View Profile TomFulp
Hi there! In case you didn't know, I created newgrounds. No, it wasn't made by some giant company - just some dumb kid. I also co-founded the Behemoth; we made Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers. Icon by JohnnyUtah, banner by Pegosho.

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Glenside, PA

Joined on 12/15/99

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TomFulp's News

Posted by TomFulp - February 6th, 2008

The more time I spend working on CC, the less I can sleep. It started with changing my regular work day from 8 to 8 into 8 to 12... But after working all day Sunday, I came home and caught up on PMs, then felt guilty about going to bed with so much work left to do, so I went back to the office and worked straight through until Monday night. Today was 7am to 1:30am. It's always the same, I finally come home, lay in bed... Try to clear my head... Feel like I'm about to fall asleep, but then I don't. And then I can't. So I get back up and either go back to the office or sit here on my laptop trying to put some thoughts down for the next day.

And working on CC itself is kinda like trying to fall asleep. You have that moment where you think you're almost there, but then your mind starts racing with ideas and thoughts and you just can't stop it, and suddenly you're nowhere near being there. But it has to be like that because that's what will make it great. They call it scope creep, but we really do have the scope pretty well under control right now, we just gotta follow through with everything so we don't regret leaving anything out.

Making the console version of Alien Hominid felt like one of those "only do this once" projects. Not that the opportunity only comes once, but that for my own mental health, I should only do it once. But here I am. After 15 months of development on AH, we told ourselves our next game would be something more simple, but it just doesn't happen like that... The next game always has to be bigger and better than the last, or else your moving backwards. And CC will certainly be big, and much better.

As the development of Castle Crashers has stretched out over a few years, I've felt a growing sense of self-loathing. After Comic-Con I finally just accepted that I will derive little joy from life until this game is finished. And that's just the reality of how it's gonna be and that's why even right now I should be programming instead of writing this. On that note...

Posted by TomFulp - January 23rd, 2008

I hate it when I have a small window of time to sleep, and I know I need the sleep or else it will completely fuck up my next day, but that knowledge causes anxiety that makes me unable to sleep, so then I'm just totally fucked. And I'm too wound up thinking about all the shit I'm working on and all the shit I have to work on tomorrow, and getting pissed off that I'm trying to sleep instead of just going back to the office and getting back to work.

Posted by TomFulp - January 18th, 2008

Last night around 9pm, my cell phone rang with a number from the UK. I was thinking maybe it was James and there was some sort of emergency, so I answered it. Low and behold, it was Luis calling from the UK Meetup!

He was there with the likes of NegativeOne, Luka, AlmightyHans and a bunch of UK regulars like The Super Flash Bros and Mogly. The fact that so many guys flew out to the UK really made me feel like crap that I wasn't there. Not to mention I'm missing Luis' birthday.

So of course they pass the phone around, and everyone asks me what I'm doing... As usual, I was at the office, and I just happened to be working on Castle Crashers. I felt like I couldn't even take myself seriously as I said it, though. Like HAS HE REALLY BEEN WORKING ON CASTLE CRASHERS FOR OVER THREE YEARS?

And the answer is yes, I have. And there's no good way to really express what that feels like, to work on one thing for over three years and not being able to prove it until you finish... Which is why I've been working EXTRA HARD this month to finish it. I had actually been programming for 12 hours straight before the call, with a break for lunch. I had spent the past six hours programming a BALL OF SLIME, as pathetic as that sounds. :(

So in unrelated news, it was brought to my attention that John Mayer posted a rave about Justin Timberlake, in particular, the exact same part of Lovestoned that I raved about in my infamous JT post. He even goes as far as to play it on his guitar.

To quote JM: "Not so much for the "Lovestoned" part, but for the 45 seconds of ultimate sonic bliss that is "I Think She Knows. It's JT's breakthrough moment as an artist; a novel mix of Coldplay guitar lines, hip hop beats and a vocal approach somewhere in between. When that track comes on I spend the first 3:30 preparing for the awesomeness to come."

I actually think the version on the radio doesn't hold a candle to what it sounded like live on the HBO special, so to get the true experience, listen to the live performance with good speakers. I feel justified in liking it because I compare it to a Depeche Mode backdrop with something Trent Reznor might play on the piano, with some cool beats. JT just happens to be there too.

