2021’s already been a strange year for most, but few would’ve counted on a Game Boy resurgence. Limited Run Games has reprinted two obscure Natsume games, new projects like The Shapeshifter or Deadeus recently emerged, and now, we’ve got Infinity, a Game Boy Color RPG with an upcoming Kickstarter campaign this June. Unlike these other projects, Infinity isn’t a re-release or a brand-new experience; it’s a once-cancelled game which began development back in 1999.
Initially developed by Affinix Software, it wasn’t far off completion, even being shown at E3 by publishers Crave Entertainment. But as Nintendo launched the Game Boy Advance in 2001, Infinity was left behind. A year later, it was formally canned, and Affinix’s team eventually split up. It wasn’t forgotten though, and back in 2016, a former Affinix developer released the incomplete ROM, showing us what could’ve been.
Thanks to Retro Modding and Incube8 Games, Infinity’s time is finally here, and it only took two decades, give or take. Promising a physical Game Boy Color cartridge release – and digital ROM for accessibility – we wanted to learn more about the fascinating history behind it. As such, we reached out for an interview with Incube8 Games, who were kind enough to collectively answer a few of our questions.
Henry Stockdale, Retroware: Firstly, thank you for joining me. For any readers unaware of Infinity and your team, could you please introduce yourselves and the game?
Incube8 Games: Thanks for the opportunity! Incube8 Games is a brand new retro games publisher. With the advent of GB Studio and other tools, a lot of independent creators have started to build incredible games, but the outlets are still limited. We want to make it easy for anyone with a solid game to publish it on a physical cartridge, so players can experience it on the handheld consoles they love. Although we’re new in the publishing landscape, many people may already know us through Retro Modding, a well established company in the handheld console modding community.
As for Infinity, it’s our first major project. It’s an original RPG for the Game Boy Color that was set to be launched in the early 2000’s, but that was canceled shortly before completion and was left unfinished for the last 20 years. We’ll finally complete the game and publish it as a physical cartridge.
Retroware: As a Game Boy Color RPG releasing in 2021, Infinity sits in quite a unique position. What is it about this game that inspired yourselves to bring it back?
Incube8 Games: Infinity promised a new turn-based tactical combat system, a rich story, and also a fresh take on the genre, being one of the very few non-Japanese RPGs. The only reason it never came to life was because of poor timing. The GBA was the shiny new console and publishers saw no reason to launch a game for the now last-gen Game Boy Color. Porting the game on GBA wasn’t really an option since it would have meant starting from scratch.
As retro gamers, we replay old RPGs, always wishing there were more. Infinity is the last gem from that era that has yet to be released, and for a lot of us, finishing Infinity and publishing it is something of a gamer’s childhood dream.
Retroware: Development goes all the way back to 1999, starting with Affinix Software. Can you tell us how this idea first came to life?
Incube8 Games: It’s a lesser known fact, but Justin Karneges – the lead programmer – had already programmed Joltima, a RPG for the [in]famous TI83 calculator. When he found out that the Game Boy Color actually had a similar CPU to the TI calculators, he teamed up with Hideaki Omuro (utilities developer) and using the free Game Boy developer tools and cheap rewritable cartridges, they started working on what was initially a sequel to Justin’s Joltima.
Retroware: Considering Infinity got as far as being demoed at E3, did Crave Entertainment cancelling development come as a shock?
Incube8 Games: Of course the team was shocked at the time to learn that despite all the long hours that went into the project, Infinity wouldn’t see the light of day. In hindsight however, they admit that most publishers had already rejected the project, and even Crave had tried to steer them to other things during their publishing consideration. They wanted them to do a more popular genre or franchise title.
Retroware: Following on from that, the incomplete ROM appeared online back in 2016, alongside the soundtrack. Why choose then to suddenly reappear? Was this a factor in restarting development?
Incube8 Games: The Affinix team had never reached a consensus on this matter, but it was around that time that they realized that even an unfinished Infinity was better than no Infinity at all. Releasing the content in 2016 was a way for them to at least share their incredible project with the fans. By releasing the source code, they also hoped someone would pick up development where they left it so Infinity could finally get completed.
Retroware: At the same time, a Reddit Ask-Me-Anything was held by several former Affinix developers that released the ROM. Are any of them involved in Infinity’s restarted development?
Incube8 Games: Of course! We couldn’t just “recycle” the game with a new team and keep its spirit intact. While they all have moved on with their lives and careers, they are involved to varying degrees in the project. In fact, Eric Hache, the original composer, is putting the final touches to a medley for our Kickstarter newsletter subscribers and Mathew Valente (sound FX & GBC music conversion) worked on the audio for our first teaser.
Retroware: Following on from that point, it’s been about five years since it re-emerged. What’s happened between then, and last week’s announcement?
Incube8 Games: The release created a lot of interest in certain communities and the demo was quite popular, but I guess the task of actually completing the game seemed quite daunting. We eventually got in touch with the Affinix team and discussed the idea for over two years before a formal publishing deal materialised.
Retroware: Can you give us an idea of what to expect inside the upcoming Kickstarter campaign?
Incube8 Games: It’s no secret that our main goal is to release Infinity in physical form, but we plan to offer different tiers, from the digital-only package to the collector’s edition with added goodies. While it all largely depends on the support we receive throughout the campaign, we also have several stretch goal ideas in mind to bring the game even further.
The Kickstarter campaign has two main purposes for this release. First, we want to remunerate the original team for their work, as Infinity was never published, and they never got proper compensation for part of their work. A successful campaign will let Incube8 Games acquire the intellectual property and, by doing so, reward the original team members. Second, we want to gauge the community’s interest for a fresh RPG on a 20 year old console. The release involves a lot of risks for the whole team, and learning how well it will be received really helps with setting the bar. We have a lot of big plans for the game, but we’ll only move forward with the most extravagant of our ideas if the community supports them.
Retroware: Lastly, is there anything you’d like to share with the fans?
Incube8 Games: While the games success will largely depend on your support, the game will eventually be made available to everyone. Infinity was made open-source five years ago and the finished code will be released back to the community two years after the release of the game. It’s incredible that we still see new games being released for the Game Boy systems decades later. If digging through Infinity’s code can help a few more devs build their own masterpiece, we all win.