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Interview with Afro-Ninja

Posted by TheInterviewer - September 28th, 2011


Interview No. 65

Interview By: @Atlas

Today I'm interviewing one of Newgrounds elite Flash creators @Afro-Ninja. He is most known for Territory War and Newgrounds Sim.

Q: How did you find Newgrounds & why did you join?

A: I first heard about Newgrounds on the news back in the late 90's. They were doing a small story on furbies and mentioned that newgrounds had a game where you could microwave them. I didn't have internet at home so I first checked out newgrounds occasionally at the Library's internet terminal. I visited off and on for a few years but I didn't actually sign up for an account until 2002 when I actually got into producing flash. Thinking back I should have just signed up earlier, but oh well.

Q: You seem to be quite the programmer, how did you get into programming?

A: My first experience with programming was trying to dissect an old TI-86 calculator game and re-program it into something else. I didn't get very far but I was very interested in how it worked. The summer before my senior year of high school I applied for a programming seminar class at a DeVry university and was accepted. It was essentially an introductory logic/programming class based around C++. After an initial learning curve I got the hang of it fairly well. After the seminar I sort of applied what I learned to actionscript since the two languages share a similar syntax. I experimented a bit but the first real game I 'programmed' was a point and click called 'Escape from Elm Street.' The game was coded terribly but it worked and I was happy with it.

After high school I attended DeVry as a full-time student in the CIS (computer information systems) department where I learned the basics of other languages like Java and Visual Basic, then moved on to general concepts like Object Oriented Programming. As the years went on I did my best to read up on actionscript tutorials and try keep applying what I was learning in school to flash. With each game I create I try to refine my style and strive to be more proper, concise, and structured.

I don't consider myself an expert programmer by any means. For one I don't particularly excel in math, and I don't read up as much as I should on coding/design patterns. That being said I feel that general logic and organization are more important than pure math ability in terms of game creation. That comes from playing games, figuring out what makes them work, and trying to duplicate the results in your own project.

Q: You have 4 submissions that were made for the Time Trials, how were your experiences in the time trials?

A: The time trials were very fun but of the ones I've participated in the first one (five) was my favorite. One of the original members dropped out so I applied to swap in last minute and they gave me a chance. Everything really was completed in three days, it was a rush. As the time trials went on it felt like the rules became more and more lenient and I ended up spending more time on animations that weren't even as good as my first. I do miss being able to spend free time on animations but ever since I adopted flash as my job I pretty much have to stick to games- I'm not complaining of course, but unfortunately I'm not a good enough artist/animator to make a career out of it.

Q: You only have 3 audio submissions and 2 of them are tests. Why have you never pursued audio?

A: Audio is really just something I've played around a bit with but have yet to create anything notable. I've always considered myself really bad with music, notes, scales, tones, keys, etc but I took a short class in basic music theory and became pretty interested. Afterward I purchased a copy of fruity loops to play around with. I chose fruity loops because my pal josh (kelwynshade) had been using it for years to create pretty amazing stuff. He also has an actual music background though, so it's to be expected. Like I said before games and programming take up a majority of my time but music is something I would like to pursue more on the side like animation.

Q: Your first submission Smash Bros. Tournament is your first submission submitted and your first to get an award. How do you feel about that flash now?

A: I actually still like it, haha. It's mostly something I can look back on, watch with friends, and laugh about. I cringe at most of my other old stuff because I was trying too hard.

Actually my first submission to the portal was a comic animation called 'The Adventures of Gary' that I animated for a friend. A few years after signing up I requested to have it deleted because I wanted to clean up my old stuff a bit. Thinking back it was kind of a silly move. If anyone is interested in you can find it in the trash area of my site, as well as a bunch of other really bad stuff.

Q: One of your 2005 submissions Newgrounds Sim v.1.2 won you 2 awards, over a million views, over 12,000 reviews, and a spot in three different collections? How did you think of the idea for that game and how long did it take to make?

