Hello hello. I am John Cooney, alias jmtb02. I am a 26 year-old game designer who has published over 80 Flash games over the past 8 years. Some of the games I've made are in the title of the AMA. I am currently Head of Game Development at Armor Games.

Beyond elephants and game design I have a few Reddit-worthy achievements, such as having two cats (named Muffin and Bagel), and successfully starting a slow-clap.

Proof that I exist: https://twitter.com/jmtb02/status/244111326761340928

Comments: 639 • Responses: 50  • Date: 

Remontant215 karma


anonymous12342170 karma

Would you rather get into a fight with 100 hamster-sized elephants, or with 1 elephant-sized hamster?

Note: both we have seen in your games

also, huge fan!

jmtb02114 karma

In that Avatar movie the main guy conquers that winged-beast thing and it became his loyal mount. So lets imagine for a second I beat that giant elephant-sized hamster. HOW FREAKING AMAZING WOULD THAT BE. The 405 commute doesn't look so bad now (plus carpool privileges).

xiaorobear158 karma

I love you too. So much. Every elephant game so far has been a work of genius.

How/when did you get started in Flash? What was your very first game or animation like?

jmtb02144 karma

I started Flash in high school. My friend was animating a kid floating in nasty looking beach water and I wanted to try animation out. After a couple years of that I was REALLY into animation, I wanted to be a 2D animator so bad. Here's my first Flash animation from 2002: http://jmtb02.com/flash/penguin.swf

From there I started to learn to do simple programming. I started making games by 2004, and by college I started publishing content to Newgrounds.com. Here is the first game I published: http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/154436

I had friends who can give me tips on how to use Flash and was lucky enough to have a teacher who could give me some basic help when I stumbled. In 2006 I made the decision to go full-blown game development.

Herbalest155 karma

I've always wondered.... Why did you decide to use elephants as the main characters in your flash games?

jmtb02329 karma

Because elephants are badass. But I guess there's more than that.

If there's one thing I can't stand its forum arguments and fights. There was an internet argument happening on my own website and it was frustratingly bitter, people bickering over some stupid nonsense. I wanted to stop the fighting but had no clue how, so I posted a single word, "ELEPHANT" (I might have had a few beers, I don't quite remember how I arrived at that word). Suddenly all the tension dissipated and the fighting stopped.

I decided that I should put an elephant in a game from there. That spawned a tiny project, Elephant Rave. I continued on making games with this character and people loved his charming good looks.

Happy cake day.

Measure76100 karma

jmtb02!! I love you! You should stop by /r/webgames some time.

I love seeing your name in the opening credits of a game, because I know that you do good work. Your games aren't always home runs for me, but they exude quality and creativity.

I have no questions, because my mind turns off in the face of my heroes. Good work.

jmtb02151 karma

I visit /r/WebGames daily! I don't post very much though, maybe because they won't put a star next to my name. /passive aggressive

VoiceForAnyChoice82 karma

John...if you ever need a voice over guy for any of your games, I'm your man!

jmtb0277 karma

Email me, jmtb02 at gmail. I would like that.

kyatel73 karma

Ask Me Anything About Aardvarks, Anchovies, Amoxicillin, And Accelerometers?

jmtb02185 karma

Sure, speaking of accelerometers, I want someone to help me make a game called Ninja Star. Basically its a game that measures how far you can throw your phone like a ninja star, and then it will measure how far you threw it via GPS/accelerometer/spinning/etc. It's probably against every ToS ever in all App Stores in existence but I can pretty much guarantee it will be the most fun game ever, at least once.

kyatel34 karma

You should make that for the Nokia phones that have accelerometers (yes a few do), but the 'death by ninja' rate would go up.

jmtb0251 karma

My Nokia phone growing up could withstand a fall from a 20 story building and a shark attack at the same time. If they're built as well as they use to be this seems quite possible.

zipKill_FRAG70 karma

I'm surprised that there isn't more people talking about this AMA.

Anyway, any new games coming down the pipe?

jmtb02172 karma

I'm working on a game I tastefully codenamed, "Gear Whore." Its a game about hoarding tons and tons of gear and having to sort through it. Think Diablo/Torchlight out of control, constantly leveling up and trying to find better and newer gear to defeat some ridiculous enemy.

