Almost a decade later, I'm rebooting a project I made when I was in high-school for Steam and Console.
In 2016, Kickstarter resoundingly supported my game about a minister in Hell, and raised over $100,000. So you can imagine how excited and nervous I am about my next Kickstarter campaign, a story about a little boy named Pete in a coma called Once Upon A Coma.
Sound familiar? Millions of players across the world might recognize this as just Coma, the viral Flash classic that started my indie career almost a decade ago. So why on earth am I robbing the grave of a dead Flash game from my teenage years, and, more importantly, why should you?
Flash Games Are The Perfect Prototype
My latest release on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam is called Pinstripe, and it’s done surprisingly well for a game created completely alone over the course of five years. I’m proud of the accomplishment, but I’m also ashamed to say I never prototyped the thing.
I went full force into production, without a clue of what it really was, and year after year, I’d scrap major chunks of content simply because I didn’t really concept it out. I should have made a quick prototype, tested it in a small sample, and made changes accordingly. In the case of my next project, Once Upon A Coma, this part was already done in 2010 thanks to millions of players of the Flash title.
Because of the original, I’ve been able to read thousands of comments about what made the game great, not so great, and ultimately, what made it stick. Flash titles are the perfect prototype, because a free and open market judges them purely and without apology. The Flash titles that have value are the ones that made it through the slaughterhouse of pissed off middle-school trolls (weren’t we all?) playing free Flash games in computer lab a decade ago. These are the titles that we should be taking a second look at.
They Already Have A Massive Audience (But Be Careful!)
Do you have a Flash game you made in your blunder years that performed surprisingly well? Or, here’s a really fun question, do you have a couple thousand bucks to buy up a “dead” flash IP, and restore it to Steam using an easy to learn tool like Unity? This might sound like a crazy thought, but think about it: with the right marketing and outreach, you can find/buy an audience that already exists, and make them all completely freak out because you’re bringing their nostalgia up from the dead. Here’s just a few Flash titles that have been / are being resurrected to larger platforms with success:
Creeper World 3
The Binding of Isaac
Once Upon A Coma
Dino Run DX
But you can’t just exploit an IP and expect the cash to flow in.
First, obviously, you have to find a way to reach the audience you once had. In my case, I’m releasing my WebGL demo (thanks to Unity’s WebGL porting option) of Once Upon A Coma on Newgrounds and Armor Games the day the Kickstarter launches. Bringing a massive new reboot to the web can get a little buggy, but it’s ok: it’s going to reach some of that original audience.
Obviously, that original audience has moved on, but some are still hanging out on Newgrounds and Armor Games. I also have fans on Twitter and Facebook who have been with me since the glory days of Flash.
Secondly, be careful — if you decide to change something about the original, be prepared for major blow-back. This I cannot stress enough. I’d go so far as to say keep everything that was beloved from the original in your remake. In the case of Once Upon A Coma, I began taking the garbage out, simply because my brain couldn't handle bad content I had created when I was 18. I then took a few steps backward, and decided to bring the garbage back in, simply because I knew it would piss off my base if it wasn’t there, and for good reason.
What if, for example, George Lucas took the mystical aspect of the force, and changed it into something that was purely genetic and not based on faith? Oh, wait, he did that, and it royally pissed off the Star Wars base.
This is the reason why soft-reboots exist. Soft-reboots give you a reason to add content, change content, and not get as much blow-back (“as much” being the key phrase here). So, Once Upon A Coma, is instead, a sequel, but it also keeps stuff from the original that just worked.
Flash Games Are Pure
I know I know. You’re rolling your eyes. Gimme a sec.
As a veteran Flash dev, I can tell you I rarely made a Flash project because I wanted to make money. I didn’t stress about the audience, I didn’t stress about the budget, and I sure as hell didn’t stress about the price (there was no price). There’s purity here. Art made just for the heck of it tends to be beloved by millions. This was true for the first films of indies Lucas, The Wachowskis, and Aronofsky (who’s later commercial flops kind of prove my point).
Indies who started in the Flash age made games just because, and that’s what makes so many indie titles special. Obviously, making games for money is absolutely fine (I have to pay my bills too). But if this is the driving factor, it’s likely to taint your project, spreading it thinly across a wide market, and ultimately, devaluing it.
You’re likely to find games that stick, have incredibly unique hooks, and resonate with a distinct and profitable niches in the graveyard of old Flash titles.
So, in terms of marketability, yeah, that’s one reason why I’m revisiting my old Flash title. But this isn’t the only reason, and not even the main one. I’m really doing it because burnout and game-industry-fatigue brought me back to the nostalgia of creating games just because — no sales numbers, no marketing, just a story to tell, straight from the heart.
If that’ something you’re into, please feel free to check out the Once Upon A Coma Kickstarter and support the awakening of Pete’s strange adventure. I’m hopeful we hit our goal, and better yet, stretch goals like Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.