2014

If you've been following Nuclear Throne, there's been weekly updates - but here we've been sort of quiet as we burrowed into that project. But since 2014 is almost over, we thought we update our blog here with some of our closing notes. Let’s start with the bad news and move to the good news, OK? Just feels nicer to end on the high note. The bad news is mostly related to our earlier games and mostly comes in the form of "we've finally learned not to announce dates before we're 100% certain". Nuclear Throne has taken an absurd amount of time with weekly public updates, and it turns out having to release an update every week means you don’t have a lot of time for other things. Here’s a quick summary of what we’re up to at Vlambeer.

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Ridiculous Fishing 
While we hope you grabbed the Christmas hat in Ridiculous Fishing last week, the 2014 content update for Ridiculous Fishing has been postponed until further notice. Both ourselves, Zach Gage and Greg Wohlwend have been too busy with other projects to do anything particularly significant on the project. We apologise for this, and hope to have some news in the next year.

Super Crate Box iOS

Super Crate Box iOS An update for Super Crate Box for iOS should release in the first few months of 2015, which should finally enable support for additional screen ratios. Since this is also highly dependent on Halfbot's schedule, we can't promise anything here just yet.

LUFTRAUSERS

LUFTRAUSERS We’re aware of a trophy bug for LUFTRAUSERS on PlayStation Network platforms. Sadly, our original programmers on the project cannot further support the project due to new jobs. We’ve been working with Devolver Digital and found some people who can give LUFTRAUSERS a much-needed bugfix run. We'll have more news on that in the nearby future.

Well, that was the bad news! Nothing terrible, we hope, but it's still something we’re sorry about. You learn as you go, we guess. We know you’ve trusted us with your time, enthusiasm and money - and we want to make sure that we deliver on our promises of fishing with machineguns, crate-collecting and aerial superweapons. Let’s move on to the good news, then!

Serious Worldmap

Super Crate Box, GUN GODZ & Serious Sam: The Random Encounter GameMaker creator YoYoGames and Vlambeer are collaborating on bringing Super Crate Box, GUN GODZ and Serious Sam: The Random Encounter to additional platforms, most notably Windows 8. This ‘support update pack’ should enable these games to run on OS X and Linux, too. We’ll be announcing a release date as soon as we’ve got a better overview of the effort that’ll go into these fixes, and we'll keep you updated on Twitter, Facebook and our blog.

Nuclear Throne 

Anyone who, by end of the 31st of December (CET), owns Nuclear Throne on Steam or has registered their game through Humble will receive a New Years’ gift code for the game on January 1st, 2015. While we'll endeavour to make sure everyone gets their gift copy somewhere on the 1st, we can't 100% promise we'll be able to deliver all codes on January 1st. It's kind of a huge logistic effort to give away as many gift copies as we are (we couldn't be more thankful for that situation, though!).

We are afraid we can’t make any exceptions to the deadline here because of the logistics of the whole endeavour.

You'll receive a giftable version of the version of Nuclear Throne that you bought (so a Steam gift copy for Steam players, a Humble gift link for Humble and Twitch). Just check your Steam account or the Humble link for your original copy. If you bought through Twitch, you can visit this page to claim it.

We hope that you’ll give these gift keys to people with a good eye for video games, people that you know would love Nuclear Throne, and people that you think would’ve never heard of Nuclear Throne without your gift. Basically, we hope you’ll grow our community with people you know are good people that care about games, and that could give us quality feedback on the game as we progress into 2015.

Please consider the gifted key as a thank you for your support of the game and a way to support us even further in our effort to make the best version of Nuclear Throne we can hope to build.

2014 What an amazing year full of wonderful moments, from being the first studio to sell a game through Twitch (and showing them that game development deserves its own category on their platform) to Nuclear Throne’s absolutely humbling performance. We were amazed with our mention on the top 10 developer lists by the games industry blog Gamasutra and happy to see Nuclear Throne and LUFTRAUSERS popping up on all sorts of top 10 lists. We had fun at all the events at which we’ve had the opportunity to talk to so many of you out there.

Vlambeer continues to be a strange and wonderful rollercoaster.

From the two of us here at Vlambeer, and on behalf of those who worked with us throughout 2014, see you in 2015.

Rami & J.W.

You can now reach the Nuclear Throne

As you might’ve noticed, the Nuclear Throne was added to the game earlier this weekend. It took us 33 weekly updates to take the game jam prototype to where it is now - and you can now reach the titular throne after you and your mutant complete the gruelling fight to the Palace from the campfire.

