik: Yeah. I remember the whole club thing. When we were talking about your first video game or your first memory though, is ColecoVision your main system growing up or did you graduate?

Smitty: No. I was Atari... I'm older. I'm an old dude, so Atari 2600 and Atari 5200 and then NES. And so it was just the straight Nintendo baby because we were playing Tecmo Bowl like crazy in high school.

Erik: Oh yeah.

Smitty: And that's what we did. And I played football and we would, my quarterback and all of us, we would go home. My Senior year we were on work release, it's not like we were in jail or something. It was called DECA. It was like if you had a job and everything and you completed all your credits, you only had to go to school half a day your Senior year. After football season was over, geez, we had nothing to do in the afternoons if we weren't working, so we'd just all go to Jimmy's house and play Tecmo Bowl and eat chicken strips. It was the greatest thing in the whole world.

Erik: Sounds good to me.

Smitty: Oh my God. And there'd be about eight of us all piled in Jimmy's bedroom all laying on top of each other and on the bed and on the floor just waiting to get our turns so we could play.

Erik: Which color team? What was the color you went with?

Smitty: Frick. Well it was always Raiders. We were always playing... We were playing teams, we weren't playing colors.

Erik: I know, but they didn't really have the names of the NFL teams in there.

Smitty: Well they had players.

Erik: I know.

Smitty: They had that.

Erik: Yeah.

Smitty: I was the Raiders. You'd always want to be Ricky Williams and those kinds of people. You would always want to get.

Erik: But it was sort of locked in time too, right? You did have that, but it was kind of locked in time so it didn't evolve. This was the year it came out, these are the players.

Smitty: There was no update. Yeah.

Erik: Yeah.

Smitty: Plus, Jimmy's mom wouldn't buy him the next version anyway. We didn't care because we had all mastered that first one.

Erik: Tecmo Super Bowl though.

Smitty: Yeah. Tecmo Super Bowl . So those were just... Games have always been an escape for me because I grew up in a small town, but it was during a time that — a fantastic creation, HBO, I still talk about it, HBO was just starting. It didn't come on until four in the afternoon. It went off at midnight. That's when they played the National Anthem and then you saw bars and static at midnight on the channels. There was literally no entertainment after a certain time. And so it was a great way to escape, but the community around it... I guess it did start in the arcade and the way that games themselves were marketed and introduced to the general public in North America at least. I know video games were introduced in Asia completely differently. And still to this day. An arcade in Japan is not what we think of when we say arcade here in America.

Erik: No. Sometimes it's better.

Smitty: Yeah.

Erik: And you can win money nowadays.

Smitty: Especially over there. It's like pay to win kind of mentalities in some of the APAC regions with some of the games. The Western philosophy of what a video game is, is different than it is in APAC.

Erik: Or at least it used to be. I think things have merged quite a bit over time.

Smitty: Sure.

Erik: I think the world's gotten so much smaller, but yeah. Absolutely back in the day. When I think back, I've got to share this memory because it comes to mind so strikingly. When I think of arcade games, I was thinking about Track and Field . Remember Track and Field ?

Smitty: Amen, bruh.

Erik: No joystick. Just the three buttons.

Smitty: Remember the rule with Track and Field ? Do you remember the rule? You can't bring a pencil.

Erik: Can't use a pencil. That's exactly what I was going to say. Because everybody used to know this trick where you would break a pencil to a certain length, stick it in between your fingers so that it had pressure down and then you'd just slam your hand on the other one. Yeah. And you could make that dude fly.

Smitty: It was all about back and forth, back and forth to get that dude to run fast enough. No pencils.

Erik: Yeah. That was the game. And if you got good at that game, man, you could just own other people.

Smitty: Yeah. You're a stud. Yeah, you might as well be the guy running on the track.

Erik: Damn right.

Smitty: And all of a sudden people would... That game and then Dragon's Lair .

Erik: Oh. Love it.

Smitty: When Dragon's Lair came out you would have 20 people standing around watching you play that game. Remember they had a TV on top of...

Erik: So that everyone else could see.

Smitty: So everyone could watch you playing it.

Erik: It was a LaserDisc. This was the future.

