‘Mashing’ is a very important ingredient in the gameplay of Wonder Boy in Monster Land, but showcasing that in our latest Fossil Arcade video wasn’t easy…
Making a Let’s Play on the SEGA AGES Wonder Boy in Monster Land port was a bit of an experiment for us. There was nothing revolutionary about the format, but having recently moved house, Alex and I wanted to quickly make a video in the new shooting environment (my living room), so any kinks or issues that came up could be cleaned up before any real money got put into new, proper episodes of Fossil Arcade.
I chose Wonder Boy, because it’s a game I know very well, with some great conversation starters, a key part of which is ‘mashing’. When adventuring through Monster Land, Wonder Boy must collect as much gold as possible to upgrade equipment and survive increasingly aggressive attacks. However, due to a glitch present in the game, it’s possible to mash the character back and fourth, causing any hidden money you find to greatly increase. When mashing, Wonder Boy appears to flicker in place at an alarming rate, and it’s this ‘appearing in two places at once’ behaviour which causes the money glitch to happen.
Mastering this ‘mechanic’ has become an important part of the game over the years, so we made sure to exploit it as much as possible. We shot the video in a couple of hours, having mashed non-stop, start to finish. I was aiming to have it edited and released as soon as possible.However, I hit a snag straight away when reviewing the footage. We capture our HD Gameplay using an Aver Media Portable Game Recorder. It’s absolutely fantastic and very reliable, providing the user with the option to record directly to PC at 60FPS, or to an SD Card at 30FPS. We opt for the SD Card recording as it’s a lot easier to set up with what equipment we have… But Wonder Boy’s mashing animation is only visible at 60FPS. I did not take this into account.
I was faced with the cold realisation that the video was effectively ruined, because the thing we’d spent the entire session talking about -mashing- was absent from all the gameplay footage. And if I’d taken a moment to make sure the mashing was recordable, and found it wasn’t, I would’ve substituted the game for something else entirely. This was supposed to be a straight forward, no fuss project, but now I had to choose to discard it or pour several additional more hours of editing into it.
Of course, I decided it was best to carry on, as replicating the mashing animation in After Effect CC would not be that hard to do, it was just time consuming. So here’s what I did…
Most cases of mashing fortunately took place against a clear blue sky. By taking snap shots of Wonder Boy against blue, it was just a case of keying out the sky and then animating him flickering back and fourth. While we played through the game, our equipment periodically changed, as we bought new shoes, shields etc.
Every time the character sprite updated with new gear, I needed to source a new Wonder Boy image to animate – always looking for a moment the character passed in front of blue sky.
But it wasn’t just Wonder Boy being replaced. The static non-mashing sprite from our gameplay footage was still there, and needed to be covered up. Again, this was more than easy when the action was taking place against a solid background with no detail. But if the character passed in front of a piece of scenery, like a tree or cloud, those assets needed to be extracted and replaced in order to cover up the still character too.
In the most complex shots, Alex mashed his way through a difficult castle area, with a yellow brick background and candles on the wall. To replace this background, the simplest thing was to collect a few screenshots and stitch together an empty background, before reanimating all of Alex’s gameplay over the top of it.
In total, there were about 28 instances of mashing replaced. I could have reduced that number, but I decided before doing the After Effects replacements that I should edit the video just as I would have done had there been no hiccups in recording. 28 didn’t seem like a bad number, although some of those shots (especially the castle segments) included 5 or 6 separate replacement animations. In total, the mash correction took about 6 hours. Although I didn’t keep track, it was an extra day’s work. Here’s another before an after…
In the end, it was a really good experience. Alex and I had a blast playing Wonder Boy in Monster Land, so I didn’t want to let the footage go. It was a little tedious, but I put my patience to the test and the end result was more than worth it.
So now anyone who saw our Let’s Play will know the extra work that went in behind the scenes. You can check out the full episode below.