Creating this final moment of the game threw a major wrench into our live streaming and even led to some tension in the team about our approach to hiding our work on this reveal. Some of us wanted the Throne to be perfect before we revealed it, while some of us felt we should develop it completely in the open. We eventually agreed upon something in the middle: as soon as the Throne worked, we’d throw it in.

This does mean that now we can finally get back to not having secrets from you all, and that’s quite a relief. Sure, we’ll hide some thing from the livestream for fun every now and then, like the Frozen City Bandits last week, but it won’t be something that takes months anymore. We thank you for your patience while we learned that lesson.

As a little thank-you, we want to show you some of the things that we hid from you during development now that it’s all there.

The Throne
The Throne

For those of you that have been following us in the Steam Forums or on the Twitch.tv livestreams, it has taken us nearly seven weeks to design, prototype, iterate and develop this early version of the Throne. During that period, we discussed the lore of the Throne endlessly, and how it would look and work. Paul worked on the above implementations of the Throne, every time getting a bit closer to the vibe the Throne needed.

Jukio created music, first something that was closer to a heavy Castlevania boss track, and later decided to scrap that in favour of a track that emphasised the impending resolution for our mutants more than the unexpected mortal peril that they find themselves in.

Jan Willem struggled with dozens of different boss designs and behaviours before he finally settled on a range of attacks that felt appropriate to the battle. Of course, like everything in Nuclear Throne, what you might play today is a first draft that will be improved upon in the future.

A new chapter

In many ways, the addition of the Throne is an indicator that the first half of development has been wrapped up. It’s a reminder of an exhausting but amazingly rewarding game production. It’s the result of the work of six people that have pushed themselves to the absolute limit of their ability, the feedback and enthusiasm of the community and the support of the tens of thousands of gamers that play the game.

However, this does not conclude the work we have to do on the story of Fish and the other mutants. To us, reaching the Nuclear Throne is the most crucial moment in the lore of the world, but there is much left to be told about the world that the game takes place in. For the second half of development, we will revisit much of the content already in the game, but also start expanding on the lore and the world in the game.

In terms of reaching release-ready, we’re about half way. Nuclear Throne is starting to reach a state known as feature complete - it’s the point that denotes that the systems that power the game are now all in place. You can technically walk around, shoot things, collect ammo, mutate, find crowns, uncover secrets, fight bosses, pick up things, find cursed and golden weapons, play co-op and all the other things that you’re used to from Nuclear Throne. The next stage is known as content-complete. That’s when all the content - the levels, enemies, weapons, mutations, crowns, secrets and so on - are in the game. After that, there’ll be a period of polish and certification, after which the game will launch officially on PC, Mac, Linux and then PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.

Early Access and performative game development

We’ve been really serious about trying to ‘do Early Access right’. We have livestreamed development for four to six hours almost every single Tuesday and Thursday since we started the project properly, and we’re updating the game practically every Saturday. We refuse to do sales and bundles while we’re doing Early Access, since we believe it should be utilised to make a (stable) game even better, rather than using it as paid public beta or pre-order platform. And since we want to be able to make the best of our players’ feedback, we keep the feedback loop really short: we launch on Saturday, read your feedback on Sunday, plan our next week on Monday, livestream on Tuesday, work on Wednesday, livestream on Thursday, wrap up on Friday and launch on Saturday.

Keeping iterations that fast allows us to quickly correct the course of problems, but also to really offer our players a dynamic insight into how games are made, what decision processes occur and how prototyping features works. Basically, we don’t think we could do Early Access any better way than this.

If you feel that we could do better, please do let us know. We’re always looking for feedback.

Help spread the word!

If you’re not yet playing Nuclear Throne, it’s available on Steam Early Access or through Humble for $12.99, which it will stay - without discounts or sales - at least until the game reaches the final release version.

As we create these things and continue to livestream our development process, we invite you to continue to join us in the livestreams every Tuesday and Thursday. We also want to ask you - if you enjoy the game - to help us out with promoting the game. More than with any game we’ve made before, we’ve opted to spend our time making the game while relying on you - the players of Nuclear Throne - to help us spread the game. You can help by tweeting, posting on Facebook, making videos on YouTube, livestreaming on Twitch, telling your friends or joining us in the Steam Forums.

