Interview No. 63
Interview By: @The-Great-One
Today's guest has done a lot of work for Newgrounds while at the same time juggling his own life. He has been known for his works on Sheep go to Heaven..., Boss Bash, Trick-or-Treat Adventure!, and Portal Defenders. These along with many others would make him not only a wonderful solo game creator, but also one that you would want on your side for collaboration. He is the great @BoMToons.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
A: When I was in college, I'd see the logo on links friends would send me all the time. I didn't really think about it at first, but eventually I decided to check the site out directly. When I started experimenting with Flash, I noticed all the comments on NG and that they let anyone submit, so I decided I wanted to get feedback and exposure for my stuff.
Q: Your first flash submission would be entitled Donkey BoM. This fascinating game would bring forth a good bit of interesting elements combined with the mechanics of Donkey Kong. Tell me what made you want to bring these mechanics with this sort of storyline?
A: All my early games were experiments trying to learn Flash. I used to not think a platformer was even POSSIBLE in flash. The code for Donkey BoM is TERRIBLE. The story is from the Book of Mormon (BoM) which is a book of scripture, like the Bible, from the Latter Day Saint faith, of which I am a member.
Q: Sheep go to Heaven.... Jesus Christ where did the idea for this come from?
A: It comes from a scripture in the New Testament about separating souls at the final judgement. It's also a great song by the band Cake. I thought I'd combine the 2 concepts into something funky. This was the first game Tom front-paged on NG and I almost crapped my pants when I saw that it had been played over 1,000 times.
Q: BoMToons-Tamagotchi took this small device and put it into flash format. Growing up as a kid I always saw kids with these, raising whatever they may have had on it. Did you yourself also have one of these?
A: I never actually had a tamagotchi, but I played with some friends'. This again was just an early experiment to challenge myself with Flash. A lot of my early games are about the art and story rather than the gameplay which tended to be really simple cuz of my lack of experience in Flash.
Q: Nephi's Adventure and Nephi's Adventure 2 would be two very interesting point and click adventure games. What would the inspiration be behind these two games and why did you wait so long to make the sequel?
A: The inspiration for these games is the story of Nephi in the Book of Mormon. Of course we added a bunch of crazy stuff, like meat and hotdog salesmen to make it more fun and funny, but the underlying story is from the BoM.
It took so long to make a sequel because we got real jobs and had a lot less free time. It's also hard to follow up something successful with a sequel because you're intimidated with trying to out-do yourself.
Q: What was Bomtoons Idol supposed to be?
A: Ha ha... where did you find that?! We have all these characters from the Book of Mormon and we thought the anarchronistic idea of ancient characters singing modern songs would be really funny. For example, there's a guy named "Shiz" in the BoM who gets decapitated, but before he dies, and while his head is chopped off, his body tries to lift itself up off the ground. He was going the sing the Beegees "Stayin' Alive."
See? Isn't that funny? Each character was going to have a funny modern song that fit their ancient personality. I'd like to return to the idea some day.
Q: When poxpower and Mockery were here we talked about some of the creations that you would help them out with. The first being Haunted House Candy Hunt!. poxpower stated that you were just "the unlucky bastard who replied to our request for a programmer" while Mockery stated that "Working with Bom and Pox just felt right. They shared my weird sense of humor and just wanted to make fun games". The question is how did you come into contact with these two and would you kindly tell us about working with these two?
A: Yeah, they put out an APB on the forums saying they needed a programmer, so I sent them a demo of one of the Boss Bash levels. They liked it enough to choo-choo-choose me.
I responded because I had played Domo Kun's Angry Smashfest and I thought Mockery was some kind of Flash god. Turns out he's just a normal nice guy who REALLY likes pop-culture.
Poxpower is extremely talented and dedicated to his work, he's also a really depressing whiner who thinks he will never succeed in life.
They're both GREAT to work with!
Q: Boss Bash would be nominated for the 2008 Newgrounds Tank Award for Best Flash Game. Where did the idea of this game come from and how did it feel to be nominated?
