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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
Hey loyal Blurstizens! It’s been a few weeks since we last updated you on our progress with Off-Road Velociraptor Safari HD. We’ve been hard at work rebuilding much of the original game to eventually expand on it and add more Raptor goodness. Today we’re happy to give out our first official development build of Raptor Safari HD for people that have it pre-ordered. Those of you that have pre-ordered should be able to download the dev build from your profile page right now! If you haven’t pre-ordered Raptor Safari HD yet, it’s not too late to do so. Head over to the Raptor Safari website and pre-order your copy now! You’ll have access to the new development build as soon as you pre-order.
Much has been changed and updated in this build. We’ll always keep you up-to-date with the latest build changes on the Raptor Safari website, but here’s a few changes I’d like to highlight.
Though not finalized yet, Matthew has spent a better part of a month solely on retuning the driving mechanic. We’ve been taking in loads of feedback about how the driving feels and have now applied it to the vehicle physics model. Arguably the most notable of the tuning changes is that the xbox 360 controller is now supported on Windows and Mac. As another plus, Windows users will have some nice vibration feedback when using the 360 controllers. Feel the jolt of every Stunt Jump landing and every Raptor Roadkill!
Ben has been hard at work upgrading all of the original game’s assets to push the game into the Next-Gen category. You’ll notice the world is much more dense with vegetation and obstacles, most of which have been upgraded with normal maps, higher resolution textures, higher polygon models, and more. There’s still much work to be done, but what’s done now should give you all an idea of what’s yet to come.
You’ll notice some new effects and graphics popping into this build. We’ve implemented some Post Processing techniques we’ve used in past games like Jetpack Brontosaurus and Blush along with some other effects you’ve never seen before in our Blurst games. In the Facebook version we showed off the beginnings of real-time dynamic shadows. Now the shadows are higher quality and work on more objects in the world (for those of you with machines that can handle it). We’ve also thrown in anti-aliasing for the Danny Bs among you.
Let us know what you think! If you find any bugs/issues, have any suggestions, or just want to tell us how awesome Raptor Safari is head over to our support page and let us know! Be sure to follow us on Twitter and be a fan on Facebook to stay up-to-date with everything that’s happening in Raptor Safari HD.
And here’s a teaser of what’s to come later in the year! Yet another awesome piece by our concept artist Justin Messner.
We’ve been hard at work on the new Off-Road Velociraptor Safari HD version! It’s been awhile since we posted at the blog, so here’s a quick overview of what’s been happening (by the way, the best way to keep up with Raptor Safari news is via our Facebook page or Twitter account):
The new Off-Road Velociraptor Safari HD website has embedded Facebook and Twitter widgets, so you can easily follow us there, or simply visit the page for the latest information. We’ll be adding new content to the site over time, so make sure you check it often!
You can also pre-order Raptor Safari HD for early-bird price of $14.99. If you have already purchased Raptor Safari or the Blurst Bundle Pack, there is nothing more you need to do–the HD version will automatically appear in your Blurst profile. Thanks for believing in us!
Pre-orders will get:
- Early access to development builds (first build this month).
- Insider communication with the development team (give us your feedback)!
- That warm, fuzzy feeling knowing you’re supporting independent development
We’re working out some other special surprises for pre-orders, too, so stay tuned!
You may have noticed that we’ve been posting a bunch of new dinosaur screenshots in the last week. This is all thanks to our good friend Andy Schatz at Pocketwatch Games. Andy is now working full-time on his IGF-nominated game, Monaco. Savvy dinosaur fans may remember that he was working on Venture Dinosauria, an ecosystem game all about these great thunder lizards.
Andy will return to Dinosauria at some point, but in the meantime we’ve worked out an exclusive licensing deal to the Dinosauria models. We have unfettered access to the source files, so we’ll be changing them up a bit to meet our needs, but you’ll start seeing these gorgeous beasts appearing in Raptor Safari development builds very soon!
Because Andy is both a hero and a gentleman, you can use coupon code “Schatz Special” for 20% off your Raptor Safari HD pre-order. Limited uses, so hop to it!
The new Facebook version of Off-Road Velociraptor Safari isn’t the only thing we’ve been working on at Flashbang. Most of our energy is being spent on the next version of the game, Raptor Safari 64. This new version will ultimately be a thing of perfect HD beauty. Here’s what we’re going for (as painted by the excellent Justin Messner of Time Donkey story card fame):
Right now we’re planning a late 2010 release. Current Raptor Safari owners will get exclusive access to development builds of the game, as well as the final PC/Mac release (think of it as pre-ordering). If you’d like to get it on that make sure you take advantage of our 2-for-1 Raptor Safari holiday special!
We just launched a version of Off-Road Velociraptor Safari on Facebook. Check it out:
It’s not an exact copy of the version here on Blurst. Here’s what’s different:
- Shorter time (2 minutes).
- Facebook leaderboard. Compete with your friends!
- Score-based trophies. Brag on your wall!
- Some new things from Raptor Safari 64 (shadows!)
We still have a few tweaks and changes that we’ll be rolling out this week. Primarily we’ll be rebalancing the scoring a bit to accommodate shorter play time and to reward combos more heavily. These updates will happen automatically.
For now, go play and let us know what you think! The best way to leave feedback is to become a fan of the game and post something to our wall. Make sure you become a fan of Blurst, too! You can spread the word by bragging about trophies or by directly inviting friends.
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.
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!
Let’s face it; there’s nothing you want more in the whole world than Time Donkey Wallpapers. So here they are, courtesy of your jovial Uncle Blurst.
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The Day of Donkey is upon us! (Head to our Facebook page for the rest of the story).
Our latest 8-week game, Time Donkey, is now available. BAM!
And, holy crap, this is our 9th game released on Blurst. Woah.
How does a donkey earning minimum wage find himself trapped in the very fabric of time itself, doomed to relive the same 30 seconds again and again? We’ll be posting the Story of the Time Donkey, one image per day, to our Facebook account.
Head on over there–you should become a fan anyway–and check out the story! We’ll keep posting them up until launch day on Tuesday. It’s a thrilling adventure!
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