RandomlyDead39 karma

I might actually pay for that.

jmtb02161 karma

It's going to be completely free to play. I hope that is okay.

ryudos2 karma

I... I want to play this game right now. As a huge fan of the rest of your titles, I see myself blissfully dropping many hours into the pools of concentrated awesome which you have the modesty to call your "games". Any chance we could get a rough ETA?

jmtb022 karma

A couple weeks at most. I am wrapping up the inventory code soon.

Raphman9051 karma

Nice AMA, I've played your games for a long while now, they're incredibly good. What's your favorite game that you've made?

How about your favorite video game in general?

jmtb0280 karma

My favorite video game is Super Mario Bros 2 (please don't hurt me) and Earthbound. Earthbound embodies a lot of my game developer mindset. SMB2 is a lot of nostalgia but holy shit, you pick up enemies and throw them at other enemies! It's freaking awesome. Also you get eaten by a bird head at the end of the level.

My favorite games I've made are Coinbox Hero and Treadmillasaurus Rex.

Raphman9015 karma

Earthbound, nice. I never really liked the battle system in Earthbound, but the humor and symbolism in it are incredible. SMB2 is okay but then again I'm not a giant platformer fan. Coinbox hero is pretty damn good.

I assume you make enough money from your flash games to make a living, am I right?

jmtb0237 karma

I have been living off my Flash games since Sophomore year of college. It was a difficult push off though, at one point I was working a full-time job and full-time game development at the same time to get college tuition money saved up over the Summer. During college I would make Flash games and I was breaking even for a year or so. After a while it became profitable enough that I could focus on games full-time. It was an awesome moment!

Psirocking2 karma

Earthbound love.

jmtb023 karma

PSI Rockin'

jef_attack35 karma

Hey John!

I've been a huge fan of yours for a very, very long time. You got me through a lot of boring typing classes back in high school!

So I guess I have a few questions...

  1. What game are you personally proudest of?

  2. Do you have any plans/hopes to someday make a full length console or PC game?

  3. I've always found your games incredibly innovative... Oftentimes I find that you reinvigorate my interest in flash games each time you release something new. So I guess my question is... Do you have a process? (I hope that's clear enough...)

Anyway, thanks from the AMA, I'll be eagerly waiting for your next game!

jmtb0249 karma

I am proudest of Treadmillasaurus Rex and Coinbox Hero. They are by no means my most popular games, but it really is representative of the kind of work I love to do and publish. Simple, fun, goofy games that make you wonder what just happened.

I will one day release a full-length game that will knock some socks. I have a concept I've been working on for a year or two that isn't fully there yet, when it gets there I'll take the plunge.

I talked about my process a bit in my other post, its very experience driven. I have a strange, awesome, scary, or otherwise neat experience and want to encapsulate it in a game experience (Treadmillasaurus came from playing on a moving walkway in an airport).

noahconstrictor9519 karma

Where did the ideas for Hedgehog Launch and Coinbox Hero come from?

jmtb0245 karma

I had an argument with Kongregate's badge creator Greg about whether Sugar Gliders of Hedgehogs were better. "Sugar Gliders can fly so they're better," was one of the most striking blows, so I decided to one-up the entire argument with an entire Flash game.

Coinbox Hero... I don't know. Coinboxes are a Mario thing but beyond that I have no clue what happened there.

BlueberryRagamuffin18 karma

Are you a republican? I am wondering because of your love for elephants.

jmtb0271 karma

I am registered independent and currently plan on voting for Obama this season.

FinanceITGuy17 karma

Question about Epic Combo: I finally got a really good combo going and let it run for about a week. The turtle-count got into the billions and eventually started counting back down while there will still quite a few digits left in the counter. Did I overflow the maximum size of the score?

When I stopped the combo I found that I actually had negative money. I don't know if that's a bug or just a way to keep people from letting the game run for a year at a time to generate ridiculous scores.

jmtb0224 karma

So, wow, you ran that game for a week, that's crazy.

