In 2019 I released a little Sega Genesis demo called Retail Clerk '89. I don't know if anyone played it. That didn't stop me from planning a sequel. Prior to starting Retail Clerk '89 I sketched out a story arc spanning 1988-2001 all set in the same mall. So this was an idea I had in mind even when working on the first game.
Look, this alleged arc isn't important. The story for each game is fairly short and not especially compelling. These games are all just an excuse to learn how to program old game consoles. My rough plan goes something like:
Retail Clerk '89: Learn how to program any functional game demo on the Sega Genesis.
Retail Clerk '90: Create tools to generate as much code as possible, cross-compile to another 68000 platform that existed in 1990.
Retail Clerk '91: Cross-compile to a non-68000 16-bit platform that existed in 1991.
Retail Clerk '88: Prequel story on some yet-to-be-determined 8-bit platform.
Retail Clerk '92: Attempt to write a Sega CD game, possibly fail.
[... and so on until I get bored with this idea or disappear under mysterious circumstances ...]
I started Retail Clerk 1990 in late 2019, once I got over the burnout of working on 68000 code. When the whole 2020 thing hit I thought "Great, now I have time to finish it." which I proceeded to not do. Rather than using my newfound time wisely I became incredibly demotivated and instead wrote some TurboGrafx-16 game guides. I suppose that's not the worst possible use of my time.
So I started back up on Retail Clerk '90 in 2021. There are some new characters and scenery but most of the time has been spent on the tooling. I have this vague goal of creating tools to build adventure-like games for classic consoles. I realize I could achieve this goal with the Retail Clerk '89 codebase. That would also drive me to total boredom. I got that demo to a place where I'm not completely mortified by it and now I'd like to never touch it again. There is of course a chance I decide to port that to the SuperGrafx because I'm all weird like that.
Adding fast travel on the map since the mall is so incredibly spacious.
Generally overhauling the status menu and map so it's no longer a single screen packed with too much information.
Simplify interactions with items and NPCs - this will make the game less-annoying and also allow for 2-button systems to be supported later (yes this is a hint about future systems I might possibly try to port this to)
Addition of a very basic "free time" system that also serves as an even more basic bonding-like system - this is blatantly ripping-off the bonding system in the Trails series and Tokyo Xanadu, although it's much smaller and less fun. Those games are ripping-off the Persona series which was probably inspired by something else and so on. It's all one big chain of games ripping-off other media.
Retail Clerk '90 is written in 68000 assembly language and is open source under The MIT License. The build & code generation tools are written in Java and under the same license. Some third-party code is under different licenses. For the latest source code pay a visit to the GitHub project page.
If you're curious about the development process for Retail Clerk '90, here's a running journal. It's very rambling and covers topics around design and code generation.
Like Retail Clerk '89, this demo would likely have an ESRB rating of E. I consciously try to avoid content that may be offensive. In these games I incorporate references to current (for the time) events because the characters may be influenced by them. There is definitely satire, or attempts at satire, in these demos. Typically it's poking fun at pop culture from the era. I'm not trying to make political statements with any of this but I certainly have unconscious bias that could shape how things are represented. Games have always been an escape from real-world drama for me. I like to think these small games can be a brief distraction too and try to keep them drama-free.
Retail Clerk '90 is set in Bayhurst Mall which is loosely based off malls I either worked in or frequented. There have been a few small changes since 1989.
Assuming I continue working on these demos the mall will evolve and grow.
Here's how it looks in screenshot form:
You'll perhaps notice how it looks tackier than the previous game. This is not an accident.
Here are the main characters in the story:
From left to right they are:
Eryn - a new seasonal employee at Demin Country. Yes I ripped that name off directly from a side-quest in Trails of Cold Steel III (although it's more prominently used in IV). She's in high school and trying to stock-up a little money for college.
Carl - temporary manager of ThoreauBooks. Last year it was managed by Charles, an old friend of the previous lead characters, and he's now moved on to college. Carl was the manager of another location and was asked to run the Bayhurst store until they find a permanent replacement.
Jen - reoccurring NPC. She had a small role in Retail Clerk '89 and is getting a promotion. She's still not playable but helps keep the story together.
Among the mall employees are some new and returning faces:
There are still not a ton of shoppers:
Shoppers are the worst anyway. This game is about helping out your fellow mall workers.
Some old friends from the last game just might pay a visit on winter break, while one is stuck working at the mall another year:
There are few other characters to meet along the way:
Progress (as of April 2021)
The rough status of game is:
Basic game engine - 100% complete
Scene design - 100% complete
NPC design - 100% complete
Build tooling - 50% complete? I don't know how to measure this but this feels about right
Game script - ~1% complete - I know the outline of the story but have not written much dialog
Testing & debugging - not started in any substantial way
I expect some rough demos in 2021, no promises. I have a personal goal of finishing it before the end of the year.
Real Sega Genesis hardware - I test all my demos on real hardware using an Everdrive. I do not own a Model 3 Genesis to test this on but have no reason to believe it won't work.
Gens r7 on Linux - This is what I use for development so it definitely works.
Gens on Windows
Probably any other emulator that I didn't try
AtGames Genesis clones - There are separate builds at AtGames devices that fix an audio problem. The regular builds work but sound funky.
Probably other clone systems that I didn't try
Never Asked Questions (NAQ)
These are roughly the same as Retail Clerk '89:
Kickstarter? Nope, never.
Interlace mode? I'm too lazy.
Can I redistribute this on my site? (this was actually asked for Retail Clerk '89) Sure but please read and follow the license.
Can I resell physical copies of this? I would really prefer you didn't but the license would allow someone to do this without my permission. In the extremely unlikely event you see someone selling this game in physical form please don't buy it from them. This game is 100% free. If you want to play it on original hardware then invest in an Everdrive instead of buying a reproduction from a seller trying to profit off a free game they didn't work on.