Smitty: It was so expensive. So expensive to play. I probably spent $20 a month just playing Dragon's Lair and that was back when twenty dollars was TWENTY DOLLARS.

Erik: And let's face it. We all sucked at that game.

Smitty: How could you not?

Erik: That game was hard.

Smitty: You couldn't actually play the game, you just had to memorize right-left-up-right.

Erik: Oh yeah.

Smitty: You just had to memorize.

Erik: You couldn't look at the little flash or figure out what it was going to be.

Smitty: No.

Erik: That was way too hard.

Smitty: No, no. Bro, I bought...

Erik: That game was tough.

Smitty: My mom bought me a book because she... They had those...

Erik: Oh yeah.

Smitty: Secret moves and stuff. I'd buy it. There were some great games, man. That's the one thing, like movies. You go to a movie. Shh don't talk. You can talk about the movie afterwards, but you don't get to enjoy it the same way unless I guess you go to a, I don't know, what is that, Rocky Horror Picture Show or something like that where everybody...

Erik: Yeah.

Dan: There's pre-determined responses that people will say.

Erik: That's not the same though. You go to an arcade back in the day, it was loud. During the heyday, it was an event. There was people all over the place. People crowding around machines.

Smitty: Smoking.

Erik: People were talking.

Dan: Cigarettes.

Erik: Eating stuff, smoking.

Smitty: Smoking.

Erik: Drinking, whatever it was. It didn't matter. Everybody was there to enjoy themselves and play these just incredible pieces of art.

Smitty: What was the loudest thing in the arcade and still is? Oh yeah. The freaking air hockey table.

Erik: Oh, the click-clacks. Oh my god.

Smitty: Clack! Clack! Clack! Clack!

Erik: Wait a minute. I've got to throw in. There was one small period where Daytona USA was the loudest thing inside of an arcade. It would scream that "Daytona!" You could hear it from the other side of the arcade.

Smitty: Yup. I just loved arcades, but here was the other side of the arcade. That Overland Trail Arcade. That's where the high school kids hung out. That's where they smoked cigarettes and whatever. When I was in junior high, none of our parents would take us to the arcade, man, that's where the bad kids hung out. So we could go to the mall and they had a little movie theater. All of us would lie to our parents and say that we were going to go see a double feature and hang out in the food court with our friends and then immediately they'd drop us off and we'd zoom right through the mall, behind the church over to Overland Trail and then we'd hang out. Couldn't ever figure out why my mom knew I'd been there because I didn't realize that cigarette smoke stuck to you like glue. All of our parents were like "Did you go to the arcade again?" "No." "Okay." Mm-hmm.

Erik: "No. Studying. What are you talking about?"

Smitty: "I'm going to give you one chance here before we go out and pick a switch." "Okay, yes!"

Erik: "And why do you keep asking for quarters?"

Smitty: Yeah, yeah. "Why did you take $20 in quarters?"

Erik: Yeah.

Smitty: There was an element of kind of being on the edge a little bit as well. So when you're over at the arcade, there was a little bit of danger. People got into fist fights at the arcade.

Erik: No doubt.

Smitty: And I was always around older kids because we were sneaking in there. We were only 13, 14 years old. So there was always this little danger element of games that I always appreciated and I think a lot of us carried that into our adult life with the way that we like and honor these games.

Erik: No doubt.

Smitty: Like Todd McFarlane. Todd McFarlane and everything, in how all of us got so into his figurines and he did so many great game-related figurines and then he did Spawn . He did stuff at a later date, like all his movie stuff. We collected it all because his art for some reason represented that cool, evil… it was like a memory from that one time period. We all coalesced around this one form of art that he brought out.

Erik: And he was super popular during the early and mid-90s. He kind of busted out on the scene with Spawn . You mentioned it yourself. That alone sort of represents this entire timeframe from way back then through when that comes out. It's got the attitude, the look, the feel, and that is what enables him to create all of those figurines that then come out. I would be a little remiss if we're talking about favorite systems or main systems growing up if I didn't just slide in the Super Nintendo. Because as much as I loved the NES, the Super NES is my favorite retro system, period, flat out, end of discussion. There is nothing. And I know that the Genesis folks are going, "Oh, what an idiot. What does he know."

Dan: Yeah, I'm a Genesis folk.

