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Member of the Month ~ March 2019 ~ Ondore's Lies & the hack Ganymede
Forum Index - Sunken Ghost Ship - Display Case - Interview Archive - Member of the Month ~ March 2019 ~ Ondore's Lies & the hack Ganymede
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Welcome back to episode 12 of the 3AM show, only this time I did the interview before 3AM, and didn't really do a show format. Should I stick with that format, or cast it aside? You can let me know if you want, but for now, I bring you another (hopefully) interesting interview with the user Ondore's Lies, primarily discussing the hack they've been working on for the past 7 years, Ganymede.

Impetus: Today I'm interviewing Ondore's Lies, the creator of Ganymede, an ambitious hack in progress with a unique melancholy story and atmosphere. Two months ago, Ondore's Lies posted a demo in our winter C3, so if you'd like to take a look at the hack for reference, you can do so here:
Ondore's Lies: I hear it's pretty good and the author is nice!
Impetus: That's what I heard too

Impetus: Anyway, for this interview, the hack is going to be the main focus - so without further ado, let's get into it.
Impetus: I played through the demo of the hack myself earlier, and I have to say, this hack seems to have a very unique atmosphere and the working of a dark story. Is the story personal to you in any way? What inspired the direction of the hack?
Ondore's Lies: To answer the first, both yes and no. Ganymede is an album by my favorite band, The Shills. They're a very small indie group out of Boston, and it is the story of a man whose anger and alienation led him to just go, get away from it all. It's a wonderful album and I highly recommend it (you can hear it here: It is personal to me in that I instantly related to the story and the message, because I'm a lot like that angry and bitter bastard. Many of the events which will be in the game are based, in varying degrees of looseness, on situations and events I have experienced throughout my life.
Ondore's Lies: To answer the second, my hack started off as just me playing around with Lunar Magic in my free time. I've been a huge fan of Mario games for 30 years and even as a kid, I loved designing levels using pen and paper. Getting to make an actual, playable game with these tools is really a dream come true. So, for a couple of years, I just kept making level after level, but it was not until I discovered the album that I felt inspired to take it to another level and make something different.
Impetus: So, when you say you're probably one of the oldest people on this forum, you really mean it! That's a long time to have been playing Mario. In regards to classic Mario actually, I've noticed that in the hack, you've kept the core mechanics of SMW, despite creating a very different world. In doing so, you've also altered them - adding HP, a roulette system, and having time take a more important place in the game. These are intriguing changes, what made you choose to change them, and how do you plan to use them in the hack?
Ondore's Lies: The changes that I have made, in terms of play mechanics, came from seeing people on the forum talk about how, for example, the cape mechanic is overpowered, or that lives are pointless, etc. I agree with these sentiments, anyone with even average skill at Super Mario World has no real pressing need to collect coins or find 1ups, so I wanted to find ways to make these mechanics more integral. Coins, in particular, are almost a distraction in the vanilla game. So, I thought about ways to make them provide real value to the player, to make the player want to go after them. I first came up with the idea of using them to fuel the timer, and then I found the roulette patch, so that your 100 coin reward was something a lot more exciting to get. Similarly, the HP system makes 1ups a lot more crucial (and gives me an excuse to use them more frequently).
Ondore's Lies: And all the props to the ASMers who helped make that happen, I'm a total code dummy.
Impetus: Yeah, from when I was playing I can definitely agree the roulette is fun to use! You also seem to have done a good job of designing levels around being able to have different powerups inside them, compared to smw's level design where as you mention, things can be broken easily. Another thing you've changed from SMW is the art style and world. You have a unique, moody and melancholly art style in the hack, which still retains some allusions to SMW's original art style. How did you develop this art style and the atmosphere for the hack?
Ondore's Lies: I'm not much of a planner, I have an idea in my head and I just start experimenting until I feel that the look I want is beginning to develop. Each of the levels you likely played went though a great many different looks at various points. I also draw inspiration from works by artists like Rob Gonsalves. I came up with the rainy day intro just because it happened to be raining that day and I wanted to try to capture that look and feel.
Ondore's Lies: I'm also an obsessive tester, I've literally played the early levels of this hack thousands of times. It's probably possible to break my levels, but I'd rather make you not want to.

