Posts in ‘Blurst’ Category:
Earlier this week we placed a pillow over Raptor Safari’s face and pressed down, gently but firmly. More plainly: We are suspending development of Off-Road Velociraptor Safari HD/64 with no plans to resume development in the foreseeable future. So what happened? We’ve been quiet lately, so let me fill you in.
Note: If you’re already raging about the status of your pre-order, skip to the end of this post. Otherwise, in chronological order…
Chasing the High-Definition Dragon
We launched development of a new Raptor Safari using the original version as a proof of concept prototype. The plan was to extend the gameplay, adding new modes and missions, and significantly overhaul the art. Our art production default was to take the same general look of the game and produce it with modern standards, which seemed like an obvious move. We went with an “HD” suffix and recreated the prototype environment as our first step. Here’s what we ended up with after two months of art production:
We brought this trailer to the Game Developer’s Conference and showed it to potential distribution channels, friends, and partners. With this feedback, and a little reflection, I realized we had made a mistake. It was a trap to pursue the “HD” expectations of platform stakeholders, players, and even ourselves. It narrowed our possibilities instead of expanding them. We were spending time on normal-mapping our rocks, a very dangerous thing indeed when your team is 3 people.
Shortly after GDC we completely rebooted the art style of the game. The goal was to create a look that relied less on raw production man-hours and more on style. A unique look would also allow us to dodge preconceived expectations of players and platform gatekeepers. After two intensive days of work, this became our new visual target:
To be clear, this is not just inspirational imagery. This is how we wanted the actual game to look. To accompany this target render, Ben also produced a style sheet to summarize our influences:
We’ve been working on the new look for a few weeks and have been making significant progress towards real-time implementation. There are a lot of challenges in a look like this, especially making the game look good in motion (temporal coherence), but the results we had so far looked promising.
So Why Stop?
There are a lot of reasons why we are halting development. Some of them are practical. Much of Flashbang’s revenue stems from affiliate programs in the casual market. Many of these programs are either shuttering completely or have drastically altered their terms in punitive ways, probably as a result of the casual market itself being hurt by Facebook/web games. Regardless of why, our financial projections suddenly went from a year of smooth sailing to a runway of only a few months.
I don’t want to give the impression that this is purely a financial decision, because it’s not. Impending poverty forced us to make some decision, but it wasn’t the source of our problems. I don’t think we would continue development at this point even if a sack of free money fell right into our laps.
Partly, the issue is one of context. Developing a good single-player experience is an exercise in perfection and polish. Our Blurst style of development, where we can get away with “good enough” in many areas of a game, doesn’t match up well here. There more I blocked out development in terms of making one really good game, the more I realized we’re not ready for that kind of commitment yet.
Finally, the project itself is quite muddy. It isn’t blindingly obvious where to take it yet. I can blame this on tactical errors I have made, in terms of where I placed our priorities and where I spent my time, but the end result is still a lack of clarity. And finding that clarity is a very taxing job; we’re just too burnt out to make it happen. When I imagine a year of Raptor Safari development, I feel drained, and when I image a year of something else I feel energized. The rest of the team feels the same way, so our choice was clear.
So what’s next for Flashbang? In the short term, we’re looking to pick up contract work as a team. I cast out nets a few weeks ago–to fund continued Raptor Safari development–so this is an easy move.
Longer-term, things will slowly diverge. We’ve pulled the release valve and distributed company savings to individuals. This means Flashbang itself no longer has any salaried employees, but don’t worry! We’ll still be here. This is the same model we used for the first 5 of our 7 years as company. The office will morph into a shared workspace for individual projects and collaborations.
Personally, I plan to spend time on Blurst features (particularly a pipeline to bring some of the 3rd-party submissions online). It’s hard to say what we’ll all be doing in four months. Perhaps new experiments will make their way onto Blurst as polished prototypes, or maybe we’ll try our hand at the roulette game of the App Store. There are a lot of possibilities in front of us!
I Pre-Ordered! What About Me?
First of all, thank you! All Blurst orders are announced via our office text-to-speech system. It always lifts our spirits to hear a purchase during the middle of a work day. You guys rock.