On behalf of the two of us at Vlambeer, Paul Veer, Jukio Kallio, Joonas Turner and Justin Chan, we thank you for your support thus far, and we hope you’ll join us as we continue working on Nuclear Throne.

Response to recent LUFTRAUSERS concerns

Earlier this week, several people on Twitter voiced their discomfort with what they perceived as Nazi imagery in LUFTRAUSERS, and the belief that you play as a Nazi pilot in our 2D dogfighting game. We do have to accept that our game could make some people uncomfortable. We’re extremely sad about that, and we sincerely apologise for that discomfort.

The fact is that no interpretation of a game is ‘wrong’. When you create something, you leave certain implications of what you’re making. We can leave our idea of what it is in there, and for us, the game is about superweapons. We think everybody who plays LUFTRAUSERS can feel that.

But even more so in an interactive medium, we do have to accept that no way of reading those implications is ‘false’ - that if someone reads between the lines where we weren’t writing, those voids can be filled by the player, or someone else. If we accept there’s no wrong interpretation of a work, we also have to accept that some of those interpretations could not be along the lines of what we’re trying to create.

From our perspective, we do not cast our player as a Nazi pilot. LUFTRAUSERS is a dogfighting game very much inspired by a very specific century in the history of mankind. Somewhere between the 1900’s and the 1980’s, there was a period in which military intelligence was capable of determining whether an opposing military force was working on secret weapons, but not quite what those weapons were.

The first time this really was a problem in our modern history was during the First World War, and it continued well throughout the Second World War and the Cold War. Only in the last decades, humanity has become capable of fighting such ‘fantastic fears’ with an even better capacity to spy upon our fellow humans.

As many of you may know, we’re fascinated by the idea of unexplored truths. We prefer older science-fiction, because that’s when people still dreamt that under the clouds of Venus, you’d find dinosaurs and prehistoric people. Technology hadn’t quite spoiled the boring reality of the world yet. We were attracted to a world in which the technology clearly didn’t exist, but people feared submerging warplanes, because those tasked with exploring the world told them those probably existed. There are stacks of documents describing increasingly fantastic weaponry that never existed.

We’re talking the age of fear for mind control, floating sky fortresses, orbital rays, weaponised dolphins, cryptography and submerging warplanes.

For LUFTRAUSERS we wanted to place players in one of those superweapons. To achieve that, we needed the player to exist on the side we’d be spying on for it to make sense narratively. When we started out with the project our internal pitch for the style was something along “Superweapon dogfighting in a world with World War II-era Thunderbirds”.

For us, there was never a question that LUFTRAUSERS takes place during a fictional and/or alternative reality conflict between the ‘good guys’ and an undefined foe that we were spying on. It takes place somewhere between the Second World War and the Cold War, or in an alternative reality in the ten to fifteen years after the Second World War. The player is part of an undefined enemy force that was not on ‘our’ side during the six or seven decades in which military intelligence was effectively telling us to prepare for a laser-equipped hoverboat assault. You’re not playing any existing enemy force, not the Nazi’s, not the Japanese, not the Soviets, not any force that existed. It was always ‘some country we’d be spying on’, and we based our materials on the various countries we actually were spying on.

We wanted to be genuine about the timeframe that inspired the universe in the game, and that means that yes, there were some stylistic cues we took from World War II to construct this enemy force, as well as from characters, aesthetics and technology from World War I, the Cold War and the smaller conflicts during this timeframe. For the technology, we were inspired by things that would exist in a world in which the documents we were inspired by were true. For the characters, we took the idea of puppets from Thunderbirds and dressed them in exaggerated outfits.

What we made is a 2D dogfighting game about being the best fighter-pilot in the world, flying a superweapon in a Thunderbird meets World War II-era aesthetics. It’s not about good or evil. It’s not about World War II. It’s not about any real conflict or faction; we made a game about superweapons in the era in which they could’ve existed.

Each interpretation of a cultural artefact is a reflection of not only the creator, but also of what the user cares about, what they find important and what shaped them. We wouldn’t dare to fault people for finding the atrocities of the Second World War important. It is important. We agree it’s important, and there are important lessons for us in what happened. We need to remember what happened, we need to commemorate the victims and we need to ensure nothing even remotely like it occurs ever again.

Having been born and raised in the Netherlands, we are extremely aware of the awful things that happened, and we want to apologise to anybody who, through our game, is reminded of the cruelties that occurred during the war.

Announcing Nuclear Throne, the game formerly known as Wasteland Kings

Nuclear Throne 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.