That's enough rambling for today; I've got a thieving imp to finish.

UK Meetup, JT Update

Posted by TomFulp - January 17th, 2008

Tonight I've been browsing around NG, pecking around for neat stuff in the midst of a programming bender. And I found the perfect movie for late night viewing... A cap opener man comes. When I watch it I'm like "this is what it feels like in my brain right now!"

And the music is really cool, so I was delighted to see it came from the Audio Portal. Nothing gives me more pleasure than watching the pieces of NG come together like that. And I want it MORE and BIGGER because I'm insatiable.

So NOBU777 is an artist to watch and snayk is an artist to watch! And snayk has fun movies on his favorites list, too.

Posted by TomFulp - December 11th, 2007

The timing couldn't have been any better; just as I was struggling to figure out why some new Google ad code wasn't loading up properly from our ad server (it works now), Bob approached my desk with a box from Google. I opened the box and observed a little leather pouch (like something you would carry business cards in), so my first impression was, "Oh cute, they gave me a little leather pouch... That's a step above just sending a card." But there was more...

Inside the leather pouch was something the size of a credit card, but the thickness of a piece of cardboard. A note read, "Ultra thin 2.0 USB flash memory drive with 2GB of storage." Sure enough, a piece at the end of the card flips out as a USB plug! I've never seen one so thin before. I took a picture but I can't find the USB cable for my camera to put the pics on my computer... If only my camera had a jack to plug this card into.

The box also had a traditional holiday card containing a gift card for DonorsChoose.org, where one can choose individual school projects to donate money too! This is MUCH cooler than those "we've made a donation on your behalf" gifts, where you don't know for sure if they really DID make the donation. I loaded up the site, found a school in Philly that was trying to upgrade their computers, and donated the money myself. I was surprised to find I had $100 on the gift card!

In case anyone wonders what a Google holiday card says, I figured I might as well include that too:

"Thank you for your partnership with Google this year. To show our appreciation, Google would like to support a public school classroom of your choosing through DonorsChoose.org.

DonorsChoose.org is a non-profit organization where you can choose a classroom project to bring to life - a reading corner, a field trip, a computer lab, or whatever most inspires you.

When you redeem the enclosed gift code, you will give books, art supplies, technology, or other resources to students in low-income communities.

Thank you for taking the time to help us give back."

Those Google folks have a lot of class.

Posted by TomFulp - December 5th, 2007

I just updated Wasted Sky to Flash 6 to test out some AS1 ad code. The original version was made in Flash 4, back when Flash had laggy keyboard input, hence the mouse controls.

After converting to Flash 6, the game stopped advancing past the com screen discussion (right before the astroid belt). It's at this point where the game does a loop to make sure there are no more enemies on the screen. The old Flash 4 code was converted to read:

if (Number(/enemy2_a/:go) == Number(false)) {

I changed it to:

if (!/enemy2_a/:go) {

and that fixed everything. My next observation was THIS GAME IS FUCKING HARD. It was a lot easier back when I had just created all the boss patterns and knew them by heart. I decided to double the player health, which makes the game a lot easier, but still pretty rough in spots. Hopefully now more people will play it all the way to the end.

The sad thing is, I never finished level 3 - which featured insane burning city parallax that scrolled with added vertical parallax as you moved up and down on the screen.

I decided to leave in the broken high score submission form, just to remind myself that we need to get back on track with the high score system we scrapped years ago. It was never fully hacker proof back then, but we're ready to give it another go one of these days.

Wasted Sky is a fun little reminder of how ahead of its time NG was back in the day... It was the late 90s and we had an intense side scroller shooter in Flash (the first, to my knowledge), with ship designs by the community and a web-based high score table.

Can everyone beat it now?

Posted by TomFulp - November 29th, 2007

Game development is full of all sorts of little roadblocks that make life hell. Some things I enjoy figuring out, but others I would rather not think about at all. Such as save data and on-line multi-player.

