Archive for the ‘Rant’ tag

Rant about the approach to Flash games development

Hi, Marco here. This will be a long one!

I’ve been present in some discussions in the FGL chat about the whole Programmer VS Artist war, and it annoys me every single time.

The reason for this is that there seems to be a very amateur approach to game development in the flash community. The very simple act of dividing people into different parts makes it look like one side wants distance from the other.  The point is exactly to put TOGETHER the two or the three or as many parts needed to make a game.

This is of course an old habit from the old “one-man-show” format usually associated with flash development.

There’s obviously a lot of young developers who are just starting out, but there’s also some people that have been doing this for some years and have actually already sold some games. The insistence in this “war” will not only deprive some good developers from creating long lasting bonds with other developers, but it will also keep the production value of flash games very low.

One of the problems of this discussion is that its set to die at its birth. It’s always the “programmer” vs the “artist”, which I come to find that in most of the situations it stands for the “Coder+Idea owner” vs the “Graphics designer”. If we were to call people by their occupation it would put the discussion on a new light. Suddenly, the “artist” which is a generic figure, is now the guy that does the graphics. But the artist could also be the SoundFX guy or the Musician or even the Game designer. The same way the programmer could be the Coder, or the producer, or the Game designer as well. This will usually have people cheering for one of the sides because they understand the hard work it is to do one of the parts of the game, but they neglect to see the other part.

This also leads to the second problem with this discussion which due to a simple statistical fact, most people will assume “programmer = idea owner = game designer”. This is true for a big chunk of the reality, but it’s not a rule. It’s not an indicator. It’s a consequence of most programmers being able to do a complete game on their own without the need of external help. A programmer, who wants to be a game developer, will in most cases start developing on his own, and as he does, he comes up with ideas for other games, and when the time comes to collaborate, he will have a pocket full of ideas to use. This in itself will put the visual artist in a dependency position. He will work under the direction of the person whose idea it is. He’s just doing the art, while the programmer is doing the code AND the design. This however is not a RULE. It just happens to be like this frequently.

So again, people tend to overlook the fact that along with the production itself, either it be graphics or code, one person may also be accumulating the work of designing the game.

And this takes us to the third problem I tend to see in these discussions. The one I heard recently was “He never complained about how much money he got, he just started complaining after seeing how much the game sold for”.

I’ve worked on titles that have sold for quite a lot. I’m happy to say that whenever I work with Ben Olding, for instance, I know I’m going to get huge visibility, because he usually makes very popular games. He’s also known to sell his games for a very good amount. It would be ridiculous, not to say unethical, to be knocking on his door saying “Right, you made more money then I though you would make, where’s my share?”

The reason the game sold for a specific amount may not be even remotely related to the graphics. In the specific case of Ben, he usually has really awesome game ideas. And those turn into good sales.

The programmers reading this will probably think “yes cause a good idea will always be a good idea, even if the graphics are crap”. And I say “True, but aren’t the good graphics and good sound the difference between a really good game idea and a really good game?”.

But before you start thinking that I’m saying that an artist should set his price, get paid and let the game sell, I have to say one thing. I do believe graphics have a huge impact on sales. Graphics may not be the single most valuable feature of your game, but they will get you views. They will get interest both sponsors and players. And even if the player tries the game just once to realize its “just graphics” the sponsor has already made some money out of that. Sponsors know this, and even FGL has stated that you should put an effort into making better graphics for your game. They will sell for more. And artists should know this. They should know their work can have a huge impact on the figures a game sells for. But they should know this going in. Not wait for the game to sell and say you want a cut. If you want a cut, say it right away. Say you charge $$$ plus a cut. Say you will only take a cut, or say you want to get paid and not have to worry about if it sells or not. Some programmers won’t give you the option of a cut, so figure out how much you think your work is worth for the overall value of the game.

Now if you’re an artist on a collaborating format with a coder, then both are, in my view, worth the same cut as long as they both work at their best abilities. Maybe the graphics won’t be the best, or the game won’t have as many features or the sounds aren’t perfect as expected, but the point is that all the team did their best.