We have expanded Raptor Safari HD pre-orders into Blurst Bundle Pack orders. If you go to your profile you’ll now see downloads for all of our games.
If you opted to send us extra money with your purchase, you are especially awesome! We will be contacting you soon with a special something.
We may still finish Raptor Safari at some point, although certainly not anytime soon (not this year, or even next year). It’s entirely likely we will never ship it. We totally understand if you’re uncomfortable with holding a pre-order for a project that may never see the light of day.
If you would like a full refund, please email me directly and I’ll square you away.
Once again, thanks for being a Blurst fan and Raptor Safari player! You guys are why we do what we do. To be clear, we’re actually in a positive state of mind about this. We aren’t depressed! It feels like a relief to spend time on awesome prototypes and ideas again.
I’ll be happy to to answer any questions in the comments.
Founder, Flashbang Studios
It’s that time of the year: The time when companies desperately make one final grab at Q4 profits under the guise of consumer-friendly holiday deals! At Blurst, we don’t even know what “Q4″ means, but we’re happy to set up a great 2-for-1 Raptor Safari deal! Starting today until the January 1st, 2010, receive a free Off-Road Velociraptor Safari gift code with any purchase from the Blurst store!
So how you can take part in this Christmas miracle?
Here’s how it works:
- Buy something from the Blurst store.
- Get an extra Raptor Safari code, free!
- Paste this code to a loved one.
- Enjoy the holiday spirit.
Both you and your loved one will enjoy:
- The downloadable version of Off-Road Velociraptor Safari.
- Early access to its amazing HD sequel, Raptor Safari 64.
- The satisfaction of a job well done.
The holidays are here, which means a lot of you Blurst fans and general gamers probably have your wallets thinned out from all the games you’ve been buying for your friends and family members (yourselves). Since you are a gamer, and we are gamers, and we all have an irrational desire to spend more of our time and money on the playing of said games, we decided to make it a little easier for everyone. The highly-saturated-with-Blurst-blue image you see in this post is actually a greeting card you can print out, fold up, and distribute amongst your loved/liked ones.
In addition to having some of the most seminal and historic of our characters decorating the inside, there is a coupon code printed on the back! So if the recipient of the card does not exhibit dichromacy color-blindness and is literate, they should see it and be able to immediately take advantage of it. Of course by “it” we mean 25% off of a Raptor Safari purchase! Since Raptor Safari is pretty much everyone in the free world’s favorite game, you can thank us for our immense generosity by buying it and telling all of your friends to buy it.
Good day, Internets!
It’s been awhile since we chatted (by the way, the best way to keep up with us is via our Facebook fan page). After we stopped our 8-week cycle we decided we should take a week or two off before we really got back into the saddle. As of last Wednesday, it’s saddlin’ time!
We have now entered full production on a new version of Off-Road Velociraptor Safari, which we’re internally calling Raptor Safari 64 (you can thank Colin Northway for that one). We don’t have an exact development schedule, yet, but it’ll be much longer than any of our Blurst projects. Right now we’re loosely targeting a fall 2010 release, scoped to be worth $15 or $20 of your hard-earned money.
So what are we up to?
I’ll be honest: It’s strange to go from our own Blurst.com world, where we have zero gatekeepers between our work as ideas and our work as something you guys can actually play, back into the “real” world, where you have to communicate unimplemented ideas to others and convince them you have savvy and merit and stability and all that. A larger version of Raptor Safari is a great fit for mainstream platforms, like say console downloadable, so we’ve initiated contact with the proper authorities to make this happen.
Fortunately, we have been around for over 6 years, and I’ve been a logistics dude/co-chair at the Independent Games Festival for three years running; we do have some credibility! Still, “biz dev” is something we’ve deliberately avoided, and it’s a little uncomfortable to get back into it (like a pair of dress shoes you only wear once every three years when some relative you’ve never met gets married, and at first the shoes seem really fancy and you’re hopeful the ladies might even notice but after a few hours your feet just hurt and all you want to do is go home and watch Alf edits on YouTube).