A: I don't remember how I came up with the exact idea for NG sim- I'd imagine it was partially inspired by the success of dating sim games at the time. I was heavily into the ng bbs back then and this was also when one of the older redesigns had just taken place. So somewhere between all of that the idea for an NG based sim game came about. I shot a quick message to Stamper to see if it was ok to use the existing site design in my game. He gave me the go ahead and I got started. I remember working on it mostly at the computer lab at DeVry in my spare time over the course of a few months, maybe more. The scope grew a little beyond what I had originally planned but I was happy with the end result. I had hoped it would perform well in the portal but it definitely exceeded my expectations after coming in at first place for the first monthly NG flash contest. To date it's been my most successful entry to Newgrounds. I've had some sort of sequel in mind for years but other projects keep taking precedence. Maybe some day :)

Q: One of my favorite of your submissions (two actually) is NG Is Under Attack Part 1 & 2. Was the inspiration for this flash based off the teletubbie incident with the BBC?

A: The idea was originally inspired by another portal animation at the time that gave anthropomorphic qualities to .swf files. Unfortunately I don't remember what it was, but it lead to the idea of having a 'portal town' of sorts where all the .swf files lived together, which is what NGUA starts with. Tom was posting a lot of articles about his copyright issues with the BBC and at some point I decided that it would be cool to incorporate it into a story with my 'portal village.' It was also my way of paying respect to a lot of my favorite authors and animations at the time by featuring them in my flash.

Both parts did pretty well for their time, and part 1 was my first front-page feature. I started work on part 3 later down the line but I tried to incorporate too many ideas and became too frustrated with my limited animation ability. It sat on the back burner for a while and eventually fell into obscurity. I even started a remake of the first part thinking it would motivate me to finish the series but neither happened :(

As much as I'd love to say I'll finish it the truth is that the series is too outdated at this point. None of the issues are relevant anymore, and most of the featured content/characters are forgotten about. Making a part 3 in today's portal wouldn't work unless I re-wrote the story or found a successful way to incorporate new portal characters.

Q: I'd say the flash most people know you by is Territory War, how did you think that idea up and why did you use stick men?

A: After randomly messing around in flash one night I started coming up with a little engine where you could toss grenades around and bounce them off the floor. From there I played around with basic platforming and stage scrolling. I feel like I had worms in mind but it wasn't until some people commented on my engine and its similarities that I decided to keep going and turn it into an actual game. My previous games had mostly only involved point and click mechanics, so Territory War ended up being a pretty big challenge. I went with stick figures because they were much easier than actual characters and I was already spending a large amount of time on the programming.

Q: You have a total of 49 awards over the 8 years you've been here, how does it feel to have so many?

A: I'm proud of them but I don't like to place emphasis on them. Awards in general (especially portal awards) are very subjective. One day's daily feature might not have been good enough for top ten on any other day. My goal has always been to keep at least a 1:1 ratio between submissions and awards so I think over time it evens out in terms of whether or not the awards are justified.

Not to sound too cheesy but if you start relishing in awards then it's easy to become careless with current and future work.

Q: What can we expect from Afro-Ninja in the future?

A: I'm bouncing between a few different projects right now- Most notably Territory War 3, and a port of my Escape the Car game for the XBL Indie channel. I also have a new installment of the Escape Series sitting on the backburner and ready to release later this year.

Aside from my main projects I have a notebook full of ideas and I'm never sure which ones to shoot for next. Stuff like an Afro-Ninja fighting game, a Castlevania tribute, Newgrounds SIM sequel, etc. Once my schedule clears up a bit I really would like to take a break from games and play around with more artistic stuff such as music, animation, and even video production. I keep telling myself I'll get to it after a certain project but new things keep popping up. Can't complain though.

It seems Afro-Ninja is just a regular Joe who got into programming after messing around and has been getting better and better over time.



Afro is not a regular Joe ... he is an awesome Joe. Nice interview, too.


thanks for the interview! also <3 rice pirate

and then, this man got on t.v. became a pro and life a awesome life. his name is THE Interviewer.

Afro-Ninja is pretty cool. I have always enjoyed his flash submissions, and I even got to beta test one of his games. Definitely one of my favorite flash artists!