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Aug. 24, 2011

New developer site! Recommendations for all!

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A new version of Kongregate was released tonight. Some changes include our new developer site and getting notifications when developers reply to your comments. Other fixes are highlighted in in our forums.

Aug. 09, 2011

Mobile Contest Winners Announced

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We're very pleased to announce the winners of our Summer Mobile Games contest! The grand prize goes to nerdook for Cat God vs Sun King Mobile with bateleur taking second with UpBot Goes Up Mobile Edition. A complete list of winners is available here, many thanks to all who participated and congratulations to those who placed.

Aug. 01, 2011

Q&A with Game in a Bottle: Developer Questions

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Game in a Bottle founder Peter was kind enough to answer some questions for me about his creative and development process. He talked about some more general topics earlier, but this time we dug into his process as a developer some more.

Kongregate: What IDE/development tools do you use?

Peter: Flash CS5, FDT (an Eclipse plugin) for writing the code, Photoshop CS4, Sound Forge 9, and Notepad++ for my to-do list.

Kongregate: The GemCraft games have tons of levels. What kind of process do you use to try to balance that much content?

Peter: Having that many levels was a great mistake; it didn't give the game more variability, only made the development (and especially the testing) time longer. I didn't find a smart method to balance all the levels, all I did was play them over and over a few times.

Kongregate: They say the hardest part of game development is stopping. How do you decide when a game is finished?

Peter: In fact, by the end of the project I was very tired and anxious, so it wasn't that hard to stop. On the other hand, the final game I had in my plans, always turned out to require much more time to reach than I thought. So the "last few weeks" lasted for some 3 months.

Kongregate: You successfully introduced microtransactions with Gemcraft Labyrinth, which is often difficult to do for a single player Flash game. Do you have any advice or lessons learned from that experience for other developers who hope to follow the same path?

Peter: It was a great experiment, I had no idea if it would succeed or not. Luckily, the player reception was much better than I thought, many players didn't have any problem sparing a few bucks on the game. My main thought for pricing was not to be greedy, but to give real value for a reasonable price. But maybe I'm wrong and the game could have earned much more if there were unlockable cheats and whatnot for money. Maybe next time, although I feel that it could ruin the reputation of the GemCraft series.

Kongregate: Do you have any advice or suggestions for young, aspiring game developers?

Peter: Start with a small, simple game, and get higher until you're certain you can make a game that can stay on the front page of the major portals for at least 2 weeks.

Making a game demands tons of devotion, giving up your free time, and working late hours, if you want the game to be ready to launch sooner than 3 years from now (or rather, never).

You can work alone, or in a group, each has its pros and cons. These days I'm working alone, that means I have to do everything, from sounds to art to coding. A group can advance much faster, but it needs lots of meetings (chat sessions), there's a chance of miscommunication, or a member leaving the group.

As the months go by, the project will start to rot, and you'll have to get even more determination to stay on target, or to keep to group together.

It's not enough it you enjoy playing your game, show it to others, let them sit down and start playing, and watch them as they try to get past your main menu. You'll be amazed how much you can still improve the ease of use of your game.

If one minute passes, and the player is still not playing the game itself, but adjusting some avatar colors or inventory, your game is bad. Start with an intro level, toss the player right into the action. Picking weaponry and fancy looks for the hero can wait.

Jul. 14, 2011

Child of Eden: Experience the Music contest winners

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We're excited to announce that the winners have been selected for the Child of Eden: Experience the Music game development contest. Top honors go to quickfingerz' Drop. Second place was awarded to phantomsnake's pulse, and the top three are rounded out with Contrebasse_'s Love. You can read about the winners, including comments by Rez and Child of Eden designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi, on our announcement page. Congrats to those who placed, and thanks to everyone who entered the contest!

Jul. 13, 2011

New Kongregate Version: CR 2011.07.13

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A new version of Kongregate was released tonight. Some changes include the ability for developers to reply to game comments and switching to a new free kreds provider. Other fixes are highlighted in the release thread in our forums.

Jun. 21, 2011

New Kongregate Version: CR 2011.06.21

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A new version of Kongregate was released tonight. Some changes include the return of the news feed on our homepage and the ability to find your Facebook friends on Kongregate when you link your account with Facebook. Other fixes are highlighted in the release thread in our forums.

Jun. 16, 2011

Announcing Stencyl - free, no-programming game creation!

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We are excited about a new project that was just launched called Stencyl. It's a free Flash game creation tool that allows you to get into game development even if your talents are more for game design and/or art and not programming. But fear not - you can dig into the code too if you wish. Read about it on our feature page, check out the new dedicated Stencyl forum and get started right away! We're looking forward to seeing what kind of great new games come from this new tool!

