No money for a high-end game console? Make it out of paper, code it in 16-bit DOS, and give it an epic soundtrack on cheap machines, like SunVox creator Alexander Zolotov.

Honestly, I can’t quite find the words for this, because I’m too carried away by his 2009 album Back to the Sources, but suffice to say prolific developer Sasha aka NightRadio also has a wild punk DIY game creation history. And we’ve been getting a fresh diet of those early days, from the creator of beloved tools like SunVox. (It’s a massively powerful modular/tracker synth/music arrangement tool that runs on very un-powerful hardware.)

But yeah, just watch this. The place: Yekaterinburg, Russia. (Western Siberia, if you skipped the 2019 World Cup.) The year: 1999. The OS: MS-DOS, in its 16-bit glory. (Actually not sure if that’s MS-DOS or DR-DOS or something, but you get the idea.) The code: C++, Assembler.

The result: WorldDesigner, an 80286-compatible 2D platform game editor with a wonderfully retro UI and beautifully retro graphics:

I see some health & safety issues here in the electrified lava room that has mostly holes in the floor.
A simple, friendly UI.

If you’re a glutton for punishment, you can download code and source for this plus a primitive PCX graphics editor called CyberDraw:

Aw, come on, what’s with these rich kids and their 286 PCs? Fine. Sasha also used paper in 1994 to make up for his lack of a console and – wow:

Of course, paper is a serious tool in the gaming world – making paper prototypes is a beloved process, and has even found its way into finished designs. (Also real-for-real – recently Final Fantasy-creator Hironobu Sakaguchi turned to hand-crafted real creations for creating levels for his Apple Arcade title Fantasian.)

Anyway, all of this is an added excuse to produce some of Sasha’s absolutely dreamy music.

Yes, while that pricey DAW chugs its way along and the fan kicks in on your new notebook, his software runs happily on old netbooks, and (checks notes) Palm Tungsten and whatever a GSmart smartphone is:

Here’s another excellent album, from the papercraft arcade video, which was out as an AV release as full software:

It’s just beautiful, exquisite music, with sounds and code all crafted by a single artist. There’s all this deeply-felt modal composition, sparkling textures – stuff I imagine could be appreciated by more than just chip music fans.

And if you need a break in your workflow to play with other tools for inspiration and somehow haven’t checked these out, go set yourself free: