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Ending Raptor Safari 64/HD Development

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Putting Raptor Safari to Sleep

Posted to Blurst, Games by Matthew on April 28th, 2010

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:

Off-Road Velociraptor Safari: HD from Flashbang Studios on Vimeo.

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.

Changing Gears

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.

What Next?

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.

Thanks!

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.

Best,
Matthew Wegner
Founder, Flashbang Studios

Tags:

  • chirisdex

    I was really getting excited about seeing that art design in movement. Wish you the best in your pursuit to discover a self retaining company structure, it's a challenging nut to break. Hit me up if you ever want any insights on residing in the App Shop.

    Fourneau Bruleur de Graisse

  • Goober

    dang i can't find any remains of blurst. Its like they got erased from the face of the earth. Kinda scary. They could of done so well if they would have stuck with it. Maybe more marketing or maybe even steam greenlight. Did the team split up? how can i salvage the remains of this company?

  • Matthew Wegner

    Huh?  It's quite easy to track down where we all ended up.  Just Google team names: http://flashbang.biz/

  • Zesk10

    i forgot my password

  • Ali

    I think all the blurst games are awesome

  • Donc, se sentir bien!

  • Good to know about this.

  • This game will surely be a hit to every boys out there. I think that it is very interactive and entertaining.

  • This kind of game should be more interactive, high definition and entertaining in order to be liked by a lot of users.

  • BTW, why don't you release what you've developed as an open source "community project"?

  • that has saddened me deeply :( (the smily proves so)

    I'm going to buy the mac app store "off road raptor safari@8a4133f8d1eb7601f85207d14cef7c1d:disqus 
    (as it's amazing) on ONE CONDITION guys, please add an unlimited mode, it's not much effort
    and would make the game fundamentally better than the facebook version.

    hope you get back to development soon!

  • The graphics and the game looks good in overall. I hope there is a unique game play here so that it won't look very common to gamers.

  • I loved splume. Thanks so much!

  • Joe

    So any news on whats a happening with blurst stuff in general? blogs been dead awhile.

  • I loved the original Raptor Safari and spent countless hours playing and wishing for a console-port or a more polished product. I stopped playing for about two years when I heard a sequel was in the works because I didn't want to burn out on RS. Came back today and discovered this blog.

    What a disappointment this must have been for everyone involved. To mismanage a great IP and future product so poorly it resulted in a complete failure to provide all your fans with what they paid for.

    Good luck ever getting anyone to pre-order anything from you again. "Flashbang? Aren't they the guys who sat on my money for years then cancelled their game?"

    I'm not all sour-grapes, personally. The upgrades demonstrated in that video don't really look worthwhile anyway. And I'll always have the fun memories of obsessive raptorcide from 2008.

  • Matthew Wegner

    I understand the complaint, but I want to correct a little bit of hyperbole here. It wasn't "years", it was February 12th to April 28th--the same year--and we offered a full refund to all customers who pre-ordered.

  • Shadow

    Does this mean i won't get to see the triceratops and the flat headed dinosaurs :(

  • Unsatisfied customer

    Offroad Velociraptor Safari was sad (the upgraded version). I was dissapointed in it, and the $9.95 you were asking for this miniscule enlargement was ridiculous. On top of that, now you just ditch the entire project? I'm disapointed. That's all I can say.

  • pierce

    well, that's a good way to put it up a notch, nice insights works well in clientele explanation and information resource option.
    Raptor One Way

  • hisnameisrob

    Any news of what Flashbang are working on?

  • It's quiet out there. Too quiet.

  • Stephziemann

    YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST
    don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise

  • Anon

    Darn. I just want to play the old RaptorSafari.

  • Como_b_hats876s5

    Wow. Down to 3 non-salaried employees, and distributed the company savings. Not a good sign.

  • Alfred

    You guys still alive?

  • Joey OBrien

    I'm disappointed but I understand and I'll still enjoy the living dinosaur shit outta what you guys did. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

  • Kevin

    How about that "special something" for the folks that contributed a little extra? What was it? Can we "contribute" after the fact, and get it too?

  • Vic

    Such a shame to see so much work go to waste. By the way, if you ever think about using that new art style. Don't!! Seriously, it is really bad, looks like you went nuts with photoshop filters. It is not innovative, it does not look good, it will probably ruin the player experience. If you want a style like, this is a very good way to do it: http://thatgamecompany.com/gam... ?