Jun. 15, 2011

Congrats to the May Contest Winners

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Cursed Treasure: Level Pack ran with the gold in May, taking first place for it's treasure-protecting tower defense gameplay. Rounding out the top 4 are the Unity-based music creation tool Step Seq., the space-folding platformer Faultline, and island RPG Castaway 2. Runner up prizes were won by City Siege 2, The Adventures of Red, Edmus, Dragon Age Legends: Remix 01, and Sieger: Level Pack. Congrats to all the winners for May!

Jun. 14, 2011

Weekly contest winners, June 4 - June 10

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This week's contest was won by the aptly named role player / shooter hybrid RPG Shooter: Starwish. Second place went to the fantasy RPG Hands of War 2 - Expanded Edition, and third place was won by the quirky and clever puzzler The I of It. Congrats!

Jun. 14, 2011

Q&A With Gameinabottle

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I had the pleasure, recently, to do an interview with Peter, developer at Gameinabottle, which launched the hugely popular game GemCraft on Kongregate.

Kongregate: What was the first game you owned?

Peter: It was back in the 80s, I was 6-7 years old (I'm 31 now), I had an Enterprise 128, something similar to, but much less popular, than the Commodore 64, the star of its era. I had a pile of games, but I think there would be no use mentioning names. :-)

Kongregate: What is your favorite Flash game, outside of your own of course?

Peter: I really enjoyed playing a Flash-based, but downloadable/paid game called Creeper World. For web-based games, I admire the authors of Robokill, that game runs very smooth despite the heavy action scenes, and looks really professional. I also find the "launch something and try to keep it in the air" strangely addictive, the latest one I played multiple times, was Flight.

Kongregate: How did you get started making games?

Peter: It's a long story. Years ago I had my 9-to-5 job like many of us, but I wanted to break free, do what I want, and save myself from traveling 3 hours a day to the office and back home. I had a friend, we tried to put some games together, but in the end one of the games never reached the audience, and the other one (a downloadable $19.95 style game), made only a few sales, so, apart from the valuable experience I earned in the process, it was a waste of money and nerves, and our friendship was gone. I also quit my job to have more time to work on the games. I started freelancing, but fortunately didn't give up my dream of becoming a game creator.

Kongregate: What was the first game you made?

Peter: If I don't count those utter failures of the past, and look at only my current career, it was Treasure of Cutlass Reef, a pirate-themed ship battle game. I made it in about a month, and, while the money I got for sponsorship wasn't a fortune, it clearly showed me that making games is a real alternative to making cheesy websites for hire.

Kongregate: Do you have any non-gaming hobbies, and if so, what?

Peter: Unfortunately, I don't have any time for hobbies, but if I had the time, I would be playing games. :-)

Kongregate: How many fingers am I holding up?

Peter: Two thumbs maybe? I hope so :-)

Kongregate: Thanks so much for giving us time from your busy schedule to talk with us!

Be sure to check out GemCraft, today!

May. 02, 2011

Q&A with Synapse Games: Developer Questions

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I recently had the pleasure to do an interview with Alex Reeve, President of Synapse Games, which launched the hugely popular game Tyrant on Kongregate a month ago. In addition to some more general audience questions (viewable here), I asked some questions about game tech and integration specifically for our developer newsletter. These should be of special interest to anyone considering launching virtual goods games on Kongregate, something Synapse Games has done very well with Tyrant.

Kongregate: What technologies do you use to develop and run Tyrant?

Alex: The client uses Flash and is programmed in Actionscript 3. We use FDT as an IDE. The back-end is a PHP + MySQL stack. It's pretty traditional, but it's tried-and-true technology so any issues that come up for us have usually been solved before. Reliability is extremely important.

Kongregate: You started out as a Facebook game and then did a port for Kongregate. Can you briefly describe what kind of interface changes were needed to work within Kongregate's system?

Alex: The two biggest changes were user authentication and the Kreds/payment system. Neither were particularly big changes - they both follow the same basic setup as our Facebook version, so it was mostly just swapping in the different function calls. Architecturally, they work very similarly. We also removed a couple extraneous features from the Facebook version to create a more streamlined experience.

Kongregate: The Kongregate APIs are different from Facebook's. How are you able to maintain both versions while developing new features?

Alex: We've abstracted out all of the platform-specific code to a separate module, so it's completely trivial to support both platforms. All of our deployments are identical except for the platform flag, which tells the system how to call the various API calls (such as authentication, payments, etc). It's great because after the initial implementation, it doesn't take any extra time for us to support both platforms.

Editor's note: Synapse Games kindly agreed to open source their abstraction layer for use as a library or tutorial for anyone looking to do multi-platform social game releases. You can view the source code for Kompatible at this github project.

