Vlambeer News Roundup – November & December 2013: Lots of games and platforms
Since the last time we’ve updated the blog here, a lot has happened. We’ve been officially licensed as developers to both Nintendo and Microsoft, meaning that technically, Vlambeer games can now come to any of their platforms. That makes us licensed to all three console platforms, the two big mobile platforms, Steam and Humble Store. That’s all sort of insane considering where we started just three years ago.
Apple declared Ridiculous Fishing their iPhone Game of the Year, meaning that after the whole cloning debacle, Ridiculous Fishing did not only do overwhelmingly well for our little team, but also won not only a wide range of critical awards, but also both an Apple Design Award and an Apple Game of the Year award. The game then started climbing the charts again, making it all the way up to the top 20 of iPhone apps for the first time since it’s launch almost a year ago. We’ve launched two minor updates last weeks, adding localisation for French, Italian, German, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese at Apple’s request. We also hope the long overdue update of Super Crate Box iOS should be due for the first week of 2014.
Sony finally has LUFTRAUSERS in what hope is the final technical requirements check before we get a launch date from them. As you all know, certification has been a slightly overwhelming process for us and we also hope that Sony will look at streamlining their launch process. Rami spoke to our good friend Shahid Kamal in London about the platform and our experiences, and we have to say that we’re still extremely impressed by the way Sony treats developers. Everything feels personable and Sony does a lot of things to make developing for them a pleasant experience, from finding good marketing opportunities to making sure they check in every now and then and ask what is up. We’re revving up our Playstation 4 dev-kit to start exploring the technicalities of bringing Nuclear Throne for Playstation Vita and Playstation 4.
Microsoft has launched ID@Xbox, which is definitely an amazing achievement by Microsoft’s Chris Charla. He has been tirelessly working to get the companies indie program up to speed after what can easily be described as an embarrassing E3, and the fact that ID@Xbox is as polished and streamlined as it is is a testament to how fast something can turn around. Five months ago, we were interviewed about working with Microsoft and said it was a distant possibility based on their terms back then, now we have nothing but a single major complaint left: launch parity. We’ve gotten a lot of questions about the whole thing, but essentially the problem is that forcing people to launch at the same time on all console platforms is problematic for a lot of indies and their limited time and resources. We also feel that allowing for exceptions might be even more troublesome, because unlike Microsoft’s general movement towards technological democratisation by making every Xbox One a potential dev-kit, this still creates a artificial and curated barrier. Still, considering that Charla started from zero, the progress he made so far has been great – and the plans for making each Xbox One a dev-kit are super progressive.
On the same day the iOS version of Ridiculous Fishing won a Dutch Game Award, we suddenly launched Ridiculous Fishing for Android. At first, the launch was a mixed experience for us. We worked really hard to make sure the game was as good as possible on as many devices we could test for, but we’ve learned that compared to the smooth launch of iOS, a launch on Android is more like a global hardware test. You can only test on so many devices, and suddenly launching the game onto 3500+ highly fragmented pieces of hardware simply means you can’t deliver a problem-free launch. It was quite painful to see that people using problematic devices complaining on Reddit that we considered Ridiculous Fishing for Android a second-grade release, as we poured in a lot of effort to make this port happen for the many people that asked for it. On the other hand, the Humble Bundle Mobile launch was great, though, and we’ve also received a lot of great responses from Android gamers. In the end, we’re feeling pretty good about the whole launch.
Steam Early Access has been a really fun experience. Nuclear Throne’s development livestream now amasses over 100,000 viewers per week, which sort of validates our idea that game development can be presented in a way that’s entertaining for non-developers. The idea of “performative game development” – live, with all its problems and little surprises, instead of neatly cut and filtered by a professional camera crew – was something we wanted to explore while working on what is essentially a really fun action game. We’ve also been really happy about the Let’s Play community picking up on the game, with specifically NorthernLion, Sleepcycles and Tengu Drop doing amazing videos of the game. The development of Nuclear Throne was at a breakneck pace in November, when Jan Willem added crowns, crown vaults and a new character, and we’ve been taking a bit of a breather in December to recover and get ready for more hard work. We’re still having an amazing amount of fun developing the game, and interacting on the Steam Forums has been really rewarding as well. The game has an amazing community that happily keeps adding to the Nuclear Throne Wiki, makes amazing fan-art, shoots really useful gameplay videos and gives us in-depth feedback on how they play. We’re just super excited about the whole thing.