Impetus: Well, keeping on the topic of the hack's story and art themes, but moving onto a question more about the development history of the hack: You've been working on this for a long time (since 2013), but you started your overhaul of the hack back in 2016, adding in the story and the new art style if I'm correct?
Ondore's Lies: Yeah, that's about it.
Ondore's Lies: Every time I make any kind of major change, be it adding a patch or the like, I make backups, so I have accumulated something like 200 different snapshots of the game in its development, going back to April 2013. Whenever a threat comes up about hints and tips for new hackers, that's the one I always stress: back it up, it takes no time to do and you'll hate not having done it later.
Impetus: It must be really cool to be able to look across all of those old versions and get a picture for how things have developed and been built upon over time!
Impetus: As another general question about the development, what has it been like to work on this one project for so long, and what was it like overhauling things, going back and changing everything? How much exactly needed to be changed, or just has changed since you started?
Ondore's Lies: For sure, it has been satisfying to have been able to commit to any one project like this, just as someone who habitually starts new projects and loses interest after a while. In terms of making changes, the hack has really always been evolving as I've learned more skills and have had access to new tools and scripts. On average, taking an existing level and giving it a serious overhaul takes about a month of daily work. One of the things that keeps me engaged is that, if I get frustrated or bored working on one level, I will go to some other and tinker with it for a while. There are still about 45 levels which need serious work, and I am still figuring out how to integrate the story and the characters I'm developing right now. So, a finished project is still quite down the road. And that's fine with me, because I kind of don't want to ever actually be done. It's too much fun!

A couple of C3s ago, I made a video showing how the first level had changed between the first time I revealed my project in 2014, to what was then early 2018.

Impetus: That video is awesome! That's a really stark change between those two versions of the level. I wish you lots of luck with the rest of the levels you need to overhaul as well! Out of curiosity, have you thought at all about what you might do once this hack is finally finished?
Ondore's Lies: Thank you! What I really would like to do is, once I have a reasonably finished game, to use it as a pitch to collect a team and take it from SMW hack to an actual game with its own engine, that we can release on consoles. Had I started out with the ambitions I have now, I probably would have gone that route from the beginning. Of course, by the time that happens, the consoles may be embedded in our brains. Who knows?
Impetus: Hey, that sounds like it could be pretty awesome. Considering how good Ganymede looks now, I'd love to see what you could come up with as a team!
Impetus: Actually, speaking of indie game development, there have been quite a few great indie platformers which have a similar gameplay focus with difficult but fun gameplay, and also a deep story and atmosphere. Did any of these influence you as you've been developing this hack?
Ondore's Lies: Actually, the platformer which most significantly influenced me was Kid Chameleon, on the Genesis/MegaDrive. It's a lot more brutal in its difficulty, but I was absolutely in love with how intricate and stuffed each level was. Like, every single portion of every level hides some kind of secret or cool reward. I consider it a masterwork in platforming design. Shovel Knight is probably the best indie platformer I have ever played, and for a lot of the same reasons. In terms of story, I probably have a thousand influences, the biggest being not a platforming game at all. That's Silent Hill 2, and I could probably take an hour explaining both why it's a brilliant story, and explaining how it has affected my life in very serious ways (like, I met my wife on a Silent Hill forum, where we were both moderators). Ganymede isn't dark horror, but I'm trying to apply the lessons I learned from being totally obsessed with it for years.
Impetus: That's actually pretty interesting, but perhaps not surprising considering you must have such a rich history of gaming experiences to draw from. I doubt many of our current users have played Kid Chameleon, though I know a lot of people here do enjoy visiting games that were released around or even before the time they were born, so I'm sure maybe a few have tried it even if they didn't grow up around it.
Impetus: The hack itself is a very large and ambitious project, you've described it as your life's work and the game you've always wanted to make. From what you've said, it seems like developing it takes up a large chunk of your free time, but how much time exactly do you spend developing it and how do you balance that with everything else you do?
Ondore's Lies:
It can vary a lot. There are periods of time when I may only do some light tinkering here and there, others (like when C3 looms near) where I may be giving it 6-8 hours a day, every single day, because my inner perfectionist demands it. Insofar as balancing myself, I am blessed to have the free time necessary for a long project, and I'm responsible enough to know how to prioritize work and home life so as to have harmony.