Programmers should realize that graphics can make a game a completely different experience, and game artists should know that there a good chance their creations need some code to actually turn into games. AND they should BOTH realize that the best creations come from collaboration, from sharing of knowledge and know-how and from being a development force.

Programmers will most of the time have the upper hand, because they can code. That means they can make games. Doesn’t mean they can make a good game.

I’ve seen mediocre programmers make huge sales, and I’ve seen people bored to death with amazing graphics. It’s not the graphics that make the game, it’s not the code either, and it’s not just the idea. It’s the game that makes the game.

So, on a final note, if you’re a developer, looking for people to work with you, be fair. Sure, it’s nice to get more money than the other person. But is it really worth it in the long run? How many people will want to work with you? How many times will you have to resort to inexperienced cheaper people, who will not be able to deliver content that is above par?

And I don’t mean just art. We’ve hired a programmer to make a game. He’s good. We want to work with him again. We have to make sure that all parts are satisfied.

In the game development community, there seems to be an ambient of symbiotic relation between the logic and the art. But I’ve never seen so much discussion about it as in flash community. Probably because most programmers have to pay for their art. Its like it’s a war. And as Sun Tzu said: “There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.”

Posted: October 20th, 2010
at 9:48pm by Marco

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Categories: Caught our Attention

Comments: 9 comments

Newgrounds: The flash mafias playground

Wow… what an harsh title… oh well…

I’m a fan of Newgrounds. The principle behind it, the motto “Everything, by Everyone” is absolutely brilliant from a creative and sharing person point of view and let’s face it, Newgrounds is simply different from the other portals. One of the most satisfying aspects of Newgrounds is that a author’s work is judged and commented by other authors… or at least that’s the idea…

Newgrounds due to its size and history packs a great deal of business also. If your game scores big on Newgrounds, it will probably spread easily and give you a nice change of getting some non-exclusive deals in case you are allowed to.

The problem with this is that the scoring system in Newgrounds is tricky. As many may know there are a lot of crews on Newgrounds. Most (I hope) are quite legit and base their presence on doing collabs. But there are a lot of crews (let’s just called them mafias) that simply exist to uprate votes of their members and downrate votes of other submissions. If you are “lucky” and low-life enough to be part of more than one of these mafias you can get a bunch of 5′s while other submissions get 0′s. This happens until the daily prizes are announced.

This issue is way more serious than developers might imagine. For starters, many portals base their selection on NG score so if your game is lost in the mess of down voting, you might have a setback because of it. Second,there are portals that base their choice for non-exclusives and the money they offer on your prizes and scores.

Your game can go from 4.1 to 3.1 in a couple of hours and loose a daily prize and exposure… shouldn’t that be extremely serious? I think it should. But don’t trust my word for it, read this thread:

This is happening for a long time. It’s been either subtle or amazingly obvious and many, many, many developers are not aware of it and there is no official voice that I am aware from Newgrounds, which is sad. Remarkably amazing games can escape this because they will be up voted almost instantly, but if you have “just a good game” against a submission from one of this mafias, your game is going down.

No excuses can explain the silence. It is not valid to say that it could happen on other portals because other portals have a higher ratio of non-authors so competition does not strike you that obviously. It is not valid to say that it is just how it works because that means the best and brightest can’t compete with untalented yet organized mobsters.

I want Newgrounds to be better and I want their system to be taken seriously. It’s pretty much the place where author’s matter the most, but this is seriously hurting all legit authors.

Posted: September 16th, 2010
at 11:30am by Vlad

Tagged with , , , ,

Categories: Caught our Attention

Comments: 8 comments

Game Design Perspectives

I have several motivations to write this blog post. I knew I wanted to call it game design perspectives because it is about game design and perspectives about it but I didn’t really know how to put it. So I decided to put up an image and made a search on my favorite free image plugin. I searched for “perspective” and found this one: perfect.

