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How live-streaming development can solve Vlambeer's clone problem


[Image credit: Tommy Rousse]

Vlambeer is going to live-stream development of its next game. This wouldn't be notable for many other indie developers, but Vlambeer's history makes this strategy appear, for lack of a stronger term, absolutely illogical.

"At this point, all of our big games have been cloned," Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail tells me at E3.

He goes down the list: Super Crate Box, Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrausers and Infinite SWAT all have clones. The only acceptable one is the Infinite SWAT "homage," Broforce, from South African team Free Lives, Rami said – it's an example of developers taking inspiration from a game and creating their own world with it. The other ones, though. Those are straight-up clones.

These clones caused major problems for Ismail and Vlambeer's other half, Jan Willem Nijman. The Ridiculous Fishing clone affected the team so strongly that they almost stopped developing their own game completely. Ridiculous Fishing almost didn't exist. Because of a clone.

Hence, Vlambeer live-streaming development of its next game sounds like a pretty terrible idea. Until Ismail explains his reasoning:

"If you look at Ridiculous Fishing, one of the reasons the clone was such a nightmare was because nobody knew that we were working on Ridiculous Fishing. We had to rapidly announce Ridiculous Fishing while the clone story was going down, so people knew that it was our idea first and they stole it from us. With Luftrausers, when SkyFar hit, it was much better, because everybody already knew that Luftrausers was a Vlambeer thing and that SkyFar was a clone."

That makes sense, actually.

"No, it doesn't," Rami says. But Vlambeer is doing it anyway.

Vlambeer's strategy is to let everyone know all about the game it's working on, so that if (when) it is cloned, it's clear that Ismail and Nijman had the idea first. They'll use Twitch to spread the word, live.

"Instead of being more secretive we decided to be more open and just talk to people and own our ideas, and make sure people know that that's what we're working on," Ismail said.

Vlambeer's next game is a secret right now, but Ismail says that anyone who follows the studio should already know what it will be. Vlambeer will announce more details about the game and its live-stream closer to Luftrausers' launch, which should be any week now, once it clears Sony certification.

The new game is already playable, and coming from Vlambeer, one thing is guaranteed – it will be a "simple" game. That's Vlambeer's style, and while it's proven successful so far, it may contribute to the studio's high "you got cloned" rate.

"They're simple games," Ismail says. "If you see them, they make sense. People forget that coming up with something that makes sense isn't necessarily easy. It makes sense after you're done with it. It's a whole lot of work to get to the point where it starts making sense."

How livestreaming development could solve Vlambeer's clone problem
We assume that getting a fishing-social-networking-shooter to make sense does take a ton of work. The Ridiculous Fishing clone almost caused dire, unthinkable consequences, but the clone directly after that, of Luftrausers, was more manageable, Ismail says.

"The SkyFar clone was actually reassuring in that the reaction to it was so different," he says. "When Ridiculous Fishing got cloned, the industry and the consumers seemed to be more accepting of clones as part of the industry, and 'that's just the way it is.' And nowadays if somebody clones something they get shut down. The industry doesn't take that anymore."

Vlambeer did see some good – or at least amusing – effects from Ridiculous Fishing's cloning debacle, Ismail said.

"The coolest moment in the Ridiculous Fishing fallout was when Tim Schafer was up at the GDC stage and actually made a joke about the whole thing," he said. "And the Apple Design Award."

Oh, that little thing.

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