Erik: I know.

Dan: I'm going what an idiot. I had a Genesis though. I did not have a Super Nintendo. I was not lucky enough to have a Super Nintendo. I'd be jealous of all my friends who played my poor Genesis.

Erik: This is a story I'm going to reserve for later, but let's just say that I had a buddy that was on that side of the fence. We found a way to make that work. We figured out how to get that to happen. But the Super Nintendo for me, it was the first time I had ever really seen a gaming system evolve. Yeah, Atari had the 5200 and the 7800, but let's face it, the 5200 wasn't great. It's got some nostalgia to it, but it wasn't great. It didn't really amp things up to the next level. The 7800 did better, but the 7800 was still kind of just an NES. It was about that level of capability and the way that it looked and what it did. Plus, Atari never did anything with controllers the way that Nintendo did. Nintendo just revolutionized controllers left and right for the longest time.

Smitty: That's true. Atari's controllers were always shit.

Erik: Yeah. And they broke all the time. You remember the top of the joystick. You would hold the joystick and if you played it long enough, that thing would pop right off.

Smitty: Oh yeah.

Erik: The plastic would slide off the stick.

Smitty: And the rubber base to it and everything.

Erik: Yeah.

Smitty: The ergonomics of it were not ergonomic at all. It was like—

Erik: They were terrible. Yeah. They didn't feel good.

Dan: They were trying to duplicate the joystick of an arcade game, but you can't do that because you have nothing to anchor it to. You had to hold the thing and then you use your other hand to move the stick and it never worked.

Erik: And of course when you're playing, you're not concentrating on how hard you're slamming the joystick on there, so you're treating that thing with all kinds of force.

Smitty: Well Dan, what do you think about the Genesis controllers? What did you think about those?

Dan: They didn't have enough buttons.

Erik: That's why they came out with a sixth button eventually.

Dan: Exactly. I know. They were a little short-sided than the average.

Erik: The control pad on those though is amazing.

Dan: Yeah. No, once they came out with the six-button controllers it was a lot better, but to compare the Genesis controller to the Super Nintendo controller, there's no comparison.

Erik: No.

Dan: Overall the Nintendo controller was amazing.

Erik: It's a classic.

Dan: Yeah.

Erik: Why do you think the PlayStation controller is what it is today?

Dan: It's basically the model for all other controllers that came after it.

Erik: Absolutely.

Dan: Except for the 64 controller. I don't know what the hell they were thinking with that.

Erik: Well it had a mutation and it grew an extra leg.

Dan: That's right.

Erik: I don't know what was going on. And nobody talks about that in positive light whatsoever because the 64... The controller, it wasn't just that it had a third leg and you didn't know how to hold it right, the quality of the controller was terrible. The little joystick top on the thumb stick would break.

Dan: Yeah.

Erik: Everybody hated it. But overall Nintendo was so good at figuring out how to innovate controllers. They're the ones that brought the Wiimote to everyone, which PlayStation, Sony, immediately copies and puts motion in their controller. You name it. Nintendo has done controller stuff pretty much first before everyone else did it.

Dan: And I would say that plays through to the Switch and stuff they're doing now.

Erik: Oh yeah.

Dan: That's totally innovative.

Erik: Yeah.

Dan: It is based somewhat on the Wii stuff, but still, they've made it new all over.

Erik: It's iterative. Yeah, it's iterative and that's been some of their forte.

Smitty: Iterative.

Erik: Iterative. I had to use a big word this time. I promise that'll be the largest word I use today.

Smitty: That's your password probably I bet.

Erik: How'd you know?

Smitty: Iterative.

Erik: Damn. I'm going to have to change that as soon as we're done recording. The Super Nintendo had some amazing games, but they started off with one of the best games of all time, Super Mario World .

Smitty: Yeah.

Erik: Right out of the gate. First amazing game that everybody buys with their system. In fact you probably bought the system that came with that and... What do you do? How do you follow that up?

Dan: It was just such great sound. The sound I remember being so much better than the Nintendo sound.

Erik: Oh absolutely. The colors were beautiful.

Dan: And the music was amazing. Every aspect of that game was so much better than the previous Mario.

Dan: Super Mario 2 ?

Erik: 3.

Dan: That came out after 3?

