Interview No. 111
Interview By: The-Great-One
Today's guest is a web programmer for Newgrounds. He is the one behind a lot of developer features here on Newgrounds. From the Newgrounds API, Newgrounds Chat, and a new feature in the works, the Newgrounds Passport. This is just a small sample of the features and works that he has put into this site. He is also a game maker winning awards for games such as Pico Roulette and Alkie Kong 2. He is Josh Tuttle, or more known on Newgrounds as PsychoGoldfish.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
A: It all kind of started around 1998 or so, when TechTV had some show that mentioned this amazing new product called Flash 2. I was breaking in to the web design business, and took a huge interest in this fully animated website made by Gabo Mendoza (as preserved here: http://www.thefwa.com/flash10/gabo.html).
I knew learning Flash was going to open up a world of potential for me, but I also figured out you could use it to make some really simple games. Curious to see if anyone else was on to the same idea, I typed "macromedia flash games" in altavista.com, and found a bunch of sites. But this one site... it had this funny ass game about teletubbies getting high. It was just so stupid, and hilarious. It was the personal site of one Thomas J Fulp, "New Ground Atomix".
I made a handful of simple button games, in the same style as Telletubby Funland, and threw them up on the web for my friends to enjoy, then I kept on pursuing my web design career.
I checked in with newgrounds off and on to see if Tom had done anything new. When Flash 3 was out, he pushed the shit out of it with the original Pico. But when Flash 4 came out, he made Samurai Asshole. Thats when I knew Flash games were truly going to be legitimate. I started coming up with some more advanced, but still simple, games around that time.
Eventually I made Virtual Driveby 2, which was a pretty lame game, but I was proud of it at the time. Tom had been slowly collecting and posting work for a bunch of Flash animators and Newgrounds was growing it's user base pretty quickly, so I sent him a copy of my game to get in on the action. He wrote me back telling me there was a new automated portal I could submit from, and so I joined the site.
The game actually did pretty well, and the reviews I got just fueled my passion for making games.
Q: You are one of the old members of Newgrounds and one of the old men of the Internet. Could you tell us your experiences of seeing Newgrounds from humble beginnings and through the evolution of technology where it is today?
A: Like I said earlier, the original newgrounds was a seed of inspiration. A lot of It wasn't about making money or getting famous then. It was just a bunch of kids making fun things and newgrounds became the place we all went to share with each other. It was like this exclusive club, and you were just proud to be a part of it. The rest of the site was all just angsty kids having fun and being stupid. It was the wild west.
The site started changing when the next generation of users came in. We were still young, but we certainly weren't kids anymore, and the new users were. Newgrounds has always been appealing to a younger audience. A lot of users from my generation just started leaving. Some just hated the new users and felt THEIR newgrounds was gone (a sentiment that would be repeated with EVERY generation), while others just grew up and got jobs, had families, whatever. I had a job and a family too, but I kept on making games because I loved doing it.
As the next few generations came through, you could really start to see Newgrounds grow as a respectable community. Where we used to get mouse-drawn tweened clock spam, we started getting highly detailed art and animation popping up. A new community of audio artists was emerging. Collaborations were getting more and more popular. The bar was raising on a daily basis, and the old feeling of being an elite community started to come back.
I'm happy to say, Newgrounds just kept heading in that direction.
Q: For those who don't know, could you tell us what Radiogrounds was and about DJ Goldfish?
A: Radiogrounds was an internet radio station started by a handful of old Newgrounds regulars like Swaenk and Captain Bob. It was basically just a small group of NG users playing music and chatting with listeners on IRC. It had a lot in common with classic Newgrounds in that it was a smaller group of like-minded people just entertaining people for fun. It had enough of a listener base that we ended up using it to reveal the results of all the major audio portal contests. My Saint Patrick's Day shows were pretty awesome too from what I can remember...
But Captain Bob (who owned the domain and the streaming servers) did what so many men do when there is a woman involved and abandoned his Internet hangouts, so Radiogrounds pretty much died off. Swaenk still does some audio streaming now and then via the old Radiogrounds facebook page, but I don't see it ever coming back.
Q: The Newgrounds Wiki - Staff Page states that you are a Web Programmer for Newgrounds. You came on board in 2008. How did you come into contact with Tom about doing programming for the site? What features have you done for Newgrounds that other members may not know about?
A: I was actually offered a job at Newgrounds a few years before, but I still had a lot of stuff I wanted to do solo and part of the deal was moving to Philly so I could work on-site (I was making my living by banner ads on PsychoGoldfish.com and had a ton of freedom to pusue my interests).
2007 was a rough year. Ad rates started declining dramatically and it got to the point I had to pick up freelance work and beg for sponsorships on my flash games to pay the bills. I even threw a resume up on Monster.com just to see what nibbles it would get.
Tom was sponsoring what would be my last major game, Alkie Kong 2. I asked him if Newgrounds had any way to track how well their sponsorships performed, just because I felt like I had mastered distributing viral games and wanted him to see that his investment would be returned.