A: I have always enjoyed boss fights more than any other part of games. There was a forum collab long ago where each person would recreate their favorite boss fight in Flash and they would all be compiled in one epic game. 2 of the games in Boss Bash started there (Wart and Thunderbird). The forum collab fell apart and I was left with these 2 games that I had put a ton of work into. So I decided that a 3rd would round it off well and I made the Abobo level.
I was really honored to have it nominated for a Tank Award. I knew it had no chance of winning after seeing the other nominations, but it still was a nice nod to my emerging Flash skills. Every year there have been tank awards I've had a game nominated, but never really felt like I had something that deserved to win... maybe next year right!?
Q: You would work with poxpower and Mockery again on the game Trick-or-Treat Adventure!. What all would you say you contributed towards this game?
A: I contributed all the code for the game. The point and click engine is not perfect, but it's pretty good and accurate to what I remember playing. That game would have made us a fortune if we had released it in 1990. It really is a huge game with lots of fun and funny puzzles.
My favorite line is when you try looking at the kitchen sink: "YOU DID IT YOU FOUND THE KITCHEN SINK YOU WIN THE GAME! No, just kidding, it's just a sink full of dishes." Rog crammed so many funny lines into that game, there's something different for each action on hundreds of items. You have to play it to get an idea of just how crazy it is.
Q: In Pico Blast you got to work with two individuals who have been here before Luis and thatcomposerguy on the flash game you three brought to us for Pico Day and that was Pico Blast. What was it like working with these two and how much input did each of you have?
A: I really enjoy working with Luis. He's very open to collaborating and not whiny (like poxpower). He always takes my crappy game sketches and adds a unique spin that brings them to life in a refreshing way. We have a good working relationship where we can riff and get on the same wavelength quickly. I've never had the feelings of conflict or differing opinion with Luis that I've had with most other people.
ThatComposerGuy is the same way, we send him a demo of the game and he creates something epic. I'd highly recommend anyone who needs music to work with him, he needs little direction and creates things that you'd swear were made by a whole orchestra.
Q: Super Mafia Land would take the game Super Mario Bros. 2 and give it a different take. Is this a return to Donkey Bom in a way? What inspiration came to create this?
A: This game was kind of stream of consciousness. Jmtb02 and I had always talked about working on something together and we both really loved Super Marios Bros. 2 (we're among the few who didn't absolutely despise that game).
Looking back we didn't think it through very well. We just started making stuff, then chose a name, then forgot to make the game relate to the name very well. Weirdly, it's one of my most popular games and has been played millions of times... probably just due to the name.
Q: You would team up with Luis and thatcomposerguy yet again with one of Newgrounds biggest games Portal Defenders. There is certainly a story to be told here and I want to know all of it. Mainly whose idea was it and then the process that went into creating this game. Also will we be seeing Portal Defenders 2?
A: I don't really remember, but I think this was Luis' idea. He had recently finished working with NegativeOne and Mindchamber on NG Rumble where he learned a bunch of skills for animated fighting in games. He had these anims of Tom and Dan with utensils for some reason and sent them to me with the idea of making something "small" like the arena game from the console version of Castle Crashers. Funny thing: in the original Portal Defenders demo, there were giant puppy dogs on either end of the arena that would swipe you when you got close.
As tends to happen, this "small" idea turned into something huge. We completed one wave, then thought the wave needed a boss. Then we did another wave and it was so fun to beat up all the artists, programmers, and mods from NG we just kept going. Soon we had a bunch of waves and bosses and mini-games all from a "small" idea.
I'm still really proud of the "paint the town red" bonus game in there. The whole "bloody footprints" engine in the game was a really small touch that, I think, gave the game an extra feeling of polish.
Yes, we are working on Portal Defenders 2. I have a working engine for the 1st level and Luis has done a ton of art. This one will be much larger in scale with multiple scrolling levels and follow much more of a beatemup style gameplay. The art has evolved to a cool new level and we have some crazy ideas for the game play. It will be kind of a "turtles in time" style story line where Tom (and co.) get sucked into the NG portal and have to fight through a bunch of crazy levels set in popular NG universes.
