In a strange turn of events, a small time video game developer sat down with a creative idea before decided to turn it into a proposal to send over to Netflix. Mike Mika, the man behind the idea and the Digital Eclipse team, sat down with John Gibson of IAM8BIT and a group of others with the goal of creating a Maniac Mansion/Zak Mckracken style game for Stranger Things. Here’s the kicker, the game wouldn’t be for a console, but instead be compatible with a Commodore 64 as well as PCs and Macs.
Mike Mika, for those who don’t know, is a video game developer and editor who has done work for Death Jr. and Death Jr. 2: Root of Evil. But what I find most impressive is the fact that the man was able to hack Donkey Kong for his daughter. In a news article from MSNBC it was reported that Mike hacked a copy of Donkey Kong so his daughter could play as the female character Pauline. When speaking with Wired about it, he said that his daughter simply wanted to save Mario. So he stayed awake one night and made his daughter happy.
In this case however, Mike approached the team in September of last year with the intentions of joining forces with a few people to make a Stranger Things game in the classic style it deserves. After a bit of work from everyone involved, they were able to get a small prototype concept together, with the music provided by 8 Bit Weapon. The trailer was then sent to Netflix as a pitch but before sadly being put on a shelf somewhere. Netflix never got back to the team on whether or not they would like to move forward or not.
Under our Digital Eclipse label, and in coordination with 8Bit Weapon (Michelle and Seth Sternberger) and IAM8BIT (Jon Gibson and Amanda White), we created a demo of a Lucas Arts inspired adventure game based on Stranger Things that ran on actual Commodore 64 hardware, from an actual 5 1/4″ floppy disk! It never got out of the prototype phase, but what you see is running on actual hardware – music and graphics. We were in the middle of getting the sprite system to work and the room system before it was shelved. We even visualized what the packaging would look like! The artwork on the box cover came from the internet – I wish I could find the artist’s name. This was not an official project – merely created for a proposal for Netflix.
What set this project apart from other projects was that they wanted to stay as true to the era as possible. When figuring out the selection of music to run there was only one choice, 8 Bit Weapon. 8 Bit Weapon is a chiptune band created by Seth and Michelle Sternberger who have worked on creating soundtracks and electronic music from the 70’s and 80’s. They have worked on numerous projects with Disney, Microsoft, Nokia, Sony, and even the Smithsonian Museum, in other words, if you’re a classic gamer you’ll love them.
For the project at hand however, the duo was tasked with creating an awesome soundtrack for the game that would have been produced at the time of when Stranger Things and the Commadore 64, or C64, would have originally been used, floppy disk and all. Now this may sound like an easy task, but thats where you’d be dead wrong. After reaching out to the band 8 Bit Weapon for a comment and hearing what they had to go through, it wasn’t a walk in the park.
Their first draft was created using the MSSIAH cart for the C64 only to realize that they’d be unable to export the music file to their own program for the C64. Having asked around for any suggestions, they ended up getting help from Richard Baylis of The new Dimension C64 coding team. By using a tracker called DMC v1-7, they were able to program the Stranger Things theme music onto a Commodore 64 before sending it off to Mike and his team, who ultimately fell in love with it.
A lot of hard work went into this and sadly it only got as far as a pitch. C’mon Netflix! How do you not say okay to a Stranger Things game!!
Contributing reporting by Matt Matasci