Wasteland Kings

Wasteland Kings We just announced that our next project is going to be Wasteland Kings and that we're going to be livestreaming development. We're still working on all the other things - LUFTRAUSERS is our main priority followed by Super Crate Box iOS - but we're just really happy to announce what's up after all that. We hope you enjoy the ride with us, we have no clue where we're going to end up on this project and that's really fine with us.

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.

Vlambeer News Roundup – July 2013

Ridiculous Fishing 1.2 launched this month. It was the first content update for the game, which was great, but also introduced a bunch of unexpected problems right after launch. It turns out Apples sandbox mode isn't really a great testing environment for all the connected stuff we were doing with Friend Fish, and thus we had to scramble last minute to get some things fixed. Zach Gage just submitted 1.2.2, which should resolve some small problems and a rare crash bug that some people have reported, but we hope to have everything fully operational really soon. Sadly, that scramble meant that by the time most of the problems were resolved, Rami had already left for his first vacation since starting Vlambeer. While on the road (and with varying degrees of internet access) he couldn't deal with the added strain the release of Super Crate Box iOS for iPhone 5 would bring, since he's also doing support for Ridiculous Fishing, preparing all the deals for the next project and getting LUFTRAUSERS through the Sony TRC. Because Super Crate Box iOS with iPhone 5 support is taking so long, we've decided to give everyone 50% off on the Vlambeer OST as long as we've not launched it. Just use the code "sorrycratebox" when checking out to get your discount.

We really wish we had more news on LUFTRAUSERS, but the most accurate news we have is that it's still in QA. These things take long (often weeks) and depending on how many so-called MF's (Must-Fix problems) a game has, it can take longer. Some of these are serious game-crashing bugs, others are that we used a non-standard image for the triangle button in some interface element. LUFTRAUSERS had about 20 MFs on its first pass through QA, which is reasonable, so we're fixing all of those before resubmitting. Hopefully, after that we should have the actual release date for you and we'll obviously let you know when the wait will be over.

Jan Willem has been working on our next project constantly and it's coming together beautifully - we can't wait to announce the game.

We're preparing a lot of things for PAX Prime in Seattle & Gamescom in Cologne, and we're doing a lot of work on 7DFPS and Indie MEGABOOTH on the side, so even though officially we're just wrapping up two projects, we're actually ridiculously busy. We're just glad that Ridiculous Fishing 1.2 is out of the way now - when Rami returns from his stay in the United States we'll see to it that Super Crate Box iOS gets released as soon as possible. It really just needs a final test before we click release, but that's no excuse: we're really, really sorry about the wait - things just keep not working out and its our job to make sure they do.

And then, LUFTRAUSERS. We're so excited for LUFTRAUSERS.

Vlambeer News Roundup – May 2013

Antwerp Local Multiplayer Picnic - photo by @ludist The month of May might have seemed like a relatively calm month from the outside, but we've been working pretty much around the clock for various reasons, all of them labeled 'URGENT' and 'NEED THIS NOW' in our mailboxes. LUFTRAUSERS will be shown at E3 (lots of work) and the game itself is pretty much done and ready for certification by Sony. We don't know how long it'll be stuck in cert, but we hope to have more clarity on when the game is releasing when it clears all of that red tape. When it does, LUFTRAUSERS will release simultaneously on PC, Mac, Linux, Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita.

While the two of us were working remotely for most of the month - Rami traveling to events to talk to friends and keep in touch with our contacts and J.W. wrapping up his work on LUFTRAUSERS - we did get together for Jonatan Holmes 'Sup Holmes' last week. As always with Holmes, the interview is an hour and a half of interesting conversations and it included the first announcement of a new project after LUFTRAUSERS.

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As J.W.'s work on LUFTRAUSERS is now done, he started focusing on that next project, while Rami has been working to get Super Crate Box iOS updated (which took longer than he hoped due to all the travels) while getting the OUYA version of Super Crate Box ready for E3 (yes, that is an announcement). The whole Ridiculous Fishing team has been working on the first update - which is ready for submission to Apple too.

For next month, we hope that all our work will pay off in a bit more practical way. If things go well, we think we'll have a bit more news on the new project (don't expect too much information while we figure out how to do this best), the release of updates to both our iOS titles and hopefully, finally, some clarity about LUFTRAUSERS release. Rami will be visiting E3 and both of us will be at Rezzed in Birmingham. We'll keep you updated.

