Black Forge Coffee combine metal, coffee, and video games, finally

For metalheads of a certain vintage, coffee, metal, and retro video games are a most holy trifecta, and Pittsburgh’s Black Forge Coffee have tapped into all the good feelings associated with that with their recent announcement of a retro video game, called Coffee Crisis, based around their coffee shop. Which is based around metal. We’re dying here.

We caught up with co-owner Nick Miller to try to make sense of all this. And we like what we heard, because Miller referenced Behemoth, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, and pouring coffee in people’s eyeballs during the course of our conversation. Dude’s alright.

All screenshots from Coffee Crisis.
All screenshots from Coffee Crisis.

Explain to us what this is all about: a metal coffee shop making a retro, coffee- and metal-influenced Sega game? Our nerd radars are off the charts here.

Last year we signed up to vend our coffee at the Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention. Since [co-owner] Ashley [Corts] and I are both huge nerds that grew up playing NES, SNES, and Sega we saw it is an excuse to go surround ourselves with everything we love and make money. After meeting James Hogan, organizer of the festival and owner of Mega Cat Studios and impressing him with our work ethic and branding, he e-mailed us asking if we would be interested in creating a game based on the coffee shop. Once we got over our initial shock that it was possible to achieve our childhood dreams of being video game characters we promptly responded, “How do we make this happen? When can we meet?” We honestly had no idea there was a resurgence happening in the retro gaming world in the form of homebrew coding. Mega Cat Studios had created a couple original titles and tested the market by creating a game for a children’s hospital where the proceeds all went directly to the hospital, and they were able to provide copies of the games to the kids. After seeing that it was possible to raise money in a philanthropic sense they decided to test out making games for individuals and businesses. We were one of the first businesses they approached.

Black Forge Coffee's Nick Miller and Ashley Corts.
Black Forge Coffee’s Nick Miller and Ashley Corts.

Where did this idea come from?

During our first meeting with Mega Cat Studios, we discussed classic retro game favorites like Double Dragon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Bad Dudes, and Castlevania. Once we found common ground on a specific play style that we both wanted to explore, we started to discuss in-game elements like the flying Medusa heads in Castlevania and how frustrating they were, and also how much of a key role that frustration played in making that game so memorable. Coming up with a reason for Ashley and I, the owners of a metal coffee shop, to run around beating the hell out of strangers was one of the harder challenges. Our first idea was to say that religious fanatics have gained control of the planet and decided to wipe out the metal genre altogether. This idea is still one of our favorites and maybe we will explore that in the sequel, but we decided that it would be more fun to just be wacky and silly with our first attempt at this. So we decided to go with aliens. No one can get upset with you if you’re beating up old people that are possessed by an evil alien race, and everyone has fun.

How can people play this game?

The game will first be available for the Sega Genesis and will be written onto a classic chipboard and pressed into actual Sega Genesis cartridges (or carts, as they call them in the biz). So to all you hoarders out there that are reading this, your psychosis has finally paid off. Soon after the release, it will be ported over as a ROM and available to be purchased as a downloadable game for the PC. We’re going to campaign for the Steam Store as well. If anyone that is reading this wants to pick up a copy, go to We suggest picking up the actual cartridge though, way cooler experience. Our graphics guy, Maxwell Pokrzywa, designed some really cool artwork for the box art and the cart stickers. Plus there will be a game manual that includes back stories and character bios.

What’s better: coffee, metal, or old video games?

That question is impossible to answer.

You’ve compared this game to the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game as far as feel goes; what was it about that game in particular that made you want to draw reference from it?

We don’t want to put out a game just to do it; we really wanted to make sure the game would be fun to play. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (arcade) is referenceable by pretty much anyone that grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. If you went to a bowling alley, skating rink, or pizza shop in the early ’90s, you dumped some quarters into that game. We really want this game to strike the right nostalgic chord when people hit “start.” That way, when people pick up the controller it will feel like they never put it down.

You’re also pressing a limited run of the soundtrack on vinyl; give us the lowdown on that.

We’re pressing 100 [copies on] 7″ vinyl for the soundtrack. People that come to the release party on November 4 at Looking For Group PGH get first dibs. After that, they will be available to order or you can get them at our brick-and-mortar store. The soundtrack features some original chip tunes that were composed for the game, along with some tracks from our good friends Greywalker that were transcribed and reworked into chiptunes for the game. The vinyl will be available to order at after November 4.

Tell us a bit about your coffee shop; how exactly is it metal-themed?

When you walk into Black Forge the first thing you’re going to notice is the color scheme—black, lots of black. The second thing you will notice is the artwork; we double as an art gallery. Once a month we host a new artist and we cover every inch of our walls with as much art as we can. At this point, you’ve probably tripped over our stage because you were staring at the art; we’re a coffee shop by day and a music venue by night. We average anywhere between 20 and 25 events a month. Most events are metal shows; we’ve hosted bands like Full of Hell, Slaves BC, Darsombra, Shai Hulud, and tons of other great bands. Beyond the look, artwork, and Behemoth playing in the background, we’re also named after something used by a blacksmith. One of our specialty drinks is named after Wayland the blacksmith, a legendary Norse blacksmith. We also tend to put things on our shirts like Goat priests and people having hot coffee poured into their eyeballs. We’re metalheads that hail Satan and drink black coffee; we wanted to open a place for people like us. We’re also releasing a new blend of coffee roasted by Zeke’s Coffee here in Pittsburgh, called the 6 Demon Blend. It will be available to purchase at the release and there will be an SE of the game that will come with the coffee.

Find Black Forge on Facebook here.

Black Forge Coffee's bustling HQ.
Black Forge Coffee’s bustling HQ.