Impetus: Alright, bringing us to a new topic. If I'm right, people have been following your hack for quite some time since you revealed it in 2014, and you've shown it off in several C3s, earning trophies both this year and last year. Have the responses as you've gone along been what you expected, and what do you think of them? In addition, what things have you worked on, or do you plan to work on, as a result of the responses?
Ondore's Lies: I appreciate any kinds of response, it shows that someone has taken time to give my thing some attention and whatever the response, I'm glad for it. I try not to have expectations in that regard, but I always most appreciate responses that are detailed and critical, because it's easy to overlook things when you are doing your own testing. I consider any points of critique and will, at the least, try making a tentative change if it is suggested. There really have not been many cases where someone has pointed out something that could use some work and I did not, in the end, agree. The biggest example is likely when I tried submitting it as a 'completed' hack back in 2014, intending it to be a two-part thing, and it was rejected for a variety of flaws I had not really thought about, from cutoff to sprite tile errors.
Impetus: Although, obviously, a lot of people have looked at the hack and played through it, did you have a specific audience in mind when first setting out, or when overhauling it to what it is now? What kinds of people do you think would enjoy the hack the most?
Ondore's Lies: My first audience is myself, when I play, I try to note when I'm not having fun, or am being overly frustrated, because I assume no one else will be having a good time playing a level if I'm not. Past that, I'm catering to the hardcore hack players, trying to give them something which is, at least in some ways, quite different from most other SMW hacks. Then, finally, my wife, brother and best friend are all avid gamers, but they got into gaming after I did and didn't play 2D platformers very much. Since they all find them kind of hard to play, I'm also trying to make it so that people who are not experienced with classic Mario gameplay may, perhaps, find it engaging.
Impetus: I admit, it was pretty challenging even in the first few levels, so I presume the endgame will be a difficult wall to surmount. Still, the story is intriguing, which does make me want to give it a shot to find everything out once you finish it. I guess storylines can be pretty good hooks to keep a player going even when things seem completely against them?
Ondore's Lies: It certainly is for me. I love some games that don't bother much, or at all, with story, but the majority of games that have had a lasting impact on me are those which gave me something to think about other than stomping or shooting. Sometimes, it really helps to know that there is some kind of narrative purpose behind the stomping and shooting.

Impetus: You mentioned Kid Chamelion, Silent Hill and Shovel Knight earlier, and Mario is obvious too, but what other games or series are there that you're a fan of?
Ondore's Lies: I was really hard into Final Fantasy between 4 and 9 (my favorite is 6), Xenogears has been one of my favorites since I first tried it, I love a lot of the Zelda games with Breath of the Wild being probably my favorite game of the previous generation. I'm currently in love with Resident Evil 2 all over again, it's better in every way and I was always really high on the original. Classic Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man, Metal Gear Solid. My first love was Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin on the Intellivision. Still a great game, if you can overlook how frighteningly primitive it is now.
Impetus: Dang, that really is an old game. I'd be surprised if more than a couple of other users have played many if any games that are that old. (I almost have, having played the old might and magic games, the first of which is about five years younger. Actually, I believe it's in the same style as Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.)
Ondore's Lies: Might and Magic is a vastly more complex take on that kind of game. But, what makes ToT really cool is that the dungeons are generated uniquely every time you play. It was way ahead of its time (and its hardware!)
Impetus: That is pretty awesome. You never know, someone reading this might check it out for their self now.
Impetus: Hmm, I think we've covered a lot so far. Is there anything else you can think of that you'd like to talk about before the end of the interview?
Ondore's Lies: Just to say that I'm honored to have been chosen as member of the month, and I feel like I'm part of a strong and vibrant community which stands on the backs of people being creative and dedicated. It's always blown my mind how this very old game has caught the attention of so many people who aren't young enough to remember when it was still fresh and new. I've been a member of a lot of forums, this is the only one now that I am active in, so I hope we're here to stay for a long time to come.
Impetus: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview too! It's been great interviewing you, and I hope you've enjoyed answering my questions. And to everyone reading, I hope they enjoy learning a bit more about you and the hack.
Ondore's Lies: Thank you, I've had a blast. Thanks for taking the time to talk.
Impetus: Well, with that, I think, it's time to wrap up the interview. I look forwards to seeing your progress on Ganymede in the future!
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Latest: Year 2020
Congrats! The hack sounds really amazing. That's some dedication for all those years. Best of luck in developing it and future projects! ^.=.^

I'm my first audience too. I haven't tried your hack yet, but have silently watched it. When it's finished it will be great to play it. Oh btw your not only guy playing Mario for 30 years if it makes you feel better ;)
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Forum Index - Sunken Ghost Ship - Display Case - Interview Archive - Member of the Month ~ March 2019 ~ Ondore's Lies & the hack Ganymede

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