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.
Feel free to ask me any question!
RSS answers
Have you been receiving better feedback from new players since you gave out all the gift copies of Nuclear Throne? Do you regret the decision at all?
It was amazing.
- Our simultaneous userbase tripled.
- We got tons of good feedback on the start of the game, and it turns out it works pretty well (except the main menu). We had some specific feedback with regards to accessibility and the like, which has been super helpful.
- We sold almost 100,000 dollars worth of Nuclear Throne in the four days between the announce and the giveaway.
I don't know - if you're making a game that's dependent on good feedback, I can kind of recommend it.
2 people like this
Rami, am I getting a hug the next time I see you?
Sure thing! Come bring me a hug and you'll get a hug. Deal?
1 person likes this
Is there anything interesting going on in age 21-and-under game development?
Yes! There's tons of stuff being made by young developers - even several commercial indie projects with a lot of buzz right now! While you definitely get more experienced with age, the skill floor for making something really good is something you can generally break at age 16 or something, if you've spent a lot of your childhood making games. Game development is 100% a place where your skill level is denoted by your experience - when or where you had that experience is far less relevant.
You accept gifts when at a convention? I'd like to give you something, but also don't want to seem like a creep or be a hassle of sorts.
I'd be honored.
There's a beginning gamedev that I'm trying to help/mentor. Their games... suck... and I'm finding it hard to decide between helping them improve, or just getting them to finish as many games as possible. Any suggestions?
Second one. Have them make more games, and offer feedback with the criticism based on their previous game.
The trick is to be honest and critical, but not critical for the sake of being critical. Try to play the game and explain to them what you feel their intents are with the game as you're playing it, and whether it is working on you. At the end, challenge them to explain why you were right or wrong. If you were right, push them at points where you felt the game deviated from intent. If you were wrong, push them to discuss points where you felt your experience got pushed in the wrong direction.
Ask about the process, or if you see clear process problems, point them out. Try to figure out if anything you see while playing is a "process" mistake - levels that feel more polished towards the start is a clear sign of overscoping in beginning devs. Lots of levels with poor art means that it's likely the level designer had too much influence.
Also try to poke at the emotional state of developers during the process a little bit. You don't want to go full psychoanalysis on them, but if there's any point where the game wavers in what it's doing, see if that was a motivational or confidence issue. Very often, the culture or emotions of a developer end up in a game, and you can learn to look for those cues.
TLDR: "Why" is the key question they need to learn to ask themselves, and by making games they're learning the "how", "what" and "when".
1 person likes this
Have you ever been confronted by a GGer in public/in person?
Yup. Very polite guy, argued for about an hour at my PSX booth. Appreciated him coming out to talk, and was happy I had nothing scheduled at that point. Would've been a shame to have to leave at that point. I think he felt pretty good about the entire conversation, and I hope he walked away with a slightly better understanding of what is actually happening in the industry.
5 people like this
Well, from what I can see (probably not true) is that JW codes and you do PR. Is that true? We've just started a two-man studio, but we are programmers. That pretty much means that our art, sound and marketing kind of sucks. Do you deal with that, lacking skillsets in the team? How?
That's the super simple version of it. I'm responsible for code, even though JW programs most of Nuclear Throne. It's a bit of a new situation for us, traditionally I programmed and JW prototyped, but Game Maker now supports building to most of our target platforms directly.
Our art and music are done by freelancers. Paul Veer, Eirik Suhrke and Jukio Kallio are recurring collaborators of ours. If you don't have a certain skill aboard, use what skills you have to make something that will convince those people to spend time on your work.
Seeing a question about Steam and uploading updates, how does this work with GameMaker games? Does it using MD5 hashing to download only certain parts for the game?
Not going into the specifics, SteamPipe ensures that the only part I upload or you download is the part that has changed from the previous build. That's how a 120MB game being uploaded can come down to a 4MB upload/download. It's super nifty and pleasant to use.
1 person likes this
You're making Islam look cool. Thank you.
I appreciate that. I believe Islam is a religion of tolerance, thankfulness, generosity and thoughtfulness. I try to live up to those standards. Thank you for the kind words.
With your game being available on Steam, does Valve allow you to upload patches/updates whenever you choose? i.e. is there any sort of validation process done by Steam after uploading a patch or does it go live immediately?
Valve uses SteamPipe, a system that allows developers to upload content to their servers and stage it relatively easily and automatically. When an update is staged, it takes developers a few clicks in the backend to set it live for a certain branch - the master branch being the one that consumers see.
Valve further applies their mantra of letting the market take care of itself there - developers can upload, stage and release builds without intervention or validation that I know of, but any problems will obviously backfire on the developer. It's in our own best interest to make sure our games work.
1 person likes this
Hi! at your photos you are using a Macbook. AFAIK your games are written using Gamemaker Studio (correct me if I a wrong). If I am right: What is your setup, as Gamemaker Studio is not yet available for Mac? Cheers!  Carsten S.
My photos usually show me while I'm doing non-programming work. I use a Macbook Air for social media, design, blogging, web coding (distribute, presskit stuff), maintaining our websites and e-mail. I use a Surface Pro 3 for coding and 'raw' work. You'll mostly find me using that one in my hotel room or on airplanes.
This message comes from the Macbook, as I forgot to charge my Surface apparently.