Kongregate: How long did it take you to prepare your Facebook game for launch on Kongregate?

Alex: The integration time was only a few days, followed by about a week of testing. In the end, the integration ended up being much, much simpler than we were expecting.

Kongregate: What sort of differences, if any, have you seen between how Facebook and Kongregate users approach and play the game?

Alex: Kongregate users are extremely competitive - Faction rivalries filled out very quickly after release. We've seen very high retention with Kongregate as well. I think the chat rooms help to engage the users and allows new players to ask questions and get answers very quickly. Kongregate: What percentage of transactions in the game are spent on energy refills, stamina refills, elite memberships, and cards?

Alex: Not surprisingly, the majority of the transactions come from buying cards and packs. Almost everyone who spends Kreds will buy the Elite membership and then move onto buying the expansion packs.

Kongregate: We often see a significant boost in user activity when new content is launched. What kind of schedule do you aim for with regard to content and feature releases?

Alex: We aim for a new major expansion every 6-10 weeks. In-between expansions, we release smaller updates that include challenging side-missions, new achievements and additional reward cards. We also have a couple big features in development and plan on a 6-10 week release schedule for those as well.

Kongregate: Thanks for sharing some details of your experience with porting your Facebook game over to Kongregate!

Be sure to check out Tyrant, the military-themed CCG!

Apr. 27, 2011

Q&A with Synapse Games

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This week I had the pleasure to do an interview with Alex Reeve, President of Synapse Games, which launched the hugely popular game Tyrant on Kongregate a month ago.

Kongregate: How did you, personally, get in to gave development?

Alex: The first game I ever programmed was a text adventure when I was 11 years old. I sold one copy to my friend for a pack of fruit snacks, and I guess I got hooked on game development ever since then. Since then I've never gone more than a few months without working on a new game. I started learning C++ a few years later working on a console-style RPG, and eventually worked on a 3d tank game instead of going to class. I never finished any of those projects because they were way out of my scope, but I learned a lot about game design and engine architecture in the process.

Kongregate: How many people are on your team and how long did Tyrant take to develop?

Alex: We've got 5 full-timers and a few part-timers working on Tyrant and our other games. Total development time for the first release was a little under 4 months. It was our first Flash game, so a lot of that was time was spent figuring out how Flash works and building out our engine.

Kongregate: What kind of process do you go through to design a new card?

Alex: Design starts with the flavor and context of the card. We start with a very general concept like "Giant Leech Monster with Fangs" and then apply the skills and effects that make the most contextual sense. We also have to ensure that every card is different from existing cards, because we really want to avoid power creep. The biggest issue we deal with is keeping cards balanced in the long-term, because we're aiming for Tyrant to last for many years. It's hard to plan ahead that far for such a young game, but it's really important for the long-term health of the game.

Kongregate: What is your favorite card in Tyrant?

Alex: I really like the flavor of the legendary card, Ragnarok. There's something awesome about a giant wandering death robot-base with lasers burning everything up. Plus it reminds me of a villain hideout from a certain anthropomorphic turtle cartoon from my youth. A lot of our cards are obviously inspired by popular fiction, but we flavor it in a way that fits the universe. It's kind of our way of paying tribute to all the cartoons, comics, games, and movies we've grown up with.

Kongregate: Outside of your own of course, what is your favorite game on Kongregate?

Alex: I'm a sucker for zombie games, so I really enjoy Rebuild. There's something classic about killing the undead and salvaging for supplies that never gets old, and they do a great job of giving a sense of progression. Our VP Nick's favorite game is Burrito Bison, which I haven't played, but I hear him talking about it all the time.

Kongregate: Thanks so much for giving us time from your busy schedule to talk with us!

Be sure to check out Tyrant, the military-themed CCG!

Mar. 08, 2011

Unity contest winners announced!

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Congrats to Antimatiere for winning the Kongregate Unity game contest! The full winners list is here and you can read and comment on it in our forum thread.

Mar. 02, 2011

Unity Contest Announcement Delayed Until March 8

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We will be delaying the announcement of the Unity Contest winners until Tuesday, March 8. The winners themselves will be informed via e-mail by the evening of Thursday, March 3rd.

Feb. 23, 2011

Developer Q&A with Nerdook

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This week, we interviewed the very popular and prolific game developer Nerdook to get more insight into his process and success as a game developer. We were very lucky to pull Nerdook away from his busy schedule to provide these helpful answers and we hope to have more interviews in the future!

Developer Background
My real name is Sim (yes, I've heard every possible joke :p), but I'm more commonly known through my nickname Nerdook. I'm currently an electrical engineer in Malaysia, which is a wonderful country in Southeast Asia, but by April this year I would be moving on to doing games full time for a while.

