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!
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You mention in your recent speech to submit your games to every contest and conference you can. What advice would you give to someone who gets into an event but can't afford to attend?
See if there is any way to negotiate with the event for travel or lodging fare. If you can't attend, just inform the event of your inability to attend and let the game do the talking for you. It's always a good thing to have your game somewhere out there, even if you end up having to skip - it might just get invited to other events with different budgets - and thus different abilities to fly you out.
Not a question, just a random comment to say that it breaks my heart into pieces seeing people trying to hurt you. And you just sit there and take it like a badass. You do so much good. I feel like a bad person for not standing up for you.
Don't worry about that, messages of support like these are so much more important to me than getting other people stuck in the fray for standing up. The fact that you care is infinitely re-energizing. Please send messages of support to developers you appreciate.
As for your heart, here, I glued it back together: <3
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Probably a strange question, but have you ever had a chance to meet Hideo Kojima? I'm a big fan of his work
Yeah, I met him in England once. This industry is really, really small - it doesn't take going to that many events to have a shot at meeting all your heroes. Most of them are even more inspiring in real life.
Do you like to receive small trinkets, gifts or letters at conventions? If so, do you have things that you really like or dislike? I wouldn't want to burden you too much on your travels. :)
Yeah, absolutely. The only thing I hope people keep in mind is that I'm practically nomadic. Anything sizable will sadly have to end up getting discarded.
Did you submit Nuclear Throne to the IGF? Vlambeer deserves a prize definitely.
We're not sure whether we'll submit Nuclear Throne this year. We might!
Hey Rami, if I am correct, Nuclear Throne is slated to release on a bunch of different platforms, and is being developed in Game Maker. Are you guys using Game Maker's porting functionality for a lot of that? As a Game Maker dev, I am just curious what your strategy is to hit so many platforms.
We're depending on Game Maker for most of it, but some platforms might require manual work still.
As a Coke man and an Egyptian, does it strike you as weird that people in Egypt refer to all soda as "Pepsi"?
My family always refer to it as a 'ca-cola', pronounced like that. I was always amused by their Arabic pronounced 'canzy' for can.
As a Coke man and an Egyptian, does it strike you as weird that people in Egypt refer to all soda as "Pepsi"?
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In English-speaking countries (and others), we have the alphabet song/the ABC's to teach children the letters. Is there anything like this for Arabic?
I'm not sure. I always had a giant poster above my bed with the alphabet. ا for lion, ب for duck... all the way until ي for hand!
A few years ago, I've come to the conclusion that my identity has become devoid of any one nationality, religion, or culture due to me traveling very often. Do you feel traveling has altered yours, globalised it in a sense?  Oldman McAncient
Yup. I've always been a bit of a third culture kid, growing up between the West-European and Arabic perspectives, but adding extensive stays in all sorts of countries around the world to that did not help at all. I actually like this new identity much better though - I guess it's the difference between identifying through 'I am [nationality]' as opposed to simply 'I am'.
Who are 3 people you have in your life right now who weren't there a year ago who you are happy to have now
I'm afraid that it's impossible for me to name just three. There are so many people that I meet, start talking with, help out or that help me, that it's not a viable effort to try and narrow those down to three.
What kind of methodology do you use for your game project at Vlambeer? In other words, who define what to do, how, and where?
When it comes to games, in most cases, J.W. has free reign. I act as producer, so if things get off-course, the creative goals or strategic goals are lost out of sight or there are deadlines or milestones to hit, I'll ensure those get hit.
are you a Muslim?
If only it was as black & white as that. Islam comes in many different flavors (Sunni, Shia, Quranic and several other variants).
I was raised Muslim, and adhere to many ideologies, sentiments and rules set forth in the Quran. The Sura from the Quran that guides a lot of my thinking regarding religion and ideology is called The Unbelievers, and it reads as follows:
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Say: Oh those that do not believe,
I do not worship what you worship,
nor do you worship what I worship.
And I will not worship what you worship,
Nor will you worship what I worship.
Your way is yours, and my way is mine.
In other words, I believe everyone should be allowed to have their own ideologies (as far as they do not inflict direct and/or measurable harm upon others) and their own ideas, and that we should respect and accept one another for that. Nothing makes me more upset than seeing people dismiss, limit, threaten or hurt others for not sharing an ideology.
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What are you gonna do when they start manufacturing Mexicoke with HFCS? Should we start hording Passover Coke for your future US visits?
From what I understand, Mexicoke exported to the US will continue to use cane sugar.
Is there going to be an update this weekend?
Yes.
(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
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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:
VLAMBEER RELEASES ACTION-OVERLOADED TRAILER FOR SUPER CRATE BOX
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:
SUPER CRATE BOX ENTERS INDEPENDENT GAMER FESTIVAL CONTEST
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)
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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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