Rami Ismail @tha_rami
Rami Ismail @tha_rami
Hilversum, Netherlands
Chief Executive Business & Development Guy at indie game studio Vlambeer. Creator of presskit(). Drinks only real cane sugar coke.
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Feel free to ask me any question!
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(multi-part question) How can religious experience be communicated through videogames? Is it even a good medium for that message? Have you ever had a religious experience playing a videogame? Finally, do you feel gaming culture is a place where religious belief can flourish?
I think of any game that's exciting to me for that, "That Dragon, Cancer" seems to be a true result of Ryan Green's religious beliefs. Ryan is a devout Christian, and his character in the game is decidedly Christian and his inner monologue is rooted in Christianity. As a raised Muslim, it has been fascinating to engage with that.
I believe games can be used to communicate pretty much anything. Religion (like most cultural influence) communicates really well when it's not necessarily intentional, but rather a natural product of the creator making the game.
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Hey Rami, I've seen plenty of people asking about how you deal with traveling so much, but what about others? How much are your friends, family and fans affected by it? Do you feel like you get to spend enough time with them?
Oh my, this is a painful question. A really good one too.
So the honest answer is: I think they kind of just deal with it. I know it's put strain on my relationship with my family several times and Vlambeer and travel certainly broke up two romantic relations I've had.
There's such an elaborate balancing act meandering as a red line through my life: family, friends, development, advocacy, PR, sideprojects, helping devs out, going to emerging territories - it's super hard to kind of care about pretty much everybody and wanting to do the right thing, but know you kind of have to make sacrifices. Very often, those sacrifices are social. Ironically, what I get back for that is also social. I'm not sure - I'm still figuring out how to combine being a dev with being somewhat of a public figure with having a life.
Ironically, I'm typing this in the dark while my girlfriend fell asleep an hour ago, and I feel kind of bad about that. I guess I'll shut down now.
Thanks for the question!
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Big fan, my game is finally making a big success and you have you participation in this result. Thank you
I've no idea what game this is about, but either way I am so glad to hear that! Keep making games :D
How did Super Crate Box (the desktop version) gained traction in the first place?  Thomas
It was free and we e-mailed *all the press*. The game had been floating around in indie development forums for a while, where a bunch of famous people played it (and liked it).
We sent several press releases:
-1 week:
Utrecht - October 15th 2010. Dutch Indie game studio Vlambeer (www.vlambeer.com) has just released
the trailer for its upcoming title Super Crate Box at
Set for a release date of
October 22nd, the no-nonsense arcade game has been secretly anticipated in the indie gaming scene.
In Super Crate Box, the only way to score points is to grab crates that give the player a random weapon -
endless hordes of enemies try to stop players from scoring points. Super Crate Box presents frantic,
refreshing game mechanics, cracking retro art and a terribly hip soundtrack by chiptune legend Phlogiston.
The game aims to bring back the glory of the golden arcade age, when all that really mattered was getting on that highscore list.
The game has been featured on several game-design focussed events in the Netherlands, including the
Dutch Festival of Games event and indie showcase Indigo. Super Crate Box was praised for its addictive,
explosive action and its' no-nonsense approach to arcade game design.
To celebrate the launch of the trailer, Vlambeer is hosting a papercraft competition, challenging submitters
to create the most original photograph with the little papercraft crate; the stakes are a super-limited
collectors edition of the game, of which only three are in existence.
-4 days:
Dutch students-gone-independent gamestudio Vlambeer to release indie-loved arcade game October 22nd
Utrecht, Netherlands, October 17, 2010. Vlambeer is entering its upcoming arcade title, Super Crate Box in the 2011 Independent Gamer Festival contest. The fresh and frantic arcade action title, set to release October 22 is the indies first foray into the PC gaming scene after its Flash release Radical Fishing.
