Julian Scott, who goes by the name LongAnimals online, is a professional flash game developer who has created such hit games as CycloManiacs and Drift Runner. In this interview, I got the chance to talk to Julian about his start in game development, his thoughts on game sponsorships, and his future plans for game development.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your start in Flash game development?
I’ve been programming and designing games professionally since the early 90s. I wanted a change and an easier life!
After discovering how simple it is to produce things in Flash I thought that I’d leave my job, where I wasn’t very happy, and go it alone.
So I sold my car to finance myself for six months and set about making Flash games. At the same time I started to learn ASP.NET in case I needed to do a proper job again, but thankfully I’ve never had to write a single line of ASP.NET for cash!
You chose to go by the name LongAnimals in your Flash games. Do you feel building a brand is important in the Flash industry (in regards to sponsorships and/or fan bases)?
Yes, building a brand is definitely worthwhile, although I didn’t think anything about that at all when I started up. We chose the name LongAnimals simply because my wife and I like ferrets.
After a few minor hits it seemed that we’d developed a small following, so there didn’t seem to be much point in changing anything.
Now that I’ve learned more about the Flash game world I’ve become more aware of the importance of branding – hence the new company from myself and RobotJAM – TurboNUKE
As for sponsorships, I’m not entirely sure that the name matters so much as the quality of the products and personal relationships with sponsors. I still can’t sell games if they’re not very good!
As I understand, your revenue model is based upon sponsorships. Does this affect the way you develop games?
Our revenue model is split between sponsorships, ad revenue, and license sales. Primary sponsorships account for perhaps 70% of our income.
We have only once made a game with a specific sponsor in mind – Heavy Weapons – which did very well on Kongregate and Newgrounds, but was quite a failure out in the wilds of the internet. After this disappointment we have learned more about what the average Flash gamer likes, and so try to appeal to a wider range of people. We still get it drastically wrong sometimes though – it keeps us on our toes!
What tips would you offer to aspiring developers looking to improve their game’s sponsorship worthiness?
There are two obvious routes:
A. Be super-original or groundbreaking (sponsors often like that) or
B. Look at an established popular genre and build upon it.
A specific case for us doing (B) was CycloManiacs. We were aware that motocross games were pretty popular so we decided to put in the effort and make a really good game in that genre. Simple as that, really.
For sponsors it mostly comes down to numbers. They want quality games which vast numbers of people will enjoy. If you make a game like that, decent sponsorship money will follow.
I wouldn’t take too many risks. Sponsors paying money upfront are already taking a gamble, and increasing their risk factor may not help you.
What’s in store for the future of LongAnimals games?
A chain of organic curry restaurants and a yacht in the Azores!
Ah, you mean the games themselves? Well more sequels, more ventures in to different genres, and one or two bits of startling originality :-)