By the way, when it comes to objectively measuring Raptor Safari’s reception, things like this really blow my mind:
Results 1 – 10 of about 1,150,000 for “off-road velociraptor safari”. (0.09 seconds)
That’s a phrase search, people! 1.1 million instances of those words in exactly that order! That was literally zero results before we launched ORVS, almost two years ago…
The first phase of the new version’s development is to redo much of what we have already. Raptor Safari is one of our oldest Unity projects–primarily developed during the Unity 2.0 alpha, for any of you Unity nerds–and there are a lot of things we want to do to its foundation before we start adding new rooms to the house.
Our plan of attack is to first improve the production quality without increasing game scope. This means we’re now creating a nicer-looking, faster-running, better-coded version of the original game. Once we have this high water mark set, and a stable base to build on, we’ll begin pushing laterally to increase the scope, with new environments, new dinosaurs, and more things to do.
Of course, a small number of features will naturally fall out of systems as we rewrite them. Here’s the first tiny new feature to make an appearance–raptors will desperately try to fly if they find themselves in midair:
Early Access to Raptor Safari 64
Development builds of the game will be made available to players who bought the original game. We may need to cut off new users at some point, depending on our negotiations with console manufacturers; the only way to make sure you can play the new Raptor Safari during its development is to buy the game today. You can pick up at a copy over at the Blurst store, in either standalone or bundle pack flavors.
We don’t have any dates to share on when these first builds will be appearing, yet, but we’ll be wanting to get these out as soon as possible to begin testing performance/hardware compatibility. It may be a very merry Christmas!
We have a few more things up our sleeve to talk about, including how our Blurst developer call for submissions is going, games on Facebook, and even a new company altogether somewhere in there. Stay tuned for more!
Blurst is now one year old! We launched Blurst.com as a unified destination for our quirky games just over a year ago. What a year it’s been!
Previous to Blurst we had launched Splume, Off-Road Velociraptor Safari, and Jetpack Brontosaurus on their own domain names. Our plan of attack, back then, was to release a number of game ideas “into the wild”, so real players like you could play them and help us judge the relative merit of each design. After some time we would identify a winner, and subsequently develop that idea into a $20 of value (for downloadable release on PC, console, etc).
The Blurst of Times
Midway through this plan, though, we realized that if we put all of our games in one place, we might be able to create a compelling place where people could find small implementations of cool, original ideas. If we continued to make games quickly, we could build this destination to the point where it could survive on its own, and we continue making small games indefinitely. This thought process resulted in Blurst, and we focused the company on making it work. Our goal for 2009 was to create six 8-week games, each one unique, to push Blurst in this direction.
To date we have released 4 of these 8-week games scheduled for 2009 (Blush, Paper Moon, Crane Wars, and Time Donkey). Development was stressful at times, but we’re very proud of what we’ve been able to do in just two months each! But something wasn’t working.
Blurst hasn’t met our expectations. More specifically, Blurst’s traffic has not increased to levels where it will pay for itself. We could continue to fund Blurst’s development through contract jobs and other means, as we have been, but we feel like there are too many roadblocks between now and a time when Blurst itself pays our bills.
So we’re returning to Plan A. We are halting development of our 8-week projects and beginning longer-term development on Off-Road Velociraptor Safari. There won’t be a November 1st launch.
We feel that launching another 8-week game won’t change the playing field for us. No new possibilities will open up with one more game; we’ll be roughly where we are now, except two months poorer and two months behind on doing something that could change things up. By contrast, we feel like a strong ORVS standalone version will open some doors and provide us with more flexibility and opportunities than we have now.
Future of Blurst
Raptor Safari will be our focus over the next few months, but we will continue development on Blurst itself! There are new website features in the pipeline that we’ll launch, and we’ll do our best to support our community as we work on Raptor Safari. If you have purchased Raptor Safari, or the game bundle, you will have access to development builds throughout development, as well as a copy of the final release. Buy now before the price goes up! ;)
We’ll announce more details about schedule, platforms, and all of that jazz before too long. In the meantime, thank you very much for being a fan, for playing our games, and we hope you’re as excited about Blurst’s future as we are!
