Archive for February, 2011

The importance of long-running series

I can’t believe that in the two months I’ve been writing a blog about Flash, I have never once mentioned what is easily the most-watched flash animation content on the web: Homestar Runner.

Or, as is often the case, the emails of one leather-pantsed ladiesman, Strong Bad. Seriously, it was a life-changing little cartoon series that became amazing. To learn about the site, there is a fan-made HR Wiki with almost 2700 articles to tell you far too much about the series. I suppose it slipped my mind due to the lack of consistent updates in the past 6 months.

Let’s just say that in the dark days of Flash 1, the brothers chap (HR’s creator) were young and burgeoning, but quick to learn. And while some will say they learned of internet animation from the god-awful and childish (even by my standards) Joe Cartoon, I was a middle-schooler and smiling as Strong Bad answered his emails. Unlike many flash cartoons of the early era, HR was very funny while being tame and relatable, with most sites featuring sensationalist media fueled by teenage lust for violence and sex.

That’s not to say that the early Homestar Runner content wasn’t laughably bad. But all artists must hone their craft. A comparison would be an early strip of the popular gamer comic Penny Arcade [ in the beginning ] and [ lately. ] When you have 12 years of practice, your skill with the digital arts grows substantially. Yet how much more difficult are consistent animations of quality? Much more difficult, that’s how.

Since 1999 they have been making Homestar flashes, and I pray for a return of the long-term flash. I want a theme that goes on for 200 animations. I want humor without being trite or disgusting.

I want full series.

The irony of epicness: Flash games

First off, I’ll explain what I mean by the title. Be forewarned, there’s not really anything of social value or integrity today. I’m just talking about things I enjoy.

I have played many a flash game in my time, and special honors go to those games I have spent more than an hour playing. These are usually long-form role-playing games, or sometimes tower defense games, or random hitting crap so it flies across the screen for a long time…games.

What brought this to mind was a game I played today called Fantasy XFII, a sort of parody of RPG games in general, while being more of an homage. It is naught but ripped sprites, and it is buggy as all hell, but I enjoyed it for roughly an hour before I fell through a floor indefinitely.

Here’s a few more notable games for sucking up time(All at Newgrounds for ease):

There you go. If you tried each of these, you should be homeless… yesterday. Seriously. How is it possible for something designed to quickly and easily deliver creative content to the masses able to make something so astounding in under 10 megabytes? That is the question, and unfortunately I have not found the answer. All I can do is keep searching.

Flash MindMeld madness!

60 Experts. 60 Seconds each. 1 awesome collaboration that brings together tips on Flash from all corners of the internet in the form of MindMeld.

Just check out this press release. What makes or breaks a flash game? They discuss this in the first ever flash micro-conference.

I strongly suggest you to give it a listen, game developer or not; it’s only an hour, with small chunks with many artists and pros. Themes exist within, of course.  They tell developers to simply play alot of games, and keep making new things even when they get annoyed. Of course, I thought I might talk about a few specific people worth listening to especially. A-like-a-so!

Stephen Harris: This guy made the Bloons series, quite possibly the best monkey throwing darts simulator ever created. He reminds people that borrowing ideas is not necessarily theft, and remember play-testing is vital.

Tom Fulp: It should be obvious I worship this man for his site Newgrounds. He says to listen to the people, make your game playable, and don’t make your game specifically for monetizing-it will likely suck.

Edmund McMillen: Creator of so many vaguely experimental games, like the platformer epic Super Meat Boy.  His bottom line- Games are about gameplay. Make all the fancy graphical tweaks you like, it still comes down to how the game controls.

Jameson Hsu: This man has so much experience in the field it isn’t funny. From advertising to online gaming, this guy knows design, and argues the importance of the thumbnail and having a distinctive look for your flash game.

Jim Greer: Mr. Kongregate himself! Basically, kill a million ideas until you find the one that’s worth polishing and expanding. This guy is very much worth a listen.

Tom and Dim Vian: Otherwise known as the Super Flash Bros, these UK sibbies made the Detective Grimoire series, and work for Armor Games. They know that it is difficult to keep a player enthralled, and how easy to overwhelm the player. Also, the graphics will match the effect of the gameplay- a major pitfall.

These are just a few of the 60, and far from the only ones to listen to. You can get an mp3 of all the artists to listen to on the go at their site. Hope you enjoyed these talking heads, and happy gaming!

More Flash Events!

