On the 1st September 2020, renowned indie developer Vlambeer decided to close its doors as a studio that has released some outstanding titles over the last ten years.
We wanted to showcase a couple of games Vlambeer developed over the years that were key inspirations to our own thinking with game design and creating games with clear connotations to real world interactions that established a connection to allow players to further engage into the gameplay whilst enjoying all the small intricacies their games offered through stylized visuals, themes and exciting feedback through tight gameplay mechanics.
Their advocacy and commitment to the indie scene was paramount even back in 2010 with us always taking heed to advice via forums and early twitter posts. Their work was instrumental in making us understand how damn cool flash games can be. Our biggest take from Vlambeer was to not overthink and complicate our ideas. When everyone first starts envisioning themselves as games developers, they see the AAA 3D masterpiece first time round but this dream dies as soon as you delve into the complexities of game development and understand the sheer size of work needed for those pieces. Small games could be just as dynamic as AAA counterparts, full of surprise, themes and thought.
We were introduced to Vlambeer by its two founders Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman, who at the time were students when we were at university in 2010. We were embarking on a Games Design course where we used Adobe Flash which was heavily used for web based games. At the time, the duo had released some key games that inspired a generation of indie developers eager to create their first hits.
Ridiculous Fishing is a game where you play as “Billy” the fisherman simply catching fish for cash! Players cast a fishing line into the ocean but to avoid as many fish as the hook sinks before messing up to retract and catch as many fish as you can on the way up.
We first experienced the game online as the free flash game Radical Fishing. Seeing the distinctive shapes, colours and overlays was amazing as it showed that even with Flash, developers’ games could be unique.
The games’ comical theme and vibrant gameplay led a trail of thought into how exciting creating games around actual human interactions like fishing, cooking or dog walking could be. Game designs didn’t need to be 500 pages of an epic adventure. The theme could be relatable and bring fun to “normal” activities which also brings in more players due to their past interactions.
Coupled with simple controls, a cute 8 bit soundtrack and a feedback loop that made you want to go deeper in the ocean and see what wonders you can pull up to shoot!
In 2013, Vlambeer released Ridiculous Fishing on iOS and Android to critical acclaim. The game was revered for its artistic style and strong gameplay elements that were balanced. This triumphant achievement by the team showed us the streamline effect of optimising games for deployment on other devices and effectively developing your small ideas into online playable tests to full release.
If you haven’t got the game, please check it out as it’s 10/10 but here is a video to show it off!
Luftrausers was another great title Vlambeer developed in 2014. Developed from an idea Rami had on a flight, the game was created first as a flash game to then being published by Devolver Digital for Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.
In Luftrausers, players control a fighter airplane battling waves of opponent air forces whilst dodging cannon fire from opposing ships. The game had a slight twist in its motion in which players moved in 360 degrees with increasing momentum. This coupled with the fact you could only fire forward, made a sometimes challenging but fun and frantic experience.
Vlambeer followed suit visually with Luftrausers with another distinctive style throughout the game. The games’ aesthetic is a WW2 style theme stylised through an 8 bit brown colour scheme.
Real world connotations and reference to past shoot ‘em up classics were key in the simplistic style but the small differences like having no health bar, the dynamic drifting and constant erratic enemy waves made for a heavily themed game that was fun, addictive and showed that little variants can bring freshness to a genre.
Luftrausers had an incredible level of depth for players to further play the arcade experience. There was the ability to unlock loads of upgrades to customise different parts of the ship and your arsenal. Challenges were also gained with each upgrade granting objectives in the game for replay-ability. We continually use this methodology in our development of past titles and STAR SHREDDERS, in which we try to further our games playable time by adding in extra modes, secret objectives and tons of unlockables for the players that want to dive in further.
You can still pick up this little gem on Steam so fire away!
Both Rami and Jan have stated this is not the end of their careers but a natural progression for them both which we admire & we would like to thank them for their inspiration over the years and continued efforts to the indie scene and aspiring developers across the world.
Cheers from the Sharkbowl Team! 🙂