We also launched a bunch of our older (non-Windows 8 compatible) games on Itch.io, which is a nice Bandcamp-like storefront for games.
Rami has been touring Scandinavia and Germany and will return to the Netherlands at the end of the weekend, while Jan Willem decided to take two weeks off from the crazy Nuclear Throne update schedule by celebrating the holidays somewhere in the Southern parts of Africa. While the Nuclear Throne livestreams will continue, this does mean that updates will cease for a week or potentially two. For now, there’ll be one more update, tomorrow, before the end of the year. We hope that you’ll be back with us when we kick off 2014 again.
So, that’s probably all for 2013. This has been an amazing year. Thanks, everybody!
Rami & Jan Willem
A little update regarding Ridiculous Fishing for Android
We mentioned in our Ridiculous Fishing announcement yesterday that the next time we’d mention Ridiculous Fishing for Android would be when it launched.
We were serious.
We know that this is probably a bit of a surprise in that normally we’re super open about our development process. In this case, development was done externally and we didn’t want to announce a game on a platform we don’t know before being sure the game would be up to the standard people expect from us. If the game didn’t reach those standards, or the amount of devices that supported the game was too low for our liking, we wanted to be able to cancel the game.
Android (and porting in general) is a particularly tough challenge for a game as precise and meaningful to us as Ridiculous Fishing is, but we’re happy to say we finally reached the point where we felt comfortable releasing the game recently & decided to try something we felt would harken back to our original launch plans. We wanted Ridiculous Fishing’s original launch to be surprise announcement, but way back then, a clone threw a wrench in those plans and we ended up scrambling. This time around though, we can pull it off.
So here you go, Ridiculous Fishing for Android, launched sort of the way Ridiculous Fishing for iOS was supposed to launch. Obviously, the amazing bundle of games the game is releasing amidst is something we are really, really proud of. This is our first foray into Android, and we’re quite nervous to see how this launch will go. Ridiculous Fishing is obviously a game that carries a tremendous emotional weight for co-creators Zach, Greg, Eirik and ourselves at Vlambeer. We embarked on this trip to fulfil a request we kept getting on a daily basis, and now that it is available, we hope you love Ridiculous Fishing as much as we do.
Rami, Jan Willem, Zach, Greg & Eirik
Vlambeer News Roundup – September & October 2013: Exploding Airplanes & Fearless Mutants & Shooting Fish
Whew. It’s been a long time since we sat down a wrote a news roundup here at the Vlambeer blog. Sit down and grab a drink, because it’s going to be a longer one. First of all, we’re sorry that we didn’t write something in September, it was kind of crazy with Fantastic Arcade and preparing for the Nuclear Throne launch. Since then, a lot has happened – ranging from the majority of the Nuclear Throne team visiting Nottingham for GameCity to Ridiculous Fishing being nominated for a Dutch Game Award. And as some of you might’ve noticed, since the last blog post Rami spent two weeks in the hospital for emergency surgery and has been recovering since. It’s actually been interesting to us to see how our three current projects are affected by an emergency situation like that. The three main projects we want to talk about today are Nuclear Throne, LUFTRAUSERS and Ridiculous Fishing.
So let’s start with the one that most people are rightfully a bit anxious about: LUFTRAUSERS. Ironically, the above trailer still says ‘Spring 2013′, but we have been talking to Devolver Digital & Sony about the project a lot recently. With QA and FQA still ahead of us, we’ve established that 2013 is an unlikely release frame. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but it does mean that unless a miracle happens we don’t think it will launch before early 2014. The good news is that our job is now really done. Since our business dealings are spread thin with Rami not at full capacity, we’ve given full control of wrapping up our dogfighting game to Devolver Digital and they’ll be dealing with the final paperwork and setup. We want to re-iterate once more: we do not know the release date, because the certification process is so that you can’t set one until it clears certification.
