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Flash Goddess
November 2005


Yoko Imanishi
Austin Haas

Yoko Imanishi & Austin Haas : PetTomato.com

“Pet Tomato, Inc. is a game development studio located in Atlanta, GA , specializing in browser based games developed with Macromedia Flash. Pet Tomato was formed in 2005 by Yoko Imanishi (Art Director) and Austin Haas (Programmer, Game Designer) after their successful run working for Cartoon Network's game team.”

Why the name Pet Tomato? How did the company start? What's the story behind all the gaming goodness?

We had a couple of requirements for the name. Mostly, we wanted something that would be easy to pronounce, and we wouldn't have to spell. Other than that, we just spent a full day at GoDaddy.com trying out all the names we could think of. It's amazing how many random names are taken.

Are most of Pet Tomato's games created for Cartoon Network? How much creative freedom do you have when developing for large companies?

Austin and I both worked at Cartoon Network for about five years each. We recently left to form Pet Tomato, but we still have a good relationship there. The game we just finished was our first as an outside vendor. We hope there will be plenty more.

Cartoon Network makes a lot of games each year, so I think they are more involved than some clients. They're great, though, because they "get it" and we enjoyed fleshing out our ideas with them.

Can you talk a little about Pet Tomato's process for creating games? What elements are the most important when creating a good game?

When you are working for a client, the most important thing is that you represent their brand properly and show off what they want the players to see. For example, they might have a new product line, and they want players to interact with each product. For these small promotional games, you also want something that is very simple to learn, since the players will probably have very little commitment to the game.

As far as design process, we generally spend a lot of time with pencil and paper. Once we have an idea that we like, we try to put it into a formal "Game Design Document" that tries to answer every question about the game. While writing the "GDD" we always find a lot of holes in the concept that we have to find solutions for.

What part exactly does Flash play in your development process? What do you like about it? Do you find any setbacks/limitations with it?

I usually do all the art in Photoshop and Illustrator and then bring individual elements into Flash. The drawing tools in Flash are not as sophisticated, so this seems the best method.

Why Flash over more popular mediums such as C++/OpenGL/DirectX?

Well, Flash is certainly the most accessible. The penetration numbers for the player are incredibly high. For our own internal projects, we made a decision a while back that we wanted everything to be browser based in order to reach the largest audience possible.

Pet Tomato's Transformers Promo Game has become known as one of OSFlash's MTASC success stories. Can you talk a little about the making/creation process of it?

Sure, Cartoon Network contacted us to see if we would be available to make this game for them. They had already "sold through" a basic concept to their client, and they wanted us to flesh it out and develop it. We pitched a few ideas to them and they selected the one that they liked best and we went from there. We had about 4 milestones along the way where we showed them where we were at, they made comments, and we incorporated the changes into the next round.

What's the benefit of using MTASC over other ActionScript compilers, such as Macromedia's?

I don't do any programming myself, but Austin posted his thoughts to the OS Flash wiki. One great thing, though, is that we only had to purchase one copy of Flash! I used that and Austin used MTASC.

Do you use any other open source software/tools for creating games?

The only open source software that I use directly are CVS and some related tools. As a company, we use a lot of open source stuff, but I mainly work on OSX with Adobe software.

Do you folks at Pet Tomato have any words of advice for newcomers and aspiring game developers? Can you recommend any good resources?

The great thing about today is that you can start making stuff with very little money. If you want to make games, then start making games. Everyone in this business reacts to portfolios more than resumes. If you want to make game art, then start a blog or website, and start posting all your art!

One word of caution, if you are interested in making Flash games, then make sure you also look outside of Flash. There is a lot of good information for making games, but often the Flash related stuff is still very immature.

Curator Review:

Snowboarding it freestyle down mad mountain slopes with the Power Puff Girls, and taking up the challenge of navigating my riced out transformer through a hazard-filled labyrinth, large amounts of my time suddenly vanished. For all this cartoon based gaming madness none other than Pet Tomato is to blame! ...Or thank.

Yoko Imanishi spent six years creating mini-sites and a wide variety of graphics for CNN and Cartoon Network before joining forces with Austin Haas who worked as Lead Programmer and Lead Game Developer on over one hundred games for CartoonNetwork.com.

As well as being visually stunning, and prone to addiction, some of Pet Tomato's games are developed using powerful open source tools. This web development boutique is both a well-rounded source of inspiration, and makes for some fun point-scorage.

Curator: Nathalie Lawhead
Nathalie Lawhead is an artist, poet, writer, and sculptor. She works as a senior designer, and Flash developer for the infamous group of IT goons’ known as AlienMelon. Momentarily her physical location is the medieval town of Kranj, Slovenia but she lives online fused to her computer and the web.