July 4th., 2004
Run 'n Roll is a funny single player and multiplayer game created by the French game developers @ Yamago.
It features great cartoon-like graphics, lots of game modes, user registration, chat, realtime multiplayer challenges and much more!
(We also have online the Run'n Roll review by tomsamson, read it here)
A great example of what Flash can do when pushed to its limits.

Here follows the interview with the Yamago guys:

Q: First of all we'd like to know a bit more about Yamago. When did you start the company?
Mama :
Yamago is a multimedia creative studio specialized in web entertainment (games and animations). The company was founded in 2000. Our work is mainly based upon flash and we focus on creating multiplayer flash games (Hypraspeed, Poulaga Challenge, Run'n'roll, Yaballon).
We also work on offline projects, for instance we created a CD-ROM game (" Equipe Actimel contre les Megakrasses ") for the company Danone, the game was entirely made with Flash. It was distributed more than one million exemplaries in France, Belgium, Poland, and soon Ireland.
We also work on mobile gaming with Java, Flash and other upcoming technologies.
On top of creating Flash games and animations, we also work as consultants or expert actionscript developers for some companies.

Q: Can you introduce the members of the Yamago team?
Mama :
Yamago is a team of 5 persons : Stephane (aka abym), flash and php developer, Pierrick (aka polo), flash, php and java developer, Fred (aka MagicFred) our favorite illustrator and animator, Virgile, our musician, and myself (aka mama), flash and php developer.

Q: What were the first games you worked on?

Mama :
One of our first work was a game called " ViaRally ", a car game concept created for the french company Michelin. Then we created Hypraspeed, in collaboration with our friends from Globz. Hypraspeed was one of the first real-time multiplayer flash-based game.

Q: We've been playing your nice "Run n'Roll" game and really enjoyed it. Can you introduce the game and talk about its general features?
Mama :
Run'n'roll is our latest creation, and we are quite satisfied of it. It was a huge project and we managed to bring it to the end. Beyond the original gameplay, the friendly characters and universes created by magicfred, Run'n'roll also has build in new features and tools like YOGA and YoServer. YOGA is a player's management system, that will keep score tracks and player's profile for all of our upcoming games.
Once players have registered a Yoga profile, they can access all of our games the simpliest way, and be sure to have their scores saved. The aim was to encourage the birth of a community around our games, thus in the future, each game will also have its own board to allow players to share tips and tricks, meet each other, create teams, and post useful feedbacks to improve the games.
YoServer is a Java-based multiplayer socket server. We developed YoServer to fit the requirements of real-time multiplayer gaming.

Q: Was "Run n'Roll" a project for a client?
Mama :
No. Run'n'roll is a complete autoproduction, entirely financed by Yamago. We have had the idea of the game about 2 years ago. Yamago was founded as a creative production company, we always try to divide our time between working for our clients, and creating our own games, like Hypraspeed, Xtrem Snowboard or Yaballon (still in progress).

Q: How much time did it take to develop and how many people worked on it?
Polo :
Around 6 full months. It seems to be a lot of time, but it's due to many changes as we advanced on the game's conception. Several game's principles had to be modified to ensure the best multiplayer gaming experience.

How much complexity is added by the multiplayer factor?
Polo :
The main difficulty was to deal with real-time issues. You really have to pay attention to this when creating a multiplayer game. There are two major issues : synchronization problems caused by network lantencies, and the differences between each client's computer performance. There are important losses of framerate on older and slower computers, which adds another synchronization problem. The challenge is always to find tricks so each player still has a chance to win.

What kind of technology did you use for the multiplayer side?

Polo :
We have our own socket server, called YOServer , a home-made server developped in java.As far as data flow is concerned, XML is treated as string on the server-side (for best performance and to reduce memory use), on the client-side, messages are parsed as XML, using the standard XML class methods.

Q: What were the difficulties (if any) that you had to overcome during the development?

Polo :
As i said, the synchronization issue was a big part of the development. The " tap-tap " phase of the game (don't know how to say in english, the part of the game when you press alternatively 2 keys as fast as possible) was relatively difficult to setup. We had to use a multiplayer station for the testing process (several weeks testing with 2 computers side by side, watching 2 screens at a time :))
All along the development of the game, we had to adapt the gameplay (for example, we decided to add the ability to brake during the run), both single and multiplayer parts were constantly changed, as long as we were not convinced that the game was fun and addictive enough.
We spent a lot of time working on this project since we have had the idea of the rotational scrolling, two years ago. We also sometimes had some doubts and hesitations about our ability to bring the project to its end.
Working on this project was also a good exercise to discover some subtle bugs and misdocumented features of Flash, and to try and find custom solutions to the problems we met.

click thumbnails to
enlarge them.

