John Cooney (jmtb02): FGS 5 Advisory Board Interview Series

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FGS 5 Advisory Board Interview Series, Take 3

Welcome to my third installment of the FGS 5 Advisory Board Interview Series! This is your chance to get to know the folks who will determine the content of FGS 5, getting their thoughts on both the conference and the games industry in general.

My third interview is with John Cooney (jmtb02), now a Game Developer over at Kongregate. John, who probably doesn’t really need an introduction, is one of the most prolific game developers in the Flash games industry. He is responsible for some of the most well-known Flash games on the internet, having created titles such as the “Achievement Unlocked”, “This Is The Only Level”, and “Exit Path” series,  . This is the first year John has served on the FGS Advisory Board.

For more information on FGS 5, including passes, speaking submissions, or Mochis Award Show information please visit the conference website.

Interview with John Cooney

Introduce yourself- who are you, how big is your team, and how do you participate in the Flash games industry?

Hey there, I am John Cooney.  Currently I am a team of one, in transition period between an old position at Armor Games and a new one at Kongregate.  I have produced over 90 games from start to finish, culminating in hundreds of millions of plays.  I focus in simple, small games that have fun and unique experiences.

What did you do before?

At Armor Games I was the Head of Game Development, which allowed me to design games and build accordingly.  I lead a small team of developers from several different countries.  It was a lot of fun, the community of developers there is excellent.

How did you first get into the Flash games industry?

There wasn’t much of a Flash games industry when I started.  In fact, the idea of Flash games was just getting off the ground.  I was into Flash animation when I started to learn Actionscript, and soon started embarking on making some of my first games.  In 2002-2003 I started to publish my first game prototypes to Newgrounds.com, and by 2004 I was earning sponsorships for my work.  In 2006 I established a freelance business to make Flash games to help pay the rent and college.  In 2007 I was offered a position at Armor Games, which I gladly took since Armor Games was a great sponsor.

What has been your proudest moment since joining the Flash gaming community?

I had a mom email me to tell me her 4 year-old son was addicted to a game I created called Ball Revamped.   He was so obsessed with the game that he drew me levels and designs, which she scanned and emailed to me.  On top of that, he kept wondering why he couldn’t find Ball Revamped clothes at the department store.  He was obsessed.  Its really great hearing from fans.

What was your biggest challenge in the early going?  How does that challenge to what you face today?

The biggest challenge is that scary jump-off from being a sometimes game developer to a full-time game developer.  I had a second job for years leading up to the big push-off.  I was trying to make games, hold a second job, and get to college each day, which made for a really difficult time.  When my games became successful enough I could quit the second job.  And even then it felt risky.  What if the games I made suddenly became not as great?  What if Flash games turned sour?  It was a scary time.  But eventually it paid off, and I am very happy today.

The challenges I face today are very different.  The market is changing, mobile is huge.  Social gaming is glaring down at me.  But then again, I see these challenges and see opportunity.  The challenges I face now can only benefit me, as I can get my games into more and more hands.  It’s an exciting time for game development.

Describe the climate as a game developer today in terms of technology and monetization opportunity. How does it compare to being a game developer 2-3 years ago?

Everyone keeps screaming for mobile!  And its true, mobile is huge.  Everyone seems to have a smartphone these days.  Tablets and e-readers and everywhere.  The computer experience is now shared among multiple devices, which means more opportunities and places to produce your work.  That said, the traditional PC game experience is still a great place to make games and is getting better as more platforms like Steam and Good Old Games become mainstream.  Browser-based gaming is still strong!

Monetization has gotten way smarter for Flash games over the past few years.  Microtransactions, in-game ads, subscription models, etc. are becoming widely accepted and utilized in games.  Monetization used to be driven purely from banner ads on the game pages, but now monetization is getting way smarter and better for developers.

What do you like most about the Flash gaming industry?

Flash is still Flash, I can make games quickly, easily, and professionally.  I can export quickly to tons of different platforms in minutes, not days.  Its such a great place to experiment and rapid-prototype.  The gaming community is ridiculously awesome for getting feedback and supporting developers.  And the development community is top-notch.  Overall, there’s not a lot to complain about.

What do you like the least?

Theft, easily.  There’s still a huge problem with Flash games getting hacked apart and rebranded.  As a developer its heartbreaking to find my work on different sites with my logos and links removed.  I can only do so much to protect my work and it feels like hacking is only getting better and better.

How has the industry changed since you first joined?

The monetization paths have changed a ton.  The industry used to very easy? make a game and get a sponsor to pay for a logo in the game.  Now there are seemingly endless combinations on how to make money in a Flash game.  And many sites provide many different tools and ways for developers to do this.  This has made things both better and more complicated.

The theme for FGS 5 is, “Evolve your Game.”  How do you think Flash game developers are evolving their games today?  What could they be doing better/differently?

The biggest evolution in Flash gaming is taking place in the mobile hop.  Making single games for both desktop and mobile platforms is very possible and has seen several successes already.  Coming up with games that really rock both platforms is a huge challenge.  Touch vs. Keyboard/Mouse can be very different.  Producing for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry, and PC/Mac can be difficult to do from single project files.  Trying to bridge that gap is a challenge we’re all facing.

Where do you see the Flash industry going?  What’s in-store for the future?

I see Flash games being around for a long while.  Flash is really two parts: Its the player that the users see and its the set of tools were given to make Flash content.  Both parts are really great and we have yet to see HTML5 overtake Flash on either front.  Until then, I see Flash being the premiere platform for game development and the most ubiquitous way to make games for the web.

What part of FGS do you look forward to the most?

I enjoy talking to developers about their projects and hearing from panelists about their life and love for games.  Game developers are really cool people, when you get a bunch of them together in a room great things happen.

In your opinion, why should people come out to FGS 5?

There is no better way to connect with people in the Flash game industry than FGS5.  This has been true for the last 4, and it will certainly be true for this event.

 

Thanks John, looking forward to seeing you at FGS 5!