As Ben mentioned earlier most of us have been out in Texas for GDC Austin. The primary focus of this conference is, unfortunately, MMOs and since we aren’t making Cretaceous Worlds or NumNums Online much of the content for this conference was superfluous. However, Matthew and Steve, along with Simon Carless (Gamasutra/IGF), Adam Saltsman(Semi Secret/Flixel), and Brandon Boyer (Offworld), hosted an amazing Independent Games Summit, the first to be hosted at GDC Austin.
The Independent Games Summit lasted for only two of the days we were in Austin. The rest of the time was spent with our Indie brethren from around the world. These people are amazing artists, designers, and developers and very good friends of ours. It’s always motivating and inspirational to spend time with the Indies and I hope we will funnel much of it into the future of Blurst.
We’re flying back to Arizona today, but that’s not the end of our adventures. Steve and Matthew are heading to Japan for the Tokyo Game Show on Tuesday! Don’t worry though, even with all of this excitement, we’ll have the next Blurst game out on time on November 1st. Keep an eye on the flickr stream for more photos from the trip! Photos of the trip are up on flickr, check ‘em out!
While we were away our Art Director, Ben, made an impressive game design prototype that we may or may not end up using for a Blurst game sometime in the future. Check it out!
Time Donkey launched today! But that’s not all. We have other new stuff:
As you’ve probably noticed, we added a sidebar to our design with widgets for various social sites. Our Facebook fan page is the most important of these additions! We posted the story of Time Donkey on Facebook over the last few days. You should become a Blurst fan for the latest news, links, and even coupons for…
We are now selling downloadable versions of our games! Buying a download version gets you fullscreen, an un-timed sandbox mode, and a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart knowing that you’re supporting Blurst. You should buy our games because we need money to keep making them. Thanks!
We will be launching more download versions of our other games very soon: Blush, Off-Road Velociraptor Safari, etc, until our full catalog is available for purchase.
Your free Blurst account is now a forum account! Head on over to the Blurst forums to chat about our games, other games, and whatever other cool thing you bump into on the Internet. We’ve heard there are lots of things on this Internet.
More stuff is coming this week, and we have some really neat features planned by the end of the month. Stay tuned!
As you may have noticed on our super-amazing new Blurst sidebar, we have created a Flickr account to track the history of Flashbang/Blurst. To start things off we’ve uploaded 150+ photos from the company’s past: conferences, game jams, parties, and random photos. Here are some highlights:
Steve and Matthew emcee the Independent Games Festival and Independent Games Summit. We organize our third-annual indie party.
After getting our new office space, we throw a video game-themed Halloween party. It is both nerdy and delightful, with a chance of drunk. One of our friends throws up all over our new carpet and sleeps with his head lodged awkwardly behind the toilet.
We’ve posted random/old photos as far back as 2002. Some are particularly embarrassing for us, although we imagine many of these photos are probably embarrassing for humanity at large. You be the judge.
Flashbang operated out of conjoined apartments for several years (at one point we actually had four adjacent apartments in 2×2 grid, with holes drilled through floors/walls for network cable). Here’s what our “office” has looked like through the years:
More Photo Goodness
We’ll backfill more photos as we find them squirreled away in our digital shoeboxes. We need to take some new photos, too. We’ve had amazing Blurst-colored walls in our office for 8 months now, although I can’t actually find any photos to prove it. In the meantime enjoy browsing the photo archives! It’s probably easiest to browse by set.
Even we’re not sure what kind of horrifying photographic evidence exists in the Flashbang photo archive. Post your favorite photo in our updated comment system!
I’ve been with Blurst since before we called ourselves Blurst. I joined two years ago, after finishing my B.S. in Mathematics. At the time, Flashbang Studios was just Matthew and Steve, with Shawn as an intern, and were working out of Matthew’s apartment. I was looking for an interesting challenge, and the notion of making games that WE wanted to play in obscenely short production cycles was a pretty appealing challenge!
When I started, we were working on Splume, which was two weeks away from a contest deadline (The Top DOG contest at Unite 2007). I spent most of the project making the level editor and the survival mode. The short production cycle was all I’d hoped it would be, and we even won the grand prize, netting us a duffel full of cash!