Hi, Indie game dev from Iran and Vlambeer big (and old) fan here! What trait/skill/perk/discipline should I I excel in, to gain have most positive effect on my game development career? Thanks.  Aidin Zolghadr
Discipline, creative problemsolving and communication.
1. Learn to do things you don't feel like doing. (Pick something you hate doing but should do, and do it every time you should)
2. Learn to not always take the first solution to a problem you run into. (As an exercise, when making something, sometimes try skipping the first three ideas you've got by default.)
3. Learn to communicate about things you love with people that know nothing about it. (I practice my pitches and talking about videogames on cabdrivers)
3 people like this
From what I gather Vlambeer makes games in GM. So do I (or at least I try) and I wonder ( beginner at the blackboard) whether you ever run into situation where limitations of the engine held your games back? Or do you design your games around those? If so, where do you look'em up (limits that is)?
I think everybody does, regardless of engine. Every toolset has limits, sometimes very unexpected ones. In reality, you don't really look them up - you run into them. Every game is so different that the challenges you'll run into are unique.
Let's put it this way: Black Annex is a QBASIC game being made in 2015, and that language stems from 1991. You will only run into limitations if you try, and the limitations that exist are continuously shifted.
Just pick the tools you're most comfortable with and go for it.
thanks for your answer! i wanted to ask one more thing, because i've seen you switch NT to 60fps mode on livestream. is there a big difference in how the game runs if you make in in 60fps from the beggining? i think it looks and feels better, but i have no idea if there are some big downsides to it
The game runs twice as fast in 60FPS, so everything moves twice as fast. It's a result of how the game is coded.
I have trouble starting work on my game and continuing to work on it for extended amounts of time. Do you have any advice for how I can build that work ethic?
Discipline. I actually have no idea how to do that beyond saying it's discipline, which is the same as telling you to continue working even if you've got trouble. Put information out there, or use something like http://streak.club/. Make sure to keep a good overview of what is left, try hitting small goals every day and learn to not overwork yourself. Take breaks.
There's an absurd amount of possible reasons for this to happen: maybe you stopped believing in the game, maybe you don't have the discipline to continue, maybe you've got no experience in wrapping up games.
Do you manage to complete smaller games? If not, try focusing on that first. Learning to "ship" is an entirely separate challenge.
2 people like this
okay i think it's my strangest question yet, but since you know a lot about marketing, i wanna ask... i wanted to name my freeware game ,,skychodes'' because i think it sounds funny, but i don't know if it's appropiate
If you have to ask, the answer is probably "no". In this case, the name will probably get you rejected from most platforms for cursing - the word shows up on many lists of banned words that can not show up in promotional materials for major platforms.
You're free to name your game whatever you want, but your choices have consequences. In this case, I don't think they'd be worth it in any way.
When you are not developing games yourself, which games do you like to play?
I just kind of play games, I guess? I like games that allow me to strategize a lot - deep RPG's, strategy games or first person shooters. Racing games or sport games are less my thing, but I enjoy quite a few of those too. NFL Street 2 or Split/Second go into my consoles quite often. Currently I'm playing through Fire Emblem: Awakening and I'm still enjoying Destiny a lot.
If you had to kiss either jw or Paul who would you pick
2 people like this
Can you describe what the major differences between distribute() and Promoter App are?
They're completely separate products! Promoter App is a great way of keeping track of what is happening with your games press, while distribute() helps you manage your contact list and send out (p)review builds, while also verifying the identity of people asking you for review builds.
Think of it this way: if you have a good presskit(), you'd quickly have use for distribute(), which would fill up your Promoter with hopefully great news.
Always wondered: "Rami", how do you pronounce this?! :D
If you look up any of my talks, I always start every single one with "My name is Rami Ismail, one half of Dutch independent studio Vlambeer". It's funny, because there are honestly three different proper ways of saying it as far as I'm concerned - I feel both the Dutch, Arabic and English prononciation are fine.
Hi Rami! You recently posted an image on twitter of your bug/issue tracking tool. I was just wondering which tool that was, and whether you would recommend it. (I currently use Mantis but am not 100% happy with it as it has some serious flaws and limitations...and looks really horrible)
That'd be JIRA. I think there's a huge market for a simple, to the point issue tracker that allows for public bug reports. JIRA isn't it, nor is Mantis - I just happen to prefer JIRA.
As a Muslim, but also a very busy game developer and frequent flyer, how do you handle the calls to prayer, especially if you're in mid-flight?
Muslims can skip prayer during travel. They can also skip fasting, but I refuse to skip fasting.
Is Yung Venuz the protagonist of Gun Godz, or the final boss?
If I told you, Y.V. would shank me.
1 person likes this
How do you treat your Facebook account? Would you add a fellow developper you don't really know (met only once)? Asking for a friend...
My Facebook account is 100% public for followers - including all messages, and with ability to comment on all my posts, but recent harassment in the industry has stopped me from adding friends without knowing them. That's not because I don't want to talk to you, but because Facebook's handling of privacy settings is abysmal, and I want to respect my friends' privacy on the service.
Have you ever been to Sweden and are you planning om going to Sweden in the future?
Absolutely! Some of my favorite memories in the industry actually are from my early years, when I visited Sweden a lot more frequently than I do now. I've visited Stockholm, Malmo and Karlshamn. I actually really would love to go back, so maybe I should plan that sometime soon!