Erik: It came out after 3.

Dan: Okay.

Erik: And 3 was the most insanely good NES game there is. They pushed the NES to the absolute brink on that game and it was amazing. And then Super Mario World comes out and you kind of go, I didn't even know this was possible. How is this even possible?

Dan: Yeah.

Smitty: I'll tell you how it's possible. You build a team of magic men.

Erik: It definitely would do that.

Smitty: Yeah. The way they've held the brand identity of Mario all the way through as well has been kind of interesting.

Erik: I think Mario's more familiar to people now than Mickey at this point.

Dan: Yeah, I agree.

Smitty: I agree with that.

Dan: Certainly for my kids.

Smitty: Yeah. And there's a feeling of interactivity in stuff. Mario is approachable. Mickey is this godlike figure in some ways almost too. You certainly can't hang out with Mickey, but you can hang out with Mario all day. There is some great icons that have been created. Like you said, the visuals of Mario. Some of the things even we worked on this year I've realized that... like Enter the Gungeon. Enter the Gungeon has this real simple face. It's kind of that smiley face from Forrest Gump . Remember that Forrest Gump thing where the truck went by and splashed all the dirty water on him and he wiped his face and was smiling and said have a nice day?

Erik: Yeah.

Smitty: And that's where his shirt came from. It's kind of like one of those things. There's certain iconic things that you can see and they don't need any words. So Mario 's one of them for sure. I think there's more video game icons that could be identified with no words necessary, only the art, or the imagery, than maybe even with movies or anything else. I just love the iconic art of gaming.

Erik: There's a lot of reasons to love it. You pick up a box... gosh, remember what it was like to walk into a store? Like, I don't know, Fedco. I don't know if you guys ever had a Fedco.

Smitty: No. We weren't in jail.

Erik: How about Sears?

Smitty: Sure.

Erik: You'd walk into Sears and they would have a game section with the NES boxes on there.

Smitty: Mm-hmm.

Erik: I'm talking back when it was just black boxes. So you'd walk in and you'd see the black box and you're like I want the one with that on it or whatever that was. I want that one.

Smitty: Because that was the only marketing. There weren't any...

Erik: Yeah.

Smitty: There were video game magazines maybe, but not in mass distribution when I was a kid.

Erik: Heck no. You had to look at the box and figure out if this was a game you wanted to play and maybe you were lucky enough that a friend had played it and said this is awesome or this sucks, don't buy that. But you had to take the box, look at the back, maybe they had some cool words, maybe they had some screenshots or other art and you had to decide right then and there. Because this was, if you go early enough, this was before you could even rent them at your Blockbuster or your Family Video or whatever, you had to figure out, is this something I could play? And if you were really lucky, they had a kiosk with a Nintendo and that game was in it and you could play it for about two minutes.

Smitty: Let's see Erik — if you had to guess from looking at the things that I have designed, what box art do you think that we seem to like the most?

Erik: I don't know. I don't know.

Smitty: Hmm.

Erik: They do seem to be a little popular though. But I don't know. There might be a shared love for this.

Smitty: Well the style of the art came totally—

Erik: From the black box.

Smitty: Yeah, totally. And the angle and the break in the fourth wall, if you will, of letting art break out.

Erik: Icons. You're talking about icons. That's an icon.

Smitty: Yeah. Yeah. It's just a thing that feels right. You see it and you're like "Oh. I know what that is." But also the artwork would tell you does it work for your game system.

Erik: That's right.

Smitty: Because remember, back in the day it wasn't always that clear. Does this work for my game system or not? And especially if your mom or your aunt or your uncle were out there trying to buy you a gift for Christmas.

Erik: Sometimes they didn't really know.

Smitty: They would — no way would they know!

Erik: Well because you could pick up a box and maybe that game was for your Commodore 64. The first computer I ever had, by the way. Commodore 64.

Smitty: Yeah.

Erik: They looked a lot alike.

Smitty: Yup.

Erik: Some of the games were on both. Frogger. You want to pick up Frogger.

Smitty: Yeah.

Dan: Going based on the art on the cover, that was always so much more intricate for those older games than the game actually looked. So it was meant to set up your mind to help you imagine what you're kind of going through as you're playing the game. But you could go based on... I just remember some of these games having just these amazing paintings as far as artwork goes on the cover.