Vlambeer News Roundup - April 2013

LUFTRAUSERS = Almost done! This month, we spent most of our month recovering from the Indie MEGABOOTH madness at the Penny Arcade Expo and the Game Developers Conference. Rami visited Boston again after the Game Developers Conference for somewhat of a week off after two weeks of conferences as Jan Willem started wrapping up the final interface tweaks for LUFTRAUSERS. Zach Gage, Greg Wohlwend and us started working on a minor update for Ridiculous Fishing. We'll finally be updating Super Crate Box iOS shortly (think two or three weeks) and if things go well, a minor next project is already lined up beyond that and we're pretty excited about that one.

Photo by Polygon

Polygon launched the Human Angle article they've been working on for almost two years now. After news of the LUFTRAUSERS clone hit Pocketgamer and sent Rami into a frenzy of answering emails aboard a German train, Polygon also conducted a quick followup interview with us about our game development process and why we release freeware games first, products second.

A MAZE

We visited FMX in Stuttgart to talk about games and Ridiculous Fishing and then spent the last few days traveling back and forth between Indievelopment in Amsterdam and A MAZE Festival 2013 in Berlin. Rami hosted Indievelopment and fulfilled his jury duty at A MAZE Festival, where Henry Smith's Spaceteam was unanimously voted to be the Most Amazing Game of 2013. Jan Willem hosted Local Multiplayer Picnic A MAZE edition and jammed on 'Fold' for Ludum Dare #26 with a bunch of friends.

In terms of nice things, Eirik 'Phlogiston' Suhrke joined with Sanjjib to record a celebratory Ridiculous Fishing rendition as a thank you for the many people that bought the Ridiculous Fishing soundtrack already. We've been discussing streaming on Twitch.TV a bit more often - maybe once a week or two weeks, so we might start doing that after LUFTRAUSERS is done. Crunch isn't all that exciting to stare at.

LUFTRAUSERS Cloned

Damn proud As some of you have noticed, we've been at the center of more cloning controversy than we signed up for. Rami spent most of his day convincing German train officers to let him use the first class WiFi aboard the six-hour train ride he was on to be able to respond to the whole thing going down.

We obviously endured a bit of a scare when news arrived of LUFTRAUSERS being cloned and released ahead of our own release schedule by another developer. This time, however, it's not 'just' the idea of the game that has been cloned, but also the visual style. This gives us much more room to fight the whole thing, and we fully intend to. The developer of the clone has gotten in touch with us after Twitter exploded and let us know that 'acttuly we genrated our assets, Codes and all newly' and that the gameplay as indicated on the screenshots 'is not there in game as in the screen shots. We just done those screnshots for public attraction'. They signed off with the note that 'we really dont think it links your game at all'.

We simply can't deal with the stress of another cloned game, so we've gotten in touch with Apple and Google to see if there is a way for for the issue to be resolved without us getting involved in yet another clone war. They've requested us to file a DMCA filing, which we (and the handsome men at Devolver Digital) have done and we're awaiting the results of that now.

We're more than happy to see games inspired by our works and we encourage anyone to practice game design and development by recreating personal favorites - in fact, many of our games have been cloned dozens of times without us complaining - but the clones of both Ridiculous Fishing and LUFTRAUSERS take 'inspiration' a step too far and into the marketplace. We're extremely exhausted from dealing with this type of cloning and even though this is an important issue to stand up against, we had hoped that we could just release a game without the cloning debate happening for once.

Ultimately, we refuse to accept this as a part of our industry. We believe that showing our games to our fans early is a better way of developing Vlambeer games than keeping secrets and just dropping the final result on people when it's done.

Now that we've got the chance, we'd also like to take a few seconds to use the clone as an argument towards why LUFTRAUSERS is almost certainly not coming to mobile - we just can't find a way to make it work as well as it should on touchscreen devices. LUFTRAUSERS requires you to keep track of three things: steering left or right, accelerating or stalling and firing or not firing your weapons. You'd need one input for each of those pairs - so on keyboard, three fingers or on a controller an arrow, a button and a trigger. On touchscreens, you'd need three thumbs.

LUFTRAUSERS is still hitting PC, Mac, Linux, Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita - with the latter being the most interesting device for those of you who would like to play LUFTRAUSERS on the go. We've been wrapping up development and we are on schedule to release the game later this spring.

