Nuclear Throne’s Vlambeer: “If The Customer Was Always Right I Wouldn’t Have A Job”

RPS: Well, our industry spent 20 years only presenting itself as corporations who were incapable of error. 

Rami: I think we’ve been trying to present ourselves as perfect. Like, the games industry does not make mistakes. If something is wrong, there’s a plan, there’s a thing. Or technology is the best ever. Have you ever seen a camera present itself as so easy that you just press a button and the movie is done? Not a single thing in the history of movie-making every claimed that. But you look at the way that Unreal or Unity presents itself and it’s literally that. ‘You want to make a game for PlayStation? Just hit the button.’ Or motion capture always pisses me off infinitely. You see someone in a motion capture suit covered in ping-pong balls, then you see the 3D model doing the exact same thing and… No, you get that data, you put it into a program, somebody cleans it up, you rig the model, you apply it, you do the weighing, all that and then eventually it looks like that. But we just go “oh there you go.” And of course people are upset that a game takes three years to make, because you show them that stuff.

For example, the whole Ubisoft controversy about female characters back in the day, ‘oh it’s too much work.’ Yes, it was too much work at that point. 

RPS: But it wouldn’t have been if they’d thought to include it much earlier.

Rami: The problem there was that they should have made that decision right at the start, but yes, at that point in the process you can’t just go ‘do more motion capture, apply that data to a different character, weigh it again, texture it again, skin it again…'” Yes, you could presumably do that, but not with the QA and the process and all the stuff that you would need in the game. You can’t in the last week just switch. It doesn’t work like that. That’s frustrating to hear, but it’s kind of ridiculous that it’s frustrating. Nobody expects to do that in a movie. ‘Jar-Jar Binks didn’t test very well, can we just make him a green elephant?’ That’s not how it works. Obviously there are other issues, the context of that issue is a lot more sensitive than that, but purely from a technological standpoint it’s strange that there’s so much backlash to somebody saying that they can’t last-minute change this thing. 

RPS: But again there was that thing where they presented themselves as this machine-like corporation that was perfect. “This was a seamless decision that we made” rather than “you’re right, we should have thought about that”.

Rami:  Yeah, “we fucked up, sorry about that, we’re people, we didn’t think this through.” Like the Deus Ex: Mankind Divided thing with ‘mechanical apartheid’ was super-interesting. One of the developers goes and throws this fit on Reddit and then Square-Enix writes this perfectly-worded response. I’m just like, “that’s a response.” You go like, “ok listen, we understand that this is a sensitive thing, we have a team of people looking at this and we will review it, and we’ll see what we do. This is not a decision we made lightly.” Honestly, I don’t really believe that somebody comes up with a term like that by accident. There’s a reason for that term, and I feel like if a game wants to tackle mechanical apartheid then a game should be able to tackle the term mechanical apartheid. 

RPS: I guess people can very easily  come to believe there is a greater importance to their own project. I can well imagine a team of six people in a room going ‘we’re gonna make a really good statement here’ and maybe forgetting that outwardly it’s a game about a man with swords in his elbows.

Rami: That’s it, and then the blowback comes and one of the things you could just do is say ‘OK listen, we thought this through but apparently we need to think a bit more or bring aboard some other people to help us’. That’s fine, but we’re so scared of doing the wrong thing. We’re so scared of fucking up. 

I gave a talk the other day where I talked about mistakes, and one of the first things I mentioned was three mistakes we made when we started Vlambeer. Looking back at the total cost of those mistakes, it comes to about $1.3 million. 

RPS: Jesus Christ.

Rami: That sounds terrifying. But I made those mistakes, I might as well own up to them, right? 

RPS: But you don’t have to go back to your shareholders or board members and say ‘please don’t sell your shares’

Rami: Exactly, and that’s where the issue comes in. A lot of this is about treating customers as purely customers, and not as responsible human beings. That doesn’t work well but then also treating customers like 100%  unique snowflakes doesn’t work either. You need to run a business but you need to find that balance, somewhere in the middle. And nobody ever talks about the balance. ‘The customer is king.’ Well, that’s a great way to run your company straight into the ground.” If the customer was always right then what would my job be? Is it just like ‘make more Minecraft?’ I could make more Minecraft, I could presumably do that. Zombie survivor Minecraft. 

