Museum-grade quality prints Worldwide shipping Largest video game art selection in the world Lifetime guarantee on prints
The First - and Last - Decade of Vlambeer

article

The First - and Last - Decade of Vlambeer

After ten years, Dutch indie studio Vlambeer is calling it quits.

Arjan Terpstra

01 Sep 2020 ⋅ 6 min read

September 1st, 2010 marked the birth of one of the most prolific independent game studios of the last decade. Studio Vlambeer, a two-man operation from the Netherlands, would grow to be a force to the good in the world of video games, loved by players and industry peers alike.

After exactly ten years - September 1st, 2020 - the studio is calling it quits. Surprising no-one after years of meager news from the studio, Jan Willem Nijman and Rami Ismail decided to formally end their cooperation and pursue individual carreer paths. And yet Vlambeer's legacy lives on. There's all those wonderful titles they succesfully launched, like Nuclear Throne, Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrausers and Super Crate Box. And there's the new projects Jan Willem and Rami will bring to the world: Rami busying himself with global game developers conference Gamedev.world, Jan Willem with new games like the upcoming Disk Room.

The staff at Cook and Becker has always felt warmly about the studio, and proudly published the studio biography 120 Years of Vlambeer and Friends. Bringing Back Arcade Games Since 1986 (2016). In honor of the 10-year anniversary we discounted the book: both the Standard Edition and the Collector's Edition are 10% off (discount prices already reflected in the listed prices). Click the link for details.

Also, to honor Vlambeer's history, we look back to how it all started, in an excerpt from the book you can read below.

Book excerpt:
Chapter III: College Dropouts


First published in '120 Years of Vlambeer and Friends' back in 2016. Images taken from the book. All rights reserved.

Before long, Jan Willem found himself on his first game development show, INDIGO, to showcase some of his work. One of these projects, Crates From Hell, featured a small humanoid in a platform area, fending off enemies as it moves to collect weapon crates that randomly appear throughout the (single-screen) level. The action-arcade style demo grabbed the attention of other, more established developers, as well as game journalists. Special attention was given to the originality of the design. While most designers would be satisfied with a traditional function of crate collection (finding new weapons or ammo) and would attach the score system to the shooting of enemies, Nijman turned the design on its head. Every crate you collect adds to your score, giving players a reason to keep chasing them. Enemies still had to be dealt with in ever increasing numbers, but killing them did not help your high score. A fun twist was provided by the fact crates contained random weapons: the player never knows if they have to face the next wave of enemies with a powerful bazooka, the tricky disc gun or unwieldy dual pistols.
Vlambeer book pages 1
Crates From Hell would go on to be Vlambeer’s first project proper. After a playing session in school, Rami approached Jan Willem with a question: ‘Hey, want to get this to XBLA?’ The offhand proposal had some poignancy to it. Not only was Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade considered to be the most important download platform for (indie) games at the time, but it was where Rami still had his precious contacts from (previous project) the Lens Flare episode.
Vlambeer book pages 2
Introduced originally on Microsoft’s Xbox game console in 2004, and relaunched on the immensely popular Xbox 360 in 2005, XBLA had huge traction with gamers. The age of digital downloads was dawning, and in a couple of years would revolutionize how people bought, received and played video games. Retail and physical distribution (of cassettes, disks, or other carriers that held a game) rapidly lost importance, undermining the strong negotiating position of game publishers, who had forever held the key to shop shelves and the consumers who visited them. XBLA was the first big symbol of a substantial change to the industry: quite suddenly, indie studios could pitch their game to Microsoft, without the help of publishers, and find an actual, paying audience. The examples were already there: Jonathan Blow’s now-classic puzzle game Braid had launched on XBLA in 2008, and indie blockbuster Super Meat Boy by Team Meat came to the service in October 2010. Rami’s question carried weight with Jan Willem: ‘getting Crates From Hell to XBLA’ was shorthand for looking for success together, for doing it the proper indie way, and also a strong expression of faith in Nijman’s sketchy arcade shooters.
Vlambeer book pages 3
Jan Willem took Rami's offer, and Vlambeer had begun. Or rather, at this stage: two college kids decided to respect each other enough to start a long conversation on how to actually launch some games together. One thing was very clear to both: school was in the way of their ambitions, and they would not register for a third year in college. The momentous decision was reached without much emotion – they both saw that the new partnership would provide them with opportunities a college program could never offer. (Their college) HKU at this point served as a galvanizing mechanism, as their dislike of school provided Rami and Jan Willem with a mutual enemy.
Vlambeer book pages 4
The summer of 2010 saw a flurry of activities from the newfound partners. They talked about starting the company, and on which terms to operate. They chatted to other students, to see who wanted to join, but found nobody willing to forego school and formal training. Rami remembers a ‘foundational moment’ when he and JW walked to a friend’s house. Approaching a crossroads, Jan Willem pushed the button on a traffic light control, and said: ‘I will do the [game] design.’ ‘OK’, Rami said. Jan Willem continued: ‘And you will do the rest.’ Rami’s second ‘OK’ basically settled the division of labor for the next couple of years: Jan Willem would focus primarily on developing core game ideas, while Rami focused on anything from coding to running the business. The division would eventually allow Rami to focus more on the company side of things: marketing and communication, and everything else that came along. Also, JW asked if he could pick the team members they would work with – which at this point was fine by Rami, who had no network to speak of anyway, other than the people in the StarWraith community (he was active in).
Vlambeer book pages 5
After some time, there was the idea of a company they could both believe in. Vlambeer could be a vehicle to aggravate their talents when they both gave it their best. ‘The basic idea was that JW and I are polar opposites,’ Rami explained, continuing: “And so Vlambeer would function as a persona, a third entity to complement us. I could never speak on behalf of Jan Willem, about what he knows and does, nor can he about me, but Vlambeer would always be able to speak for the both of us. In those days we talked and talked about how we liked things to be. In due time it became adamantly clear JW was not really taking in my ideas, and I wasn’t up for his. But as Vlambeer, we could at least pretend we were.”
Vlambeer book covers

Vlambeer Art Book