Tom The Tank Engine, part 2


Earlier this week, the first half of the Cold, Hard Flash interview with Tom Fulp, the creator of Newgrounds.com, went live. If you guessed that the second half is below, you are a gifted guesser. In this half, we learn about what we might expect from the Newgrounds of the future, how a platform video game all started in Flash, and what Newgrounds staff position Tom would most like to fill.

AARON SIMPSON: How will Newgrounds have changed 5 years down the road?
TOM FULP: After years of goofing off, I’m starting to get more serious about where Newgrounds is headed. I started Newgrounds ten years ago while I was in high school, with games such as ‘Club A Seal‘ (self-explanatory) and ‘Assassin,’ the game where you kill celebrities (starting off with point and click static pictures and eventually moving to Flash). Newgrounds has held on to that dark edge over the years, while organically growing into the web’s largest community and showcase of Flash authors.

It started with helping some friends get exposure for their Flash and has changed to now depend on artists driving the content of the site. Our goal is to provide as much exposure and opportunity for the artists as possible, while never tying them down to anything that limits their potential. I like to think of Newgrounds as this democracy where I’m just a user like everyone else and I submit my own stuff like everyone else. I love empowering the community as much as possible and trying to level the playing field for every joe schmoe in every basement around the world.

I hate it that I’ve always been expected to move to LA to “make it in the biz”; I like being with my friends and family in the Philadelphia area. There’s a ton of talent outside of NYC and LA that gets stuck in dead end jobs because there aren’t enough local opportunities. The web is changing that.

Some day when I’m too old and out of touch, the NG community may be allowed to elect someone new to be their figurehead. I get a kick out of imagining that scenario, but it’s a ways off.

AARON: For anyone who missed your appearance on G4TV’s ‘Attack of the Show,’ what shorts played in your Newgrounds Halloween Flash Round-up?
TOM: The initial plan was to show three submissions and give shout outs to a few more favorites. Unfortunately, it was the end of the show and we only had time to showcase two.

We showed the College University Halloween Special.

As well as the Bad Guys Halloween episode.

AARON: What type of reaction did you get to your appearance on ‘ATOS?’
TOM: The reaction on Newgrounds was really positive. There’s always users that will try to diss you for anything you do, but overall people loved it and the artists really appreciated getting their stuff shown on TV. I’d love to keep coming back to show Flash on a regular basis!

AARON: Is ‘Alien Hominid’ the only platform game created using Flash?
TOM: As far as I know, it is the only console game that evolved from a Flash game on the web.

AARON: The actual game play of ‘Alien Hominid’ seems to have benefited from the 2D medium. More character, more extreme posing and more personality. Is this something you focused on during production?
TOM: Our #1 goal during production of ‘Alien Hominid’ was to capture everything we loved about the 2D run-and-gun genre and amplify it. I still bow before ‘Gunstar Heroes’ but I’m really happy with what we accomplished. We have tons of giant, imaginative bosses, lots of explosions and some cool little story elements that don’t slow down the action. We want our games to reflect what games would look like today if they had never gone 3D. An evolution of 2D with more processing power behind it.

AARON: At any time in production, did you wish you could throw a few 3D elements in?
TOM: Dan originally made pre-rendered 3D versions of the characters for the console version. We thought it would be necessary to “fit in” and get approved for publishing. Once we got started, we realized the characters had lost the charm and personality of the web version. Dan redrew them by hand and we knew from then on it had to be straight 2D. We never had any 3D urges after that. Moving ahead, it could be kinda cool to make use of subtle 3D when appropriate.

AARON: Do you forsee an ‘Alien Hominid’ cartoon down the road?
TOM: It’s something we talk about and joke about on occasion. One thing we don’t want is for the alien to talk. If there was ever an ‘Alien Hominid’ cartoon, it would probably be more akin to classic ‘Tom & Jerry’ or ‘Road Runner’ cartoons.

AARON: Can The Behemoth be faster to market than some of the other big gamers?
TOM: That was our intent, but it’s still a slow process. Overall, we CAN do it faster because we aren’t trying to pull together some massive big-budget production. We have a lot more room to be fun and creative with our games. Good ideas are implemented at will without having to be part of a rigid master plan. It’s still a lot of work and we don’t pump games out as fast as we would like to. We thought ‘Alien Hominid’ would take nine months but it took 15 instead. A lot of companies spend at least two years and a ton more money on their games though.

AARON: Do you see Flash being part of your toolset at The Behemoth, or will you start utilizing other design and animation software?
TOM: Right now Dan is still drawing all the art in Flash with a Wacom pad, I don’t see that changing in the near future. As long as we are doing 2D, it will probably start as hand-drawn vectors. Unless we do a game with classic pixel art!

AARON: How do you export the assets and get them into the platform game?
TOM: All of the vector art needs to be converted to rasters in order to work on the console, so we run a conversion of all the art resources and then do manual clean-up by hand when stuff doesn’t look right.

AARON: What’s your take on Macromedia’s Flash Professional 8?
TOM: I haven’t actually experimented with it too much yet, I know that’s horrible. I downloaded a 30 day trial because I was hoping Macromedia would send me a free promo copy before it expired – I’m such a mooch. Now I have to go buy a copy. The new image filtering tools are slick and it’s nice that things run faster. I’d love to experiment with some webcam-based art installations, using the new abilities to interact with a webcam feed.

AARON: In your new office space, are you guys adding on staff?
TOM: We’re taking it very slow. It’s so hard to define what Newgrounds needs the most. I should probably be hiring a sales team to ramp up advertising revenue, but I’m always drawn to just keep bringing on artists. The next hire will probably be a kick ass programmer who can help with The Behemoth side. Know any kick ass game programmers in the Philadelphia area?

AARON: You once did much more art, design and animation, and now you seem more focused on programming. Do you have any personal design projects in the works?
TOM: I think I reached a point where I realized my stuff could look a lot more professional if someone else did the art. After that, I never really went back. It’s a shame because I like drawing and animating, but I didn’t get amazing fast enough. I’ll be submitting a new game to Newgrounds soon where I did the art, although there isn’t a lot of it.

I always have plans for personal projects but I never manage to squeeze them in to the schedule anymore. I like to think that over time, I’ll have a larger support structure and more time to persue small personal projects. But I guess everyone hopes for that. :)

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