It was a gloomy day in a Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. 10 kids, all with their own situations depriving them of happiness; worry settling in for all their family members. One kid sat in a room healing from knee surgery counting down until he could go back home. With boredom settling in the room, only negative thoughts and emotions crowded their minds. Until a nurse came in the room and surprised them with a TV, and a Super Nintendo console that had Super Mario World for them to play. For the hour the console was in their possession, all of them forgot about their situations and couldn’t stop smiling. They all laughed, enjoyed every minute of gameplay. This enjoyment in this environment has forever been embedded in the recesses of Robert Maduri’s brain and it’s the sole reason why he decided to become a videogame developer. To give people an experience that is fun at its core and could enlighten anyone’s day.
Nintendo may have influenced Maduri’s reason for developing games, but it wasn’t his favourite publisher, nor was it for the rest of the team at Throwback Entertainment. Their favourite titles of their childhood were actually published by Acclaim Entertainment. They made it their goal after collaborating in University to acquire all the assets for Acclaim dating all the way back to 2004.
“It took a couple years to close on it, so when we got those assets that’s when things kicked into the next level,” Maduri said.
Maduri and company have acquired over 158 titles from Acclaim Entertainment since. They believe some titles Acclaim came out with didn’t receive the attention they deserved.
“This is actually going to sound funny but we were all big fans of Acclaim Entertainment on certain titles, not all of them. Titles like Extreme G, Vex, and Gladiator got overshadowed,” he said. “Even though the Acclaim titles weren’t as popular as the Battletoads, the Clayfighter, the Earth Worm Jim’s titles of that era but you know they found their place right along those titles. I always found myself playing those games. So it always a logo and a brand that was burned into my mind.”
When Maduri was 10, his fondest memory was with a bone-crunching fighter that still holds up to this day, Mortal Kombat.
“I loaded up my first battle of Mortal Kombat and I watched Goro walk across the screen with the Acclaim logo and that memory will always stick with me,” he said.
It’s evident that Acclaim titles have had a big impact on his life. From leveraging Midway titles like Mortal Kombat to his favourite superhero, Spider-Man. The most notable games with the webhead he was a fan of were Separation Anxiety and Maximum Carnage, both among his favourite titles of all-time. It’s this passion for remastering and bringing these titles in the hands of the new generation of gamers as well as those who are familiar with the titles, that has brought the team together. It’s been a callback from the bleak day in the hospital and has given Maduri and the team a purpose.
“The driving force for every single person that’s working within Throwback is, if we can make a difference, for an hour in someone’s life, that makes it all worth it. That’s something I value more than anything else,” he said.
They believe no other entertainment medium can bring the same feeling videogames do.
“It’s something I think the video game industry does better than any other medium in the entertainment industry. It really leverages the passion, that emotion that happiness that you feel when you’re playing a game, that you don’t really get when you are engaged with doing passive Entertainment media forms.”
Bringing these experiences back in the hands of the gamer is made possible from the inclusion of Microsoft Azure and Visual Studio in their game development process. It has helped the developer throw data into the cloud and utilize both Windows and Linux in unison when remastering the Acclaim titles. This has helped a variety of people in the office, with those accustomed to one or the other while growing up, they aren’t forced to use one ecosystem. Azure allows them to choose their personal preference.
With something like Azure in place it’s a lot easier for the developers to pool in resources and trial in-game portions. Fans of these games worried that they won’t play homage to the original titles, don’t need to worry, everything is intact and it’s a constant focus for the team to incorporate new and innovative ways to play.
“Anyone who is out there that is passionate about these games as I am; at least they know that within myself and my team that we are equally as passionate. We want to get as many of these titles back out there as possible for everyone to enjoy.”
It’s never been easier for small development studios to bring games into the marketplace on consoles and steam now. Things have opened immensely since the early generations of gaming. People yearn for more mobile games to play on the go and Throwback Entertainment is aware of that and has strived to bring some classics to the platform in a way gamers haven’t been experienced those titles yet.
“Some of them are complete retooling’s and some of are new reboots,” he said. “With a lot of these franchises, it’s pure nostalgia, but then there might be one that they’d love to experience in a new interesting way so we’re going to work on covering both those basis.”
2015 is going to their biggest year yet. The studio is planning to have a constant release schedule throughout the year. All of these titles have been developed for a few years now and one will get revealed on Monday.
The only hints the developer gave were that the title was released on a Sega platform and that it encompasses everything that made the publisher special to them in their opinion.