Erik: Yeah.

Smitty: Oh yeah.

Erik: And it's hard to replicate that feeling nowadays.

Smitty: And that was all definitely original artwork because the small, small art that was used inside the game was no way high-res enough to print.

Erik: No.

Smitty: So all of the box art had to be original concept art. And sometimes not by the actual designer themselves, it would definitely be third party. So some of it wasn't necessarily representing what the game was, it was what the guy marketing the game thought the game was.

Dan: Well it's like, describe the game to me. What are you doing? And then he draws something, he paints something or whatever and that's your art.

Smitty: Yeah.

Erik: But that's all a part of that wonderful experience because when you had something that looked cool and then you take it home, depending upon who you are, you either carefully open that box or you just rip that thing to shreds and release the game from the box.

Smitty: Yeah.

Erik: How many times did we do that and now regret it?

Smitty: All of them.

Erik: Yeah. Right? You open that up, you take that cartridge out and you look at the cartridge art, which usually matched the box art, and then you stick this thing in and then your brain is already in that mode. Your mind's eye is already playing the game with the graphics that it has, but you're thinking like the box art and you're experiencing it in your brain the way that it was painted on the box when you were a kid when you were young. That's how it felt. And it was such an amazing experience. Even if the game was quote, NES hard, like something like Ghost and Goblins where if you were lucky, you could spend two hours to get past the first level the first time you played it. That type of thing, that experience burned into you and you just loved it.

Smitty: Wow. I think we're doing some therapy here now. We're really getting deep. We're getting into it.

Erik: Absolutely.

Smitty: Well, I think these are fun topics. We've covered a lot of ground here.




Erik: We'd like to talk about our featured Game of the Week. I have looked at a whole list of games and thought about what's going on, but I think there's one that... I know it's a little bit pertinent to what we have going on, but honestly it's going to be such a great thing that we're going to release here. I want to talk about the Hotline Miami which Smitty might know a little something about.

Smitty: Hotline Miami. Well, it's got a Metacritic score of 87.

Erik: Did you memorize that or are you staring at that?

Dan: He checks it every day.

Smitty: I just keep checking every day.

Erik: I know he's just watching. It's like the stocks.

Smitty: I just wanted to name all the platforms that Hotline Miami has ever been published for. OSX, PS3, PS Vita... I've also heard of it as Vita. Can you believe that? Lennox, PlayStation 4, Android and Switch and of course just a good ole PC. The good ole Windows. That was the original...

Erik: It's on everything.

Smitty: Yeah. That was original Hotline Miami and it was released by Devolver Digital. A few... God dang, how old is it?

Erik: A few? Yeah, I was going to say. It's a little more than a few years old at this point.

Smitty: I know. It was 2012, right? It was 2012. So the first one was in 2012 and then there's a wrong number sequel all done by Dennaton Games. We've got to give a big old shout out to Dennaton. So Dennis and Jonatan. So Hotline Miami is a game, ever since we started Special Reserve Games, that was on the list to put out for physical because it was such a brilliant game digitally and everybody loved it in mass. It was hugely popular. Still is. I didn't really realize the importance of the physical version of it a couple years ago, but as we've progressed the physical collector community even a little bit further way improving it. All the different companies out there, to me, I'm led by Limited Games. Love those guys. Big time for making that PS4 collector. They built that as far as I'm concerned. So all those guys were also saying, "When are you going to do Hotline Miami ? When are you going to do H Hotline Miami ?" So I knew it was super important. So finally here we are, April 21st on Nintendo Switch physical for the first time with both games.

Erik: With both games on the cartridge.

Smitty: On one cartridge.

Erik: This is not like get one, download the other. And I, as a very discerning and hardcore Switch fan, appreciate because I don't want to have to download the games. I want them all on the cartridge.

Smitty: Yup.

Erik: I'm buying a cartridge for a reason.

Smitty: With all the... Any DLC or, that's part of the name is digital, but any other additional content, not just patches. Not day one patch or any kind of critical patches, but actual content. A new level, this and that, or whatever, we also try to get all of that on the actual cartridge.

Erik: Yeah.