Randy Pitchford [passing by]: Zombies!

[The two developers swap a few notes]

Rami: Ok, yeah. If the customer was always right I wouldn’t have a job. The point is that we create stuff, and we don’t know whether it works. That’s the whole point of this. That’s the whole point of any creative venture. You’re not going from A to B, you’re going from A to question mark, and fuck if I know whether it works.

RPS: If Super Crate Box and Ridiculous Fishing hadn’t been as popular as they were, could you be saying these same things? How much is your position based on being safe already?

Rami: No, I think this is what we started with. Super Crate Box was kind of a weird game, it wasn’t what people were looking for at the time. It’s coming out right at the time of Super Meat Boy, which we didn’t know. We didn’t realise that was happening. But what I do very strongly remember everyone saying was that this should be a paid game, and we like ‘no, listen, it’s gonna be freeware, and we have this reason for it, and we don’t care.’ People wanted to give us money and we were like ‘no’, we didn’t want people to give us money, we wanted them to send the game to their friends or something.

I’ve done games before, people forget that before Vlambeer I worked on a bunch of independent space sims which didn’t do very well, but I had those same beliefs at that point, that as a designer you’re an auteur. You make these things and you believe in those things, and yes you want to balance it with who’s going to play it because that’s at the core of this medium. But Vlambeer is specifically set up to let me deal with the people who want stuff and let JW (Jan Willem Nijman) be as far away as possible. He reads the forums and he takes that feedback, that’s his job as a designer, he takes all that feedback and filters it and he figures out what he wants to use and what fits with his vision, what’s the reality, and I just deal with the complaints and questions and all that. It’s completely separate and I think people don’t really realise that. If I acknowledge something I may choose to take it to JW and be like ‘hey listen, everybody’s saying this’ and he might be like “oh, I don’t care, that’s the opposite of what I want to achieve with this.” And that’s what makes Vlambeer games Vlambeer games, right? 

If you don’t have that thing that makes your game your game you’re going to be in trouble anyway. The industry’s brutal right now. We’re doing this lovely dance where – and this is one of my favourite things the last few months – all the mobile companies are jumping ship because mobile doesn’t earn enough. User acquisition is too high, earnings are too low, it’s hard to get discovered, so they all jump to PC. And now on PC you’ve got the indies and the PC companies saying ‘we’ve been here for a while, the budget is too high for the  chance of discoverability on Steam, so we’re going to go to a platform with less clutter’, so they go to console. On console you see all these big console companies saying ‘listen, console’s expensive and and it’s hard and unwieldy to make games, so we’re going to go and make smaller games, we’re going to do a Fallout Shelter and go on mobile.’ So we’re all dancing. 

Literally every part of the industry right now is really, really hard. Everything is hard. I have a strong belief in staying wherever the hell we are and just getting better and better at it, because sure we could try and do something else, pivot, or we could just do what we’re good at. If you don’t have that thing that makes your game your game, you don’t have a flavour to your thing, if you don’t dare to make something for somebody instead of for everybody, then it’s not going to work. Minecraft wasn’t made to be for everybody, it was made to be a block game. 

Sure, there’s always going to be an element of luck. If you’re asking me would I have said these exact same things without success, I don’t know. But is this the attitude we’ve had since the start? Yes, absolutely, I just wouldn’t have been able to vocalise it, and I wouldn’t have been as certain about it. Of course, for everybody there’s nuance to this. For some people it’s going to work out perfectly, to do only this or to listen to their customers all the time, and that’s great. That’s a very unique case, I’ve never seen any business do well only listening to its customers. Even Wikipedia has to be ‘listen guys, need you to not do that.’ 

RPS: You’ve been a sort of unofficial spokesperson and rolemodel for part of the industry for a while now… 

Rami: That’s terrifying, yeah. 

RPS: Have you seen any studios who’ve followed your advice across the years and it worked out for them – or otherwise? 

