MP3 of the interview
SJ: ...and moving on to the fun parts, we got our interview tonight, with a really cool web site and the creator of that web site, VGMaps.com and Jonathan Leung. I said your name right this time, didn't I?
JL: Yep, that's correct, Jon Leung.
SJ: Okay, cool. Jon Leung. Jon, tell us a little bit about what your web site is about. What is it - what is the whole purpose of it?
JL: Well, it's pretty much a web site devoted to maps which are, well, they're screenshot maps of video games, because they're just so cool looking, I guess, and people don't really appreciate 2-D games these days.
CM: Say, 2-D games? People don't appreciate 2-D games anymore?
JL: Yeah, I guess what I meant to say was, two-dimensional games, and those "old school" kind of games, they have sort of a bit more "art" to them. I guess that's not really a good way to say it - but like it's not about the graphics, like 3-D sort of animation, it's all 2-D, you know, "art".
CM: Yeah, yeah, I see what you're saying.
SJ: Yeah, and I've been through a lot of your site here, and you have basically maps from tons and tons of games, you have almost every console covered here. How long has your web site been around? 'Cause I'm noticing a few games not on here yet.
JL: The web site's been around for three years. May 6th is its birthday.
SJ: That's cool. Now, what gave you the idea to start doing this? When did you say, "Hey! I want to make a web site all about this"?
JL: Oh, okay, the original incubus...I guess...is that the word I'm looking for? "Incubus"? (Impetus)
SJ: Sure! What would you say?
JL: Okay, do you guys play a lot of Nintendo games? That sort of thing?
SJ: I actually still have my Sega Genesis that I throw in and play every now and then, depending on what game I'm in the mood to play.
JL: Do you remember those Nintendo Powers back in the early-to-mid 1990s?
CM: Yeah. I do. I'm old.
JL: Yeah, back in the day, when, Nintendo Power was one of the only magazines around, you know, every time they had a preview, it was pretty much like a strategy guide right there, they had full-colour maps and everything...do you guys remember that?
SJ: Yeah, oh yeah, totally...they still have Nintendo Power around, they still do that, actually. Except now they're all the 3-D games.
JL: With the old games, you could look at a 2-D map and sort of imagine yourself playing the game, right?
SJ: Oh yeah.
JL: Well, I guess I looked at those old Nintendo Power maps, and you could tell that they were put together by photographs of stuff. I remember this DuckTales map, they had like, five hundred Scrooge McDucks on it.
JL: With those old Nintendo Powers, I was thinking, "this is pretty cool. Someone should actually make maps, but without three hundred occurrences of the main character sprites."
SJ: So, what you did is you basically started going through and putting these maps from the original games onto a web site?
JL: Yeah, it all began with [The] Legend Of Zelda: [A] Link To The Past, the Super NES one. One day I just sort of started putting together screenshots of Lost Woods. And, after a while I had the whole thing, and I was like, "you know, this is pretty cool, I should do the whole game." Well, I didn't do the whole game, but I did the whole Light World, and I thought "this is a big waste of time; I should be showing people my work." So I decided to put together a web site, because other web sites like GameFAQs had size limitations on images. They were so restrictive, they wanted everything in text. So I thought maybe I should start my own web site with full graphics and everything.
SJ: Now you didn't take all the screenshots, I assume you had help, or do you have more people giving you assistance with this, sending in maps of their own?
JL: In the beginning it was all just me, 'cause it was just me and my idea. And it took a long time for the community to sort of grow. After several months, there were still next to no hits on my web site. But, after a while, people just started sending in maps. And it was like, wow, you know, people loved the idea.
SJ: That's cool. What are some of the games that you did before people started sending in their own?
JL: Like I mentioned, I did most of [The] Legend Of Zelda: [A] Link To The Past, 'cause A Link To The Past is my favourite Zelda game, of all time, pretty much. I also did a few of the Mario games, Donkey Kong Country games, Resident Evil for the GameCube...
SJ: Now that's not a 2-D game. You're making exceptions for these? 'Cause I noticed it's not all 2-D here. I mean, you do have some Xbox games, and you have PS2 and GameCube games.
JL: I tried to get some more of these current generation game consoles up there. Those aren't really quite as popular as the two-dimensional games. It's just because they're harder to map or the technical issues regarding capturing them.
(SJ: Yeah, yeah, all right, that's cool. So, say, I know there's more...)
(JL: So mostly it's, like, an...)
SJ: Go ahead.
JL: I was just about to say, it's more of a niche thing. It's more for the "old school" gamers, than the new gamers, that's why I think it's a bit tricky; it was hard for the site to really start up with. You know, the momentum now is from old school gamers' word-of-mouth, that sort of thing.
SJ: No, that's cool, that's cool. Now I noticed, a lot of the newer stuff that you do have, basically it all falls under the Game Boy, or the new Game Boy Advance for right now. Um, I mean, do you have any other plans to be moving forward with like the new Nintendo DS or the PSP? Any realms into there?
JL: I think as long as developers keep making 2-D games and people find ways to map them, then, you know, there will be a space on my web site for them. 3-D games will of course be a bit more difficult; I don't think that's going to be any easier to map than any of the consoles or anything. The web site has a lot of challenges to face in the future, but we still have a lot of 2-D games to be mapping. The site still has a lot of life to it.
SJ: Well, that's cool. And it's definitely interesting to go back, like you said, for all us old school gamers to go back through and look at maps from games that we used to play, or pssh! If you're playing one of those games, just for the fun of it, you can go back and take a look at the map, and kind of...you know, strategy guide, 'cause we can't get past level 4 on Mario...
(CM: Ms. Pac-Man! (laughter))
JL: Actually, what some of the, cartographers on my site have been saying is that they find mapping games as sort of an excuse to go back and revisit these games.