In Castle Crashers, we have four selectable characters. As you play the game, you level up and distribute skill points to upgrade your character. This led to our first question: Are the saved character stats attributed to your specific knight (for instance, the blue knight), or for you as a player (your Xbox360 account)? If the stats were based on your Xbox360 Live account, you would be able to play as any character and always have the same stats. You could beat the game as the blue knight, then play as the orange knight and be just as powerful as you had become in your previous session.

This seemed lame, because it removes the incentive of re-playing the game as different characters. Assuming we have unlockable characters, it would be equally lame for them to be fully powered up when you unlock them. So it seems logical that every character in the game should have his own unique level stats, which are saved independently, under your Xbox360 account. So when I log in as "Newgrounds" and play as the blue knight, his stats are unique from when I play as the orange knight.

Now here's where the first problem arises. Say you join a match of on-line multi-player. The players join up BEFORE they select their characters, to preserve that arcade feel of everyone going to the player select screen together. Lets say you have spent all your time advancing the blue knight, but as soon as you start an on-line game, someone else chooses the blue knight. You are now stuck with choosing a character you haven't developed. Either that, or we allow multiple players to play as the same color, but that would be chaos.

An alternative would be to let players choose their character in advance, then match-make based on that - but it would limit the pool of player matches and be annoying for other reasons I don't feel like getting into. We don't want to go that route. The positive side is, it encourages players to build up all their characters and spend more time playing on-line to do so.

So now we have four players who have joined up and entered the game. Player one has unlocked everything up to the last level, but player two has never played before and hasn't unlocked anything. This is a hotly debated topic. Do we allow a new player to jump straight to the end and have the entire game spoiled, or do we force the seasoned players to replay through the game from start to finish, to humor the new guy? Will a new player even be able to survive in the later levels? That's a matter of just how wide the gap becomes between a new player and a fully developed character - something that is still wide open to adjustment.

I had been leaning towards not allowing new players to skip ahead with seasoned players. My thought was, seasoned players would enjoy replaying through earlier levels, whereas the experience of the game would be cheapened if new players skipped ahead. However, Mike just sent me this article from Game Developer magazine. I am already in agreement with much of it, such as, "Games are not for game designers and their ivory-tower ideals - games are for players."

The article eventually tackles the issue of multi-player saves, where it explains, "Even if the friend is new to the game, they're still allowed to join someone who's playing the last level, because Gears of War is trying to be as convenient to the player as possible." This statement alone makes me shudder at the thought of NOT being convenient to the player. If it's good enough for Gears, it's good enough for Castle Crashers. So here is what we are looking at:

1) Under your Xbox360 user profile, you have independent stats for every playable character in the game. These stats include character attributes, unlocked levels, weapons and items.

OPEN TO DEBATE: Should unlocked levels be global to your Xbox360 user profile? So for example, if you beat the game with the blue knight, can you start the game as an undeveloped orange knight and still have all the levels unlocked? Ditto for weapons... Can your orange knight use the weapons acquired by your blue knight? Currently, you can't. I kinda think weapons should be shared between all players under your Xbox360 Live account, so you can get more joy from unlocking them. Maybe the same for special items.

2) When accompanied by other players, both local and on Live Arcade, any levels unlocked by any of the players are available to all the players. The same goes for weapons and special items, as the players equip these items in communal spaces.

NOTE: In a multi-player game, where a local friend is logged in as a GUEST, your friend can play as your blue knight while you play as your orange knight. In which case your orange knight CAN play your previously unlocked levels and CAN use your previously unlocked weapons. But only because your other knight is in the game with you.

Writing it all down has actually made these issues feel more simple and obvious, but this is just the tip of the iceberg of some of the crap we have to deal with. Don't even get me started on how bosses, enemies and in-game cinemas need to handle four players instead of one.

Any thoughts or suggestions?

Save Data and the Multi-player Problem

Posted by TomFulp - November 27th, 2007

Man, I thought -I- was a huge Neo Geo geek, but tonight I stumbled across something so geeky, even I felt uncomfortable looking at it. I was searching for pics of the bulldog SNK used in some Neo Geo promo materials (to share with Jose) when I stumbled across this: Neo Geo Bits & Goofs.

It's the sort of shit that only a diehard Neo fan could ejoy, and even then... It's a bit creepy.