Rami: There’s this studio which worked on a game called Dog Sled Saga. They have a little sign in their office which says ‘what would Vlambeer do?’ That’s kind of weird, but I think it’s the best way that somebody can respond to the advice that we give. It’s not as an absolute but as a question. Not as a ‘this is the way it should be’ but ‘why is he saying that?’ I don’t really…

Disclosure: At this point one of the heads of a large game studio passes by with a tower of Dominos pizza boxes, greets Rami, then returns moments later to give him some garlic bread and potato wedges that he had spare. Rami is currently fasting for Ramadan, but doesn’t mention this out of politeness and accepts the food with thanks, which he then hands to me once the other gentleman is out of sight. I am ravenous after a day of running around, but feel that to eat the food in front of a fasting man while I am interviewing him would be sickeningly rude. I spend the rest of the interview haunted by the delicious smells of cheese and garlic, praying that the talk wraps up before the food turns cold. Spoiler: it does not. Develop is a bloody funny place.

Rami: Here’s the thing. I get really amused when I read a Gamasutra blog post that’s “I did all the things that the other Gamasutra blog post said and I didn’t become successful.” I’m like no, because by the time something is a Gamasutra article somebody tried it, they had the time to look at in hindsight, and anyone who’s paying attention in the industry has noticed that it’s working and is doing that as well. You also had the time to collect your thoughts and write an article about. By the time you read something on Gamasutra it’s too late. That thing doesn’t work any more.  Does that mean don’t read Gamasutra? No, it means absolutely read Gamasutra, but read it less as a ‘here’s an absolute way of becoming’ successful and more ‘what is the thought process that led to these decision?’ 

The talks I give and the advice is give is very much to think about why you do certain things. ‘Why?’ is the overarching question in everything I talk about. Why would you do that, why did we do that, why would you try to be Vlambeer? Vlambeer already exists: you’re not going to be Vlambeer. We’re Vlambeer. Part of that was luck, part of that was work, part of that was attitude, part of that was just sheer timing. I’ve often thought that if Vlambeer started today we wouldn’t stand a chance. Not in hell. 

RPS: No-one can predict the Steam charts right now.

Rami: That’s the thing. You take your shot and if it works it works, if it doesn’t… It’s a shame, and you can try again if you have the funds, if not you get a job and then you get a job. One of our artists on Ridiculous Fishing wrote a great article back in 2012 about not quitting your day job. I had a day job, well into the second year of Vlambeer. I sold computers: that was my side thing. I was actually really happy with that job because it taught me how to negotiate, which ended up being very useful later. 

People forget that stuff like Vlambeer started at some point. We’ve always been very happy to hide when we started, when we appeared. We like the idea that Vlambeer has always been this ubiquitous thing, that it was always there in the background radiation, but it hasn’t. This was a studio that was founded in 2010 when two students dropped out of university. One of them had a day job selling computers, one of them didn’t have expenses, just lived at home. Then we started and we ate noodles for six months, and that’s not even an exaggeration. Is that a good thing? I don’t know? It was probably very unhealthy, but we didn’t have a choice back then. We just kept doing things and the decisions we made were consistent enough that we could build a brand around it and with the right time and the right decisions, sometimes by pure luck, sometimes by believing in something, and all that together makes a Vlambeer.

That’s the weird thing. At the start the ratio of luck versus intentional choice seems a lot higher, but later on as soon as you’ve got some luck you can make choices. But before that, not really. You just roll a die and one to five is bad and six is good. 

RPS: But you get to a point where people pay attention to you, and then everything changes.

Rami: Yeah, and then you get to the point where people pay a lot of attention to you ,and then it sort of folds back in a weird way. The good thing about the visibility Vlambeer has is, if we see a problem with something, we can help fix it. We can speak out and our voice has weight. That’s cool.

RPS: And you’re big enough that your business isn’t going to fall apart because you’ve taken that risk and the heat?

Rami: Hopefully not. But then on the other side, it means that if I say something off the cuff or something particularly stupid, that’s going to haunt me forever. 

RPS: Just a hint of what it’s like to be Notch.

Rami: Yeah. Aftter Vlambeer grew big I got a lot of respect for what it’s like to be a movie star. I walk into a games conference and I can’t go five steps without somebody saying hi, and I love that because I love being in the games industry, but I can walk out of the building and as soon as I leave this hotel and I’m just dude with overlong hair and a scruffy beard, so I’m fine. As a movie star, it doesn’t matter where you are because your looks and your acting is your product and the world sees it. I don’t know how people deal with that. 