It's so large in scale we've actually considered possibly maybe eventually releasing it on a console. (!)
Q: Luis LAUNCH holds the same concept as other launch games such as Toss The Turtle, Kitten Cannon, and Learn To Fly. However this seems a bit more simplistic, but like other launch games it is addictive as hell. Why would you say these games are addictive? Also why would you want to make one and involving Luis?
A: It was Luis Day and I wanted to see if I could make a game in a day. I thought it would be a cool present to him to make a game and give him all the ad revenue. I think he's made over $700 on it now... maybe I should have split it with him ha ha.
Those games are addicting cuz they play on our human desire for upgrades and improvement. We're so curious what's beyond the next horizon. It's kind of manipulative, but I thought being propelled into the sky by your own bean-induced farts was pretty funny.
I love the end of the game when Luis' lifeless carcass floats into space... timeless classic.
Q: If someone was to ask me what your best game was I would tell them Chibi Knight. Where did the inspiration for this game come from and what was the process you took into bringing this game to life?
A: The only Zelda game I like is Zelda 2. Everyone else hates it because it betrayed the Zelda "formula." You can see my love for Zelda 2 in Boss Bash and Castle Crashing the Beard.
Chibi knight grew out of CCTB. So many people kept telling us how much they loved CCTB and that we should make a full game. So I started tooling with the idea of a more full-scale CCTB, maintaining the core upgrade dynamic, but adding in full quests and permanent items and more bosses and normal enemies. It became my "free time" project that I would tool on whenever I was bored with everything else. I actually showed a demo to Luis, but he wasn't excited about it, so I just did all the art myself.
It sat around for over 2 years, then I showed it to Dan at Armor Games since he really likes to support midieval-themed games. He asked me to expand on it and offered me a really nice price to sponsor it. So I finished it off and released it.
The response has been incredible. I never thought it would be so well-received. It's been played millions of times and I still get around $250 a month just on its ad-revenues. That's impressive for a game that's been out so long.
I think the key was getting my daughter to do the voice acting. When the game was almost done, I was showing it to her and realized I needed more personality for the knight. I had just bought a new high-quality microphone that I needed to test, so I decided to let her contribute to the game. It was a fortuitous idea that really paid off. People love the personality and my daughter feels like she's the queen of the world for having a game that "she made" that's so popular. She even had a "Chibi Knight" themed birthday party.
Q: Madness: Premeditation would be your Madness Day entry. It is a complex game at first and takes some getting used to, would you say that this was intentional?
A: I didn't purposely want it to be hard to learn, but it is a different kind of game so some time learning is to be expected. We probably could have walked people through a better tutorial up front, but we were crunched for time to get it out on Madness Day.
It's one of the games I'm most proud of creatively. We wanted to do something new with a Madness game that had never been done before but still keep the spirit of madness. There are so many things I want to improve about it, but the underlying concept is really golden. We cranked it out in just a couple weeks, and it had a shaky reception at first, but since then, as people have recognized how unique the concept is, the views/plays have really gone up and its become one of my better-performing games.
Q: When HeRetiK was here we talked about his art collab The Red Line, it involved many different submissions connected together through the use of a solitary red line. You and many other talented artists would take this concept to the next level with the art collab Newgrounds Worm. You've stated that it was behind the scenes for a few years since 2007. Could you tell us the story of this and the different connections made by you and all of these amazing artists?
A: The idea was originally started by someone else who sent out private PM invites. Some people came through with art pieces, and some dropped the ball. Since they're all connected you can imagine how hard it was to organize all those people and make sure they had what they needed and followed the rules.
Eventually Renaenae revived the project and she's the real mastermind behind its completion. She badgered people endlessly and did quality control to get them all seamlessly together. She deserves the most credit for the final product, all I did was one picture in it and programmed the viewer.