I was amazed when he said no. Newgrounds had sponsored a TON of content, and had no way to track how well that sponsorship did. I decided to just write some tracking software for Alkie Kong 2 so he could see how it all performed.
At the same time I was also writing game reviews and getting into some bigger issues with my Web Game Magazine site. I started getting contacted by some startup sites, including Mochi Media about applying for various positions they were looking to fill, and liked what I had done with the review site.
Pretty much the same day, I was chatting with Tom again about the Alkie Kong 2 stats, when I told him about the offers I was getting. When he realized I was a free agent, he asked if I could work part time from home to make Newgrounds a system for tracking sponsorships and getting something together so users could implement the new flash ads that he was testing out with CPMStar.
So I took the part time job, and the Newgrounds API was born. The Flash ads performed well and we started playing with other add ons like medals and score boards and cloud saves. The part time job turned full time within a few months.
Since then, I re-built the entire submission process for the game, movie and audio portals so users can set up authors, revenue sharing and preview everything before they publish. I created the newgrounds wiki wich has tons of good information floating around. I built the long-overdue friend system that will power a bunch of new social features in the future. And I can't even remember all the shit I did during the redesign.
Q: When Tom Fulp was here we talked about the Newgrounds Chat being around back in 2002. The Newgrounds Chat went down and has returned. Tom said that it didn't integrate with the user system and the moderation was hostile at times. Do you agree with him in why the chat fell back then or do is there something else to it?
Q: Could you give us the history of bringing this new Newgrounds Chat into existence? Why is it featureless and will it be updated overtime?
A: The featureless chat was really an April Fools gag. Way before I got hired, I was working on a multiplayer server/api with Brendon, our latest staff member. We were going to use it to power multiplayer flash games, and Tom asked if we could have it run a Newgrounds Chat with integrated logins.
We had an early version working in early 2007 but the server didn't have all the moderation features Tom wanted yet. Brendon also had a full-time job and we just had a hard time getting it finished. The project got shelved while I was doing the Newgrounds API, but we had another programmer come on to help me get it finished. But before that could happen, the Redesign was designated as our priority. It was supposed to only take a few months, but we all know how that turned out.
So all these years of delays and mixed priorities later, the Newgrounds Chat had become a meme all of its own. I would make random posts saying it was done, but it wasn't. I used the version we DID have working for the China Chat april fools gag. I wrote a song about it. And this past year, someone thought it would be funny to just release an open source chat script that has no features at all. Turns out the users didn't care and it ended up staying on the site.
Q: At one point you spoke about the Newgrounds chat in a thread called Newgrounds.
"What a bunch of whining bitches! First off, I have been a chat regular for a long time.... I will state that I don't always get along with all the operators, nor do I like the way some users treat people. With that being said, the chat is still an excellent part of the NG community."
"It seems a tradition that when a chatter's pride gets hurt they go and whine and seek the sympathy of the BBSers, who have just as many whiney bitches and assholes as the chat, however, unlike the chat, the BBSers have the luxury of only participating in conversations that they find interesting."
What was the old Newgrounds Chat like and do you fear that we may end up on that same route again with the new Newgrounds Chat?
A: That goes back a long way to the early days of Newgrounds before the old IRC chat was left to the inmates to run. It was a great fucking chat back then. The BBS was where most of the community hung out. The chat was a smaller knit group and had a much larger percentage of artists and game developers. It just seemed to attract a higher tier of user back then, and the conversations never ended.
To this day, niche groups of users still create little group chats and hangouts, and the people that frequent them love them. There's a level of bonding and interaction in chat rooms you can't get from a BBS. Conversations just evolve more naturally and there aren't moderators deleting your posts because you went off topic.
The big problem with the old chat, and the old chat users will probably disagree with me, was how it severed itself from Newgrounds in all but name. A lot of the old regulars took pride in the fact they no longer visited the site and were outright hostile to actual fans of NG.
The new chat, as featureless as it is, is actually built into newgrounds. That alone cuts off the odds that it will ultimately be taken over by anti-newgrounds users. However, the current featureless chat tends to be dominated by a small group of people who don't have a lot to talk about. With the current way it's used, it won't gain much momentum. But who cares, it's just a continuous joke anyway... the real chat will be something a little more special.
Q: Looking through your posts, you were not fond of the Newgrounds BBS, but more for the Newgrounds Chat. When ZekeySpaceyLizard was here, his answer for how to fix the BBS was to delete it. Your thread NG BBS is Officialy > NG Chat certainly had a lot to say. Where is your stance nowadays about the BBS and Chat?
A: Is this interview just based on my BBS Post history? Your journalistic skills amaze me...
I still think the BBS is pretty terrible. At the time of that post, the users running the old IRC chat had pretty much destroyed everything that made it a fun place. Its not that the BBS was actually good back then, it just shows how bad chat had gotten.