I talked a few weeks ago about the awesomeness that is soon to be The Flash Gaming Summit, and how I lived on the wrong coast.

I was not incorrect. In fact, there are other conventions and conferences which seem to congregate on the West Coast primarily. Either that, or different countries entirely, like Spain or Russia.

It would make sense that California would be the epicenter of technology for the U.S. given it’s reputation as Silicon Valley (breast implant joke here). There are not many conferences and events overall, and they are strangely laid out geographically, as shown by the map below:

Why Denver? I really couldn’t tell you, but there is admittedly an art scene there. How this art scene is making the transition to digital is anyone’s guess

Adobe Max is a pretty big deal with the multiple days and big-name speakers, but since it doesn’t happen until October things are a bit hush-hush.

Why could I only find five events for this map? Because there just aren’t enough people doing conferences. Get on that, people who make Flash.

Royalty-Free?

On this big wide internet ball of ours, there are tons of places to get free music for your flash production. Even I have submitted audio to the Newgrounds audio portal, where people vote on their favorites and can give direct credit for free.  You can pay for some generic tunes at a site like Stock Music or goto Incompetech for some free songs by giving musicians. Or another hundred places, seriously just do a google search.

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The point is, people still steal music for their videos and games when it is available a million places online! You can make decent music with little-to-no actual talent with free music creation software, or rather inexpensive paid software. Is this trend a matter of laziness, a matter of lack of creativity, or simply a lack of creativity?

Look, believe it or not, Flash games and videos can get HUGE. But they will never reach that level overall if you are piggybacking copyrighted tunes. You might get a few initial hits from fans of the music, but if this too big, let’s just say it will backfire. Big time.

Not to say there aren’t exceptions. There have been music videos created under direct eye of the musical artist themselves( Weird Al’s latest CD/DVD combo disc came with a few flash-created videos he asked internet artists to make for him) and also videos that were good enough the artists found them and enjoyed them. But throw the artists a bone sometimes?

Same goes for images used within flash, videos stolen, etc, etc. It just seems more grievous with music. Plus, have you ever paid a copyrighted music fine just for downloading a song? Try sharing said music, or displaying as your own.

It’s stupid, and I don’t understand the idea. I guess I should embrace the internet.

Historical Flash Games?

Let’s get something out of the way up front. The idea of historical Flash games is pretty ridiculous, given that most of the internet still believes that Wikipedia is true.

But then a little gem came out called High Tea; You play a British merchant, in charge of providing tea for the empire. You do that by buying and selling opium from the Chinese. This is like your typical “lemonade stand” type game that people learn how to make flash with, except beautiful and expertly subtle. Buy low, sell high, don’t get caught by the authorities.

History video games in general are nothing new. Many an hour was wasted by my youth-self typing away on the Oregon trail. While only vaguely educational, or only educational in a very strict sense, games like these at least give an inkling feeling of productivity while gaming. High Society made high tea as part of their educational exhibit on the history of illicit substances, to chronicle a questionable, if not dark, time in history.

There are other examples of games with a historical purpose, but I’m far too sick to go into them.

FlashGhetto has a dubious collection of purportedly historical flash games. Because nothing says history like ripping out guts with tongs. Actually…

Blog-a-day Week overview

Yeah, I will not be keeping this up for an entire month. The last six days, I have been doing a blog-a-day week thing for the last six posts, and though I don’t think the quality dropped, I couldn’t keep it up much longer.

To be fair, it did get easier over time. You can’t be expected, as a blogger, to come with completely original ideas every day. I’ve learned that what we do is steal ideas and run with them in our direction, with our own words.  Or, show respect to other bloggers and creators of media by showcasing what they have found or made as conduits of knowledge.  This isn’t selfless promotion; I’ve never met the people I dig on. But if a company releases a product I have faith in, they will get my press.

They may not want it. But that is the disadvantage of the internet: information cannot be controlled, or really even deleted. Press is press, but it would be nice to stick the metaphorical fingers in our ears and drown out naysayers, or even agreers who misuse their enthusiasm.

I tried to stay away from garbage, less-than hundred word posts, because in my research for the blog that was the trend for most dead blogs. Plus, that isn’t fair to the readers who are used to at least a little substance when they click a link. The best ones show something innovative, have a video or picture, have some informative or humorous conversation about, then offer ideas on said content. These are the people I have respect for.

Overall, I learned consistency.  You force yourself, in a generation of general malaise, to have something of value to add to the collective each day. It may be painful, but it is invigorating to force yourself to be worth something.