Buhrmi’s Browser Games
Hi, I’m buhrmi. Thank you for letting me waste your time. For some reason, I just felt like telling people about the games I made in the past. So here we go.
In my final years in high school a friend gave me the idea to try to make a browser-based game. I learned PHP and started to just hack away on it. It was a PvP game in which users created their own character and fought in a virtual arena. It was released in 2001 within the intranet of a LAN party, and later unleashed onto the world wide web. The domain “gladiators.de” was already taken, so I just took “gladiators2.de” and called it a day. The code was crappy, amateurish and bad, but for some reason the game had the most devoted community of anything I’ve ever created. It had over 1,000 players online simultaneously during peak hours. That was pretty good 20 years ago.
When I started to work on a different game, I gave the game away for free to a community member dedicated to preserving it (if you really love something, you have to let it go, or so they say). It remained online and actively played until November 2018.
In 2006 I made another browser-based game called Gondal. It was more story-driven than Gladiators 2, and had way more RPG elements. It got reviewed by one of Germany’s largest publications. Afterwards, I sold it to an advertising company. As it turned out, the company was only interested in the name and the domain. Everything else was redeveloped from scratch. The new version is still being played. I estimate that it has raked in hundreds of thousands of Euros by now. Should have asked for a cut of profits when I sold it. Ah, well. I wasn’t the best at making deals.
In 2009 I made a game called Project Dunwich. It was even more story-driven, although the story was very incoherent. In 2010, I sold it to InnoGames and a bit later I joined their team to keep developing it. The name was changed to “Seven Lands”, and (even though the game’s main quest line never was completed) it went on to win the “Browser game of the year” award. I guess that made me and the team “Award-winning” game developers (haha, yikes)
I mean, that was kinda awesome at the time… But, deep down, I’ve always been confused by this award, and I don’t think that the game was really worthy of it. It was fun, yes, but it didn’t really push any boundaries or bring anything really new to the table. On an international playing field, I don’t think it would have won anything. But within Germany, apparently, the standards for greatness were just a tiny bit lower. So, hey, whatever. I’ll take it!
Browser-based Visual Novel
When a new director came on board and changed the direction of the game into something I didn’t like, I asked to be allowed to work on a different project. I went on to develop a browser-based visual novel style game with combat elements. I pitched it to my bosses a couple of times, but they weren’t really into it. Without any direction, I slowly started to lose my passion and started to feel a lack of purpose within the company. And for some reason I just quit. It probably wasn’t the smartest idea to quit without having a plan of what to do next, but I did it anyways.
I considered rejoining university to work on my master’s degree. At the same time, out of pure curiosity what would happen, I also applied for a job as frontend developer at a company in Japan called Cerego. I showed them the visual novel style game I was working on. They liked it and offered me a job. I moved to Japan and developed a browser-based language learning game which was powered by their learning engine. It was fun and effective, but the code was really bad and inefficient. No at all what you’d expect from “German Engineering”.
Shortly after the release, the company underwent some restructuring and many people (including me) have been laid off. Can’t blame them. I wasn’t really the best at what I did. However, I did feel left stranded, and ended up jumping jobs and companies a lot via head-hunters. I worked in retail, English language education, a social media marketing startup, tried to bootstrap a music-related company and music events (and failed with that, maybe will try again some day), and lost myself working on weird and dead-ended crypto-projects that nobody ever cared about.
So, what’s next?
I don’t know. The games that I made never pushed any boundaries. But, I put a lot of love into them and I know that people had a great time playing them. Today, none of them are still online, the source code has long been lost, and communities have all but dissipated. All that is left are memories and snapshots from the wayback machine.
But that’s okay. Maybe, some day, some how, I’ll find back to my roots and create new things.