Q: Did you use Actionscript 1 or 2.0? Which one do you prefer/use?
Mama :
Most of time we work with Flash MX, which we consider as the ultimate Flash version, at least the most robust and reliable. We find it a bit painfull to work with Flash MX 2004, and actionscript 2 doesn't significally improves performances.
As far as animation is concerned, it is nearly impossible to work with MX2004, since Macromedia removed the cancel/restore history feature of Flash MX, and replaced it by a linear history. Even so we used MX 2004 with some custom JSFL tools we made. JSFL is a very powerfull feature of MX2004, probably one of the most important.
For Run'n'roll, i developed a tiny JSFL tool to convert shapes to movieclips and automatically associate the resulting movieclips to classes. It was a very time-saving way to prepare the characters (in fact split them into several movieclips), to allow an easy color customization of each part of them. Considering the huge amount of frames to build each character's animation, doing this manually would have been a drudgery :)

Polo :
Flash MX2004 can be very usefull during the debugging process.

Q: The flash player speed was recently enhanced with version 7. Do you think its performance is enough for games?
Mama :
The Flash 7 player is actually faster than the flash 6 player, but it concernes code execution speed above all. Most of time, the problem is to have good vector rendering performances and a stable framerate. In some cases, vector rendering can use up to 90% of the overall memory usage. According to us, it's a key point on which Macromedia should really pay attention for the upcoming Flash versions.

Q: All your games seem to have a very well defined and personal drawing style. What are your main influences in this field?
Magicfred :
My influences are very diverse, from video-game to comics, and cartoons. I'm very fond of the work of Toryama, especially Dragon Ball and Doctor Slump (not Dragon Ball Z). Nintendo games are also a great source of inspiration, and i love their colorized universes. On the web, i do like the work of Vooz and his friendly characters (Pucca).
Actually, i have plenty of inspiration sources, but the list would really be too long :)

Q: What about sound production? Do you create your own sound fx and music?
Virgile :
Each music in our games are original creations. Musics and FX are composed according to the graphical style and the spirit of the game. I think the music is a major contribution to Yamago's style and identity.

Q: How do you fine tune the gameplay? Do you have beta testers?

Polo :
The gameplay is closely linked to multiplayer issues, especially the real-time part of the development. The improvement of the gameplay was possible after doing a lot of versions of the game. The entire Yamago team was put to work during the beta-testing, and we also had gentle beta-testers who spent many time sending us useful feedbacks to fine tune the difficulty, and reporting bugs (and also having a lot of fun:).

Q: In this work creativity is one of the most important ingredients, how do you usually approach a new game project? Do you always have a strict and planned workflow?
Mama :
It really depends on each project, for huge project we usually have a very organized workflow. For example, the concept of Run'n'roll was originally born from a magicFred's idea, then we had regular discussions altogether, till the project was solid enough, then decided to begin the development. All along the development, Pierrick put his personal and great ideas to make this game the funniest experience as possible.
For other projects it happens to be a gameplay principle which brings us to think about creating a game. That was the case of Xtrem Snowboard, we first thought about playing without the use of the keyboard, only with the mouse, the easiest way to play a game for non-hardcore gamers. Then we had the idea to create a snowboard tricks-game, a bit different from existing ones (commonly played with the keyboard).
Yaballon was first a query from a client, and also a real challenge to make a flash real-time multiplayer soccer game. The client finally declined our proposal, and we kept working on the project for ourselves.
Some other projects, like Supervache or Stomba, are much more complex and require a lot of conception time, because they are essentially based upon a well-structured scenario and an immersive universe. For now, these projects are in stand-by .

Q: What do you see in the future of the web gaming market ?
Mama :
I think that the web gaming market is at its very beginning, because players just begin to accept the idea of paying a small subscription to play online games. Run'n'roll was meant to be a free attractive and original game. On top of the free part of the game (which is a very important one), we are thinking about setting up a subscription system (with an affordable cost of course) to access brand new single and multiplayer levels, competitions and other goodies (for those who are really addicted:)

Q: Can you unveil some of your future projects?
Mama :
It's difficult to talk about new projects now, we are still very engaged in improving Run'n'roll. We would like this game to become a real cool gaming experience :) New features will come out very soon !
Several important projects are still under construction, Yaballon will probably be the next one, but we still don't have a release date :)
We are also very interested in mobile games, and we have already made a prototype version of Run'n'roll for the mobile. At the moment, we are testing several mobile technologies.

Q: And now for the last, inevitable question: what would you expect from the next version of Flash ? Any wishlist ?
Mama :
According to me, the most important is the flash player (maybe more than the authoring tool), the faster the better to create rich graphic contents and impressive effects. Rendering performance is really a key point Macromedia should focus on :)
Magicfred :
As far as the authoring tool is concerned, we think it's important to pay attention to designers needs and wishes (since lots of new features for developers were added in Flash MX2004).
Mama :
Once shoud not forget that Flash acquired its world-wide reputation thanks to designers and animators work, before it became a real powerful development tool.
It would also be great if the next version of Flash could be as fast, robust and reliable as Flash MX. A full featured player for the mobile, with an extended support of actionscript, would also be very interesting.

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