SJ: That's cool, 'cause it, it definitely is, like, this "blast from the past" for a lot of us who were, you know, alive during the time when these games were new, you know, to go back and play Super Mario Bros., Metal Gear - the original, Mega Man - I through IV, Ninja Gaiden, and it's really cool. And it's really more of a nostalgic feeling than anything for a lot of us.
VC: You even have Maniac Mansion on here. That's insane! You are really, really good.
JL: Oh, yeah, that's funny, 'cause everyone seems to like that Maniac Mansion map. You know, Ron Gilbert, who I guess worked at LucasArts for a while, he actually linked to my web site; he was hotlinking my map, it was kind of, "whoa", kind of flattering to notice that a creator was looking at my rip-off of his work, I guess.
SJ: No, it, it's really cool, it's like I said before, it's a real nostalgic feeling. Now, you know, how, how does one go about becoming a cartographer, and mapping out a, a game? Is there like a special program you use specifically to do this task, or do you just hit PrintScreen on your keyboard?
JL: For a lot of these games, you'd require the emulator. Certain games have editing tools, so some people sort of cheat; well, it's not really cheating, but they use those kinds of things to capture images from the game.
SJ: (laughter) That's cool, that's cool.
JL: It's not easy. Most of the time, it's screenshots that are stitched together, so sometimes it takes hours just to put together a small map, even. And you know, some projects, like the April Fool's map I have up on there, the "Link's Awakening Advance" - it's an April Fool's joke because the game doesn't exist - that made putting together that map much more difficult. That took several months, actually.
CM: I'm looking at that right now. I can kind of see what you mean with the whole "stitching together", 'cause like, certain trees will be half-green, half-brown in certain areas.
SJ: But still, it, it seems like a really time-consuming process. Now, how did you make this map? Did you, uh, did you just take from, uh, the newer games and use their graphics for this? How did you go about doing that?
JL: A mapper on my site named Osrevad, he put together the Link's Awakening DX map. Link's Awakening DX is the Game Boy Color remake of the original Game Boy Legend Of Zelda game. And what I did was, since I loved the Super NES game so much, A Link To The Past, I took the tiles from that game, and assembled them over top of the original Game Boy graphics, but of course, they didn't always match one-to-one. So there were a lot of times I had to create custom tiles. It took a long time to do even the smallest things, so that's why the map took months to make.
SJ: Huh. Now, you know, you have a lot of games on here. Are there any specific games that you really want to get on but you haven't yet?
JL: The more recent Castlevania games that are still in two dimensions, like, Symphony Of The Night and the three Game Boy Advance games, several cartographers on my forum, they've expressed interest in doing it. So I guess they're works in progress. I would really love to see Dracula's castle put together in its full glory and splendour because the Castlevania games are among the most beautiful and it's, like, "whoa," to see the whole castle, all there, that would really be a sight to behold.
SJ: Oh, definitely. It really helps to see all that, especially since you don't limit the size on your maps. You could definitely blow that up and do that. Do you ever find yourself printing out certain maps and, and making it into a big poster to put on your wall or anything?
JL: I've been tempted to print out my Light World for A Link To The Past, and it seems like a lot of people have expressed interest in a poster like that, but of course, you know, obviously, I don't have the rights to all these graphics, but it would be really cool to have a wall-sized poster of that.
SJ: (laughter) Definitely. Especially, now,
"Hi, honey! Um, look what I did to the wall."
"Oh, my god!"
I don't think that would go over well.
CM: (laughter) No, you'd get in trouble at my house doing that. (laughter)
SJ: (laughter) "Come on! It's Castlevania!"
"Whatever, you're sleeping on the sofa."
(clears throat) Regardless. Now you know, we're talking a lot about 2-D games right now, but, what are you playing right now in video games?
JL: I'm sort of in the middle of catching up on all these games I've sort of not been playing in the past year. I just upgraded my computer, so I'm finally playing [The] Prince Of Persia: [The] Sands Of Time. That's not the Warrior Within one, but just The Sands Of Time, really. Heh. I've got a GameCube, I'm not playing much on it right now, but, yeah, I'm a GameCube and a PC kind of guy.
SJ: Now, all right, now here brings, brings up an interesting question. Um, 'cause this is like, it's a borderline style game. Would you consider Paper Mario to be more of a 2-D game, or a 3-D game? Where would it fit on your site?
JL: Well, Paper Mario is 2-D in aesthetics only. It's more of a 3-D game, that's what it is, it's three-dimensional. Paper Mario maps would look really good on my site, but like everything else three-dimensional, there are issues with, you know, scaling and the background and distance, that sort of thing. I'd call it a 3-D game, for sure.
SJ: All right, all right. Man, dude, your site's just so cool. I'm just sitting here, looking at all these pictures from games I used to play. That's nuts. Now, what has to be your favourite out of all of them? Out of all the games that you've played? Favourite game that you have in the 2-D realm?
JL: That would most definitely have to be The Legend Of Zelda: (A) Link To The Past. That was the first thing that I mapped for my site. It's just wonderful; everyone likes Ocarina Of Time. You know, the 3-D Zelda games are great, too, but there was just something about the Super NES. You know, the Super NES had the best 2-D games in my opinion, not knocking anybody with a Genesis or anything, but it was like perfection, really.
SJ: Well, all right. Oh, look at the time! Hey, I want to thank you, Jon, for coming on here and talking with us tonight about your site; it's really cool. Folks, check it out, VGMaps.com. Maps from almost every freaking 2-D game on the market. Join us next week, when we'll have got more stuff for you to listen to, another cool Website of the Week. I'm SexyJosh, this is GameSHOUT Radio, we'll be right back.