Back when I was a kid, I would spend my long afternoons at the grocery shop with my grandma. There wasn't much to do while waiting for customers, so I would doodle pictures onto used cigarette carton boxes and cut those out into little figures. I would cut out little 6 sided dice held together with glue/tape, and then persuade my brother to give these "games" a try. Later, I was delighted to find out that I could do all these in a computer, and did my very first game in, of all things, Microsoft Excel's VBA script (it was a fishing game). I later discovered Flash, and here I am today.

Among all my games, Monster Slayers is by far the most successful, but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Cluesweeper, which was the first game that convinced me it was possible to do games for a living (at least for a while!)


Kongregate: You have a lot of creative and original concepts for games. What process do you go through when working on a new game design?

Nerdook: I don't really have a formal process! It usually starts with a random idea ("Wouldn't it be cool if..."), and I would bounce the idea off the Kongregate community through the chatrooms. After that, I would start sketching out doodles of the idea and some basic interface layouts. And yes, I have a lot of sketchbooks full of weird drawings. From there, I would usually start building a prototype to see if the idea is fun. The game design usually changes on the fly, which is probably quite inefficient, but anything that's not fun usually gets tossed out during development and replaced with something else.

Kongregate: What software do you prefer to use for your development environment?

Nerdook: I've been working with Adobe Flash for a while (several years), so it's pretty much the software of choice. Having drawing/coding integrated into a single program really helps me speed things up, since I'm doing both.

Kongregate: The speed at which you publish games is downright impressive, especially since it's not your full-time job. Do you have advice on how other developers can increase their turnover rate while maintaining quality?

Nerdook: It's certainly not easy, and has led to a lot of late nights and lost weekends! I think the key factor to being able to release games monthly so far is to get a prototype running as quickly as possible. This allowed me to test my idea out quickly! Also, a pool of playtesters from the Kongregate community have been instrumental in testing early (and horribly buggy) versions of the game, and telling me what works and what doesn't. I really could never appreciate their efforts enough, and I make sure to credit them prominently in all the games!

Kongregate: Do you have any words of wisdom for young, aspiring game developers?

Nerdook: Sure! Making games takes a LOT of hard work and discipline. Read as much as you can, and play as many games as you can. Learn from other games: even bad games teach you how NOT to design a game. On the commercial side: the Flash game market is a really competitive one, so the first few games you make will probably not make much money (unless you're really lucky or talented), so get a day job as well! Always look for room to improve and remember that learning is a never-ending process.

Kongregate: What is the hardest thing about game development for you?

Nerdook: The hardest thing for me is to choosing a different idea to develop each month. The games might look similar (because I did all the art, it's a common criticism), but I try to make sure the gameplay is different and fresh from one game to another. It's not easy, but I do my best!

Kongregate: Thanks so much for giving us time from your busy schedule to talk with us!

Nerdook: Thanks for taking the time to ask these questions!

Be sure to check out Nerdook's full library of games!

Feb. 15, 2011

Unity contest extended 24 hours

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Due to the upcoming downtime, the last date for entry to the Unity contest has been pushed back to Wed., Feb. 16th.

Feb. 15, 2011

Important: Sever switch tonight

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Kongregate will be down tonight from 8 PM - 12 AM PST to switch over to our new servers. Learn more about it here.

Feb. 02, 2011

Game Tags

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We've released a new feature to help players sort and find games more easily - game tags. Tags can be chosen from a list of 200 terms like "platformer", "western", or "motorcycle" - we'll also be looking for your suggestions on new tags. Each game page now shows a list of the game's tags, with a link to add a new one. You can also vote on whether other people's tags fit the game or not. And you can click on any tag to see a list of all the games so tagged. Please give us your feedback in the forums!

Jan. 28, 2011

Kongregate Arcade Back in Android Market

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Good news everyone! After a few tweaks the Kongregate Arcade app is back in the Android Market! Go download it now for over 300 free games, mobile-exclusive badges and oodles (seriously, OODLES) of fun. Search "Kongregate" in the Market to check it out.

Jan. 19, 2011

Google Removes Android Arcade

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Yesterday we announced the Kongregate Arcade app for Android, and within hours it had a 4.61 rating and tens of thousands of downloads. Unfortunately, Google chose to remove it from the market, saying that it was illicitly installing applications. In truth, Kongregate Arcade just plays Flash games via the Android web browser and doesn't install anything, though it does cache games for faster loading. The TOS limitation they reference for our takedown is so broad it would apply equally to content apps like Kindle, Slacker, and hundreds of others, and yet only our app has been removed. We had showed it to several people at Google who loved it, and we're still hoping they will change their minds. For now you can get it from us.

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