    Anyway, all I can say is that you guys are very talented, I just hope that the business decisions you have made in the last year does not cost more in reputation and revenue than you can handle.

    Good luck!

  • I concur with all the positive comments here. I really enjoyed playing Raptor...it reminded me a lot of the Carmageddon Series, actually. Good luck guys. We can still purchase the original Raptor...right?

  • Erol

    This is really sad news. Well in a way--and in a way it isn't. I've enjoyed coming here every now and then to see what's going on. Following (well and knowing) you guys has been an inspiration, and I love seeing all the strides you've made and currents you've gone against. It's sad that this part is over, but exciting to see what you do next. Best of luck, I know you guys will impress!

  • Gunthrax9

    This is exactly why publishers are looking to foreign devs to do their projects. Americans increasingly seem to put lifestyle ahead of anything and everything else. You had a chance to do something novel that shows off your obvious creativity but when you realized that it actually meant work and not uni-cycling around Arizona, you bolted.

    You do realize you could have just released a basic version of the game in a few months and follow it up with 'terrain packs' releases? This would have made a lot more sense.

    Enjoy your navel gazing guys. You'll be going nowhere fast from this point out.

  • Hwertz

    I disagree, I see they saw that spending perhaps days making one rock look good in what is after all an action game was pointless (dropping the HD aspect). It looks to me like they then saw they did not have the cash to spend a year or more working on a game (i.e. even the non-HD version), and have decided to work on smaller, faster-to-finish games. And, no, I don't think they could have released a basic version and then terrain packs -- from what I've read of game development, in most cases the game engine and art take the vast majority of the time, compared to designing additional levels and some level-specific art.

    Regarding Americans wanting more free time being an excuse to send jobs overseas -- I don't see this at all. The Japanese were seen as putting in long hours, but the US passed them about 10 years ago, we put in even longer hours on average. Games developers particularly are known to put in insane hours. I do think recently some people want a better balance between work and life though, as companies slash pay, benefits, and job security, people see less reason to put it all in for the companies.

  • Matthew Wegner

    I was going to bother explaining that I haven't even put my 36" unicycle back together after my Africa trip, and that was July.

    Instead, let me simply ask: And what have *you* created, sir?

  • Jack8765

    nice :D frankly im on blursts side on this one. Its great that you guys will be working on something you'll have fun on :)

  • Fusobotic

    Open Source it!!!! Give it to Unity devs like me who want to know how it works, and maybe finish it for you!

  • Jack8765

    you know blurst that might not be a bad idea......a lota people want this to see the light of day and if your bored with the concept then let someone else finish it!

  • When ae you going to continue?

  • Bob

    So, as the developement of the game is cancelled, you admit that you have done an empty job for who knows how long? What if you had help? If the objective of creating "HD" is dumped because you don't have enough people, well, to many who are not famous in the industry of games, I'd see that a worthy chance to prove themselves as a proper HD graphic artists. Many probably for free just for the community to see the HD in the end product.

    And if you feel that you can't meet the quality requirements, then why not sell the cencept? Why not to get someone else do it for you (since you've propably returned the money to most), and get a bit of cash doing so? Or if you'd just hate to do that, what about open source? This is, in the end, a game that many have anticipated I understand. And seeing it just seize to exist is... well... not right, for there is much that has been done to get this game out, and maybe less to go. Expecially if this ends up with damn long "special thanks" list because all of those who participated upon the developement just for the cause of seeing the game ready.

    If one is too tired to go on, others may take on the cause.

  • This was a sad article to read. Make sure you delete that last jokers comment.
    Good luck to you guys.

  • tupwee

    WTF I WAS SO EXITED ABOUT THIS AND NOW YOU RUINED IT YOU JERKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • xXx

    agreed

  • Jack8765

    relax man, take it easy, you can ask for a refund and i personally think that it was for the best to cancel RSHD, granted i do think they need to stick to their word..... but thats fine their an indie gaming company that isnt ready for a long term development concept, i see it all the time. and how were they going to improve the game? sure they anounced new dinosaurs but their just something new to run over..... nothing big. im happy blurst is going to work on some smaller projects though. thats what you guys are best at! :D Thank you blurst for doing what you thought was for the better of the company!