RPS: Is a conference like this a parade of people asking you how to get rich?

Rami: The answer to that is ‘I don’t know.’ If you want me to tell you how we did what we did five yeras ago I’m the worst person to ask. I’m not there now. I can maybe tell you the things that I think will help you right now but usually they’re the mistakes that you should avoid at the halfway point, mistakes that we made when we should have known better but we didn’t because that information didn’t exist. I can’t help people make their first hit game. I can tell them to reach out to the press. Worst case you’re going to ignore the email and you’ll have forgotten about them in a week. Not even a week, maybe seconds.

RPS: There’s so much guilt about doing that though. So many emails, so many games, but it’s only a human brain here, there’s only so much I can stuff into it. 

Rami: Yeah, exactly, you have to make choices and that’s your job. That’s kind of thing: we all do our part in this and there are things that you should do independent of where you are. Thinking about why you’re making your game, what’s special about your game, how the game can stand out. This is the thing with luck. I say ‘luck’ but it’s a very dangerous word, because it doesn’t mean the same thing. Luck is you’re working on your game and you never talk to anyone about it, and then above your head an airplane crashes and a guy jumps out with a parachute but it doesn’t open, then he falls into a tree in your garden and veers back into your window and lands there and sees you, and says “I’m so lucky to be alive, I’ll give the $70 million I inherited from the lotto last week to you and I’ll make all of your wishes come true.” 

But then luck is also I worked really hard at making a game, at making sure it was special, I went to every event possible, I told everybody, I burned everything I had to get it going and now I’m here and this one person noticed it and it went viral, or it got mentioned in the press. Like Ridiculous Fishing, the only reason Luke Plunkett at Kotaku picked up on that was he was thinking about SEGA Bass Fishing. That’s luck as well. We don’t know how to distinguish between luck and luck. There’s pure luck and there’s creating opportunities and then being lucky through those opportunities.

So I can’t tell you the formula for success. I can tell you stupid things to do that would ruin your chances, but even then some people just get lucky, they do everything wrong and it just works out.  That’s just as valid an experience as the other one, it happens. There’s no way for anybody to say what works. Just if you send a press email make sure you spell check it, if you’re going to do community management learn how to do expectation management, but the honest answer is nobody has the answers.

RPS: But everybody wants someone else to tell them those answers.

Rami: What’s the saying? Knowing that you don’t know something is fine, but not knowing that you don’t know if when that becomes a problem. For a lot of people it’s hard to know that you don’t know. I never knew anything about community management, I just had to learn, and suddenly it turns out there’s this wealth of information out there I could have been reading, I just didn’t know about it. Accountancy, I didn’t know that. But suddenly I was a face at Vlambeer and now I’m whatever people call it. I didn’t get training on those things.

Please disagree with me. Come argue with me. Tell me that my talk was dumb, that you hated it, but tell my why. Because maybe you’re right. I don’t know. As long as I don’t give them the answer, because if I give them the answer I make a false promise. 

RPS: And then you’ll get the articles saying ‘I did everything Rami said and now I have to sell my internal organs’.

Rami: Yeah, exactly. Even telling you what went right for us is scary because there’s an implicit promise that this is how you get there, so I try to avoid that.

 

 

Nuclear Throne is available on Steam Early Access now (also available via Humble).

77 Comments

  1. Sam says:

    If the customer was always right, the universe would have collapsed in a writhing mass of incompatible truths.
    Therefore we a priori know that so long as we’re in a position to say anything at all, we can say that the customer is not always right. Which is a far better place to build a philosophy from than Descartes silly little idea.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      If you work in the service industry, you learn very, very quickly that “the customer is always right” is absolutely false.

      • jecomans says:

        When I managed a restaurant back in the day, the mantra was, ‘The customer is probably wrong, but try to accommodate them anyway, because their bill pays your salary’.

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          You, final poster of this thread, are my favourite person here for understanding subtext.

        • Uhbas says:

          I have always understood the thing you just said is the true meaning of the phrase “the customer is always right”

  2. Tazer says:

    I liked the interview, but I don’t necessarily agree with his attitude. Good for him for having an opinion though.