Thank you so much once again to the fans, friends and press that have helped us out with Ridiculous Fishing and thanks so much to everyone for standing with us once again with LUFTRAUSERS. We hope this will be the last time we have to deal with this, but we're encouraged to know that if it's not, we won't be alone.

P.S. We really like the idea of a Vlambeer clone game jam - we might organize that after we're done crunching on LUFTRAUSERS.

If you all don't mind, we're going to take a nap now. It's been a long day. We hope to be back soon with nice news.

Random level generation in Wasteland Kings

Wasteland Kings Portraits
Wasteland Kings is a game we made in three days for MOJAM. It's an action roguelike about mutants blasting their way through dangerous areas while searching for powerful weapons and growing new limbs on the fly.

Because we had a very limited timeframe to make this game (and JW doesn't know any maths) everything was made with super fast, hacky, dumb logic. Our level generation was made in a couple of hours, but turned out very decent, supplying players with an infinite amount of very playable levels. This post is about how we did that.

Take note that our solutions are all hand-tweaked for this particular game. Some things might not make a lot of sense or have any reasoning behind them, but that's just how we make games. Massive thanks to PaulJukio and Joonas, because respectively their art, music and sound effects really made the game what it is today and kept us inspired and working hard all the way through this project! Let's get started.

level1

STEP 1: make some floors Every area starts by creating a FloorMaker. Every iteration a FloorMaker will move 1 tile forward and make a Floor. Depending on what area (Desert, Sewers or Scrapyard in this case) it is generating there will be different chances for it to turn 90, -90 or even 180 degrees. For example, the Scrapyard has no 180 degree turns and thus moves straight forward more frequently, giving it a lot of long, straight corridors.

level3

STEP 2: make some rooms To allow for more interesting gameplay, FloorMakers have a chance to place Floors in a shape. In the Desert there is a 50% chance for it to place 2x2 Floors. This will create more open areas. In the Scrapyard there is a 11% chance for 3x3 Floors to spawn, creating little rooms, perfect for interesting shootouts and tight dodging.

At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco (we'll have a write-up on GDC and PAX soon) JW talked to Beau Blyth about his game Shoot First, one of the many inspirations for Wasteland Kings. It turns out he used a very similar technique for his levels!

STEP 3: splitting the corridors We wanted players to do some exploring. Every frame a FloorMaker has a small chance to create a new FloorMaker. The chance of a new FloorMaker to appear depends on the amount of FloorMakers already active and the area we are in. Sewer for example has a lot of corridors, because we allow it to spawn a lot of FloorMakers. If more than one FloorMaker exists, they get an increasingly large chance to destroy themselves, to make sure the levels don't have too many long hallways heading in different directions.

STEP 4: placing chests There are three types of chests found in levels in wasteland kings. We have Weapon Chests, big Ammo Chests and Experience Canisters. Usually one of each is found in every area. We wanted to spawn these in interesting places (mainly dead ends) in the levels, to reward players for exploring. The way we did this is horrible but effective. Whenever a FloorMaker turns 180 degrees, it spawns a Weapon Chest. Whenever a FloorMaker destroys itself, it spawns an Ammo Chest. Whenever the level is reaching its final size, FloorMakers spawn Experience Canisters. After the level generation is done all but the furthest (with a bit of a random offset) chests of each type are removed.

Fun fact: When making the animated gifs for this posts we found out that the weapon chests are placed after turning 180 degrees and moving one tile, instead of on the tile of the turn itself.

level2

STEP 5: level size The game counts the amounts of Floors. In our case, the max is 110 Floors per level. When a FloorMaker notices there are more than 110 Floors it does one more step and then destroys itself. The amount of Floors divided by 110 is the percentage shown while the game is loading.

Because we still place one more set of Floors after reaching 110, the game usually loads to 101%. We kept that in to show the world we put a lot of extra effort into our games.

STEP 6: placing the Player, Enemies and Walls WARNING: The way we did this is very dumb. The Player is simply spawned on the place we spawned the first FloorMaker. Enemies can spawn anywhere far enough from the Player as long as there are no chests there. We just check all the Floors and give them a random chance to spawn some Enemies depending on  the current difficulty. Enemy type and rarity depends on the area. For example: a tile in the desert can spawn either a Bandit, Maggot, Corpse, Scorpion or a group of unwise Bandits warming themselves around an explosive barrel.