Second, what happens is that when we store data in memory we only give it so much space. For numbers (integers in particular), it's a 32-bit number. The largest 32-bit number we can create is 2,147,483,647 or something like that. So if your combo magically goes above that number, the way Flash handles it is your number wraps around and goes to -2,147,483,647. That's why you started counting up from a negative number. /The More You Know!

dandylandy15 karma

What's the coolest/your favorite part of your job at Armor Games? And what is your favorite TV show?

jmtb0265 karma


The coolest part about my job is (nearly) endless freedom to execute the games I want to create. I have a lot of trouble imagining pitching some of these concepts to a board room. "Okay imagine you're this elephant and you poop pastries" ...yeah.

wentlyman14 karma

How do you understand your profession in relation to society? What do you think you do for the world, in any way do your games benefits/jeopardizes it, and if so how?

jmtb0232 karma

Jane McGonigal, a fabulous game designer and researcher, has spent a lot of time on this. She has concluded that people playing games actually increases many facets of living and helps human progress as a whole. On a personal level it helps increase cognitive and spatial skills, on a larger level games can help bring greater problem-solving and social skills to our society. Games have far more value than just entertainment.

Playing games is great for you. Don't neglect your life, but play games and help yourself and help others. And recycle plastic because that shit stays in the earth forever.

FinanceITGuy10 karma

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have spent many happy hours playing Hedgehog Launch and Epic Combo.

jmtb0240 karma

How many unhappy hours did you spend playing these games?

bitefite8029 karma


When you first started creating games, did you think it was a passing hobby? Did you think it would evolve to a career?

As head of game development at armor games, what makes a GREAT game rather than a "Good" game? Is there some sort of checklist?

Your games are always really well done and really fun to play. Any tips for a guy that might want to make a game in the future?

Thanks for this AMA!

jmtb0217 karma

It was definitely a hobby. Animation was my passion, games were just a side project to that. I had a job interview with an animation studio that really turned me off to animation, and decided immediately walking out of that interview that I wanted to make games. It was a good choice.

Good vs Great is 100% execution. A lot of just-okay games are just poorly executed. You can have the best game idea in the world but if its not executed well it won't do well. Understand why players can't find the Play button or why they fail one level more than others... it all matters. Everything matters, nothing can be taken for granted.

If you want to make games you have so so so many options, just start making! You don't even need a computer, we've been playing games created on pen-and-paper for centuries. Come up with ideas and follow through.

bitefite8027 karma

On another note, what is your favorite flash game that you have ever played?

jmtb0220 karma

I really like QWOP a lot. I also get excited about Ultimate Crab Battle, Robot Unicorn Attack, and Chibi Knight.

VicariousShaner2 karma

What turned you off with the animation interview?

jmtb023 karma

I was worried about becoming a cog in a machine. I learned that the animators at the company were all put to a very specific task, like creating bushes or rocks. I didn't want to be in that sort of environment, it just wasn't a good fit for me. I like doing a lot of different things and game development really offers that.

fatherofnone8 karma

Dark Cut is awesome! Are there going to be any more?

jmtb0210 karma

I don't think so. They are pretty dark and gruesome, I've moved onto other projects that a bit more lighthearted. Amateur Surgeon picked up Flash-based surgery game reigns.

jakpuch8 karma


I always check jayisgames to see when you have a new game out, is there a better way?

Also, I refer to you as the elephant man ;-)

jmtb0217 karma

The creator of Steambirds always calls me the Elephant Man whenever he sees me at a conference or something, it cracks me up.

JayIsGames is pretty great for that. If you want updates for when my stuff comes out I only update my Facebook when a new game or when there's major news: http://www.facebook.com/jmtb02.studios

My website is mostly on time for updating new releases, when it's not sad and down from traffic spikes: http://www.jmtb02.com

Working at Armor Games my content comes out there first, so first access will always be there. http://www.armorgames.com/

me-tan7 karma

What do you make of the elephant in Terry Cavanagh's "vvvvvv"?

jmtb0223 karma

It seems rather irrelephant.

buggy00047 karma

Oh god I love you so much! Will you make my theoretical babies?

jmtb0218 karma

Achievement Unlocked: First Theoretical Conception Reply

N-Man5 karma

As a web-games player, I have one question. The random codes. I got one from llama adventures, using five other codes (from other games I don't remember) One from I hate traffic. One from wrap shot.(I think) Maybe some more. What is the meaning of this? Will you use that in future games?

jmtb028 karma

I acknowledge that I have seen your question and I appreciate your concern for the future of random codes. Thanks for your time!

abortionalchild5 karma

What's your favorite newgrounds series? Or your favorite flash games/video.

jmtb0226 karma

"There She Is" is incredible: http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/161181

dangerpigeon25 karma

Do you often play/enjoy other flash games? Or does become like comedy is for comedians?