When I coded my first game I had no idea what game design was. Some years ago, right before starting up Vortix with Marco and Diogo I had no coding knowledge whatsoever so I focused on game design. Problem with game design back then was that everyone wanted to be a game designer… it was the game designer wanabe boom period.

Back then (and it wasn’t that long ago) every guy that played games and wrote two paragraphs of a Tolkien ripoff considered himself a game designer, me included. Many of them didn’t make it up to the professional stage. Looking back, the only ones I know that got into the game development industry are either artists or engineers. The only game design wanabe that managed to pull it was me… and I’m more a programmer than a designer nowadays.

The perspective back then, the passion, was about the game. We all steped our of the dream and learnt that game design is about decision making, getting feedback and more decision making. All game designers, wanabe or not, had only one goal: the game! Like the two crossed railway lines, game design is all about crossing left and right sides of the brain. See the whole while addressing the details. Be able to analyse data and crunch numbers while being able to… well… feel…

It is sad to observe that on a market such as the flash game space the perspective is that a designer’s objective is to make a game that is sponsorable. I find this not only sad, but wrong.

Squize commented on a blog post of his that:

(…) it’s all about the creative process now, so I’d rather push myself and fall short than work to someone else’s design. (…)

Julian from LongAnimalGames mentioned today in the FGL Chat that he considered more interesting the psychology of players than game development itself.

It is a trend I find in many high profile developers. They care about business and particulary money when hiring, when selling, when paying, when discussing deals. Money doesn’t get in the way of design and they have other interests… the creativity, the psychology, the technical expertise and others. It is interesting that these are the ones that make the great, memorable and amazingly sponsorable games. I know one exception… that simply confirms the rule.

Like them we are not against the commercial or business side of all this and we take it very seriously, but game design is about the decisions, the rules, the player, the big shiny paradigms. Production, marketing, whatever, that’s the business part, our job as designers is to reach as many players as possible. We might argue that the bottom-line, that’s what will make the game sponsorable, but it is not the motivation when making game design decisions. Money is a unnecessary distraction while designing.

Posted: August 10th, 2010
at 12:46am by Vlad

Tagged with , , , ,

Categories: Caught our Attention

Comments: 1 comment

Did you miss us?!

Hi everyone, Vlad here…

I know it’s getting kind of an habit, but we don’t post too much when we are on deadlines or our work-meter is sky high which is exactly our current status. Still and given the amount of email we’ve received I decided to answer it today and lighten up a bit. Some stuff is still pending, so here are the categories of pending issues:

You said you were going to work with us on a project and you didn’t contact me back…

Although I’m slightly disappointed, I’m also used to it. People do this all the time! It’s your opportunity to catch me on MSN, Gtalk or email and sort things out. Feel free to do it, I’m really on a good mood today. :)

Your last email had the sentence “Rot in hell!”…

Several issues with this… I don’t really believe in the whole heaven and hell definitions, so I’ll just skip that. I also believe that mutual understanding is far better than spamming for attention. If I offer an helping hand but I don’t want to promote your website, than you should take the helping hand instead telling me to rot… sorta makes sense doesn’t it?

You are expecting an answer from me…

I think I cleared all the late email. If not, accept my apologies and contact me back.

You just miss us…

Oh… that’s sweet of you! We are rockin’n'rolling and although the current project doesn’t leave any room for showing things up or further developing other projects, such as M:A:D, we will try to keep in touch as much as possible, so see you soon!

Posted: September 18th, 2009
at 10:25am by Vlad

Tagged with

Categories: The life of VGS

Comments: No comments

Encyclopedia of Players

Disclaimer: this post, unlike most of this blog, does not have the intention to present information or discuss any particular item. It is a fun motivated post, one that should be taken lightly, with a smile and nothing else.

Most if not all flash game developers have read comments about their games that triggered some feeling. Many times we fail to see the positive side and focus on the negative side. We are taking content to an audience and nowadays that means that either we like it or not, that audience will voice an opinion. Is is much easier to take the strong opinions with a smile and I hope this helps giving you that smile. :)

The 100m athlete

His only motivation is to be the first. He wants to, he has a lot of competition, but sooner or later he will be fast enough to be able to write:


and he won’t rest until he is banned! That’s his gold medal!

