LUFTRAUSER is a Not Vlambeer-game made together with Paul Veer and KOZILEK in two days. Players control an lone pilot in an experimental LUFTRAUSER and try to survive as long as possible against increasing numbers of hostile fighters, jets, boats and battleships.
For the past six months or so, Vlambeer has been working on LUFTRAUSERS, our 2D dogfighting game in which players get to pilot and customize their own RAUSER. This new game is built upon the foundations of the singularized original, LUFTRAUSER, which we released more than a year ago.
LUFTRAUSER was once created with the idea of making a quick game as a distraction from working on Serious Sam: The Random Encounter. We decided upon a dogfighting game and reached out to artist-in-crime Paul Veer and our favorite Finnish musician, KOZILEK. With them aboard, a lot of things quickly solidified. Jan Willem designed that flawless feeling of control in the game, Paul established the visual style with an extremely limited and striking palette, KOZILEK composed the memorable soundtrack that accompanied the action and I tried to keep up with my fellow Vlambeer as I programmed along with Jan Willems furious prototyping skills.
After two days the game was done and seeing that this was at the end of Vlambeers first year, we felt we earned a vacation. Long story short, we ported LUFTRAUSER to Flash and we tried to sell it to a Flash portal.
Even though we had good contacts at a lot of portals that knew of the successes of Super Crate Box and Radical Fishing, all of them turned the game down for being too ‘monochrome’, too ‘extreme’ or too ‘difficult’. We gave up after trying for a few days and decided to do something else. We’d use LUFTRAUSER to see if a game like it – five colors, difficult and ‘extreme’- could have an audience. We implemented a tracking solution to see how often it was played and decided that if it did well, we’d send the data along with our next game we hoped to sell to a Flash portal.
We released LUFTRAUSER for free without ads and allowed any portal to have it on their site as long as they did not disable the tracking.
Somewhat unexpected to everyone, the game blew up. LUFTRAUSER was amongst the top five games played on portals for a while and racked up millions of sessions in the first few months of being available. Even today, a year and a half later, on a bad day the game is attracting thousands of players per week.
A year later we found ourselves done with most of our projects: Serious Sam: The Random Encounter was done, GUN GODZ was available to Venus Patrol backers and Ridiculous Fishing was on the backburner until we felt like working on it again. We needed something to do and decided to work on LUFTRAUSER. We opened the game, played for a while and Jan Willem set out to redesign the flight mechanics of LUFTRAUSERS from the ground up.
We are stubborn people, so we stopped looking at the original and started working on the sequel independent of its prequel. LUFTRAUSERS started to take shape. In a week or two, we had the first builds in the game. After a month or two, we posted the SQUAD MODE video on our blog. We were experimenting – we were having fun.
Then something happened we couldn’t quite grasp: LUFTRAUSERS wasn’t nearly as fun as LUFTRAUSER. Even though we had a year of extra experience working on games, even though we had already made the game before, LUFTRAUSERS simply wasn’t what the prequel was. No matter how much we polished and tried, we simply couldn’t get the game up to shape. Diving down from the skies to skim just over the water didn’t feel as great as it should and shooting other airplanes missed a sense of gravitas – of weight – that we really liked about the original.
It took us weeks of doubt and work to get the game to the quality and feel that the original had. Almost two months were spent tweaking the camera, adding effects, iterating on flight feel and communication and accessibility. Hours of discussions spent on the background clouds, the enemy types and the interface. Endless iterations were made on effects and sounds and music. Nevertheless, one day we looked at the build and realized: this was it. We had finally reached the quality of the original game.
LUFTRAUSERS would be a worthy sequel.
That’s when we went back to LUFTRAUSER – and that’s when our stubbornness in trying to make something independent from its prequel turned out to have paid off weeks earlier: the original Flash game was pretty terrible to play.
Sure, we still recognized it as a good game, but it felt static and boring and flat comparing to the game we had been tweaking for months – which was weird: we recalled LUFTRAUSER as feeling dynamic, powerful and above all fun.
The months we spent tweaking weren’t spent getting the new game to match the feel we loved so much in the original game – no, they were spent getting LUFTRAUSERS to match the fond memories we have of that little Flash game. Memories that – especially for what LUFTRAUSER was, definitely outclassed what it actually did.
We didn’t stop there, obviously – we’ve been polishing the game endlessly ever since that moment three months ago. When we play LUFTRAUSERS now, it surpasses the memories of tight dogfighting and the insane aerial acrobats of a game that only existed in our best memories of a little Flash game we’re – to this day – extremely proud of.
We don’t think this is a repeatable strategy: it was us being unaware of our exaggeration of LUFTRAUSER’s feel that allowed us to push LUFTRAUSERS that far. Either way, it was definitely an interesting realisation.
Two-hundred million crates have been collected worldwide. If you add up the crate counters in Super Crate Box & its iOS version you get a sum total of 202 341 012. Almost 20 golden crates have been collected as well, so there’s just 80 golden crates left before the next update hits. We just let loose our stats on those numbers & our calculations put that at just over 1.5 million disc-gun deaths.
Just last week during the Utrecht Indie Meetup Jan Willem and I discussed that something felt slightly off about how things were going recently. Basically, Vlambeer has been focusing on earning money for a really big project that we want to do. We’ve been doing talks, events and a lot of other, great things. But we feel that we should put the focus back it where should be: making games.
