That's when things finally started to turn around. The pair began participating in game jams again, and using that experience to figure out what Vlambeer would have to be. Ismail went travelling, and JW spent some time away from his work relaxing. Soon afterwards, they decided to revisit an old Vlambeer classic Luftrauser, and later still a commercial version called Luftrausers was born.
Says Ismail, "When Luftrausers started coming together, we realized that Vlambeer wasn't necessarily gone. We had just been having a really tough time from dealing with the fallout of the cloning stuff. It took way longer than I care to admit for us to figure out what was wrong. But when we did, everything just sort of started working again."
"That's what's been happening the past year -- it hasn't been Vlambeer. We've been working on all this stuff that isn't making games. We've been organizing lots of events and giving all sorts of talks and going to all sorts of places, and making sure we stayed in touch with all sorts of business people. But we didn't make new games, because we couldn't."
Slowly but surely, Vlambeer's original goals and values started to come back into play, to the point where the pair were finally able to get on with life properly again.
"We think now that everything is sort of resolved, we can move on and do new and interesting stuff," says Ismail. "That thing in the back of our heads that was keeping us tied to the past -- that has gone. We've already been talking about two more projects that we really want to work on. We've got a lot of little jam projects that we really want to see if we can do more with."
"I told my mom this just last week: It just feels like Vlambeer again. When I go to the office, it doesn't feel like going to work. It feels like doing the thing that I dropped out of college for."
But before we jump to the present, and the impending release of Ridiculous Fishing -- due March 14 -- it's well worth digging into the moment that led up to the final resurrection of the game. Ridiculous Fishing was always an annoying, nagging feeling in the backs of their minds, and a constant source of anxiety for the team. So when Ismail met up with Zach Gage and Greg Wohlwend at PAX Prime last year, it was a definite fork in the road.
"We said, 'You know what? We should find an opportunity to breathe new life into Ridiculous Fishing.' So we took a road trip from Seattle to New York. It was called 'The Week of Hatred.' We got a car and drove for five days with Mike Boxleiter (the other half of Mikengreg with Wohlwend), Zach and Greg, with the idea that we might have a good time, or we might end up hating each other forever."
Upon arriving in New York, the team set about gutting Ridiculous Fishing to within an inch of its life. "At that point, the fishing felt great, but the shooting didn't feel so right," says Ismail. "We had a store that worked, but it wasn't great, and people didn't know they had to go there. Everything was there, but it was all convoluted, mixed up, disjointed..."
And with that, it was time to throw out the trash. Adds Ismail, "We decided that the shop was garbage, the interface was garbage, the endgame was garbage... a lot of stuff was okay, but 'okay' wasn't what we were aiming for, so we threw out 90 percent of what we'd done."
Getting rid of so much of the game left the designers with a much clearer image of what Radical Fishing, and subsequently Ridiculous Fishing, is really all about.
This also gave them the chance to deliberate over every aspect of the game. "So the whole in-app purchase progression thing, right? Making sure the feedback loop is as tight as possible, making sure people are constantly rewarded for what they're doing, without the evil in-app purchase stuff. We don't want to do that; we don't want to make that kind of game. We want to take the good things out of that -- it's like we're making an IAP game without IAPs."
It's something that Vlambeer didn't even realize it was doing when the game was pieced together.
"For Radical Fishing, our intention was to make a Flash game that took everything good from the addictive-type browser games, but didn't stretch it out just to make it addictive," explains Ismail. "So Ridiculous Fishing ended up being the 2012/2013 equivalent of that, where the Flash market is sort of weakening and iOS is sort of what Flash was -- you know what I mean?"
Watching the design philosophy of Radical Fishing pour into Ridiculous Fishing with a modernized twist really gave the new game foundations built firmly in the mobile space.
"Radical Fishing was already about a tight feedback loop -- that's what made the game interesting for cloners," he adds. "If you do well in the descent stage, you'll do better in the reeling-in stage; if you do better in the reeling-in stage, you'll do better in the shooting stage; if you do better in the shooting stage, you'll be able to buy more stuff -- and then you'll be better at the descent stage. Thus it goes round and round. It's one giant feedback loop."
The project was nearly derailed again by Ninja Fishing at one point - after revealing the various locations and the way in which they were to be presented in Ridiculous Fishing, a locations screen was added to Ninja Fishing with a simple image that read "Coming Soon".
Soon afterwards, Ridiculous Fishing died off again, although the team didn't stop emailing each other this time around. "Before, we just wouldn't discuss the game at all," notes Ismail. "We didn't really talk about the game because we didn't want to. We weren't motivated. So suddenly we're mailing again, and we're throwing around these weird ideas."