Smitty: We call that pristine. That's our little thing.

Erik: Now I know sometimes things happen where somebody found a bug after the fact and now they want to fix that, so sometimes you might have a patch for that, that might happen on a release or two here and there. The important thing to me as a collector is, I want to be able to play this to the best of its ability without any severe bugs with all the content on the cartridge and I love that we're able to deliver this because I know people are asking and I know people are desiring that. And right now, the closest we can get with Hotline Miami is there was a Japanese collection release on disk, but only had the first game on the disk. You had a code for the other game.

Smitty: Yeah.

Erik: So it's not really great.

Smitty: And can I just take a little sideways thing.

Erik: Yeah.

Smitty: If anyone ever wants to look backwards into our catalog and can look up Shadow Warrior 2. The Shadow Warrior 2 PC and Shadow Warrior 2 for PS4. Both of those were the only game that I did where there are actually both games. On the PS4, there are two disks. There's Shadow Warrior 1 and Shadow Warrior 2 . And there are two different disks inside of the PS4 game and then the PC has both plus the soundtrack on CD. Just to go back, because sometimes we'll look backwards in our catalog... So Hotline Miami was one of those. It's been around. It's so loved. It's been multi-platform.

Erik: Yeah.

Smitty: It's had two versions. And I think, it had a hell of a lot of knockoffs and people mimicking that gameplay style. So what am I going to do? What am I going to do to add to that game? Nothing. All I can do is honor it and preserve it so we get the key art from Dennis from Dennaton and then we layout, of course, the jacket cover and then we look backwards at what we want to do, with every single game, has been make sure it's got a physical instruction booklet of at least 24 pages.

Erik: And we're not printing this on newsprint.

Smitty: No. Yeah. We actually drew really, really... So it has to have a nice instruction booklet that has been worked on with developers. It's not like I'm just making this up like marketing material or something.

Erik: No, no. They're involved.

Smitty: Very much. Most of the time they're writing the words for us, they're providing the imagery and I'm just laying it out in the template.

Erik: That's right.

Smitty: That's kind of how we work a lot. One thing I love from the past, what we were talking about, the black box is this what we call our reserve box. Or you could call it a collector's edition box, but we like to call it a reserve box. And it's a specific size and it's got some artistic elements to it that are an homage to other boxes and box designs from previous. But I use all kinds of cutting edge techniques with different processes and lamination, foil stamping the box and building things with five different UV layers. So I'm creating...

Erik: All very technical.

Smitty: Yeah. We're calling topography. I'm creating... If you've ever seen a topographical map that you can feel the elevation changes of the hills and stuff a little bit, that's what I'm creating with different processes. Some are colored, some are not. So we're using the cutting edge physical printing technology. So I'm still creating tangible, physical goods, but I'm able to preserve the art and then honor it and accentuate it in such a way that it actually creates something new a little bit out of this art.
So we are creating a collectable, but I'm not trying to do it by being cute and throwing in a bunch of trinkets and trash. I'm trying to take the artwork and make it the best it can possibly be in a physical state. That's all I'm doing.

Erik: Something that you're going to absolutely be wanting to and be proud of putting up on the shelf and displaying.

Smitty: Oh yeah. And it's weird. I say, "Feel this box, man. It's crazy. You want to touch it." And then you're like, "Hey, quit touching my box." You're touching it too much. It's fragile.

Erik: You'll get fingerprints all over it.

Smitty: Exactly. It's fragile.

Erik: You'll mess it up. Yeah.

Smitty: But just had the honor of creating so many great elements from games to honor the games that have become icons in their own self as just a physical representation of the game. So Hotline Miami, we're just taking a real straight forward approach with the Switch version, double sided, jacket cover, every unit is sequentially numbered and if you really care, all the sequential numbers are printed in foil only not in ink. So it's kind of hard to knock them off if you will. We're doing 8,000 total units. We're going to put 7,500 up for sale on our website. Or they've already been on sale. It depends on when this podcast airs.

Erik: Wasn't it great how quickly they sold out?

Smitty: Oh my gosh. I can't believe how fast Hotline Miami sold out.

Erik: It only took three seconds.

