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Valencia Voice

Official Student Media of Valencia College

Valencia Voice

Official Student Media of Valencia College

Valencia Voice

Local Video Game Company Talks Challenges, Development Of ‘Throwback! Jai-Alai Heroes’

Astro Crow Brings European Sport To The Indie Arcade Scene
Astro Crow team featuring art designer Caris Baker, CEO Alex Jebailey and developer Brian Stabile. Taken at Holiday Matsuri 2023. (Jesus Paz)

.Orlando, Fla.  Local video game company Astro Crow showcases their first arcade game with “Throwback! Jai- Alai Heroes!” based on the sport of the same name. It is fairly uncommon to hear about a company venturing into the arcades with a new game with such unique gameplay. Astro Crow has done just that with their take on the jai alai sport in a video game form.  

Astro Crow art designer Caris Baker and, developer and co-owner Brian Stabile shared their insight on the development of the game and the origins of the company. 

Brian Stabile had gotten an internship with UCF’s military simulation division creating games, when he was suddenly laid off. “As I was exiting the building I called up my artist friend Shaun Wightman, and we started Astro Crow that day….we came up with the design for our first game, ‘The Last Ace of Space’.” Stabile said. “Developing games was a challenge, as I had to learn everything on my own, but eventually got the hang of it.”

Caris Baker added to the story of the company. “Over the last fifteen years, my business partner, the co-owner of Astro Crow, released 18 games on the iOS and Android mobiles…..There’s anything from language-learning apps to fun time-wasters. But now we’re doing something different.” 

Astro Crow gave the arcade scene a shot with their latest game, “Throwback! Jai-Alai Heroes.” “Brian and I worked on the game for the last seven years,” Baker continued. “We had our music done by our friend Aaron Randall, and then Neil Hernandez created the machines by hand.”

Picture of the arcade cabinet for “Throwback! Jai-Alai Heroes”. Taken at Holiday Matsuri 2023. (Jesus Paz)

“Throwback! Jai-Alai Heroes” is based on jai alai, a sport from Spain similar to racquetball. Baker explained, “While it is a niche sport, it is very widely known… we’ve managed to activate a niche of people who not only love arcade machines but also remember jai alai from its heyday in the late ’80s and early 90’s.” 

The Astro Crow team focused on making a revival of the game in a virtual format, including locations that resemble abandoned stadiums. The Tallahassee Arena Fronton in the game is an homage to the Big Bend Jai Alai. Closed in 1990, the Fronton was located in Chattahoochee, Florida. 

Inspiration for “Throwback! Jai-Alai Heroes” came from actual locations such as that of the Miami Jai-Alai Fronton. Image by Lander Eizagirre, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The development for “Throwback!” was very different from any other mobile game Astro Crow had developed.

“Throwback went through many revisions. It was originally going to be a mobile game,” explained Stabile. “Years later, I revived the idea as a PC and console game using Xbox controllers and even pitched it to Nintendo as a Switch game.”

But one question remained, why arcade? “…Once I discovered that there was a scene for indie arcade games, I really got into that idea and decided that our game was perfect for arcade,” added Stabile.

Caris discussed the development of the arcade cabinet design. “I probably spent a year working on the exterior alone…configuring it, redrawing it, scrapping it, restarting it…I wanted there to be a lot of power and action,” Baker said, about the artistic development. Cabinet designer Neil Hernandez and Baker had to learn the CAD programming language just to create it, because the cabinet was handcrafted out of a waterlogged “Frogger” machine, and the manufacturer needed the measures. 

Indie developer Astro Crow’s arcade game “Throwback!Jai-Alai Heroes” on display. (Jesus Paz)

“There’s a continuous motif of triangles in the game, and that’s intentional. Because of the prevalence of trigonometry in the gameplay itself. Everything is about angles, trying to out-maneuver your opponents,”said Baker. 

Daniel Rodriguez Hernandez, 19, Graphic Art and Design, talked about what he looked for in arcade games. “It should attempt to be unique, not follow the trope…it needs to be fast,” said Hernandez. He added, “They should be a classic, simplicity is key.”  

On the gameplay itself, “Throwback!” is easy to approach and friendly to parties of players who’d like to challenge each other. Astro Crow has been present in events such as FreePlay Florida which showcases the latest consoles, arcades, and pinball annually. 

Stabile offered this advice; “If you want to make anything independently, you need to be a realist. Confidence is good to have, but you have to know what’s feasible, what you are capable of, and if what you’re making is even ‘good’ or not. You don’t want to work months or even years on something that’s doomed from the start.” 

“Throwback! Jai-Alai Heroes” released in 2022, currently has two cabinet locations and local Florida gaming store Arcade Monsters has shown interest in having the game showcased at one of their locations.


“Throwback! Jai-Alai Heroes” game display with image of jai alai player and the logo of the game with “thanks for playing” text on bottom of screen. (Jesus Paz)


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