Super Crate Box has received critical acclaim in the indie scene; many prominent developers, such as Minecrafts' Markus Persson “absolutely loved it” and indie news outlets as IndieGames.com call the game “simple but brilliant stuff”.
In celebration of the launch, Vlambeer is hosting a papercraft contest at the games' website at www.supercratebox.com. At stakes are one of three superlimited edition of the game, which will be available as a freeware game download starting October 22nd.
Vlambeers' Rami Ismail said that “it's great to still see such good response to the charms of arcade gaming and with all the positive feedback, we decided that IGF might be a good place for Super Crate Box to be. Entering the IGF means a lot to us, certainly with such fierce competition. We really hope the panel will appreciate the minimalistic design and excecution of the game.”
launch: http://bit.ly/1p5wzGL (shortened)
Are you going to be at Indigo ?
I am afraid I'll be at the Eurogamer Expo in London during Indigo. Bad timing, I'm afraid :(
Do you think an early access and open distribution really helps an indie game or could eventually hurt it by showing too much of a not good enough stage of the game?  Outconsumer
This is one of those questions that doesn't really have a 'one-size-fits-all' answer.
The truth is that Early Access and transparency work for some games and for some studios. Nuclear Throne, for example, is a very content-heavy game for which the systems could be mostly locked down early on. Right from the start, it was playable and fun, and we've basically been adding more things to it over the past 45-ish weeks.
Other games, like Sword & Sworcery or the Stanley Parable would've been ruined by a similar model. RTS'es require the systems and balance to really come together at least somewhat before they can be released.
Every strategy can hurt or benefit a game, and very often it's at best an educated guess. Figure out what your game is, how it can evolve, what the audience will take away from showing it early and what you can get out of showing it early. If all of that sounds positive, it might be something to consider.
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When do you usually answer questions here? so I don't waste time checking if you answered my question or not.
When I have time! I try and answer 5 per day, so when I have some time I'll do 5 times the amount of days I've missed. If I don't answer your question, ask again or try and see if I've answered it before.
Are you an 'indie' or a 'start-up' or both?
We feel like we're an indie studio. We don't have external funding, no grants, no dependency. We're platform agnostic, a small team (Vlambeer is just the two, although we collaborate with others for our projects) and have no publisher we're tied to. We're not a start-up, nor are we part of start-up culture. We've got no investors or funding rounds. We've got no goal to 'exit'. We just want to make games and keep making games.
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By now the vast majority of GamerGate transformed into a movement against harassment for the inclusive love of games. Why not embrace it, and maybe give "gamers" an occasion to redeem their global reputation, rather than still rejecting it?
It's a bit confusing, but I think what you're asking is "can the hashtag be redeemed and why don't you reject using it as a developer?"
I'm rejecting it because whenever I respond, I have to deal with a number of already disproven false accusations for a few hours. Many of them expect me to repeat my defense to every single one of the individually, immediately switch to another false accusation as soon as disproven without acknowledging or apologising, and generally try to just "score points" rather than actually talk.
People like that still consider everyone "guilty until proven otherwise", and it's kind of discouraging to deal with that continuously. It also drowns out anything someone says in the tag that's a valid concern, because the majority of what I receive in my timeline of the tag is people using it to settle an old grudge. I'm actually privately talking with quite a number of prominent people in the hashtag about making things better/less aggressive, even including a variety of people that post things that suggest unsavory connections between journalists and developers.
I've basically come up with a number of rules of how to engage for myself:
* If I'm dealing with false accusations towards me, I'll disprove up to one of them per person before engaging with any other post. That means that as long as I'm dealing with false accusations, I can't engage with genuine criticisms or concerns. I think it's up to the people in #gamergate to police that sort of thing, and several staunch supporters of the hashtag have been policing voluntarily. I appreciate that a lot.
* I do not actually have stakes in this beyond providing context and or explanation, and I'll object to anyone claiming I do. I'm engaging voluntary without anything to really win or really lose, to hopefully have constructive conversation with whoever wants to engage.
