Back to basics

Dave Cook checks out emerging talent in the world of Flash Gaming

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Line Rider

Flash gaming is a funny beast. For some it is a mere distraction while others see it as a formidable force in the gaming industry despite the odd ‘bad egg’ website devoted to vulgar cartoons and controversy.

The coding language allows would-be artists to get their creations out without a publishing giant such as Sony or Microsoft. We’ve all seen Tetris and Pong clones on Flash websites but delve deeper and you will encounter free games more deserving of your 40 quid. Publishers have spotted a perfect gap in the market and are now recruiting some of this untapped talent. Take the downloadable PS3 title flOw, for instance. The hugely addictive motion sensor snake-clone started life as a Flash university project; now it is the recipient of many accolades in the gaming press.

Chris Keenan is the Associate Producer of InXile Games, the team behind forthcoming crime game Heist. Keenan’s company also produces a nifty Flash game called Line Rider, originally created by a Slovenian University student named Bostjan Cadez. ‘He made the game as a school project and put it up on DeviantArt.com,’ recalls Keenan. ‘From there it generated buzz and gathered a cult following.’ Nintendo has now snapped up the game for development on Wii and DS. It is just one of many recent success stories. Behemoth, the team behind Alien Hominid, a run’n’gun title that began life as a small Flash project on Newgrounds.com, are now developing Castle Crashers for Xbox Live Arcade.

Keenan praises the new online marketplace. ‘I’m a huge fan of Xbox Live Arcade. I couldn’t begin to tell you how much money I’ve spent on these games. The tighter scope of Flash games lends itself well to these smaller types of downloads. Nintendo’s new system Wii Ware will help independent developers break into the market by making games with small budgets.’
One aspect of Line Rider that relates to the ethos of Flash gaming is that it is not bound by rules – a characteristic that established developers could learn from. An injection of fresh home-grown talent is just what the industry needs to enter new levels of creativity.

While it may not reach the dizzying heights of Gears of War and its triple-A brethren, Line Rider will surely stand out from the crowd this year. Should more Flash games make the leap from online time waster to fully-fledged commercial title the gaming world will be a much more interesting place. Publishers, the ball is now in your court.

For the official Line Rider game visit www.official-linerider.com/play.html. For InXile Games see www.inxile-entertainment.com

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