Months later at the 2011 Independent Games Festival, it was selected as a finalist in Excellence in Design and received an honorable mention for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize. Vlambeer was on the map. “For me, the next five years of Vlambeer from the start, were kind of a whirlwind of flying from project into project,” Nijman said. “Three-ish years until Ridiculous Fishing,” Ismail interjected. “Genuinely, you can ask me what I was feeling like, but everything before Ridiculous Fishing has turned into a blur for me.
Vlambeer served that purpose for a while, but now it’s time for something new. “People don’t necessarily need a Vlambeer anymore,” Nijman said. “We’ve said what we wanted to, we've said when we needed to, we've grown along with the industry in such interesting ways,” Ismail added. “If I'm honest, I would much rather close this chapter with one last good choice than bleed out over the years, doing less and less.
They created plans for ULTRABUGS and started coding. And coding. And coding. “We noticed that just getting ULTRABUGS out has just kind of been this, I don't know,” Nijman trailed off. “Long, drawn-out process,” Ismail finished. “It's not necessarily hard, but it's just not happening,” Nijman said. “I think we both realized that our interests are now kind of in different places. “We reorganized our lives during that year,” Ismail said. “And it turns out that I guess part of Vlambeer was momentum, and that went out for a bit.
Vlambeer was not meant to be eternal for us, even from the start. “We said we were going to do this for five years,” Nijman added. “And then quit,” Ismail said, finishing Nijman’s thought. “Just long enough to recover our life from not finishing school.
Ismail and Nijman made the decision to end Vlambeer just two weeks ago, amiably and without drama. “What kind of happened is nothing happened,” Ismail said. “It's just Vlambeer had a certain tension around it and that tension broke for a while.
It took three and a half years to complete, and by the end, Ismail and Nijman were running on empty. “We had a lunch meeting, I think,” Ismail said. “And we just looked at each other and we're like, I need time off.
Meanwhile, Nijman was idealistic about indie games — he snapped on the train because the game Ismail wouldn’t shut up about was 3D and not free, two aspects that excluded it from the “indie” label in Nijman’s teenage mind — and he was a prolific, talented designer.
Two years later, Nijman and Ismail would no longer be students at the Utrecht school, opting to enter the world of professional game development together, as an independent studio called Vlambeer.
Ismail called many of Nijman’s original projects “obnoxiously hipster art things,” but said his perspective changed once he played If you really want it, you can fly. “It was very simple,” Ismail said. “It was really clearly quickly made, and he made me play it and it was kind of a troll game, but it was perfectly designed.
Nijman created a giant production schedule out of printer paper and hung it on his living room wall, listing the goals for each day in order to make it to the IGF Awards. “It was just very kind of high energy,” Nijman said. “We were very excited and we just made this game happen very quickly.
Neither of them were interested in losing the rights to their own creative work, so they ditched school, subsisting on noodles and government loans as they crafted Vlambeer’s first games. “We never really got along, but we kind of saw, hey, we both have ambition and like making stuff,” Nijman said. “And we were both at this spot where it was like, OK, should we do this school thing?
Ismail did damage control while Nijman, Zach Gage, Greg Wohlwend and Eirik Suhrke finished up Ridiculous Fishing, and Vlambeer released the game in 2013.