The site is cool, though. It is the only place I found with scans of old Neo Geo ads as well as strange projects, such as creating a home cartridge and packaging for a game that had only been released for the arcade MVS system.

I feel so pedestrian.

Neo Geo Geekdom

Posted by TomFulp - November 14th, 2007

When we got set up at the office two years ago, I brought all my old video game systems out of storage so they could have another run. One of the games I was most excited to play was Overhauled Man 3, a PC Engine (TurboGrafx in US) CD game I had imported from Japan back in 1992.

OHM3 always had a special place in my heart because it had this fun non-stop feel to it. It wasn't the greatest game ever made, but you could tell they were trying to give you lots of eye candy and variety so nothing ever felt dull. You had an attack (sword) button and a jump button, and holding down your attack button let you fire off a sparkling fireball, which you could then (barely) control if you pressed down the button and held it again after releasing. This let you stear the fireball into enemies in the air, or even loop around completely... There was something fun and unique about it.

This was also a year before Gunstar Heroes, one of the most inspirational games of my life. Both had similar graphical styles, although GH was better designed and had a lot more explosions.

Still, I consider OHM3 to be one of those games that inspired the games I make today. I was excited to play it again... But alas, my CD reader no longer worked.

This past week, I downloaded (and had to register - wtf) an emulator called Magic Engine. So far I haven't been able to get any rom files from old CD games to load, but I CAN put my old CDs in the CD drive and load them up just like my PC was a TurboGrafx! I am finally able to play OHM3 again, and the emulation seems perfect. The load times are a lot better now, too! It's starting to show its age, but I still love it.

We've been playing a lot of oldschool arcade games lately - looking for those bits of 2D inspiration. Since I'm working on Castle Crashers, I really enjoy studying oldschool brawlers. I'm an especially big fan of that forgotten period in the 90s, where the arcade games were too good for the SNES and Genesis, but not up to the 3D standards (or RAM limitations) of the Playstation and Nintendo 64 that would follow. Stuff like The Punisher, Battletoads (arcade version) and Violent Storm.

I like oddities, such as the Spiderman brawler where the camera zooms out and switches to a platformer mid-level. I feel like no other brawlers really did that. I've been tinkering with a level in Castle Crashers that becomes a shooter mid-level. It feels totally natural and intuitive, IMO. I've always liked games that changed up genres and introduced variety, but I never liked it when I felt like I was playing a different game from one level to the next. You gotta keep it natural - let the players feel like they've been controlling the same character the whole time. It has to be a seamless transition. I'm hoping I nail it.

We're starting to catalogue the really obscure brawlers and shooters we've been discovering. More on that later.

On a totally random note, the Battletoads arcade game has to be the only game where you can grab enemies by the balls and punch them repeatedly. It's pretty awesome. If you give yourself a delay between punches, it releases the grab move and you can start it up again immediately without the enemy countering you. This allows you to do an infinite ball punch at your liesure, although the enemy doesn't seem to take damage until you finish the combo, so you can punch them in the balls like 100 times and they will still be alive afterwards.

Note: The ball grab is a context sensitive grab move that is specific to one enemy type in the game.

Obscure 2D Gaming

Posted by TomFulp - October 19th, 2007

I never bothered to see what the on-line response to Castle Crashers was since Comic-Con and PAX (frantically trying to FINISH it ever since), but I did a blog search tonight and found some cool video footage of the vs mode. Check it out!

It's also cool to see that the figurines we sold at Comic-Con and PAX fetched $183.50 on Ebay! You should be able to scroll down to see it all even though the bidding has ended. There are more cool pictures of the figures on Destructoid.

I don't want to show anything more from the game until it's released, but there is a lot of craziness on the way. I get a kick out of forums where people are talking about Castle Crashers and wondering why it's taking so long... Completely oblivious that I'm also juggling NG. Everything gets done eventually, it just takes longer than I'd like it to.

We are still reintroducing old features that never made it into the site re-launch in July, but we're ALMOST all caught up, which means finally moving on to the NEW FEATURES that we've had planned since like 2003 and before. It's all this epic epic vision but like everything else it takes longer than planned to get there.

I still haven't put together pages about Comic-Con and PAX this past summer...