In a time where the CEO of Electronic Arts describes collapsing revenues as a brightside opportunity to cut the fat, farmers can't get enough GMO seeds and petro-fertilizer for lack of credit, and the whole show looks like it's going to come down, we need to ask ourselves what kind of a high we want to develop, what kind of an industry we want to create. It's clear to me that there could be a very bright future in web-based games, either as stand-alone experiences or windows into a wider world, such as a MySQL database of profiles, a leaderboard, a rich MMO, or what the hell - Storytron. That's assuming that the internet doesn't crash under a lack of infrastructure or get knocked out by a solar radiation storm in 2012. Either way, Flashbang has been putting out fresh, distinct games using Unity for a while, and they're really starting to broaden out. In their latest, they show that you can have your casual cake and eat it too, suggesting that the future of profitable gameplay may well take majority out there in the wilds of the net.
No longer content to stick with a theme-gimmick lifted from Family Guy or Calvin and Hobbes, they decided to get off the crazy train and do something a bigger studio would do, but with rapid prototypting finesse. Basically, the plan was to rip off flOw and turn it into a game. It works. The visual effects but more importantly the smooth and off-the-shelf physics show how Unity brings a more interesting game to the browser. I'd say they give the PS3 download a run for its money. Instead of the linear dimension of flow, where the enemy circling would counter your straight moves, this game makes circling a requisite to both attack and consumption, with navigation another dimension of control altogether. Yet they maintain the zen-button control that flOw employed. It's like the circular dynamic is a free dimension gifted down by Santa Physics. There's nothing phantasmic here, just rich flow, crafted and balanced and delivered in two months. Ain't nothing wrong with that. This game is more significant as a demonstration of what web-gaming can become than as a specific design. It's also a great example of getting a good feel, from the mechanics of input to the dynamics of the physics to the aesthetics of a psylocybin jellyfish.
Speaking of jellyfish, let's talk about money. Last time I checked Flashbang was merc'ing out their talents for cash, and making games this good and this fast because they both can and because they must if they are to make anything good at all. I am awed at their energy, I merc myself out all day and I feel like shit when I get home. I've been working on a wrestling game, I had a dream that the owner of the league confessed his evil plan to tap into human hate and make money, and that I'm his pawn. This is not the kind of context that leaves one free and clear to pursue independent projects. On the other hand, flOw made a really good % ROI, some of which trickled down into the student loan payments of the talent behind the game. Daniel James's company does good stuff that is designed for a business model (Whirled excepted) which put them in a quite fine position. These are the two paths to profitability I see in the future, pearl-like console downloads on one hand, and web-based free-to-play on the other.
Blurst is already one of the better free game sites out there, there's huge potential for a portal based around cohesive portfolios of unique games, instead of a hat collecting meta-game. They could sell people credit for making the games possible, I mean it's only like 10-20k to get a game done in these time frames, they could make a meta-game of donations!
The third, hidden path, and I think this has the most potential, involves slashing your cost of living and growing most of your own food part-time on roughly 1.5 acres per person, then developing freeware. This is known as the Jason Rohrer method. I think that's where these guys need to end up, so go play their well crafted harbinger of future web glory for free and donate some money on the condition that they all move to a satellite internet connected farm in Panama.