We then place Walls around all the Floors. Every Floor has a small chance to spawn a Wall on one of it's 4 corners. Finally, there is a 14% chance for a Wall in Scrapyard to become a firetrap. It later turned out these randomly spawned Walls were able to block corridors. We tried fixing it in the last 7 minutes of the jam but it turned out we failed. Luckily, occurrence of this is super rare, seeing we were testing the game for three days but only saw this happen once.

STEP 7: graphics Every Wall side, Wall top and Floor has 4 different versions per area. The first graphic is very common, second or third are shown 22% of the time. The fourth one was supposed to show less than 1% of the time, but the code for that was broken and nobody ever saw these. Sorry.

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STEP 8: gameplay Finally and most importantly, make sure your gameplay is suitable for these kinds of levels. Our enemies drop experience and sometimes items when killed. These drops and experience disappear over time. This encourages people to move into places they normally wouldn't need to go.

Our exits spawn when the final enemy is killed, this allowed us to not have to worry too much about exit and start placement. A problem with this was that sometimes people missed some items because they were sucked into the exit. On the other hand, this also generated some cool gameplay when people where already being sucked into an exit, but still managed to shoot an experience canister, leveling up just a split second before going to the next level. (Our exits also suck in experience and smaller pickups to let people not have to deal with that manually after beating a level.)

Our classes use space in an interesting way. Fish rolls, crystal can shield himself from damage, plant can create choke points and pin enemies down and eyes can move enemies and enemy projectiles around. Melting even uses enemy corpses as a resource (blowing them up), which suddenly makes positioning them relevant.

Enemies are always moving around a bit, even when the player isn't anywhere near them. Some enemies charge at you, some flee, some just dance around. They fill spaces differently.

Shotgun bullets bounce, bolts pierce, melee weapons can be used through walls but have less reach.

The way you and the systems interact with the level is way more important than the shape of the level itself. The level is just there to bring people what they want. In this case we  brought them an infinite wasteland filled with monsters, weapons and treasure. We wanted them to have fun.

Ridiculous Fishing is almost done!

Wasteland Kings If you've been paying attention, you probably followed the development of Wasteland Kings during our participation in the annual Mojam. We're extremely proud of the $450.000 raised for charity during the whole event and just as grateful for all your support, the nice comments in the chat and your enthusiasm for the game.

However, Wasteland Kings was not all we were working on: while Jan Willem and Paul were jamming away on Wasteland Kings, Rami, Zach and Greg wrapped up something else over in New York: we submitted Ridiculous Fishing to Apple.

This was a long time coming.

On December 7th, 2010, we started on the iOS version of our debut game Radical Fishing. Things started when Brandon Boyer introduced New York City-based conceptual artist and developer Zach Gage to our little Flash game. Brandon put us in touch and with us being big fans of Zach's lose/lose and Zach being a big fan of Radical Fishing, we decided to work together on iRadical Fishing.

Within the next two months, the three of us got in touch with Greg Wohlwend, back then best known as the artist for Solipskier. He was instantly sold on the project and quickly added to the roster. We finally reached out to Super Crate Box musician Eirik Suhrke to work with us on the project as well. We had an amazing team and our output was far above expectations. This was a project we couldn't stop being excited about.

First Sketch

Greg immediately sent us the above image: he had come up with an amazing art style based on 45 degree angles. Eirik sent us some amazingly fitting audio mockups. Zach was coding, Jan Willem was spending time on the Serious Sam: The Random Encounter project while designing Ridiculous Fishing and I was working on Serious Sam: The Random Encounter and the usual Vlambeer stuff. Within weeks, the game was fully playable and we were halfway before we knew it.

Obviously, things were perfect like that until six months into the project. The same Brandon Boyer that put us in touch with Zach Gage notified us of a clone of Radical Fishing, and it was going to launch on iOS before we would be ready to launch. We argued, we discussed and we negotiated - but ultimately it turned out the cloners never intended to yield: they admitted to 'being inspired' by our game and launched their game to great success. With that, our motivation and progress suffered a blow we didn't recover from for far longer that we are comfortable admitting.

Progress on the game was slow for months, all of us being demotivated from working on it. We would've killed the project right then and there if it wasn't for the enormous outpouring of support from fans and press alike. Still, opening the project files would just remind us of the critical and financial reception of the clone - and reminded us that when we'd launch, people would just see Ridiculous Fishing as a clone of the clone. We worked on different projects; Zach launched the absurdly succesful Spelltower, Greg worked on Gasketball and Hundreds, Eirik launched Spelunky and we worked on whatever wasn't Ridiculous Fishing.