The way we worked with LUFTRAUSERS, in hindsight, wasn’t really optimal. We assumed that certification would be harsh, but didn’t expect it to take more than a month or two. While a part of our team was already focusing on Nuclear Throne and Ridiculous Fishing, we kept being pulled back to fix things or add last minute changes to the game to fit within the requirements. Switching between projects in such different states mentally is extremely exhausting, and a lot of our time was spent orienting on where the game was and where it needed to go.
Another thing we noticed is that the project in the current state was overly dependent on Rami as a center of communications. Now, we really like being in control of our projects, but it turned out that having one central figure in development is not necessary good for control. When Rami went in for surgery, Nuclear Throne simply progressed onwards due to the way the project is set up, while LUFTRAUSERS just grinded to a full stop because the person passing on the messages was gone.
There’s a weird realisation we had after a conversation about the projects’ progress a few weeks ago: LUFTRAUSERS is very much the final product of the ‘Ridiculous Fishing’-era Vlambeer. It’s a game that Jan Willem started on to jam away his worries about Ridiculous Fishing while Zach, Greg and Rami were trying to salvage the project. In many ways, LUFTRAUSERS feels more aggressive than most of our other games. It’s a really strictly defined game in every way, from the limitations we set ourselves in the seven-color palette, but also in the way it uses only four buttons, the way the interface had to integrate into the world, the way it launches simultaneously on all platforms. LUFTRAUSERS is us being desperate about not climbing out of our clone-induced depression and us being angry at ourselves for getting cloned in the first place.
We’ve talked a lot recently about how Vlambeer games come from a happy place. LUFTRAUSERS was us transitioning back to happiness. In many ways, that makes LUFTRAUSERS feel like a different game than most of our games, which we actually think is really cool. Don’t get us wrong, LUFTRAUSERS is everything you’d expect from a Vlambeer game and we’re really proud of it: it’s intense, it’s challenging and it achieved the goals we set out for ourselves in April 2012. It’ll probably release in really early 2014, which also happens to be a really nice release window. We’re leaving the rest of this one up to Devolver until we rev up for release.
Nuclear Throne has been making good progress, as you all can see during the livestreams on Tuesday and Thursday. Unlike LUFTRAUSERS, the project is set up in a really distributed fashion. While LUFTRAUSERS uses a really strict seperation of responsibilities, Jan Willem leading the project during prototyping and Rami leading it during porting and certification, Nuclear Throne is a bit more open. That meant that even when someone dropped from the team, the team could operate in some capacity. Within the team, we’ve discussed the lore and goals and ideas of the game a lot – and everybody can add to the lore, modify the atmosphere and add extra intentionality to whatever they’re working on.
Nuclear Throne has made a lot of progress since the name change. Where the original prototype featured just three worlds and five mutants, we’ve completely revamped the game, added not only two new mutants and two new worlds, a lot of new mutations and we’ve finally started layering the game. In Update #4, we’ve finally introduced the Interdimensional Police Department, or I.D.P.D. for short, and Crown Vaults, and in expanding their role in the game, we’ll be adding a lot of interesting new ways to play Nuclear Throne.
The game has done extremely well on Early Access. In a week or two Nuclear Throne sold over ten thousand copies, which is absolutely mindblowing to us. Even in this early version, people are playing about 5 hours on average, and 5% of players already invested more than 20 hours. Those statistics exceed all our expectiations. Our idea wasn’t to have a public beta test, although we’re really grateful for everybody sending us bugs, but to create an experience – a ride, so to speak – out of us making a videogame. We wanted to do game development in an honest, open and almost performative way. So far, it’s been extremely rewarding. Not to mention the amount of fan art we’ve gotten on Tumblr and the Steam Forums, which is so overwhelming. We can’t wait to really start making noise about the game.
Unexpectedly, the other noise we’re making is about Ridiculous Fishing, and the news is pretty simple and we can wrap it up in a single image.
Because of popular request, we’ve been working with Zach Gage & Greg Wohlwend since March to see if we can create an Android version of Ridiculous Fishing. The breakthrough came when we met up with the folks at Apportable, who have a framework that allows them to port the game over to Android. That port is now almost done, and the next time you see us mentioning this should be when it releases. It might be sooner than you think.