You have a lot of great games out, I've played almost all of them at one point or another. Do you think the success of your games is more because you have really good, novel ideas, or good execution of the ideas you have?

jmtb026 karma

It's hard to play Flash games without looking through that game developer lens. "Why is that button so low, why do I feel sad jumping on these enemies, how does this game maintain that level of awesomness..." questions I run into in developing my own games escape into playing other people's games. I don't remember what it was like playing these games before becoming a developer. In a way, yes, its sort of ruined from a pure entertainment standpoint. But I feel like I get to learn and understand more about games, so that's pretty great.

I would have to say that good execution is mostly what I worry about. There's some neat ideas in there but realistically I am looking for the whole experience to be as awesome as it can. Most of the mechanics I use are incredibly simple, just paired differently from what you traditionally see.

FelixP5 karma

As a game developer, an Armor Games employee, and just someone who plays games:

  • What are your thoughts on the various web game platforms?

  • What do you think about the rise of F2P, social gaming, and the general growth in in-browser games?

  • What do you think about the longevity of Flash as a gaming medium, and the rise of HTML5 and other alternatives (e.g. streaming games)?

Thanks for doing this AMA!

jmtb029 karma

Cool, interesting questions.

I like Flash, its been my bread and butter. Unity and other platforms are looking sexy now too. I think Flash is still the best platform for the content I create but if these other platforms offer me something I can't get elsewhere I'll consider the move. HTML5 doesn't seem all there yet but I like the idea.

SOCIAL GAMING. Gaming is already social, right? We play board games and we play multiplayer online. Social gaming isn't a bad thing, I am just not huge on the context for which it is placed right now (social gaming is clicking a button every four minutes to collect energy, or you can spam your friends for additional wood for what the heck?). I like games that engage me in a fantastic way with other people, Draw Something is a good example of this.

FLASH will be around for a while. Streaming games is cool, I played some OnLive games and was impressed. HTML5 needs some work but I don't feel is 100% ready for the types of games I make.

Sanae_5 karma


jmtb027 karma

I haven't had a massive interest in mobile yet, maybe I am a late bloomer. The kind of content I make now is so accessible via a URL/web browser that its hard not to make for web. That said I could see a shift to mobile sometime soon, but not exclusively.

I have had some of my games ported for me but nothing on my own yet. Elephant Rave was ported by a very talented young developer, completely free to download for iOS.

LowHz5 karma

You and your damned Ball Revamped owe me a keyboard... Or better anger management... Or better fine motor control. The choice is yours.

Rage aside, love the games.

jmtb0211 karma

I got a lot angry emails about that game. A lot of F bombs.

mike_dogg4 karma

What inspires you to do what you do?

jmtb0224 karma

When you look into a child's eyes and they tell you all they want to do is beat the shit out of a coinbox with a sword, it needs to happen.

khfreek4 karma

What's your thought process when forming the idea for one of your flash games?

jmtb0217 karma

One day I was at the airport and was having a great time playing on the moving walkway. I got really disoriented and thought it would make a really great game. Add a wheel-of-chance and some disco lights and it became Treadmillasaurus Rex. Most of my games draw from some random inspirational point I experience, where I think, "holy crap, that would be a really amazing game." Sort of like when you're a kid making up games as you go, its a sort of Calvinball experience... make up the rules and go!

I Love Traffic is another good example, I was sitting at a traffic light critiquing how horribly designed an intersection was and decided it would be sort of fun to play as a game. The game requires you to push cars through intersections manually, while avoiding cross traffic.

jevons3 karma

Hi John! I really like your games, especially Coinbox Hero (The ending by the way threw me off because of its brilliance)! But I'm curious about the organizational system of Armor Games and other online game sites. Do you do your work in an office or from your computer at home? And do you collaborate with others over the internet or is there a water cooler where you lean on rambling about elephants and hedgehogs to other developers?

jmtb024 karma

We have a few game developers in-house. We mostly have game programmers and designers in house, we work with artists in various locales or bring them in to work. We do not have a water cooler because our refrigerator magically dispenses water, but we do have an awesome couch to have meetings on.