* I stop engaging with anyone that uses #gamergate after the original point of engagement. I like to discuss things individually, since the hashtag will just cause me to deal with the first rule . If people want a number of people to respond to their concerns, they can use #gameethics still.
* I will not be agree to be held responsible for the actions of other industry figures, or to be held responsible for any actions of someone that is not me or Vlambeer.
* As always, everyone gets a chance to engage.
* I will hold anybody publishing anything not a tweet through the hashtag to the standards they expect from the gaming press. Using #gamergate grants you a reach of a small publication. Removing accusations without public rectification or apology on every medium used to publish the accusations (see the IGF/Indiecade accusations), not allowing for edits or comments (see anything posted to Pastebin) or not making a genuine attempt to contact anyone implicated or discussed in an accusation before publishing is bad
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We'll showcase a game at Madrid Games Week in October. First time we do something like that, so we are writing a list of things that we should prepare (equipment, some promo stuff, business cards, etc). Any advice?  Luis Díaz Peralta
Basically, read this website! http://indieboothcraft.com/
When you guys started Vlambeer, did you work on your own projects as side projects from regular jobs? or just didn't care about regular jobs and started working full time in your own projects? Thank you.
I also worked as a computer salesman for the first one-and-a-half year of Vlambeer, but we always worked on Vlambeer projects exclusively. Sometimes, those projects would be work-for-hire or commissioned (Dinosaur Zookeeper, Serious Sam: The Random Encounter), sometimes, we'd sell or sign them after starting the project (Radical Fishing, LUFTRAUSERS).
Recently, both myself and JW have had little side projects that aren't Vlambeer-projects, and that's actually been sort of nice. I've created presskit(), am working on distribute() and do design sparring with my partner, Jan Willem jams with his friends and his partner. It's nice that we're at a point where we can have side projects now.
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Apologies for 3 in 1: Why do you think so much of the game press and many of the most prominent indies are RadFem? Were you radicalised by the games industry or earlier? Why has the games industry been targeted in your opinion? (Disclosure: I think GG is a predictable push-back against RadFem)
For those of you saying #GamerGate is about journalism ethics, I get about 10 to 20 of these per day still through various media. Note: I do not consider myself a radical feminist. I do proudly identify as feminist.
So, there was actually an interesting research about that: less than 0.45% of all industry-related press is feminist in nature, and prominent indies I know that are feminist tend to be because they're idealistic about improving the industry. If there's a trend in AAA, you can expect a lot of indies to be pushing against that. It's kind of the nature of a large part of indie. See https://storify.com/MorganRamsay/how-often-do-video-game-journalists-write-about-fe
I never thought about inequality except for my own as an Arab before I joined the industry - a riddle showed me the inherent prejudices I had, even though I wrongfully considered myself fine at noticing inequality before that. From there, the house of cards I had built myself to tell myself I had equal opportunity as others fell apart: not just in terms of gender discrimination, but also racial, economical, social and in terms of my physical and mental health. I started reading theses and papers about the subject and I've kind of been seeing things more and more clearly ever since.
The games industry is a logical place for this: it's a young industry, people in it identify with the medium, it's filled with tech-savvy people both in industry and audience, the audiences tend to be relatively unaware about how the medium operates (even though such information is available), and it's a medium that is constantly evolving both in content and rules. The games industry is also the first industry that operates as openly as it does: not only is it easy to get direct access to developers and press, people are way more open in talking about what they do and how the industry works than anywhere else.
There is a distrust by some of the games press and the independent scene - and since these are two areas of the industry that are new and create new rules and boundaries, there could be concerns about how the two (inter)operate.
Disclosure: I do agree the people that you seem to identify with are basically pushing back against what you somehow perceive as radical feminism. Since there is barely any radical feminism in the industry at all, I think that after the harassing and threatening elements in the movement, your part of GamerGate is one of the most damaging and unfair to the industry and the people voicing genuine concerns in the movement. You can say games should be less political, but saying feminism -whether you perceive it as radical or not- shouldn't be allowed to be 0.45% (!) of the industry *is* a radical and exclusionary political statement.
