Brand New VMU Game – Dev Interview

The Dreamcast has such a healthy indie scene and it seems a new game appears nearly every month. Anyone who owned a Dreamcast back in the day may remember the mini games that you could download to your VMU to take the fun on the road. Well, it seems one developer has fond memories of these mini games and has been making them for years. 8-Bit Interactive has a new VMU mini game up on their YouTube channel to show off. I asked them to give us the lowdown on this unique project.

Tell us about your latest VMU game, how does it play, what is the premise? 
My latest VMU game is titled Monkey Rush. Its a catch the falling object type game similar to Safebuster (Game & Watch) or the bug toss mini game from The Lion King (SNES, Mega Drive). 
You control a monkey that you can move left and right to catch falling bananas. The game has a perpetually increasing speed as you catch more bananas up to a maximum speed and difficulty. You have 3 lives (missed bananas) and aim for a high score by catching the most bananas.  
The game has an animated intro sequence, animated sprites, full sound and audio through the VMU speaker and can save up to 3 high scores to the VMU flash memory. 
Why make a VMU game in 2021?

To put it simply, I had some spare time and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, so I went ahead and did it. Monkey Rush was a VMU game concept I came up with over 10 years ago, and I even had created a prototype of it one point. But I’ve learned a lot about what’s possible with the VMU over the years and thought it was a good candidate to code from the ground up for a quick 2021 release.

I have a few more complex VMU projects I’ve been working on for a few years now (I have some screens on my Instagram for anyone interested), but this was something simple I could put together quickly.

What is it about the DC and VMU that compels you to want to make these mini games? 
I think the VMU is a great device, but one that is generally overlooked and never reached is full potential. At best, there are a handful of good VMU games, and thats official and homebrew games combined. There’s a real opportunity with the VMU to provide some fun content on a system that doesn’t have much of it.
How do you do it, what software or coding skills have you learned? 
Not much software is needed at all. Typically, a VMU game is coded in rudimentary 8-bit assembly language in any standard code editor. I use a free editor called Code Blocks but have even used Notepad in the past!

There’s a program called “VMS Assembler” from a person named Marcus Comstedt which turns your assembly code into a .VMS file which you can put straight on to your VMU or into an emulator for testing. 


Will you release this to the world? 

At some point! Its hard to find a good way to distribute a VMU game file. When Ive released VMU games in the past, Ive created a .cdi image with the game on it, but I’ve had dozens of messages from people asking how to get the game on their VMU. So, Im still trying to work out the best distribution method.

Any plans to make a full DC game in the future?

As much as I’d love to, I simply don’t have enough spare time to create a polished, quality DC game. When I’ve eventually made 12 – 15 VMU games, I do plan to create a DC disc with a nice graphical interface so people can download them on to their VMU easily. The plan is a pressed disc version for collectors, as well as a free download. Realistically though, that dream will likely be several years away!

Anything else you feel the readers would be interested in knowing or finding out about the project?

If anyone is interested in seeing more of the game, there is a video of this and some of my previous games up on my YouTube channel, 8-Bit Interactive. As stated above, I am planning to release this shortly, I’m just looking for the most appropriate distribution method.

I also post more regular updates (although I’ve been a bit lazy with this recently) on my Instagram account @guacasaurus_mex, so anyone can follow me there if they’d like to keep up with my VMU games. As a side note, I am looking to create a new social media handle and consolidate all my updates uniformly across all platforms, but I’ll post updates when this occurs.

Thanks for taking the time to interview me and showing interest in my game!

A huge shout out to 8-Bit for taking the time to speak with me.