  3. ChiefOfBeef says:

    Like the Assassins Creed motto “Nothing is true, everything is permitted”, Ismail simply doesn’t understand the meaning of “the customer is always right”. It’s not about what the customer wants but what they will pay for. Anyone can make a game but if they want to keep making games as they like, with as much time as they like- their ambitions are in the hands of their customers, not their own.

    Unless you’re a wealthy trust-funded privilege checker with no sense of irony and daddy pays the bills.

    • draglikepull says:

      “The customer is always right” is an approach to customer service, no one actually believes it’s true. It’s mostly relevant to retail, where the idea is that it’s usually better for the company to simply take a small financial hit in a dispute with a customer than to risk the PR fallout of a customer telling everyone they know that you’re a big meanie. What it really means is “Don’t argue with the customer” not “Give the customer anything they demand.”

      • ChiefOfBeef says:

        Well then your take on it has no relevance here- mine is a response to Ismail’s, which focuses on the relationship he has with the customer.

      • frymaster says:

        ex McEmployee here. In fact, that’s exact how it’s phrase – “Do not argue or match wits with the customer”. The implication being, they don’t have many wits to match, but demonstrating that to them isn’t going to help in the long run

    • Underwhelmed says:

      One problem with listening to “customers” when working on a gaming project (or virtually any other directed at a mass audience rather than an individual), is that the people that demand the largest amount of your ear, are virtually never the largest part of the customer base. You don’t get a representative sample of your customers through social media, because it isn’t a random sample. The people that apply are their own population, and may have very different tastes or expectations compared to the larger pool that doesn’t respond.

      Another, and a much larger problem, is regardless of data gathering issues, you still can’t and shouldn’t generalize customer relation strategies from individual/small group policies, to large scale general population interactions.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      He’s clearly talking about the modern definition of the phrase that is about what the customer demands, not what the customer will pay for. Which is the definition that an overwhelming number of people subscribe to.

    • Bradamantium says:

      This whole interview is about reorienting customer demands to customer awareness of how game development works, how their suggestions matter (or don’t), and how it’s not as simple as giving everyone what they want. Nowhere does that imply that Rami Ismail genuinely believes “the customer is always right” is an unquestionably true, supreme physical law of the universe.

    • metric day says:

      Assassin’s Creed motto? Pfft. What, is that game taking credit for Hassan Sabbah’s last words now?

  4. Geebs says:

    “He’s nearing the end of Ramadan, which means he hasn’t eaten for days”

    Erm…..you mean, “hasn’t eaten during the day”

    • Alec Meer says:

      Aye, sorry, I garbled that while rushing to get this piece finished – ta for pointing out, fixed now.

    • SuicideKing says:

      Lol. This.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      There’s more typos elsewhere, to the point where I suspect that last ‘accountancy’ is meant to be something like accountability.

      • kalzekdor says:

        There are a fair number of typos in the article, but I’m fairly certain that accountancy is what was meant. I.e, learning to manage the financial books of a small business can be a harrowing experience at first. I know from experience.

  5. Tasloi says:

    The gaming industry’s close relationship with customers can bring tremendous value but also significant costs at times. All true. At times you can’t help but wonder whether taking a step back from that wouldn’t be more beneficial to the industry. But after taking a closer look at many of the people heavily preaching this aswell, i’m instantly skeptical.

  6. SuicideKing says:

    QA and AssCreed Unity don’t belong in the same sentence! :P

  7. rafacarrascosa says:

    Alec, are you experimenting with unusually long sentences? I’m playing ‘where’s the verb?’ with your article and it beats Wally on some places.

  8. Mezmorki says:

    “You believe customers want to define the games they play by the people who make them?”

    This has already happened in the board gaming hobby world. Pretty much every hobby game is released with the name of the designer right on the front of the box near the title – in the same way that an author’s name is on the front of their novel.

    Sid Meier was one of the few designers to have his name attached to the games he designed, except that wasn’t really the full story because his name got added to a lot of games he didn’t design too.

    • Underwhelmed says:

      I have a theory with books: If the author’s name is displayed more prominently than the actual title of the book, it is probably an awful book.