Office conditions are pretty great. We have a room with a 120" projector screen for games and movies, a highly competitive group of dart players, snack/kitchen room, and company events. During the day we run a Turntable.fm room to keep the music flowing. We've been playing N64 Super Smash Bros during breaks recently.

This is my desk: http://pic.twitter.com/QxTombHB

ezael3 karma

THANKS FOR DOING THIS AMA! As someone looking to get into making games, where is the best place to start?

jmtb028 karma

If you're making games for a screen you should learn some programming, especially for the device you want to produce for. Both PC/Mac and mobile platform have some pretty accessible ways to make games and there's more and more ways to learn to code outside the classroom (classroom is still a good way to go though).

From there, start experimenting. Make things. Break things. Show your friends, show your mom. Join a forum, join a games group. Read. Stay enthusiastic and make amazing games. And most of all, keep playing and learning. You can never stop learning new things about game design.

BlerpityBloop2 karma


jmtb026 karma

I've released a few 1-day projects... Epic Combo... This is the Only Level... some of these projects are rapid prototypes that go straight to publish. I usually work between 1 - 8 weeks on my games. The longest I've worked is about 4-5 months.

cooly_air2 karma

I realize that this AMA is two months old, and I am devastated that i missed it. I have been a huge fan of your games for a loooong time, like since parachute retro. I just wanted to have you acknowledge my praise. Also, do you ever work on a game, but quit in the middle because it becomes too frustrating? The one time I tried to develop I had a huge plan and my planning overwhelmed my ability to develop, how can i improve my developing skills?

jmtb022 karma

I've considered quitting several projects many times, part of the reason its hard to quit is because I'm usually working for a business (the better part of 8 years I've been developing games under the Armor Games title). So starting a game up and not launching it can be a bad business decision (most of the time, although if the game really isn't there its time to stop and think). Sometimes its good to fail, sometimes you become disillusioned as to how well off your game actually is (the longer you stare and wonder about something the worse it usually feels).

Developing your skills is all about exercising them, feeling free to take criticism and seeking help when you need it. There's so many game makers out there and about 99.9% of them would be happy to look at your project and give you feedback. That feedback is a crucial learning time and will help your game development become a much savvier tool in your creative arsenial.

sonovel2 karma

My 10 yo son says you make the best games.

jmtb023 karma

Your son says the nicest things.

jibbodahibbo2 karma

You have always been my favorite game designer on newgrounds, your creativity is unmatched.

What degree did you get in college?

jmtb025 karma

BA, Technocultural Studies, UC Davis (Go AGS!)

awesomeme992 karma

This deserves SO much more attention. You games are really entertaining, addictive, and funny. You're like, my Flash idol, if that makes sense. One question, where did you get the idea for Achievement Unlocked, and did you ever expect your games to form a small fan base?

jmtb023 karma

Achievement Unlocked came out of a mad craze for achievements. At the time it wasn't really defined what constituted good achievement design... should we get an achievement for dying on a level or merely beating an easy boss, which is worth more and how easy/hard should it be? I decided it would be interesting to play a game where you got rewarded for everything you did and to see how it felt. I was originally trying to build an actual goal to the game, like a story with levels and such, but in the end it made more sense just to let the achievements take center stage. And even better, it was weirdly fun to play.

I am actually really, really surprised so many people have played my games. I vacillated on doing an AMA for quite a while because I literally had no idea how well known my games were. My coworker pushed me to do it (he made Shift and Upgrade Complete)

manomow2 karma

Ive been playing your games for about 4 years now, and I have to say that your games are amazing. What I'm wondering is do you think you could tell us anything about a new game you're currently working on? Also, do you think that you would ever re-visit 'Elephant Rave' or 'Run Elephant Run'?

jmtb025 karma

The story for Run Elephant Run was finished in the last game. I can imagine another game in the same vein but I don't think it will be a sequel. A whole new game. I'm itching to do another mini-storytelling game.