As for minor updates, Rami finally got the MacBook Air we received for the Apple Design Award 2013 to work, so we can start making progress on the Super Crate Box iOS update as well. We’ve decided to use LUFTRAUSERS & Nuclear Throne as test projects for Windows 8 support, so as soon as those are done our own end we hope we can look into Windows 8 support for Super Crate Box, GUN GODZ and Serious Sam: The Random Encounter.
Jan Willem was in the media recently with an in-depth Rock, Paper, Shotgun article about that typical Vlambeer ‘game feel’, while Rami wrote an introspective post about life and impact that was later discussed on the BigSushi.fm podcast.
November is a lot about progressing on Nuclear Throne in terms of systems, so we’re adding a lot of new things to the game. Don’t forget to tune into the livestreams at nuclearthrone.com on Tuesday and Thursday at 1PM CET, we’ll be working on the game live.
Nuclear Throne is on Early Access now!
On the stream yesterday, we announced that if Rami got a giant pile of work done, we’d release on Nuclear Throne through Early Access today. It is with pride that the entire team and us announce that Nuclear Throne is now available for Early Access!
Have a nice weekend.
Announcing Nuclear Throne, the game formerly known as Wasteland Kings
We’re announcing today that Wasteland Kings, the project of which we’ve been livestreaming development for the past few weeks, will from now on be named “Nuclear Throne”. It’s a bit of an haphazard announcement, with Justin Chan’s beautiful artwork above still not being finished, without us having a new logo and before we’ve been able to properly change the name on all the platforms officially, but we thought that if we’re doing open development we might just as well be open about it.
After announcing the game for PC, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita during Sony’s press conference at gamescom, we were contacted by a Dutch employee of InXile Entertainment, the studio behind 1988 title Wasteland and the recent Kickstarter for Wasteland 2. They explained that InXile CEO Brian Fargo and some of the team were worried about possible brand confusion and argued that Wasteland Kings could be misinterpreted as a title in the ‘Wasteland’ franchise.
We’ve been through a lot of trouble with people riding on things of ours, and we understand that American trademark law is pretty strict in that not defending a trademark weakens it. We realize that both games are set in a similar setting, that the names are similar and that InXile obviously felt the need to reach out. Although we aren’t sure Wasteland Kings and Wasteland are confusing enough for this to be an issue, both us and InXile really don’t want to spend development time on arguing over trivialities.
Most of all, we appreciate that the first contact between us was by a normal employee, and not a lawyer. There was no extravagant Cease & Desist-letter, nor a threatening letter in an envelope labelled ‘URGENT’. The e-mail we received was short, amicable and to-the-point. It was followed up by a quick conversation on Skype, in which we established that it would be the right thing for us to change the name.
This is the way business should work nowadays: between people, not companies, not lawyers, not departments. There’s so much paperwork between one and another that it’s easy for people to forget that they’re dealing with people instead of numbers and dossiers. Things can be friendly, rather than formal for the sake of formality.
We’ve spent the past week debating names with Paul, Jukio, Joonas and Justin. We’ve had amazing suggestions, such as ‘Genetic Miracles Fish & The Gang Vault Runners’, Trash Monarchs, Kingstarter and ‘GUN GODZ: Legend of Yung Venuz: Originz’. After almost 90 emails, we decided upon the new name, one that we felt did not only resolved the trademark issue but is also more gender-inclusive. We then made sure Sony, Steam and Humble were up to date and wrote this announcement right after the new title reveal at Eurogamer Expo.
So, we’re announcing Nuclear Throne, our top-down action roguelike-like about mutants in a postapocalyptic future. We’re extremely proud to be working with Paul Veer, Jukio Kallio, Joonas Turner and Justin Chan. The majority of development will be livestreamed over at nuclearthrone.com on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1PM CET until 5PM CET. Nuclear Throne is launching on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and PC through Steam and Humble.
Nuclear Throne will be available through Steam Early Access and Humble Store in early October at an Early Access price of $12.99.