  • Raptor Safari made a fun concept, a great way to draw much-deserved attention to your work, a good entry-among-entries - but it wasn't the best of games. The result of Raptor's sandbox environment restricted by limited features and harsh timelimits, was that of a toy that always leaves the player wanting, and rarely satisfied unless he sacrifices creative play and experimentation for highly efficient sequencing of score-events.

    What it was, was great. But it wasn't something you could really expand upon without fundamentally changing the gameplay.

    You're innovators. Perhaps oneday you'll make your coccoon and emerge as beautiful, dedicated long-term development butterflies, with such pretty wings. For now, keep making great experiments, learning new tricks and discovering what makes something 'fun'.

    If you're going to go big with a project, make it something you can get excited about. Upgrading a car-stunt arcade game with a score multiplier is not something I'd expect to satisfy artists of Flashbang's evident creative calibur.

    You'll find something that will excite you for the long haul, sooner or later.

    (P.S. Minotaur China Shop was far better ;) - Jack)

  • Sad news indeed! I was following your studios works on a regular basis and always enjoyed your creativity and openness. To be honest i was confused when u announced the raptor HD thing, did not see how it will fit your rapid development philosophy. I deeply hope the Blurst can get back on top and continue to make amazing weird fun games! Best of luck, dont forget - you are amazing!

  • NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    This news is so terribly sad to me, really... :(
    I wish you all the best guys!

  • Jack8765

    yah, im kinda sad too..... but i never could see how they could turn raptor safari into something more.

  • Wes

    I appreciate the transparency, guys. One thing I would like to say is I think you should focus more on your roadmap. Flip-flopping like this is not a smart business decision, and people are less likely to donate/buy products if they don't believe you will deliver. Transparency is a good thing, but make sure your decisions are final before announcing them. You need to figure out your business model. Also, I have two questions:

    Do you intend to polish off the current development build of Raptor Safari HD so it is presentable as a small upgrade to the original? As it is, it's probably not something you can charge for — but you could release the improvements as an upgrade to the original Raptor Safari. Get some mentions on Kotaku and other gaming sites, maybe build some ad revenue with an unobtrusive advert and bring in some more potential customers.

    Those that pre-ordered Raptor Safari HD will be getting the Blurst Bundle Pack, but what about those that ordered the Blurst Bundle Pack (which included Raptor Safari HD)? It seems they're losing a game here. I would hope that they will be receiving your future prototypes at the least? Will these people be eligible for the "special something" you mentioned?

    Thanks.

  • E Goldingr

    And yet they charge $9.50 for the miniscule upgrade! This is ridiculous!

  • Wes

    Holy nine month old conversation, Batman!

  • Bob

    Yes Robin, and still people hope that the HD project would be alive...

  • blurst

    I agree that roadmap is important, and do we do think about such things. At the same time, though, I think it's dangerous to view your roadmap as a master blueprint you cannot change. Roadmaps are a hypothesis; if you've collected enough data to know that your hypothesis is wrong then you need to change it up.

    We don't intend to release anything Raptor Safari-related at this time.

    If people are unhappy with any of their orders they can simply ask for a refund. We get that some people bought the bundle packs but only care about Raptor Safari. The "special something" is for people who used the dropdowns to donate extra money on purchase (Blurst orders had $5-20 extra listed and Raptor Safari HD orders had $5-40) A surprising number of people did this!

    -Matthew

  • Wes

    Thank you for your response.

    I still feel that those that ordered the Bundle Pack are losing out here, even if it's just a couple dollars. I have to ask again, shouldn't these people be eligible for something extra due to losing a game that they paid for?

    Personally, I would never ask for a refund because you guys are a small team and you do good work, indie devs need to eat too.

  • blurst

    It's true that if you ordered the Bundle Pack primarily to get a Raptor Safari HD pre-order you might feel a little shafted. We've never aggressively marketed the fact that the Bundle Pack includes HD pre-orders, though--it's only mentioned on the raptorsafari.com FAQ, and we were planning on removing this in the next big build--so I don't feel like we've been at all disingenuous here.

