Since its official launch, Kongregate, the so-called YouTube of Flash games, has hosted hundreds of original games, created a community of developers, addicted millions of users to their “badge” rewards and grown from 30,000 unique monthly users to over 3 million in less than a year.
This week Kongregate announced the fruits of their Premium Development program, games carefully cultivated and funded by Kongregate to, according to Chris Pasley, Director of Games for Kongregate, “raise the bar of what Flash games are all about.”
Chris came to Kongregate by way of The Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, where he was responsible for producing games like Bible Fight and 5 Minutes to Kill Yourself.
“I’m still trying to do the same thing [at Kongregate],” says Pasley. “Still trying to find Flash developers who come up with interesting games.”
Kongregate announced their Premium Development Program in May, and it was an immediate success, generating an outpouring of interest and not a few interesting game ideas. Kongregate’s Co-Founder, Jim Greer, says the response was overwhelming.
“I thought it would take longer,” says Greer. “The hardest part was dealing with our lawyers. … I thought we would vet more low quality submissions and fewer high quality submissions, [but] none of them were garbage.”
Out of the dozens of submissions for their Premium Development program, Kongregate selected only five that would receive Pasley’s special attention and Kongregate’s money.
“I’m looking more for originality,” says Pasley. “Things that are not the rote ‘Diner Dash clone.’ One of the big things we’re looking for is a big sense of uniqueness and originality. I was really blown away by some of the concepts. I’ve just been amazed about the kind of freedom I’ve gotten and the enthusiasms people have to get really interesting stuff done and break the rules and go beyond what other people have done.”
In addition to the five games being announced this week, Greer says Kongregate is always looking for more. “The more ideas come in, the better,” he says. But in addition to soliciting ideas from talented freelancers, Kongregate is working on its own, a game that Greer promises will “put Kongregate on the map.”
“It feels like a Blizzard-like effort we’re putting into a Flash game,” says Greer, referring to their as-yet unnamed, officially unannounced online collectible card game. “I think this is something that will make your average Penny Arcade reader say that Kongregate isn’t just addicting games plus badges,” says Greer. “It’s kind of something else.”
Kongregate unveiled a special preview of the game at PAX 2007, held a tournament and handed the winner a briefcase full of money. If only everyone were so lucky. “We’re getting real close now to rolling that out to our highest level users on Kongregate as a closed beta,” says Greer, “with a goal of launching that next year.”
Until next year, however, the news is the Premium Games. I asked Pasley about the impact of Kongregate’s briefcases full of money on the Flash game designers.
“Flash game developers have these kind of games in mind, but a lot of times they have to settle,” says Pasley, “because they don’t really have a way to fund development. To really take some care with these games is one of the things that’s pushed them to these bigger and better levels.”
Next Page: The Premium Games
From Intuition Games, Dinowaurs is a trajectory shooter (think Artillery with dinosaurs). Pasley calles it “Barney with a Rocket Launcher strapped to his back running through Omaha Beach in [Saving] Private Ryan.” The idea is you and your competitors will battle it out online with dinosaurs who have weapons strapped to them. Kind of like what the U.S. Military does with dolphins, but without the PETA lawsuits.
Zenning is a futuristic strategy game by Michael King. You play Katrina, a war correspondent with PTSD and a lot of bad dreams. Your mission: Fight the dream monsters to uncover the truth of what’s causing them. Part Psychonauts, part Command & Conquer.
“[It’s] a big departure from what I’d been able to do with Adult Swim,” says Pasley. “A serious title, with really nice 3-D renderings and really cool gameplay ideas. What’s unique about it is you … can have four-player games with four armies in the field. You can have deathmatches where each player controls a different character on the field. … We haven’t decided how many players it will have yet, but it will be a pretty impressive amount for a Flash game.”
Developed by Creatrix Games, Lila Dreams is a platformer MMOG that takes place inside the surrealistic and often grim mind of an 11-year-old girl named Lila. Real-life crises will plague Lila, resulting in drastic changes to the weather and the appearance of platform-based labyrinths where players get the chance to battle creatures from within Lila’s psyche, compete to raise their faction’s influence and ultimately affect Lila’s life on the outside. Will Lila make good choices fueled by hope and optimism, or make bad choices as she spirals into hate and jealousy?
The game, according to Pasley, will allow the user to “change the world in impressive ways.”
Remnants of Skystone
Created by Flipline Studios, makers of Papa Louie: When Pizzas Attack!, Remnants of Skystone is a platform adventure MMOG. Players can choose one of three different customizable character types: the grappling hook-wielding Crags, the nimble tree-climbing Tribals and the steampunk Jetpackers.
“Many years ago an asteroid crashed down on this world, which contained, unknown to the inhabitants of this world, an alien menace,” says Pasley. “A couple of years later [the aliens] sprang forth and covered the entire world in this mist … they’ve all been having to huddle together in a steampunk skytown. And now they’re having to take back their world a bit at a time.”
Argue (About Everything)
Argue is a multiplayer real-time strategy game that allows players to pick either side of an argument and duke it out on the field of battle. Featuring customizable characters, customized arguments and a webpage-embeddable argument status widget, players can employ multiple strategies (including, wonder of wonders, employing facts) to debate practically anything.
“I would love it if I logged onto an internet site one day and someone was having a ridiculous argument and said, ‘Let’s take it to the game,'” says Pasley. “It’d be a great way to solve all of the impossible arguments on the internet.”