      • Josh04 says:

        There’s some popular saying about books and covers, if only I could remember it…

      • iainl says:

        Triply so, if the author’s name displayed prominently is actually the co-author’s name, or even less.

  9. PancakeWizard says:

    This is the guy that said ‘You don’t have to like games to be a developer’ right? I mean, he’s technically right when you’re talking about huge studios who for example have separate art departments and all you’re doing all day is painting the next piece of concept art, but in general it certainly helps to enjoy the medium you’re developing for and for an indie, I’d say it’s essential if you want to be remembered beyond ‘wow what is this pointless, badly written thing?’ (Hi Sunset!).

    I doubt any game that’s remembered fondly or as a masterpiece was made by people who disliked playing games.

    • Clavus says:

      I don’t think that reasoning holds up. Tale of Tales might not have made the most engaging games, but they definitely made interesting games that a lot of other designers were inspired by. Rami is saying that developers like that should not be pestered out of the industry just because their work doesn’t have mass appeal or years of experience behind it. You shouldn’t have to be a gamer to be a game creator. Those kind of people make games because almost nothing in the existing game space interests them, so I applaud any efforts to bring something new to the industry, even if it fails.

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      It definitely doesn’t hurt to have people with that attitude making games. If all games developers love games then there’s a danger they all think games are already great and shouldn’t be hacked to death and turned into something different. Ties in with not listening to your customers too much. You wouldn’t find a respected songwriter admitting they got feedback from their fans after every album and made sure the next one met their desires (more cowbells please!). If we ever want to see a Dark Souls again then we need games designers acting like artists and ignoring the wishes of the crowd, and having a little contempt for the medium they work in.

      • PancakeWizard says:

        ” If all games developers love games then there’s a danger they all think games are already great and shouldn’t be hacked to death and turned into something different. “

        Respectfully, that’s rubbish. Gamers clearly love gaming but would you say they are uncritical? The opposite is true. I’d say the more an enthusiast you are, the more critical you become. That applies to making anything from movies, to go games to wine. If you dislike games, and choose to make games, it basically means you’re making it in a bubble.

        • Distec says:

          Very true. I think it’s evident that there is a lot of love for games and gaming, but we also really like to bitch about things too! I don’t get the impression that there’s a lot of defense for the status quo. While there may be plenty of gamers who are fine with playing what they know, there is also an enthusiast side that is always demanding more. It’s also part of the reason why pre-release trailers and advertizing often imply so much more than they can actually offer. There are players who are dying for something like “Radiant AI” to become fully realized, and they are often the first ones to point out how shit it is in practice.

          There are plenty of “different” games that have come out and enjoyed critical and commercial success. But “different” and “interesting” are not synonyms for “good”, which is clearly the issue that indie developers like Tale of Tales had to grapple with.

          • PancakeWizard says:

            I agree with you, I guess I just think the genuine criticism should be fairly easy to spot vs. just people bitching.

            eg. Pillars of Eternity: lack of companion AI =genuine criticism (getting fixed, yay!), ‘transphobic’ limerick = people bitching.

            I mean Blizzard are goddamn masters at ignoring white noise if you look at WoW forums.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          “Gamers clearly love gaming but would you say they are uncritical? ”

          Absolutely. Just look at the movement of dipshits who have been trying to stifle criticism of their precious games for the last year.

          • steviebops says:

            If that’s what you STILL believe, then it’s a bit sad.

          • Distec says:

            1) Does that movement in any make up all gamers? That’s the only way that statement checks out.

            2) There has been a lot of really stupid criticism leveled at certain titles and games in general in the last year. Rejecting all the crap about misogyny and “problematic” content does not mean you are uncritical.

      • Sarfrin says:

        Oh, come on, that’s silly. I can understand people wanting to make a particular game or type of game that doesn’t exist already, but if you don’t like any games at all why would it even occur to you to try? To innovate in a medium you generally have to have some liking for at least some of it in the first place.

    • InnerPartisan says:

      “This is the guy that said ‘You don’t have to like games to be a developer’ right?”
      No.

