Oct 08

Super Crate Box Interview With Rami Ismail of Vlambeer

I’ve got here Rami Ismail, from Vlambeer. He is part of a small team (two man team) responsible for the vastly awesome game Super Crate Box. It’s time to ask this man some questions.

Travis Blair: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about your game, Super Crate Box!

Rami Ismail: Thanks for having us! It’s been all sorts of crazy, with the two of us working on LUFTRAUSERS, Ridiculous Fishing and all the Super Crate Box things for Super Crate Box-month. The new soundtrack album and the Vita version have taken a lot of our time, not to mention the little surprise we announced in the shape of Super Bread Box.

Travis: Super Crate Box is available on Mac, Steam, and iOS. For those that aren’t familiar with the game, could you please provide a summary?

Rami: Super Crate Box is an arcade game about collecting crates with varying types of weaponry. Every time you pick up a crate, your current weapon is replaced with a random weapon ranging from pistols to flamethrowers and from bazookas to miniguns – you’re never quite sure which one, nor whether its better or worse. You use those weapons to kill enemies and stop them from reaching the bottom of the level – preventing them from turning red, angry and twice as fast. The thing is, you only get points for collecting the crates, so whatever your weapon is, you’ll have to discard it to score a point. It turns into a game of wits, speed and situational awareness.

Travis: What sparked the idea for the Super Crate Box? How did it get off the ground?

Rami: Super Crate Box is the end result of Jan Willem Nijman, our designer, refining his platform shooters design over years and years – long before Vlambeer. When we were both attending college, two and a half years ago, he showed me an early prototype called Crates From Hell. The potential behind the game was what opted us to work together & start Vlambeer. While the prototype was made in two days, we worked on the game for six months with a small team of artists and musicians, refining the game until it was as elegant and fun as possible.

Travis: Were there any creative decisions, such as weapons, that were scrapped or became something else? Also, do you have a favorite weapon?

Rami: Sure thing! One of our philosophies when making games is based on the idea of minimalism – removing everything that doesn’t support the core mechanics in a satisfiable way. For Super Crate Box, dozens of level designs and weapon ideas were implemented and subsequently discarded. We wanted to just have archetypes, instead of having twelve variations of the machine gun. Every weapon needed to feel completely different. Every level needed to fulfill a specific function. When we cut away every redundant piece of content, Super Crate Box is what remained.

Our favorite has to be the discgun. The reaction everyone has when figuring it out makes us smile every time a new player plays the game. All hate-mail/love letters can be directed at Jan Willem for that one.

Travis: The game is now available through PlayStation Mobile. Congratulations! What has the process been like bringing it to the PSM platform, specifically the PS Vita?

Rami: Thanks so much! It was pretty intense but a surprisingly smooth ride. We were contacted by Sony two months or so before the Playstation Mobile launch, so we had limited time to learn a new developer toolkit, a new system and a new platform. We had to get extra people aboard to get the game done within the timeframe, but it was extremely worth it. To us, the Playstation Vita really feels as if it was made for Super Crate Box, not the other way around.
To Sony’s credit, the cooperation was extremely pleasant. They made sure bugs in the software toolkit were fixed as we reported them and the whole system was surprisingly stable for such an early version. On top of that, when our Vita got stolen at the Eurogamer Expo while showcasing Super Crate Box, a Sony employee that was downed by the flu drove out during his weekend to borrow us his own, personal Vita for that weekend. We extremely appreciated that gesture of trust and couldn’t have been happier about working with Sony.

Travis: Super Crate Box is now available on all sorts of platforms. What are your thoughts on mobile gaming? What are some of your favorite mobile games?

Rami: It’s an interesting trip from our comfort zone for us – mostly being PC developers. Since we started out, we’ve reached increasing amounts of people, prompting us to start trying to create Mac versions of all of our games too. Mobile was a bit of a weird thing, originally starting with Ridiculous Fishing and later bringing Super Crate Box to iOS. There are a lot of interesting, amazing games available on the mobile platforms – whether those are iOS or 3DS or Vita; we wouldn’t want to exclude those games from our daily lives.

We wish we had a list of cool games we’ve been playing, but Terry Cavanagh’s Super Hexagon kind of is the list. Besides that, we’ve had a lot of fun playing games like Ascension: Chronicles of the Godslayer, zaga-33, Bit Pilot & Spelltower. We’re extremely looking forward to Semi Secrets new game Hundreds. For Vita, I specifically have been playing Gravity Rush and Sound Shapes.

Travis: Any tips for new Super Crate Box players?

Rami: Not really. The game is best when you have to figure things out yourself. Unlike a lot of games nowadays, the fun part of Super Crate Box is getting better at it. The only way you will is by playing the game and failing.

Travis: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, and for bringing your game to a larger audience!
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