The obvious

It could be better.

O’rly? It could, I admit, but how? It’s like saying that it is a game, isn’t it?

The nonsense

This type of player is really unpredictable. We never know what’s his next comment. It can be something like:

LOL OMG it’s yeah!

to something really strange like:

Loved the game! 1/5 because I don’t like the name!

We never know what to expect… by the way, this last quote… true story. :)

The sober policeman

This player plays a lot of flash games. He knows the portals, he knows the developers, he knows if a game was uploaded by someone that is not the rightful owner. What can I say? The sober policeman is a real helpful player in many ways.

The drunk policeman

Ok… I only wrote the previous one so I could write this one. :) This player plays a lot of flash games but all games that look alike were stolen! What was the stolen game you may ask? Easy! The first game of the same genre he played. He also assumes that a sponsored game uploaded by the developer was, without a trace of doubt, stolen by the developer.

Games with stolen IPs are ok though, as long as he is a fan, like a Mario clone or something that remotely looks like Zelda… with Zelda graphics…

The analyst aka flash game journalist

This is a real, typical comment from this player type:

It feels… restricted. As far as I can tell, it is perfectly unclear as to how money is being earned. It just hands it to you at the end of the level. Similarly, there is almost no indication as to whether you are hitting something, unless it dies. Having scrollwheel weapon change is bit odd, considering that most people will be playing tihs in a browser.

I honestly love these guys (and gals)! They usualy know what they are saying, they write well, take the developer hardwork into consideration. They pinpoint problems the game has and they do so in an elegant way. Bottom line, they are really helpful.

The needy

Needs upgrades…

Needs badges…

Needs ketchup…

Needs more levels…

<insert your favorite need here>

Now that I think about it, usualy it’s not the game that needs it. It was designed like that so, that’s what it is for better or worse. Who needs something is the player.

The nice guy

I don’t like this game. It’s boring! I have better things to do than to waste 5 minutes of my life playing it. But since you used red in the logo and my dog is running after his tail, I’ll give it an 8.

Thanks mate, very helpful!

The complacent father of all developers

Really funny… he assumes that ALL developers are 13 years old. It’s really easy to spot! If you make one mistake, serious or not, he will say something like

The mute button is not working! I don’t expect that you 13 year olds can do a proper game.

or (and this is just hilarious) if you do something that he doesn’t like, it is not a mistake, bug or problem, he just doesn’t like that…

You 13 year olds still have a lot to learn. Ice towers also deal damage, not just slow down.

The uber game designer

This is probably the only type of player that I really don’t like and that annoys the hell out of me, but there are so few of them that their presence is rarely noted, thankfuly. This is someone that took a couple of hours to create something that remotely looks like a game and that from that moment on feels he has all the know-how to trash every single game that he doesn’t like.

He usualy shares pearls of wisdom such has:

This game sucks! Collision detection fails more than 50% of the time!

These pearls of wisdom usualy meet the following logic: the game in question does not have collisions, or even if it had, how does he know that it is more than 50% of the time? It’s funny because it’s true.

The spell checker

The typical spell checker is usually also a complacent father of all developers. But there’s a weird breed of spell checkers… I can’t really explain how they are, so here’s a comment…

LOL u dont now how 2 spel aphrodisiac

and last but not least… The follower

The follower is cute in a way. Followers simply follow an opinion that is from someone else. For instance if a uber game designer says that the game has a problem with collision detection, even if the game doesn’t have CD at all, he will just state that he also noticed that. A lot of followers follow spell checkers, I don’t know why. Followers are good if you have a good game and bad if you have a bad game.

Hope you like it!

Like I said, this post is for fun and kicks, don’t think too much about it. Many comments are really good and helpful and we have to look at pointless comments as part of it.

Posted: August 7th, 2009
at 12:00am by Vlad

Tagged with , , ,

Categories: Funny Facts

Comments: 21 comments

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