The BBS does have some gold nuggets from time to time, and I still enjoy trolling it now and then, but for the most part its regurgitated memes, attention whores and a bunch of whiners who complain about every inch of progress Newgrounds makes as a whole.
The BBS is where users who can't really contribute to any of the portals tend to go to make a name for themselves. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but the sheer amount of people struggling for attention is just unappealing to me.
I know that's really just a description of the General forums, but I have no desire to hang out in the themed forums either. Those forums tend to have a lot of the same clique issues that brought the old chat down.
Q: Mini Putt is one of your earliest games winning you a Daily Feature and Weekly Users' Choice awards. You would go on to make more Mini Putt games in the future. Why the fascination with miniature golf and bringing it into game format?
A: The original mini-putt was actually a game I made for a startup company. I had like 8 games ready for them, but they went bankrupt without ever paying for them. I didn't really have any plans on making it, but when they asked for a putt-putt game I remembered playing some old top-view games on the Commodore 64 and decided to build the game similar to those.
It was probably one of the first games on Newgrounds that used any real physics, and the responses I got from it were just amazing. I did make a rookie mistake in the first version of that game, however. It had absolutely no branding or links to my website. It appeared in a few magazines and was even on TV back when indy games didn't get any real coverage, but every time it was credited to some site that stole the file from Newgrounds. I'm still a bit bitter about that.
I didn't really have a big fascination with miniature golf at all. Mini-Putt 2 was made primarily because people asked for a sequel. I took a lot of stuff people suggested about the first game and put it into the second game. Changing the formula even just a little had a mixed response, but it was popular enough.
Mini-Putt 3 was more of an experiment to see if I could make an entry using courses that weren't all perfectly flat walls, and the last one was the debut of the Multiplayer Server I mentioned before. Its getting retired soon because we're pulling the plug on the server, but I hope to make another installment in the future.
Q: Pico's Unloaded: The Game would be you and Mindchamer's entry for Pico Day 2006 and based off of Mindchamber's movie Pico's Unloaded. Whose idea was it to turn it into a game and what was the process you both took into bringing it to life?
A: Mindchamber was working on this Smash TV style game back then, and that gave me the idea of doing something in that vein for a Pico Day game. I suggested we just base it on his Pico's unloaded movie (so we could shave development time and use the original for cut scenes). It was pretty ambitious because the level was in faux 3d and there was no real 3d API for Flash yet. It was a lot of fun getting the 360 degree characters to work smoothly and there was even some jokes that it looked better than Pico 2. I'd still love to do another big Pico game.
Q: Pico Roulette would be made by you, Tom, and now new administrator BrenTheMan. Did Tom contact you about making this game? If not then where did it start? What was the process took into making it? Also it was stated in the description...
"This game is broken... The multiplayer server that powers it is busted due to a severe database crash. When NG-Chat is ready, this game will get plugged into THAT server and work again."
With the new Newgrounds Chat up, will this game come back with online multiplayer and possibly Medals?
A: When we had Mini-Putt Online launched and it was able to actually use your Newgrounds login, Tom wanted in on the action, but he was pretty busy with something about Crashing Castles at the time. He pitched taking the old Pico vs Uber Kids game and adding more characters and going multiplayer with it. It was pretty easy to do, so I whipped it together and submitted it.
Unfortunately, the old multiplayer server had a pretty significant memory leak that impacted the pico game especially hard. And as I mentioned earlier, the server just never got fixed, so the game has been broken since.
The plan is to rebuild the game, probably using Mindchamber art, and throwing in some new game modes when we have a new multiplayer server in place.
Q: Where do you think Newgrounds will be headed next with the Internet booming and entertainment coming from a multitude of places?
A: For the first time, Newgrounds is going to branch out. We've been an introverted community for so long it's going to be a big change, but we're ready. We took the first step by launching Passport, which lets people log in to games using the Newgrounds API from any website. Brendon and Mike (and to a lesser extent, myself), just did a bunch of work that will get our library of movies working on mobile and streaming devices. NG Social will be getting more feeds, and we're planning on making tools for users of other social networks to enjoy our content.
While that is happening, we'll also be working hard to give artists all the tools they need to succeed. Newgrounds really is the best place on the web for people to get a start in animation, indy games and music, and we want to keep it that way.
Q: What can we expect from PsychoGoldfish in the future?
A: The official Newgrounds Multiplayer server and API is my white whale. I have every intent of harpooning that son of a bitch once and for all this year not that we have Brendon on staff. And once that is working, NEWGROUNDS CHAT BABY!
I'm even hoping to go back to my roots and get a game out this year.
Until then, you can always count on some drunken BBS Trolling.
PsychoGoldfish is certainly an interesting individual. Speaking his mind on a daily basis the first minute, and working for Newgrounds the next. It is interesting to see that we not only used to have a Newgrounds Chat, but to see why it took so long for us to get it back in the future. PsychoGoldfish is an ambitious individual and he has the tools to get them done. All in all, Newgrounds future does indeed look bright. Who knows, PsychoGoldfish may give us some online multiplayer on Newgrounds.