    • thelastpointer says:

      Actually, you don’t have to like games. You can like programming, or modelling, creating particle effects, doing motion captured stunts, doing financial plans, marketing campaigns, enjoy yourself in HR, a billion other things, and still make games.
      In fact, one of the most dangerous idea recently is that a game dev needs to like games, and games only, while totally — and deliberately — ignoring financial, marketing, PR, and dozens of other professions (and often also labeling said professions as “evil” and “the sole reason” for failed or bad games).
      This is an idea in the indie circle that needs to be dropped. I think that there’s less of this thinking in AAA, but they are “evil” anyways (working for money, jeez), so who cares.

  10. Synesthesia says:

    Vlambeer is the shit. So fun, honest games. Anyone here tried nuclear throne? How is it?

    Also here’s a good talk with him and leigh alexander from some time ago.
    link to boingboing.net

    • RobF says:

      It’s really, really good.

      And screenshakey.

      • iregisteredtoonlypostthis says:

        And really, really locked to 30fps.

          • iregisteredtoonlypostthis says:

            Yeah. What kind of gamer would expect to get playable fps in a game he paid for? I mean avarage 12yo gamer is happy with his pad no matter what fps he gets, why the rest cry about fps? Human eye cant even see over 24fps anyway. “:DDD:DD:D:”

          • RobF says:

            It’s perfectly playable. Stop being an idiot.

          • Underwhelmed says:

            I find it hilarious, that every time FPS is brought up, even in jest, some little FPS police twerp will show up and chime in about important the whole issue is.

          • GWOP says:

            @iregisteredtoonlypostthis: You think 30FPS for a sprite-based 2D game is unplayable? Just stop with the faux-rage.

          • geisler says:

            It’s far from unplayable, but objectively, even for a game like this, it is pretty important. Not as much for the visual aspect, but for the input response. It’s true that as you play the game you just naturally get accustomed to input lag of low fps capped games, but that’s not an excuse to not make the game AT LEAST match the refresh rate of most monitors (60hz and thus 60fps), for optimal input.

  11. Hobbes says:

    The customer isn’t always right. But the customer isn’t always wrong either. If a lot of your customers are asking the same question – which is “Why did you make the initial design choice to build Nuclear Throne in Gamemaker and not Unity because y’know, it would have made things like a Playstation build feasible” – maybe you should be thinking about this kind of thing a bit earlier.

    Nuclear throne is a brilliant game, but I can’t help but wonder if the choice of engine means they’ve built a rod for their own back if they ever want to put it out onto other platforms. However, I do have some issues with one or two of Vlambeers side projects such as Dodistribute(), which is basically the Games Media version of “Klout” and needs to die in chemical fire before it becomes a thing.

    • RobF says:

      That’s not really what Rami is getting at. There isn’t an automatic button in either Gamemaker or Unity that makes a Playstation 4 port *work*. There is a way with both Unity *and* Gamemaker to export to Playstation 4 but that’s an entirely different matter from making sure it works, making it cert compliant (which can lose you months out of your life) and making it a good console experience etc…

      What he’s getting at there is that the customer often doesn’t understand the amount of work involved in stuff like making a port happen, they just hear that Unity (or whatever) can punt out an export and assume it’s that simple.

      • Hobbes says:

        Well, no, but then you need to have spent a while understanding the tools, and spending time around developers in order to actually understand these kinds of problems to get a vaguely informed idea about the kinds of issues that can crop up. Certification is soul destroying, as is hunting down the kind of horrible elusive bugs that you know are happening, but can’t easily replicate, even though there’s reliable reports from different sources about the same damn thing.

        Mind, Unity’s toolset for multiplatform output does -seem- to be a damn sight more capable than a lot of other dev platforms that I’ve seen, which I can only hope is the start of good things, because one thing there’s been a severe lack of is an easy way to port titles developed for one platform and to get reliable performance elsewhere. Unity does take some of the guesswork out of that.

        • RobF says:

          Just for the record, the console exports on Gamemaker are fantastic. Can’t really say more than that though, obviously.

  12. Baines says:

    I can’t help but notice that he didn’t address the reason behind the question “Is it not something where you could pay someone to go fix it for you?” He just said that he thought you could, and then went off on some tangent about rockstars.

    No. People want games to work. Given the choice between waiting three years for Vlambeer to finally fix something and waiting two weeks for someone hired by Vlambeer to fix it, most people affected by the issue would probably perform the latter (at least as long as the hired person doesn’t botch the job.)

