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Q&A: Kongregate Announces Indie Funding, Talks Innovation

Q&A: Kongregate Announces Indie Funding, Talks Innovation

November 13, 2007 | By Leigh Alexander

November 13, 2007 | By Leigh Alexander
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More: Console/PC, Indie



Social flash gaming portal Kongregate has announced five development studios whose game concepts were chosen to receive funding, from $20,000 to $100,000 each, to create original, large-scale Flash games exclusive to the site.

The first titles to receive the green light through Kongregate's Premiere Development Program are Dinowaurs, by Intuition Games; Remnants of Skystone from Flipline Studios; Lila Dreams, by Creatrix Games; Zening, from developer Michael King, and Argue (About Everything) from development duo Adam Schroeder and Roger Bankus.

The Premiere Development Program, which aims to sponsor small-studio and independent developers. Studios whose concepts are selected in the program receive the financial support in exchange for a year of exclusivity to Kongregate, retaining all ownership of their IP, and they're free to take their game to any other platform thereafter. They may also take the game to non-PC platforms during the first year.

The company's portal features user-uploaded games with social networking elements, allowing users to create profiles, chat, earn Xbox Live-style achievements and vote on the submitted Flash titles, all with the aim of building an entirely user-supported community for the benefit of indie developers -- who earn up to 50 percent of all the partially ad-supported, partially microtransactions-driven revenue they generate on games they upload.

The Premium Developer Program was announced earlier this year, when Kongregate announced it had raised over $5 million in a funding round led by Web 2.0 VC leader Greylock Partners; that funding is used to sponsor the large-scale Flash titles in development through the program.

Gamasutra spoke to Kongregate's Games Director Chris Pasley, who led the selection process, about the program and the selected developers.

How are games chosen for the Premium Developer Program?

People will submit 1-2 page pitches to me via email. I look over them, figure out what I think is interesting, and if theres something we find interesting, we greenlight that.

Do studios need to submit a prototype, or do you choose projects just based on the email submission?

Mainly what we do is look at the idea and see the merits of the idea, and see if the developer has done other quality games in the past. A demo is not required -- if you have one, then cool, itll help -- but by no means is it required. Only two [of the five selections] had a demo at any given point, and the others were based on concept.

Why Flash games?

I think the biggest thing about Flash game development, the cool thing about the underground Flash development scene, is people are doing whatever they feel like. There are no investors to report back to, no huge budgetary constraints, they're making whatever they feel like doing. What were trying to encourage is some unusual ideas in the space, and find things that havent been done before. By funding them, we enable developers to do them at a quality that people arent used to seeing from Flash games, and trying to push that whole thing forward.

How many submissions did you receive for this first selection round?

Quite a few 50, 60, around there. Surprisingly, the majority of what we got in we thought by opening the floodgates and doing it by email, wed get a lot of crap. Were really surprised that wasn't the case; there were a lot of really good things submitted. I felt bad, as if I was not being discerning, because I just wanted to greenlight everything, there were a lot of really interesting ideas. I've been pretty impressed with the kind of selection that weve been getting.

What's Kongregate's involvement in the development process?

As a creative director, I try to push them where I think theyll be at their best. If I think a game is weak, I'll try to push them to another area, or if they can maybe find something better to do, Ill push that. More or less, I'm kind of reviewing, making corrections, helping make it a better or more interesting game than they could do on their own.

Were hoping that with our RMTs and ad revenue share that we will be the first step in making flash games a profitable business.

Let's talk about one of the selections -- Dinowaurs, for example. What made you choose that concept?

I really saw an interesting story to it coming to life. I previously was the head of games for Adultswim.com, so I was definitely courting those guys to get a game made for us. I actually received a pitch for Dinowaurs from Intuiton [while at Adult Swim]. At the time, it was not quite what Adult Swim was looking for it didnt really match their aesthetic, so I had to pass. I came on board at Kongregate, and it was the first pitch they gave me.

For part of their initial pitch, they'd sent me a ceramic dinosaur. I got this huge box, and I was thinking, 'what is this?' It was a big dinosaur, and I was like 'awright!' The game is really cool... it has this juxtaposition of this really intense and really kind of dark and violent world with these innocent cartoon dinosaurs being stuck in there.

What follows is the complete list of the game concepts selected to receive funding through Kongregate's program:

Dinowaurs

In development by Intuition Games, Dinowaurs is a multiplayer trajectory shooter in which cute, innocent cartoon dinosaurs battle unknowingly to the death in real-time. Dumb and ignorantly sweet, these dinos don't think a thing about their cruel, barbaric human handlers strapping things like missile launchers, cannons and even aircraft carriers to their backs to wage war inadvertently causing their own extinction.

Remnants of Skystone

Created by Flipline Studios, makers of Papa Louie: When Pizzas Attack!, Remnants of Skystone is a platform adventure MMO that sends players on a mission to reclaim their world from the hostile alien Mimics. Players can choose one of three different customizable character types: the grappling hook-wielding Crags, the nimble tree-climbing Tribals and the steampunk Jetpackers. As players progress through single-player and real-time cooperative adventures, they find Material Orbs that can be worked into furniture and accessories for their virtual houses in SkyTown.

Lila Dreams

Developed by Creatrix Games, Lila Dreams is a platformer MMO that takes place inside the surrealistic and often grim mind of an eleven-year-old girl named Lila. Players become mental warriors named Memekin, each aligned with a particular emotional state. 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?

Zening

Created by developer Michael King, Zening is a futuristic strategy game that casts the player in the role of Katrina, a hospitalized war journalist who begins having startlingly vivid dreams of war and battle with horrific fantasy creatures. With the help of other ensnared dreamers, Katrina must fight through the monsters to uncover the terrible truth behind the dreams. Zening also features team deathmatch multiplayer modes, two- and four-player combat, webcam support and a fully voiced narrative.

Argue (About Everything)

Developed by Adam Schroeder and Roger Bankus, Argue (About Everything) 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 web-page-embeddable argument status widget, players can attack with Passionate statements, refute their opponents with Facts, or rely on Reason to win fast, five-minute battles that will determine the final answer to any argument.

Said Kongregate CEO Jim Greer: "With our Premium Development Program, we've set out to find and sponsor some of the most talented small studio and indie developers today. These original and exclusive Flash games will build on the compelling social and community-based experiences already available on Kongregate, but on a larger scale. For developers, Kongregate provides a wonderful launching pad for new content, where funded developers still retain full rights to their games and share in a percentage of Kongregate's revenue."


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