Going Retro with Mega Cat Studios

There is something to be said about the bravery it takes to try creating a video game. Unlike other mediums (music, video, writing, etc.), most computers don’t come with a basic program to help a person learn the basics. However, numerous products and game-making engines are available for PC, Macintosh, and Linux users.

But what about those who try to develop for consoles from decades past?

The Mega Drive version of Coffee Crisis.

Mega Cat Studios is a Pittsburgh-based video game developer who creates games for PC, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and the Sega Genesis. Their titles include Log Jammers, Almost Hero, Another Reigny Day, and Coffee Crisis. The last is notable for being a collaboration between Mega Cat and the Pittsburgh-based coffee company Black Forge, and features real-life locations in the city as levels. James Deighan, who works at Mega Cat, says the team-up was inspired by “the idea of spreading couch co-op to Pittsburgh-based businesses that do cool things.” He thinks another game based on a Pittsburgh startup would be a fantastic addition to their library.

While Coffee Crisis is available for both the Genesis and PC, many of their other titles are strictly for older platforms. Deighan admits that there’s a challenge in finding a market for these retro creations. Unlike mainstream consoles and current distribution platforms, new games for older systems is an extremely niche consumer bases.

Fortunately, Pittsburgh has been evolving into a techie’s dream city in recent years. “There’s a great talent pool flooding in from the rich academia in the region,” Deighan says. “The community is incredibly active… there’s no shortage of action.” He cites groups like the Pittsburgh Tech Meetup, Alloy 26, and Alpha Labs as major reasons for the technological boom.

Title screen for Viking Democracy.

Even without the numerous startups, Mega Cat Studios would likely still exist. Deighan explains that the entire company shares a passion for gaming and are incredibly grateful for the opportunity they’ve been given. “Most of us are reasonably close in age, and don’t have too many memories from our childhood[s] where a video game console wasn’t part of our lives. It’s personally fulfilling for us to keep the [original consoles] alive.” This dedication is why they develop for older systems- “it’s something you do because you love it, not because it’s what moves the needle for business.”

Log Jammers taps into the 80s vibe.

But while they eagerly embrace the past, Mega Cat is keeping up with current tech as well. The aforementioned Another Reigny Day is being developed for the HTC Vive, a virtual reality headset created by Valve. This is not the first time they’ve worked with Valve’s platforms: Log Jammers, Coffee Crisis, and the future Viking Democracy are playable through the Steam gaming client. (A review of those titles will be published alongside this article.)

Mega Cat Studios is defined by its harmonic blend of technology, both new and retro. In an era where many video game companies seem to be eschewing all that made the games of the 80s and 90s memorable, they are proving that tried-and-trued formulas still work in the digital age.

If nothing else, how many real-world cities can say they have a game based on them?

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