VGDC lives on. 2019-09-07 21:48:52
I'm sure at least some of you might be old enough to remember Video Game Director's Cuts.
About 19 years ago, a man named Randy Solem started making Flash animations with 8-bit and 16-bit pixel art assets ripped from videogames via emulation, often referred to simply as "sprites," and uploading them to Newgrounds, as well as his own website. He was among the first to do so and helped pioneer the "sprite Flash" genre of animation, which mostly flourished in the early to mid 00s. He kept uploading several of these up to around 2006, and many of them made the front page.
Around 2003, the VGDC forums went online, and a community was born. It wasn't without its drama (I myself was banned like three times), but to aspiring artists and creators, much of them very young like myself back then, it was a space full of enthusiasm and creativity, where we shared our art with and encouraged one another, built upon and remixed each other’s work, and bonded together through our shared love of videogames.
Activity sort of started fizzling out going into the 2010s as Randy settled into a new life with his girlfriend and newborn daughter. I personally had moved on to other forums since around 2006 and then just sort of stopped hanging around them sometime in my senior year of high school, so I’m not very familiar with this era. My experience sharing my animations with others, however, inspired me to start a bachelors degree in animation in 2010.
Suddenly, on March 16th, 2012, Randy Solem passed away at 36 years of age. Veteran forum members and friends of Randy reached out to as many of the old forum members as they could to invite them to a Facebook group and break the news, so they could remember him and reminisce about the forum days. VGDC was suddenly thrust back into my life, for a moment at least.
For most of us, it was the first time we knew about each other’s real identities. We were also now in contact with Randy’s mother and girlfriend. Randy’s mom still owns the original www.videogamedc.com web domain, and access to it, as well as Randy’s Newgrounds account, was entrusted to an old member who used to go by Mr. Shark (now Krahs). Over the next few years, some members tried to get the forums going again a couple times, but they failed to gain much traction, as many people had moved on with their own lives, and forums were generally going out of favor. Also, spam bots.
A Discord server was started late in 2016, mostly to supplement the forums. However, all activity naturally moved to the Discord, leaving the forums a kind of ghost town. As you’ve all seen in recent years, Discord servers are strongly emerging as a replacement for the forums and message boards of old and is becoming one of the most popular ways to connect with communities of people online. For all intents and purposes, the VGDC Discord is now the official home of the VGDC community.
With a little under 70 members and maybe a dozen or so active ones, so far we haven’t quite captured the larger essence of those days… Although to be honest, a tighter, more intimate community has its perks, too. However, about a year or so after I discovered the Discord and got heavily involved with them, we recently got inspired to actually do something about the VGDC YouTube page that had been collecting dust since it was made around 2012. We were aware other people had been re-uploading Randy’s work unofficially on YT for quite some time now (blurry and compressed to hell, too), some even to the tune of over a million views, so we decided we should assert our authenticity over those videos by putting together the best versions of Randy’s work around and uploading them to the official YT channel. Furthermore, as I’m sure you’re all very aware, Flash will become obsolete as a format by the end of 2020, and we realized it was on us to preserve all these Flash movies before that happens. And so the VGDC Legacy Project began.
I began by making new branding graphics, cleaning up the channel, and organizing things into playlists. Using Swivel, I’ve been going through all of Randy’s .SWFs and rendering them in QHD resolution H.264 codec .MP4s, then bringing them into a Full HD editing project for cropping purposes (and adjusting the width if the original format was more square). This sometimes involves some slight editing and finessing, like transitions and letterboxing, as well as some troubleshooting since Swivel bugs out sometimes. In the case of the Mack Daddy Mario series, I replaced all of the sound.
Some of the work I’ve remastered so far includes stuff like the Rise of the Mushroom Kingdom series, the Mack Daddy Mario series, Bad Bubbles, and Lean Link. The next big ones left to do are Mario vs. Sonic and the Yoshi’s Island series, for which I’ll likely make use of YouTube’s end screens feature to simulate the interactive elements. The rest are quickies that I can upload every so often. It shouldn’t take me too long to get through every one (except a few that we’ve decided didn’t age very well).
Already, this new wind has brought some new members to our Discord and some new subscribers. And judging from the comments, we’ve really tickled some people’s nostalgia. It seemed only appropriate to go back to the website where so many people were introduced to Randy’s work to tell you all about these new versions of Randy’s Flash movies. The www.videogamedc.com domain, as well as the forums page, now redirect to the YouTube page while we figure out how we’re going to rework the website. And after that’s up, and all the Flash movies are uploaded, the Legacy Project will be completed. And then who knows? Some of us are creators in our own right, and we’ve been throwing around the idea of making some new content, so there’s that.
So yeah, head on over to the channel if you wanna see some of these new remastered flicks, and subscribe and ring the bell if you wanna know when we upload some new ones. And join the Discord if you wanna come hang out with us.
By the way, I really wanted to thank Mike Welsh and Stamper, the guys who put Swivel together (bugs and all), because we couldn’t have done this with this level of quality if it wasn’t for them. This is basically the exact kind of thing this program was built for.
The VGDC Community