I woke up this morning about an hour earlier than usual and couldn’t fall back asleep, because from the moment my eyes opened my mind was running at full speed with a sudden obsession: ToastyFrog 2D.
For those of you who haven’t been reading the site for years and years, which is most of you, ToastyFrog 2D was a very well-intended idea I had about a decade ago. It flopped horribly. The idea was simple; as PlayStation and N64 had gained steam, the industry transitioned rapidly to making 3D, polygonal games almost exclusively. And while I enjoyed many of those games, I was also acutely aware that 2D games would be sorely missed. Even then it was clear that most developers were more than happy to burn their bridges to the past and shift entirely to a world made of many tiny, textured, Gouraud-shaded triangles, leaving hand-drawn bitmaps a forgotten thing of the past. And even then I thought it was a shame, because 2D games are different than 3D games, and not just on some superficial visual level. They look different, they move differently, they play differently. So, I decided to change the focus of my budding young site to covering news and releases for the increasingly rare creature known as 2D games.
Traffic to the site plummeted precipitously. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but I lost something like 3/4s of my readership practically overnight. Because no one really gave a crap about 2D games back then, you see.
In retrospect, I still think it was a great idea for a site. But maybe it was just a little too early? Like, seven or eight years too early? At that point, 2D games were almost entirely relegated to portable systems, which few people took seriously. It’s only been with the DS and PSP that the world at large has begun to give portables their due, and even so I know of a few developers who are internally antagonist to them even now — despite the fact that there are more DS owners than people who own Wiis, PS3s, and Xbox 360s combined. Still, there’s a growing movement of people who acknowledge that 2D and 3D gaming are different, that each has its own distinct strengths, and that there’s room in the world for both formats — and that great classic-style games deserve just as much attention as the latest envelope-pushing 3D graphical extravaganza.
I’m pretty sure what jolted me awake this morning was… well, probably the Casino Royale-style martini I had at dinner had something to do with it. But yesterday I woke up and finished up my review of Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, which quietly boasts some of the most elaborate traditional sprite animation I’ve ever seen in any game. Then news slipped that WayForward has finally found a publisher for its long-simmering sequel concepts for Shantae (that publisher being itself, via DSi Ware). And then I went to sleep playing Scribblenauts, which uses a simple marionette-like 2D style to offer a visual lexicon of thousands of interactive objects. Meanwhile, Sega’s finally putting together a high-definition 2D Sonic for consoles, Castlevania is getting WiiWare’d, and… some other stuff that I’ve heard about that will be awesome.
I have a lot of irons in the fire, which is a simple way of saying that my time is stretched entirely too thin. But this stuff’s important to me, for some stupid reason, and like everything else I post here I can’t really seem to find a way to make it work in the context of my job. Yeah, there’s the retro blog and all that, but after you’ve written about a few dozen new “retro” games you start to think that maybe these aren’t some bizarre throwback or evolutionary oddity but simply an entirely separate category of games that can exist side by side with Halo and Assassin’s Creed and that lumping them all together as “retro” is a disservice to them. And then you go and create a 2D category for your blog so you have an outlet for an old idea that you were really fond of and that you think maybe has a fighting chance this time around, especially with a moderately successful site wrapped around it to absorb the dissatisfaction of people who don’t go in for that crap. And you think: Hey, maybe this will be something good.
And maybe it will. I guess we’ll see.