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.
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.
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!
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.
This post is a bit late as Jan Willem has focused squarely on streaming Wasteland Kings and moving places and Rami just landed from his crazy trip to GDC Europe, gamescom and PAX. It doesn’t help that August was one of the craziest months in our existence as Vlambeer and was concluded with our third birthday on September 1st.
As you might’ve noticed, LUFTRAUSERS has been delayed again. The short version is that it’s going to be at least a month before it releases from now. The long version is: it turns out that certification is harder than you expect even when you have been warned that it’s harder than you think. This is our first ever console release, and it turns out the process that they call ‘Technical Requirement Compliance’ is weirdly intricate, with different standards in different territories and long arbitrary delays between submissions, so we want to get things right. This is not a dig towards Sony, who have been absolutely great towards us and are absolutely accomodating and trying to help us out, it’s just a reality we’ll have to deal with for now.
Devolver Digital kindly hired an additional QA team to help us out and check the game pre-submissions, and we’re wrapping up the final items on the list at the moment. Sadly, the game going through certification doesn’t mean it launches immediately, it means it’ll get ‘slotted’ at a certain date a few weeks later for launch. We’ve promised everybody – fans and platforms – that it’ll launch simultaneously on all platforms, and we’re never making that promise again. It just feels bad to have four perfectly releasable builds sitting here, just waiting for the last one to clear certifications.
We really ought to stop estimating release dates that early in development. It doesn’t really work with our style of development: we keep tweaking and fixing things until the game is as close to perfect as we can get it. Slamming a date onto something like that isn’t really helping anyone.
The Wasteland Kings stream is way closer to how we actually develop. It’s sort of chaotic, we have no clue when it’ll be done and we have fun adding a lot of crazy things to it. If you’re not watching the stream, we’re streaming every Tuesday and Thursday from 13:00 until 17:00 CET over at www.wastelandkings.com.
We are really excited about Wasteland Kings, though. The PS4/PS Vita reveal during gamescom was one of the most nerve-wrecking moments in our recent history and the reception it got at the Penny Arcade Expo was overwhelming. As for everybody asking, yes, we’ll start selling the shirts in our store as soon as the Level Up Studios guys get home.
The Super Crate Box iOS update has been delayed again as well. We got Rami a Macbook to finally fix that update with his crazy travel lifestyle (he could only work on our Mac Mini in the office before now) and then when he turned it on in Seattle, it plain out didn’t recognize the device’s harddrive. We’ve sent off the Macbook to some Apple support place as Rami prepares to leave again for a bit, to South Africa this time.
Then, all of a sudden, Vlambeer turned three years old, which – as we were on seperate continents – led to celebrations as excessive as the e-mail exchange above. As a birthday gift, we finally made GUN GODZ available for free, after it had been a Venus Patrol exclusive for a while, and we released the MOJAM prototype of Wasteland Kings. On top of that, we announced the Vlambeer & Friends Art Book project. You can grab all of those gifts at our birthday website.
Thanks so much to everybody who contributed to the spontaneous surge of Vlambeer OST sales during our birthday. We super appreciate all the kind words, merchandise sales, fan art and gifts.
Don’t forget to tune into the stream in four hours or so, 13:00CET at the Wasteland Kings website.
Today also saw the announcements of the Indie MEGABOOTH, where we’ll have LUFTRAUSERS, Ridiculous Fishing and Wasteland Kings all playable – with Ridiculous Fishing also being a PAX10 nominee. Wasteland Kings actually got nominated for what is likely our favorite event every year, so expect us in Austin for Fantastic Arcade with the game as well.