28 February 2011

Road to GDC day 0 - "if you're going to San Francisco..."

First day in SF, I do not suffer of the jet lag as expected. The trip was very long. After you watched 4 movies you start to ask yourself what you can do to make this feels quicker. And do not speak about "sleeping". I can't sleep more than normally without a jet lag so I slept as much as I can but it wasn't enough.

Once in SF, it was really funny to see Starbucks full of peoples with video game t-shirt. I finally took the time to organize my week and between several meetings to present my current project at ENJMIN (Beyond Project) and presentations (tutorials, conferences, etc.).

San Francisco looks just like it is in Crazy Taxi without Offsprings musics :)

Tomorrow things are going to be a bit more serious (the real serious step is Tuesday with the first meeting).

And finally, just to give a meaning to the title ...

27 February 2011

Road to GDC day -1 Paris mon amour

Still in France, today was kind of tricky. The train from Angoulême to Paris was funny thanks to a family of junky people. Once in Paris, I met my friend at the train station then going to his place and there ... the door lock broke. Okayyyyyyyyy calm down ... Had to find another place to stay for the night. Things are starting in a weird way. I will be more relaxed once on the plane.

But Paris without problems is not Paris :)

11 February 2011

Interview Vlambeer - Unboxing the crate


Time has come for a great change on ShiftyBlog ! I decided to make it goes English ... for several reasons but it doesn't matter. To celebrate this, here comes a great interview : Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman answered my questions about their studio Vlambeer and Super Crate Box (SCB) right after their nomination to the Excellence in Design at the 2011's edition of the Independent Game Festival.
If you don't know what is SCB you must play it now ! However here is a trailer and let me explain it a bit : SCB is a plateform shooting game inside a closed arena where you have to survive in front of enemies waves.
To defend your self you have several weapons at disposal, each one with different effects (fire range, amount of damages, etc). You can wear one weapon at a time. If you want to change it you have to pick up a crate. No score, the score is the number of crates you have picked up. Are you starting to understand ? Well, let's get started with the interview :)

Shiftyweb: First of all can you present who is behind Vlambeer and what is your respective background ?
Vlambeer exists out of business guy and developer Rami Ismail and designer Jan Willem Nijman. Rami started playing games since the original Commander Keen, and from there developed his skills through space simulations and adventure games. Jan Willem has started playing games since the likes of Half Life and Warcraft II and recently began a life as as prolific indie game designer. He has a preference for minimalistic gamedesign, creating games with names as '10800 zombies' and 'pro killer man'. He loves games with names like 'Nikujin' and 'Flywrench'.

What is the story of Super Crate Box ? How did everything starts ?
Super Crate Box started 8 months ago with a really simple prototype. Actually, Super Crate Box is the main reason for the existence of Vlambeer. One day, while Jan Willem was playtesting his prototype of a really ugly, very difficult but really unique game called 'Crates', Rami ran into him and proposed a cooperation to further the development of the game. For six months we were busy with our education as a game designer and other projects - after those months we decided to take a plunge and start our studio. We worked really hard on the game, its accessibility and its progression - for the polish we got freelancer artists Paul Veer and Roy Nathan de Groot and musician Eirik Suhrke aboard to help out. That's when the game started coming together as it is now.

The game concept of SCB is rich and simple. During the design process when did you know that it was the perfect balance ? That the game won't need more features ?
We don't believe there's such a thing as a perfect balance in a game like Super Crate Box - but introducing new features doesn't necessarily influence balance, they are two separate things. We wanted to keep it a minimalistic game, but we tried a lot of things - there are several weapons and mechanics that we playtested that are still in the game code but not available in the actual game because they simply didn't work. At one point, whatever we added or removed didn't improve the game anymore and that was when we decided things were as they should be.

You have just been nominated for the Excellence in Design award of the 2011's edition of the IGF and mentioned for the honors of the grand prize. Was it expected ? How does it feel ?
Expected? No, not really. It's amazing to receive an honourable mention, but when we saw we were nominated for the IGF 2011 Excellence in Design award - that was really cool. It's pretty much a confirmation for us that taking the plunge was absolutely worth it.

What is the future of Super Crate Box ? Is the nomination at the IGF'11 changing anything ?
We'd love to know that just as much as you do. We're working on some Vlambeer Light projects to round up some funding for our next projects, but whether or not those are Super Crate Box-related is just completely uncertain. We'll see what happens at the IGF.

Odd question: Why did you use some "crates" ?
Why do red barrels explode, why do flickering lights foreshadow bad things and why does it always rain during dramatic moments in movies? There are subconscious conventions - certain expectations about what certain things mean - crates represent content and the content of the crates is core to the game.

Besides, at that point Jan Willem was still doing the art for Super Crate Box himself and heck, it was the best he could draw.

Finally, do you have any trivia about the game and/or its development ?
Not really. The most interesting tidbit about it is probably that it's the only game we ever worked on that we still enjoy playing.

A big Thanks to you both for taking some time to answer my questions. Hope to see you at the GDC and good luck for what is coming next.