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Developing Super Crate Box

Founded in the Netherlands in September 2010, game developer Vlambeer was made up of just two people initially. Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman were fellow students at the Utrecht School of the Arts. They had both enrolled in the school’s game design course in 2008, but neither one of them would see it through to the end. In a keynote address at IndieCade East 2014, Rami Ismail recounted the story that was partially behind why the two dropped out of the school in 2010. He stated that he and Nijman had been working on a game together on the side. When the school found out, they claimed that they owned the rights to the game as the two were students there. That was a big factor in why the two left their studies and founded Vlambeer.

Rami Ismail describes himself as being an unruly kid in elementary school who was taught to play chess by a teacher who was hoping it would help him focus. His family bought a computer not long after that, and like many kids Ismail was quite fascinated by the games it could play. One such title was programmed in BASIC, and the young boy soon learned he could modify the code to make his name appear at the top of the screen. He became keenly interested in programming, and soon started to make his own text adventures.

Jan Willem Nijman was also a fan of chess from a young age. He enjoyed reading computer magazines, and his interests quickly led him to start creating his own game design documents. In 2006, Nijman joined an online group for game designers and began trying his hand at a number of game jams. For those not familiar with the terminology, game jams could best be described as game creation events that are usually built around a theme and a tight time limit. The little games that would be created in game jams like these likely informed Nijman’s later efforts at Vlambeer.

The initial idea behind Vlambeer was to make a lot of small games that each made a little money, hopefully adding up to something substantial. For their first release, the team decided to expand on a prototype that Nijman had come up with called Crates From Hell. After a few extra people were brought in to help with art, audio, and so forth, this prototype would go on to become Super Crate Box. It was apparently meant to be something of a business card for the new developer and as such, it was made available for free on Windows computers on October 22nd, 2010. It garnered quite a bit of attention, winning a number of awards and accolades from various sources. Gamasutra selected the game to be #5 in its 2010 Top 10 Indie Games year-end summary, and the game was nominated as a finalist for the Excellence in Design award at the 2011 Independent Games Festival.

Super Crate Box soon made its way to other platforms. The first new platform was OS X, bringing the game to Apple owners for the first time. Vlambeer was receiving a huge number of requests to bring the game to iOS, but the team initially felt reluctant that the game would port well to touch controls. Halfbot, the Canadian studio behind the 2011 hit The Blocks Cometh, was able to convince the team at Vlambeer that it could work and together brought Super Crate Box to iOS on January 5th, 2012. Vlambeer had a clever bit of extra marketing for this version, saying that it would receive content updates at intervals dictated by the total number of crates all players had collecte as a whole.

Those milestones seemed pretty big at first, but players took a keen interest in the game and the goals were shattered faster than the developers could produce the content. The game did eventually receive a few updates through 2012, adding extra features and content. Super Crate Box was then ported to PlayStation Vita through its now-defunct PlayStation Mobile service, and will be coming to Nintendo Switch at some time in the future. Vlambeer would go on to create a number of other beloved games such as Ridiculous Fishing and Nuclear Throne, but the mobile version of Super Crate Box would remain untouched after 2012, eventually falling into disrepair until it was updated and brought back to mobile gamers through GameClub.


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