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Homebrew dev dishes on the DS scene

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We sit around on our butts and enjoy the fruits of homebrew laborers every day, but we don't often think about the awesome individuals responsible for the free games and programs we're loading up. What drives someone to create a game for which they won't be paid? Love of games and love of the DS, in the case of MrTyzik, who is working on the homebrewed Laser Hockey. We recently sat down with the programmer (and DS Fanboy reader!) to discuss both the DS homebrew scene and his work in progress.



DSF: How would you sum up the DS homebrew scene?

MrTyzik: I would say it recently hit puberty. The development tools are easy to install and update. Beginners and less hard-core programmers can make games quickly using PALib. There are also extra libraries for wireless multiplayer (liblobby) and physics (Box2D). There is even special hardware for homebrew developers such as DS Motion. Given enough time, you can probably make anything you want at this point. There are even some homebrew games and applications that rival commercial ones in quality such as Word Wrap, Puzzle Maniak and Colors to name a few.

DSF: What made you want to develop?

MrTyzik: Love of games (specifically on the DS) and programming. I got my first DS Phat at launch. I still have it to test multiplayer.

DSF: Why laser hockey?

MrTyzik: I wanted a smaller project that I could actually finish and polish with some friends. There are enough PONG clones but Laser Hockey looks better and it's a little different, a little more challenging to develop and a lot more fun.

DSF: Have you worked on other homebrew projects before?

MrTyzik: Not for a console, but I have done some small Windows games.

DSF: You've worked very hard on wireless multiplayer for Laser Hockey. Do you consider DS-DS multiplayer the most important feature of this game?

MrTyzik: Absolutely! In fact, I think its very important for the scene as a whole. Until fairly recently, multiplayer was only possible through the Internet using an access point. It's great that developers have the option to do both now.

DSF: When do you anticipate it will be finished?

MrTyzik: We will hopefully be finished by the beginning of winter and definitely by the end of the year. We need to improve the physics engine, graphics and gameplay. Then, bug fix and add some polish.

DSF: What problems, if any, have you encountered while working on homebrew development?

MrTyzik: The problems I have encountered so far are largely self-inflicted because I chose lower-level programming over using a library such as PALib. I wanted to know more about the hardware. Also, finding information about liblobby is difficult. That may improve now that liblobby is hosted on PALib's site so even if you don't use PALib, you can find and talk about a DS-DS multiplayer library.
What tools or features can you recommend to the person who wants to get started in development?

Although I haven't used it, a lot of games are written using PALib. The API is a lot simpler than jumping into libnds. Currently, there are some arguments between developers who do and do not use PALib. I don't take part in that, though. Any DS homebrew is good DS homebrew regardless of what libraries you use.

Also, I suggest downloading a free copy of Visual C++ 2008 Express and following the instructions to build with that. It's a much better development environment than the bundled Programmer's Notepad.

DSF: What could Nintendo learn from the homebrew scene?

MrTyzik: Nintendo can certainly see some fresh gameplay techniques and ideas. I have played a few homebrew games, parts of games and demos that I think are better and more interesting than some of the ones I see on store shelves. Also, it may remind professional developers how frustratingly fun old games are. Intentional or not, a lot of homebrew titles are unforgiving!

DSF: Do you have plans for future DS homebrew projects?

MrTyzik: I do, but by the time Laser Hockey DS is done, the Wii homebrew scene might be strong enough to pull us in.

DSF: Have any messages for our readers?

MrTyzik: I want to tell everyone to buy a book on C++, download devkitARM & PALib and start making your own DS games! Technical note: As of this writing, I've noticed that PALib only supports up to release 21 of devkitARM.

Thanks to MrTyzik for taking the time to chat with us ... oh, and for working to promote the homebrew scene!

The DS has a lot more to offer besides a massive library of retail titles. All this week, we're taking a look at the depths of the homebrew scene, from some of our favorite apps to the ins and outs of getting started and choosing your gear.

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