There was a small boost in morale when the game was unexpectedly nominated for the Independent Games Festival in early 2012, but even that couldn't persuade us to work on the game. We had all gained a lot of new responsibilities with our new releases and painfully struggling through the accursed development of a game that'd be received as a clone wasn't something we had time for.

We almost killed the project, but we couldn't give up on it either. So it lingered and lingered in the back of our head. We spoke about the dangers of cloning at conferences, we gave interviews to newspapers and television. Ridiculous Fishing wasn't moving forward, but it was always there. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Ridiculous Fishing nearly ended Vlambeer.

Mexican Coke? The ball started rolling again after PAX Prime 2012. Zach, Greg, Greg's MikenGreg partner Mike and I spent a week in a car driving from Seattle to New York to try and revive the game at Zach's apartment in New York. Over the course of the week we stayed in Manhattan, the three of us managed to push the game forward just a tiny bit.

That turned out to be enough to slowly snowball into serious progress. A few weeks after our stay in Manhattan - or almost five weeks ago - Greg traveled from his place in Chicago to move in with Zach for as long as we needed to finish the game. Jan Willem and I set aside our work on LUFTRAUSERS to make sure no momentum was lost on the project again. Eirik set aside all of his work to make sure the game sounds perfect. Suddenly everything fell into place.

Two weeks ago, Zach and Greg declared the work on their end was done. Jan Willem slaved away for two full time weeks checking up on final progress tweaks, Eirik worked on additional sound effects. Then, during my recent stay in New York City, Zach and I found ourselves staring at the App Store submission screen: a screen we thought we might never see.

So, this is it. No more talking about clones: Ridiculous Fishing is something we're too proud of to be discussing its value in terms of another game. It's time to focus on what we made: Ridiculous Fishing has been submitted. We'll be back with more news as soon as Apple approves the game.

Vague announcements!

We're well into the new year and we've been working like crazy on getting two games done. Obviously, we had originally planned to release LUFTRAUSERS at the tail of last year and then start this year with Ridiculous Fishing somewhere in the first few months of the year. We're going to vaguely announce that the plans have shifted a bit after a certain large company (that we have worked with before) has been talking to us to maybe try and bring LUFTRAUSERS to at least one handheld and one console device if that means anything to you all. Vaguely because first of all, we're still negotiating with them so we don't know whether it's going to happen. Second of all, because if it will happen, we still need to develop it for those platforms. Either way, we think it's great that we're talking as we love those people, plus it gives us even more time to polish the game.

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Obviously, though, we're sorry to say that that means that it is likely that LUFTRAUSERS is shifting back a month or two. Not only do we need to support these new platforms in the code, we also need to make sure they pass the certification processes. LUFTRAUSERS would be best launched on all platforms at once, as far as we're concerned, so that means we have to push back the release just a bit. We're now thinking it shouldn't take too long - so hopefully something like early spring, but as always - it's done when we're happy with it. Next time we'll announce something regarding dates, it'll hopefully be set in stone and ready to go.

As for Ridiculous Fishing, progress on that has been amazing the last two weeks. It's been a painful ride, but after a year of being depressed about it, we finally found motivation to finish the project - things have just been coming together at the a breakneck pace. Greg Wohlwend - the artist on the project - has basically moved in with Zach Gage, the programmer, while they finish up development. The two of us here have been fixing up the final design and release issues. It's amazing how much momentum the project has regained - and how much fun we're having making the game again. We'll be honest, there were times at which we felt dropping the game might be a better solution than pushing ourselves to work on it any further, but we're glad we didn't do that. We're extremely happy with how the game has turned out and can't wait to show you a bit more. Not just yet, but soon.

Damn proud

Basically, what we're trying to say is that we think Ridiculous Fishing is going to move in front of LUFTRAUSERS in terms of release, but both of them should be out before three more months.

Also important, the games will be playable at several events around the world. We're going definitely going to be at PAX East, although you'll be able to catch one or both of us at a bunch of events including Subotron Vienna, PAX East and IndieCade East. We should consider having some sort of calendar for events we're visiting, so you know where you can tap our shoulder to play some in-progress games.

In the meanwhile, check out our brand-new store and maybe grab the digital or physical Vlambeer OST to get some exclusive sneak peeks at the LUFTRAUSERS and Ridiculous Fishing soundtracks, or catch one of the few remaining Super Crate Box Limited Edition crates.