Elephant Rave I produced an HD version for, same game, more pixels: http://jmtb02.com/elephant-rave-hd/

1upguy2 karma

What was your career path like? What did you start out doing, and how did you end up at Armor Games?

jmtb029 karma

I started making games as a hobby starting in late high school. I started publishing my games on Newgrounds.com as a way to gather feedback. I joined the community there and grew as a developer.

I went to college at UC Davis, majoring in Technocultural Studies. The program is really neat, its the study of the intersection of human and technology. During college I continued to hone my game development through the online community and late in Freshman year I finally had a hit game. It killed my website, cost me a ton of money in bandwidth, and didn't make me a cent.

From there Flash sponsorships were becoming a thing. For simple branding I could make money off the games I was already making. Good deal for me, because I had my college tuition pulled from me and I needed to make a living to pay for tuition. I started a business out of my apartment in college and started running a business of freelance game design on the side of classes and other college excitement.

By graduation I got a job offer lined up with Armor Games and about 20 games under my belt in experience. I moved down and help formed the Armor Games office, hired some developers. I just started my sixth year in the AG office.

IMakeTLDRs2 karma

I have been playing your games on Kongregate, for a long time... And I gotta say, I love them all. And I also love elephants.

But in all seriousness, have you considered creating any new * multiplayer games?

jmtb026 karma

Exit Path is multiplayer. You can race against others and then give them kudos. Achievement Unlocked 2 has cooperative multiplayer so you can work together with your friends.

I want to make more cooperative multiplayer games at some point. Games are always better with friends.

Stormmando2 karma

Obama IAMA.. meh. Larry King IAMA.. awesome! JMTB02 IAMA.... holy crap is this for real????

If you could work at one game development company, or one gaming project, what would that be?

Do you think understanding game development theory is important to make a successful game?

What would you be doing now, if you weren't a flash game developer?

jmtb023 karma

I have a rather large project I've been developing in my head and on paper for nearly 1-2 years now. Ultimately executing this project would be a pretty awesome goal but finding time to work on it is difficult.

Understanding game design is probably the most important thing you can do for yourself as a game developer. One of the biggest pitfalls I see in small-game development is that programmers don't give enough time to understanding why and how their game works.

If I wasn't a Flash game developer I would become a full-time landscape photographer, if that job exists. Photography is my hobby outside of game development.

Dinstruction1 karma

Are there ideas floating around for another Ball Revamped game? I know Ball Revamped V had a To Be Continued at the end, and you once stated it was the last BR game for Flash.

jmtb023 karma

Ball Revamped is the game that kickstarted my career so I feel like I need to respect and caress it gently.

I am considering completely rebooting the series. I made the games several years ago and I feel I've improved so much as a developer since then... it feels almost wacky to even consider a sequel. I did have a sequel in-mind at the time but now it doesn't seem like a great idea. Starting fresh with a new concept seems like a direction I would like to explore.

maisnon0 karma

Helloaphant! Did you work on Elephant Quest too? I realised I played tons of your games and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. I really need to play Treadmillasaurus Rex again!

When did you realise making games could become a job for you, was it a hard road to travel ? :)

jmtb022 karma

I did everything in Elephant Quest except for artwork and music.

As I mentioned before, the take-off for being a game developer full-time was tricky... 2 parallel full-time jobs slowly reduced to one as I could take on more and more game development. On top of that, college, and trying to figure out how to pay bills for the first time and rent an apartment.

DorfCakes0 karma

Holy crap! I never thought I'd have the opportunity to talk to one of my favorite Flash game devs!

I'm in high school, and I'm trying to get into the wonderful and complex world of learning ActionScript. I'm attempting to use this guide. How did you learn? And what tips can you offer to an aspiring programmer?

While I'm at it, what do you find is the single most important aspect of good game design?

jmtb023 karma

Buy this book next: The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses - http://www.amazon.com/The-Art-Game-Design-lenses/dp/0123694965/

That book you have is great but a bit dry, I like it more as a reference than a book just to read. I learned from online forums mostly, picking up things from seeing other people's tutorials, techniques, sharing code and asking for help when I needed it. The internet is a neat place. If you have a chance, take a programming class. It will help a lot in understanding the basics.