Smitty: Okay. Hold on. Cut number two. We're almost sold out of Hotline Miami . Come visit us... and then here's the other one. Hey, were getting ready to go on sale with Hotline Miami .
It's got a couple of art cards, a sticker, the instruction booklet and it comes inside of a really nice reserve and it's going to be straightforward $35.

Erik: I just want to lay in on top of all this. It's not just about the box or the game as a piece of art either. Hotline Miami and Hotline Miami 2 are awesome games. They're a blast to play.

Smitty: They're hard.

Erik: Oh yeah, they're hard to do. They have this great aesthetic when you look at this. The first one, immediately you've got that Miami Vice meets guy that's just going to tear things up. Plus the weird element of all of these people in the masks and what the hell is going on. You combine all that stuff together along with the gameplay, which encourages you to just get in there and try it and go nuts. Although at times, stealth is your friend. You really just got to figure it out. And there's hidden secrets. You have to, I don't want to give anything away, but there's stuff that you have to find if you really want to go 100% in there.

Smitty: Mm-hmm.

Erik: I guess I can say that there's more than one secret and one of them has to do with some masks. Let's just put it that way.

Smitty: Look how nice Erik is. Trying not to give up secrets from a game that was released six years ago.

Erik: But here's the thing. The beautiful thing about this is that when we go and have the luxury of putting this out, there are definitely going to be some people where this is the first time that they've played this. I recently went back through it again because it had been years since I had touched the first one. So I decided, you know what, as we're getting kind of amped up here, I want to play it again because it's such a good game. So I went through it again and then I go through and I beat the whole thing and I'm like, "Damn it. I want to go complete it." So I had to go through and go find the things that I missed throughout it and that's always fun when you're trying to do that.
But man, it's so much fun. I love twin stick games on the Switch. I think the form factor of the Switch, whether you're using the joy cons or if you're using a broke controller or whatever or if you're doing handheld mode, it lends itself to a lot of different game styles, but twin sticks is one of those things that it really works with. You can play twin stick games like Enter the Gungeon.

Smitty: Or My Friend Pedro. Oh my Lord.

Erik: My Friend Pedro is another one.

Smitty: That one got me.

Erik: That's a little bit different for being a twin stick too.

Smitty: I know.

Erik: My Friend Pedro is an amazing game.

Smitty: My Friend Pedro makes your brain have to work.

Erik: Yeah. It kind of melts your brain too.

Smitty: I know.

Erik: Hotline Miami just has this classic feel and I love it. All the different weapons. Like honestly, when you talk about fun, it's just a fun game.

Smitty: Yup. Well I recommend that you go download it because I did rip off a lot of different platforms that Hotline Miami had been made for. Of course one and two. So go download it, man. Download it from anywhere. Anything to support the developers. I personally know every single one of Devolver Digital, their publisher. And I've been friends with some of these guys for a long time.

Erik: More years than you care to say.

Smitty: Yeah, a lot of years. Over 20.

Erik: You know some things about those people.

Smitty: I do. I do know of some things about them.

Erik: We might say something about them later.

Smitty: Absolutely. It's a great publishing house. It's one of the only... Well, in the top 10 publishers in the world, it's the only independently owned publishing house. And they truly do put the developers first and I can tell you without a doubt, if you spent a dollar buying Hotline Miami , the lion share of that dollar goes to the developer after whatever Steam gets their cut or whatever. Devolver is more fair to any independent developer than I've ever seen any other publisher. So absolutely. So if you don't buy the physical version of Hotline Miami , download it. Download it on any platform that you got and enjoy the game and just keep supporting independent developers, man.

Erik: And then maybe consider if you do love the game or if you love the art or just love the package, consider picking up one of ours.

Smitty: Or 10.

Erik: I leave that for you to draw up like that.

Smitty: My cart restriction is 10, guys. You can buy 10. It's okay. I'll hold myself out.

Erik: The developer ain't going to be mad at you.

Smitty: No. No.

Erik: But I think Hotline Miami Collection is a great release to say that this is going to be our featured Game of the Week for the first week this month.

Smitty: Absolutely.

Erik: So I'm really happy that we can represent that. I think that we are out of quarters. So I think that's about all we can play today. I am Erik.

Smitty: And I am Smitty.

Dan: I'm Dan.

Erik: And until next time, this is a game over.