Coke, Pepsi, or other?
See my Twitter bio: http://twitter.com/tha_rami
What exactly is the benefit of being held accountable for having an ignorant opinion? On Twitter especially, many people won't forgive you for saying something stupid, and won't accept you changing your mind later. What sort of things 'should' haunt anyone?
Let's clear the euphemism up first: ignorant opinion is not the same as racist remarks - and this case was about racist remarks.
Let's deal with the false assumption next: whether people forgive you for saying something stupid is up to them - you're accountable for what you write.
Let's deal with the implication that I'm responsible for haunting someone next: if you post something on the internet, chances it'll haunt you forever. I'm not a part of that process, that's just how the internet works.
You are still responsible for what you write online, and being held accountable is part of that.
I just emailed you and got your "traveling" automated response. How does that work? Do you have to manually set it? Is it triggered off of http://isramiinthenetherlands.com/? How does that site work? Does it trigger off your phone GPS or something?
Secret: I never turn it off. It's just an auto-responder in GMail.
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What would you say is the best marketing strategy for a low budget indie company who is releasing their first game?
If you don't have money, spend time. Spend time making presslists, figuring out who's likely to enjoy your work, find YouTubers, find everybody that could like your game and list them all too. Pick some of the people you've found and start talking to them about the game already. Be a bit more public and open. Write blogs. Make vlogs. Do whatever you can in any spare moment you're not working on the game itself.
Would it be odd to name my indie dev company after a Dutch word? I'm from America if it makes a difference. Thanks for the response in advance!
Well, that really depends on the word. In general, names are odd until people start using them. Vlambeer honestly makes no sense, but we took it because we liked it and now it does mean something.
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What's your opinion on scratch game code vs. game making engines? To clarify, I always have trouble working on game projects, getting stuck figuring out the solution to a coding problem, rather than just using someone else's solution or using something like Construct.
Only make an engine from scratch if that's a specific challenge you want to set yourself. For almost every indie game project, there is literally no other valid reason to program an engine. Only if you can exactly articulate why no existent engine will work for you you should code something from scratch.
Otherwise, there's no reason to ignore what's already there. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone in terms of what you'll tackle with pure code is a good exercise, though. Always keep challenging yourself in some way.
How do I know with absolute certainty that my input affects what happens on the screen, rather than what happens on the screen secretly control the real life movements of my fingers?
You don't know for sure.
Favourite non-fiction book?
A Short History Of Nearly Everything has a profound impact on me when I was younger. Sort of taught me I could be curious about everything ever. Also love biographies in general, there's one about Egyptian president Sadat that I always loved, but the name escapes me. Might've just been called "Sadat".
How did you think of the unique idea of Nuclear Throne? The gameplay?
I didn't. That was all ‎@jwaaaap.
http://time.com/author/leigh-alexander/ Does this article subvert the narrative? Does this article create an avenue of discussion for those who want to talk about ethics in gaming? Does this article set the tone of the debate to quell the fire of harassment?
It's an article, it's not required to do any of those things. I think it's a very extensive introduction to a perspective of the events you might not agree with, but it's also important to remember it is not written to be for you nor me.
It's written to give an introductory understanding of what the events of the last weeks are to a audience that generally doesn't care too much for these sort of things, and I think that while you might disagree with this narrative of events, I don't think any of them are false either.
are you having a nice day?
It's sort of jet lagged, I forgot to sleep. I'm feeling pretty happy at the moment though, missing Adriel a lot though.
What is your opinion on 4chan? Not just /v/, the whole 4chan.
I'm a proponent of both openness and being accountable, and the anonymity of a board like 4chan very often feels to me like avoiding accountability. I'm not a fan, although I generally don't have issues with it either.