Vlambeer allowed us to reach all of you, create games we wouldn’t be able to make seperately and hopefully, in doing so, offering you something interesting, novel and creative to play. We’re extremely thankful for all of you that support us – every tweet, retweet, like, share, discuss and sale allows us to make the things we work on so hard. In the end, that’s what it’s about, isn’t it? It’s about the games. We think we might’ve lost track of that a bit in all the madness.
So, we’re making a small course correction. That whole money-thing for that big project? We’ll work that out later. Actually, we’ll just work that big project out later. The two of us have been doing seperate things for the last few months – ever since the Ridiculous Fishing debacle hit – and we really want to make a really good game together. So that’s what’s up next.
That thing above is the first mockup of a prototype we think has potential – so we’ve started treating that as a completely new project. We’re not quite sure it’ll make the cut, but it’s definitely something we’ve been toying around with a while ago in the shape of Space Murder. Even though Space Murder failed back then, we think it is time to venture back into space sim territory. Actually, since we never released Space Murder – we’ve uploaded the last build we made of it just after the video.
We owe the amazing graphics and music that are in place in Space Murder to Adam ‘ATOMIC‘ Saltsman, Francis Coulombe, Derek Bones and Daniel ‘C418‘ Rosenfeld. They worked on this one with us before we axed it last year. So, fair warning – this is nowhere near done, it will never be done and it’s full of bugs, incomplete art, missing audio, lack of impact and all that – it’s just a prototype, it might take a long while to load. If you don’t care about all that and just want to see what a unreleased project at Vlambeer looks like, give Space Murder a go here!
We’re still releasing what we have on schedule (& we’ve got some nice things coming up). We’re still showing up at A MAZE this week and Indiedevelopment and GDC Europe (where, hopefully, we can do an improved version of our Indie Roundtable last week) and all that – we’re just going to be a bit more efficient with doing things that aren’t related to making games.
We’re still working on Ridiculous Fishing & we think we’ll have something new to show soon. Zach Gage – the programmer on Ridiculous Fishing – has been a little pre-occupied with the amazing Spelltower sale. In the meanwhile, the feedback from the IGF judges included amazingly positive notes, such as ”Ridiculous Fishing is an instant iOS classic” & “It’s up there with the best of them as a great use to the device with brilliant art and an addicting hook. No pun intended.” We’ll keep you up to date about what’s happening with Ridiculous Fishing.
We’ve just released LUFTRAUSER, the little flying game we made a while ago. Sponsors deemed it too extreme so we digged deep into our hearts and decided to release it, with massive losses for Not Vlambeer and at a high personal emotional cost, for you to play for free.
On April 28th and 29th, we visited the Festival of Games conference in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Festival of Games is arguably the largest annual game industry event in this little country and this year was no different, the event attracting both ‘big’ speakers as Al Lowe and Ian Livingstone and smaller ones like, well, us. If you don’t care about all that and happen to be interested in LUFTRAUSER, a Flash game we created in our spare time, scroll down all the way.
Since we were asked to do a little talk as well, we came up with the idea of throwing an idea into the fray, something we started thinking about during the ‘press storm’ after we released KARATE a few weeks ago. How could a game as tiny as that gather so much press coverage? What we concluded – not through statistics but through a gut feeling – is that game companies with a ‘average’ scope are disappearing. We don’t have the numbers, we can’t tell you what constitutes a small or a big company – we feel that as a game company, your scope is either big or small, or you’re sucked into the emptiness in between where you fight an uphill battle just to survive and do what you love.
Leading this process, we think, are digital distribution, tech and audience expectations.
Back in the days (but not too far back), you had big companies with enough money to dominate the spaces in the gaming isle and the average-scoped companies that had less money but still got a spot somewhere in the back corner. Nowadays, the small companies can be flexible and cost-effective and the big companies all but own the shelves in retail.
New hard- and software allows big companies to create the most amazing of game experiences with almost insane capabilities. Expensive and continiously advancing engines and middleware allow the big companies to allocate and use every last bit of processing- and graphical power from the increasingly powerful hardware. On the other hand, game creation has been made increasingly simple for beginners and small companies with tools like Unity, Game Maker and FlashPunk or Flixel, allowing them to rival medium-scoped companies in capabilities.
However, the biggest problem for the average-scoped companies we believe to be the audience expectations. AAA games are expected to have high production values and usually, reasonably safe design choices. An indie game is measured with a different measuring tape and whether you like it or not, will usually be compared to its peers on terms of originality & concept.
What does this leave for the average-scope company? They can’t compete with the indie developers, as indies can work far more cost-efficiently and be more flexible. They can’t compete with AAA because the audience expectations are too high in terms of production value – things they can’t afford and the AAA studios can.
We also stressed that big and small are mutually exclusive. A small-scoped company should never aim to make a AAA game, nor the other way around. These are different worlds that require different approaches and different types of skills and experience.
While in the old days, companies grew slowly and steadily, we feel nowadays the jump from small to big – if that’s something you aspire – should be made in one leap. If your company fits in a ship container, you’ll be fine – if your company can own the ship, you’ll be fine too. Anything in between and we feel you might be in for a world of trouble.
Also, we wanted to make a quick mention of LUFTRAUSER, a game Jan Willem and I created outside of Vlambeer in cooperation with Paul Veer and Kozilek in the past few days. It’s a Flash airplane combat game we created to fight some stress, which turned out really good in its first prototype – so we pushed through with it. At this point, we’re looking for any interested sponsors. If you know someone who might be interested in the game or if you happen to be that someone, drop us a quick e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VLAMBEER IS A DUTCH INDEPENDENT GAME STUDIO made up of Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman, bringing back arcade games since 1884.
Rami Ismail Business and Development
Jan Willem Nijman Game Design