How Vlambeer bounced back with its critically acclaimed game.
Halfway through March, Super Crate Box developer Vlambeer released its latest title Ridiculous Fishing to critical acclaim - acclaim that included a 4.5 out of 5 star review on Modojo. Up until the release of BioShock Infinite, the game had enjoyed the position of being the highest rated game of 2013 so far on Metacritic, but it came at the expense of a difficult development process following the cloning of the team's original Flash take on the game.
We've since spoken to Rami Ismail, developer at Vlambeer, to talk about the release of Ridiculous Fishing, dealing with accusations that they themselves had created a clone, and the thorny debate surrounding free-to-play gaming.
The cloning situation with Ninja Fishing has been well-documented, but how does it feel to finally see your game out now and on the App Store?
It's overwhelming. For most of the team, the race concluded when the game was submitted to Apple, but the moment the app was available in the App Store was something. There's an unexplainable sense of fulfillment seeing two years of hardship conclude with a press of a button.
We mentioned in our review that you bear accusations from the public that you're cloning the game with remarkably good grace and often humor. What are your thoughts about dealing with that sort of confusion?
We're not sure what we did, but we just tried to explain as well as we could what happened. The thing is that we're really happy that these people are trying to make a stand against cloning and instead of antagonizing them, want to let them know that their voice is appreciated in this fight for original, creative and novel games.
What would you like to see from the likes of Apple and Google about dealing with these problems on the app stores? How should the line be drawn between working within a genre, and outright appropriating a specific game design?
We don't think it's Apple nor Google's problem. It's a problem that can't be solved top-down from platform holders. What needs to happen is that developers, press and consumers stand up against this sort of thing.
Has this experience changed how you'll work on new products - in terms of exposure to the public, rights management and so on?
We'll be more open about our projects earlier on. We learned that secrecy as an indie is not an advantage - it's a problem. When a clone hits you want to be able to have something to show for your game. When the clone was announced, we had to scramble to show the world that we had been working on Ridiculous Fishing. If we had publicly owned our concept before that, things would've still been terrible, but those first days would have been far less stressful.
Do you think that, negative though the experience was, you've ironically benefited from the situation in the long run - press coverage, gamer championing and so on?
If we benefited from anything, it's from how we handled the clone. Cloning does not have benefits - consider that Ridiculous Fishing almost didn't exist and that we were this close to shutting down Vlambeer completely. We were demotivated beyond belief.
You mentioned in your Reddit AMA that "it's almost impossible to do free-to-play in a non-evil way and without sacrificing the elegance of your game design". Do you think there are any games that buck that trend, for example League of Legends? If so, which ones and why?
Of course! There are always exceptions to every rule. The thing is that games that implement free-to-play usually offer items that do not alter gameplay, but relying on 'friendly' IAP's requires a tremendous and almost unique marketshare. Gasketball is a great example of how being nice and non-compromising in your design does not mesh with freemium.
Which mobile games from the last 12 months do you admire on the App Store - which ones stand out for you?
Super Hexagon, Punch Quest, Hundreds, Fingle.
Can we expect any more from Ridiculous Fishing in terms of future updates? We loved the game but we felt we wanted to do more after unlocking everything - will Billy's adventures continue in any way?
Probably and no. Ridiculous Fishing will most likely continue, but we're not quite sure about what part Billy has left to play. We'll see what happens as we develop the update - maybe we don't think it hits the quality bar we've set and cancel it, maybe it'll be huge. We just don't know yet.
You discussed Android in the AMA but do you have plans to bring the game to any other platforms such as the Vita?
No. This game was developed for phones and tablets, not for Vita. Luftrausers is coming to Vita, but not to iOS. We don't just put our games on all platforms, we make the game for specific platforms. See it as an extension of the way we design games - cut out all the stuff that isn't necessary.