The story of a home brew part 2: A case study of one game that did it right

The Immortal John Hancock, a prominent YouTube gamer, posted a thread on June 3, 2016, to a Nintendo collectors’ forum asking for a programmer for a potential project. Antoine Fantys was the programmer that answered that call.

From his early days as a programmer fiddling around with BASIC on his Commodore 64, Fantys wanted to be a programmer.

“I came across a Commodore 64. The beauty about this machine was that you could learn BASIC programming and program simple games directly on the computer.” he said.

“I ended up learning BASIC and coding my first games on a retro platforms, which included text adventures and a horse racing game of all things.” he added.

His interest in retro games began with his NES games on a Game Boy Advance, which later developed into full blown passion once he discovered YouTube.

“I found footage of the first Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Finding out about Super Mario Bros. and all those games of yesteryear sparked my interest in retro gaming, and especially the NES” he said.

When Hancock made the call asking for a programmer, he jumped at the opportunity. It was his chance to do something for the community, and make a name for himself while honing his programming skills. He reached out to Hancock via that forum and they two went to work.

“The game was John’s idea. I believe the game was a favorite of his. It’s based on an old 1981 Stern/Konami arcade game called ‘Turtles.'” he said.

He knew right away it was a project he wanted in on.

“As soon as I saw the video of the game John sent me, I knew I would like to work on this game because such arcade games are fun and easy to port on a console like the NES.” he said.

Fantys got his start on the NES doing, in his words “crappy rom hacks.” From there his interest grew. He found his way onto a Nintendo fan site that had a home brew section and he began learning the programming language of the NES.

For the most part, he works alone. He will occasionally bring on help with the music, in this case he did it all.

Once the game was finish John Hancock shared the story to his YouTube channel. From there John Riggs took the game and turned it into a charity work for an gaming expo he was a part of. With the help of prominent YouTubers, Fantys was able to get his name, and work, to a wider audience.

When it comes to ROMS and the home brew scene. Fantys tends to play it safe. He doesn’t make his roms he owns available, choosing to just sell carts if he can. He indicated he would consider using a form of DRM if it was a work he owned the rights to, yet he did claim he often sells the rights to his games.

This is where the gaming community and the home brew scene can come together. While I believe it to be okay to download roms of games nobody is profiting off, of course except the re-sellers making cash on second hand merchandise, I think original games have a right to be protected. On the other hand, when it comes to games like Pac-Man, Mega Man, Mario, Zelda, etc., then the user should make a attempt to purchase, or obtain, a legal copy before pirating. In this case I tend to favor supporting the Nintendo eShop, the PSN, Xbox Live Arcade and Steam. It sucks paying money for a ROM of a game you already owned at some point in time, yet you do have to remember once you sell the physical cart you sold your rights to the program on that rom. Also owning physical carts does not automatically give you the right to the program stored on the carts rom chips.

All things considered Fantys took a game someone else already made, an arcade game, and ported it, at the request of a collector in the industry, and made it available as a clone to those who were interested in obtaining that version. Since the game in question is based on someone else’s property, it stands to reason the gamer who does wish to play the game would be better served tracking down a legit copy, or playing it on MAME if they have no other option. The real need to play a ROM of a port of an arcade game to the NES, decades later, seems kind of counter intuitive. Is it scummy, shady or illegal what Fantys and Hancock have done? I don’t think so. They made it very clear every step of the way it was a clone of an arcade game, they made it very clear they were making it available to collectors who wanted physical copies, and it was done as a labor of love to the community of home brew gamers, programmers, collectors, and retro gamers in general. All in all this is how you do a retro/homebrew based on existing works the right away.

Now if they called it Turtles, basically recreated the original game in its entirety line byline and tried to sell it a their own without recognizing the original rights owners, that would be a different story entirely. Kudos to Fantys and Hancock for creating a project that was done out of passion for the scene, the community and the love of retro games. While it is easy to get caught up in who owns the rights to what, which degree of piracy counts as infringement and where the line should be drawn, at the end of the day all that really matters is gamers get to enjoy the works of programmers who enjoy making games for others to enjoy. It’s the circle of gaming.

Be sure to check out his YouTube video discussing the game Here