    That’s what happened with Super Crate Box on Steam. It was made with a version of Gamemaker that wasn’t compatible with Windows 8, and is unplayable due to crashing issues on Windows 8 and 8.1. Three years later, and the game still hasn’t been fixed (and the Steam forum is still filled with complaint threads about the game crashing.). Eventually, a user took it upon himself to make a patched version of the game, but it understandably doesn’t support the added Steam features. No one complained that someone other than Vlambeer fixed the game, and it wasn’t even a complete fix.

    • Baines says:

      Prefer the latter, not perform.

      I guess RPS is never going to re-enable the ability edit comments?

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        Maybe they could hire someone to re-enable it.

      • Sam says:

        Boring factual answer: Comment editing was deliberately disabled because it was somehow causing a huge load on their servers.

        That does leave plenty of room for hiring someone to fix up what I imagine is a slightly messy WordPress. Or to go bankrupt by creating their own system from scratch.

    • alms says:

      That seemed odd, he could have just used the standard replies “you need someone who’s familiar with the code” or “we don’t feel comfortable hiring someone else just to do that work”. Maybe he doesn’t like standard replies even when they make sense.

      • Vlambeer says:

        The honest answer is that I misheard the question, and it’s quite funny to figure that out by reading the interview. It was kind of noisy in Brighton, and my belly was rumbling.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Skabooga says:

    Great interview! I love that Randy Pitchford just up and randomly appears in the middle of it.

    • andromedius says:

      Yeah, he was probably slicing a vertical demo before having some pizza.

  14. BlacKHeaDSg1 says:

    And for how long is he developing NT ? That’s right … too long. 1 developer finish Banished long before he ever will and it is 3D game.

    • ElVaquero says:

      thanks for proving his points perfectly!!!

      • pepperfez says:

        To be fair, it’ll probably be quite some time before Vlambeer produces Banished.

  15. heretic says:

    Great interview Alec!

  16. Hart says:

    Anybody played Darkest Dungeon on EA yet? Every time I finish playing that game, I have my ballpoint pen and barely-withheld anger ready to go, furiously scrawling a negative P.S at the end of the EA review I did for it. Then I stop, and ask myself: is what I dislike about the game an intended, well thought out mechanic that is part of what gives the game it’s ‘flavour,’ or is it an oversight of the devs; something truly imbalanced or flawed by design? In the case of Darkest, it’s usually the former, and by the time I pick it up again I’m happy I restrained my pen for nudie doodles or half-baked to-do lists and not gamer-tantrums. Put simply, Red Hook has a vision for their game, and know when to bend and when not to.

    Then there’s the other extreme, i.e Starbound. You could argue all day whether they listened to consumers too much, or not enough, but the best way to describe it is a game without a game plan; it’s been asking you for money for three years, but when you ask what it wants to be when it grows up, it shrugs. Developers with clear visions of what they want to make always make the best games.

  17. GoateeGamer says:

    This guy is like alternate reality Derek Smart. They both fire venom at their own customers with the rage of someone with a destroyed life.

    The distinction is, if Smart says something, you can strip out the hate and you still have a thin layer of industry insight. Not just personal opinions on consumerism.

    • RobF says:

      Did you even watch the talk? There isn’t a single piece of venom in the entire thing.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      What venom? He mostly seems to be saying that developers should not blindly follow their customer’s wishes and always say yes. That’s not necessarily bad for the customers in the end, as well. Listening to customers (too much) can make a developers’ job more difficult. On the other hand, he also talks about being honest towards customers.

      I think that is far more healthy than pr-spinning trying to make everything look rosy.

    • pepperfez says:

      If you’re seeing venom and rage from Rami Ismail, you definitely need to recalibrate your evaluation of tone.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      You seem to be taking this personally.

  18. TheAdmiral says:

    I kinda feel like this whole thing is almost a “glass half full or empty” test. I’m a pessimist by nature, so, I mostly got the “fuck customers” feel and less of the “fuck yeah customers” sense. Am I alone on this? Because this whole thing is actually pretty depressing and I’m trying to figure out exactly why. But, I will admit I’m actually having some difficulty following the jist of it. I kinda feel like I need a synopsis.