Interesting fact: Mike, from NG, had a working 3D version of the worm using a 3D environment modeled by Mindchamber, but he ended up getting too busy to finish it off so we decided to just fall back to the 2D version. The 3D version would have blown your mind though.
Q: When it comes to working with collabs or collaborating with another person what do you look for? What advice can you give others wanting to collaborate with one another or start a collab?
A: I think collaborating almost always makes for a better final product, but sometimes, when you have a certain synergy with someone then the project almost flows naturally and doesn't seem like you're really working at all. If you can find someone like that to work with, then hold on to them.
The biggest challenge with collaborating is when someone doesn't hold up their end of the work load. So, if someone is willing to stay up late with you for 3 days in a row to finish something, that's a skill worth recognizing and holding on to also. Don't let a "finisher" slip through your fingers, that's worth just as much, if not more, than the creative synergy I mentioned above.
I feel like me and Luis have both of those things when we're working together, which is probably why we've returned to each other over and over... I JUST CAN'T QUIT YOU LUIS!
Q: When it comes to making a sequel one thing people should be wary of his being repetitive, but at the same time they don't want it to be entirely different from their previous iteration. What advice can you give to those who are looking to achieve a proper balance?
A: You're probably asking the wrong person, I don't have many sequels and the sequels I have done really weren't as big of hits as I had hoped. I know lots of developers out there make it big from releasing sequels, but I haven't figured out the formula for success on that one yet.
Q: You are no stranger to the Art Portal. Many of your entries tend to resemble your artwork in your games, but one entry tends to stick out and that is Wilbur. You have stated...
"It was supposed to represent how NG is kind of like wilbur in that a lot of people don't recognize its positive traits and worth and it just takes a few dedicated spiders to help other start to see it for what it really is."
Do you still stand by this statement? Whether your answer be yes or no could you shed a little bit more light on this?
A: Did I say that? That's some deep shiz right there... I do think NG is like that. I believe its a gem of the Internet, though hidden by lots of surrounding dirt. There is so much creativity and talent in this community and such an honest base of critical Flash-playing fans. I don't think any other site is quite like it. Lots of people get stuck on the thought that NG is a "nasty" "porn-filled" site. And to some, it probably is, but if you dig past all that you hit a solid foundation of real people who are honestly creative and trying to improve themselves, develop skills, express their inner thoughts, tap into a world that connects with others, reaching out.
I know Tom was like a "Charlotte" for me. I was wallowing in my own mud trying to make a name for myself and improve my "trade" when he saw some kind of potential in me and decided to encourage it. When he put "sheep go to heaven" on the front page, it was like Charlotte writing "Some Pig!" in her web. Every time Tom promotes something, he's showing confidence and faith in someone. Often, that someone might not deserve the promotion, but because Tom has faith in them, they live up to it. Some people let him down, others build themselves up based on his confidence and become what he saw in them underneath all the dirt of inexperience.
I've heard many other developers and artists express similar sentiments. The real difference between NG and other Flash portals is Tom. He's one of us and has a talent for discerning budding talent... just like Charlotte and Wilbur!
Q: What can we expect from BoMToons in the future?
A: It seems like I have less and less time to work on independent stuff because of my full time job at WoogiWorld.com. We have a 3rd installment for Nephi's Adventure planned, and a kind of multi-player excite-bike-ish game too. A sequel to Chibi Knight is a much-demanded must, and Portal Defenders 2 will also come out some day if I ever get any more free time.
I can't resist creating new stuff and sharing it. It's just part of who I am. I love the feeling of starting and planning new projects and I love the attention that comes from people who appreciate what I do. I hope to make new things that no one has imagined yet. I hope to make enough money to allow me to create whatever I want without being tempted to "sell out" or being under the direction of someone else.
I want the freedom to experiment and create.
BoMToons is certainly a dedicated and hard worker. It seems to me that doing nothing would be the equivalent of driving this man insane, putting him in a straight jacket would send him up the walls wanting and needing to create. His inate creativity is his gift not only to himself, but to all of us. If you're ever looking for advice or a Newgrounds artist to look up to then this is one of them.