Two years later, and I’ve programmed an eclectic mix of systems in our games — AI for Raptor Safari, Blush, and Crane Wars, the mission system in Jetpack Brontosaurus, Minotaur China Shop’s random layout generator, almost all of Rebolt, and the foundation for Time Donkey’s movement and camera, among others. I’ve also been the Math go-to fellow and, with my brother Adam, the resident science pedant. Raptor Safari’s controversial feathers were spawned after reading Turner et al.’s discovery of quill knobs on the forearms of Velociraptor mongoliensis, and it was a hard-fought compromise that led to an Apatosaurus with the given name “Brontosaurus” being the star of Jetpack Brontosaurus.
I’ve loved almost every minute of it, especially since I’ve worked among awesome friends. But the Universe is full of challenges, and there is another one that’s been nibbling at the corners of my mind even these two years. During the last year of my Bachelor’s, I worked for Rogier Windhorst, an astrophysics professor at Arizona State, creating an interactive simulation of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. This image — the deepest optical light image ever taken — represents 95% of the history of the Universe. Despite covering a tiny patch of sky only 1/10 of the full moon’s width, the HUDF contains over 10,000 visible galaxies, the oldest having emitted their light up to 13 billion years ago!
I was, of course, immediately enthralled. It’s one thing to wonder at the works of Nature that we can see on the Earth — the wispy vortices at the edge of a cloud, canyons carved by a river’s flow, a species of ape whose intelligence has allowed it to build artifice and culture. It’s another kind of wonder entirely to look at an image and see light, far too dim for the naked eye, emitted by a billion fusion reactors only 300 million years after the birth of our Universe. Given the opportunity to probe those depths, to explore that inexhaustible possibility space, I would be completely unable to resist!
Over our post-Crane Wars break, such an opportunity arose. A lunch with my old advisor led to an offer to admit me late as a PhD student for the Fall. I of course could not say no, doubly compounded by the fact that soon after I begin, we will be getting data from observations made with the Hubble Space Telescope’s recently-installed new instruments!
My experience working with Unity and Flashbang/Blurst has given me an invaluable tool for my future research — the ability to program and problem solve at even more ridiculous speeds than when I began. I also plan to continue using Unity, producing more small educational simulations or games, so I can hopefully inspire the next generation of scientists, the way that Carl Sagan or Stephen Hawking have inspired me.
More than anything though, I value the myriad other brilliant indie game developers that I’ve met and befriended along the way, my coworkers included. Necessarily generalists who must wear a number of hats, the knowledge that can be synchronized and the recombinant ideas that can be bred in an hour of talking to an indie game dev can be worth weeks of toiling away in solitude. Though I am a scientist at heart and my future holds mostly the marvel of exploration, it has been my honor to have even a small part in creating something wonderful — both games that bring joy and laughter, and an indie games community that declares, in one voice, “We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”
I’ll miss you dudes, keep in touch. <3
The attentive among you may be wondering, “Wait a minute–the next game wasn’t due until July 1st. Why was Crane Wars released on the 15th, two weeks early?”
A good question! While we certainly could’ve used the next two weeks to polish up Crane Wars, it also would’ve burned us out. And we have three more games to make this year! We decided to take a company-wide, two-and-a-half week break to split up the year. This lets everyone unwind and recharge a bit before we hurl headlong into another series of 8-week game productions. Making a game in eight weeks is a taxing process! We love you, Internet, but we need some “me” time every now and then.
So what is everyone up to during the break?
- Matthew is unicycling from Kenya to Tanzania
- Adam and Matt Mechtley are finishing up their sweet iPhone boxing game.
- Steve is working on sweet shadow physics
- Ben is relaxing and working on sweet artworks
- Shawn is relaxing and working on sweet shader technology
If you really want to stalk us all over the break here’s our list of Twitter accounts. See you guys in a few weeks! We’ve got a lot of awesome stuff planned for Blurst over the next few months; the second half of 2009 is going to even better than the first…
Minotaur China Shop iPad Tease
968 days ago
Minotaur Dance Party
1100 days ago
Visualizing Raptor Safari Data
1123 days ago