  • Wes

    I myself bought the pack after doing the research to make sure the HD pre-order was indeed included, and I'm sure others have as well. I'm not trying to call you guys disingenuous, but I admit I feel a little cheated.

  • Matthew Wegner

    Then simply email me for a refund...

  • Wes

    =| As I've said, I'm not going to ask for a refund from indie devs. Besides, the games are already installed on my HDD, would they suddenly stop working?

  • Matthew Wegner

    I would rather you be happy than us have $15, don't worry!

    And, yeah, they'll keep working. They do phone home, but only for update notifications (not for any kind of DRM).

  • I think it's a good move and I'm glad to see you guys had the balls/smarts to see things weren't working out. I love ORVS but I never could quite see how you were going to turn it into something greater, monetized and successful. At least if you were going to continue I think the new art style is very cool and was a step in the right direction. Good luck with the new endeavors.

  • kachowski

    aaaah how will i ever get a raptor safari tshirt now? :(

  • Will

    I think it was a good decision. i dont like how games end up when developers are stressed/doing a project they dont like. it never turns out right. but i am looking forward to the old flashbang we knew and loved, making more smaller projects. you guys still rock!

  • Thanks as always for the transparency and shared learning, keeping your entire community and peer circles in the loop of what's going on, how, and why.

    Best of luck in the next steps!

  • Robin Hunicke

    Seconded. Sharing the tough stuff is important - and gives us all the chance to learn. Good luck with the new hotness - whatever it is!!

  • Good luck, guys!

  • Judah

    Don't let the Debbie Downers get to ya, you guys rule. Keep up the great work, I'm looking forward to whatever you guys do next.

  • Keolani10

    I appreciate your honest and thoughtful commentary on why your haulting Raptor Safari HD. I understand the (lack of) clarity issue. It really even hard to identify why I like playing it so much... but I do. When you initially announced plans to change/upgrade Raptor Safari I fully intended to send you the following idea (but, sadly, I didn't): I could envision being able to tune in Pandora Radio on the Jeep's stereo. It would be so cool to have something like Pandora integrated into a game like Raptor Safari. Oh well, keep up the awesome work and I look forward to seeing what happens next. Sincerely, Mike in Northern Michigan

  • rocky

    Can't wait to get some fresh produce from you fellas!

  • As much as I was looking forward to Raptor Safari HD I'm excited that you'll be prototyping again! Even if we don't see most of it, you guys always come up with really creative stuff (that sky tower castle shooter game for example). Besides, I don't think anyone really wants a game that's made by depressed, stressed developers. We're all happy to see you doing what you love!

    Although, I'd -really- like to see Raptor Safari with that new art style. It's much more "concept arty" than what Borderlands tried to pass off! And it fits the theme perfectly!

    Regardless, best wishes to you guys! We look forward to the amazing creations you make next! (Maybe you'll share some of those sweet prototypes you come up with, eh? :)

  • segra

    The 'HD' suffix is also used to denote iPad apps. Hmmmm Off-Road Velociraptor Safari HD on the iPad, now that would rock!

  • Wes

    Unity on the iPhone/iPad is iffy right now. Either way, Apple's absurd restrictions make app store development a scary commitment. It's not "safe" enough.

  • Dang. I hate your casual games they are crap. But I was really looking forward to this.

  • blurst

    You mean the other games on Blurst, or the stuff on flashbangstudios.com?

  • Oh I love the blurst games I just cant stand the flashbangstudios.com stuff. I know they make you more money but I would actually buy something if you made a more blurst style pay to play game.

  • blurst

    You realize we don't actually develop any of those games, right? Only two of the 2,036 games there are ours. We aren't *that* prolific ;).

  • Ohhhh than I like you again ;) Which two are yours?

  • blurst

    Glow Worm and Beesly's Buzzwords are games of ours from 5+ years ago. Check here for our full history: http://flashbang.biz

    -Matthew

  • marshmonkey

    I was really looking forward to seeing that art style in motion. Wish you the best in your quest to find a self sustaining business model, it's a tough nut to crack. Hit me up if you ever want any reflections on living in the App Store.

  • Awww, man. I'm saddened to hear you guys won't be developing this any further. I just made a comment the other day to a friend of mine that Raptor Safari looked like everything I needed to be a part of, as dinosaur smashing has been on our list of things to do in a game ever since the Turok series went down hill.

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