Keeping the beat with Coolio Niato!


Hi, Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
My name is Danny Yaroslavski, ie Coolio Niato. I’m an undergrad Computer Science student living up in the cold reaches of Canada (*cough Toronto) and make online flash games, some of which include Lightbot, Streamline and RhythmWorld.

How did you come up with the name Coolio Niato?
Much like many other developers who start with a strange alias (see The-EXP or Jmtb02) it tends to stick after a few years and gets to the point that you can’t really change it anymore. As such, Coolio Niato came about when I was in elementary school, I had no e-mail address and my best friend had one called Coolio-Viato. Now being the unimaginative child I was, I changed one letter and kept using this name for animations/games I made. As to what Viato means, neither my friend nor I now have a clue to what it was.

How did you become interested in Flash gaming, and how did you begin developing games in Flash?
It started with enrolling in an animation class. There, maybe a few weeks in, the instructor showed us how to make buttons and use tellTarget for simple interactions. When I realized that I could make my own games, games of the likes of Thing Thing and Ultimate Flash Sonic, I was extremely excited. My first game, “Falling Objects 1” was horrible; it used keyPress and shoddy collision testing. My second, “Stench of Blood” was no better. But seeing the kinds of games on Armorgames (then called Games of Gondor) and Newgrounds; games including Marvin Spectrum and Short Circuit, it inspired me to work at coding more to finally complete my first big break, “Streamline”. Nowadays, ByteJacker and Tigsource are my greatest motivation.

Many of your games have themes relating to song or music. Is this something you have a background or interest in?
Much like the creator of Wii Music, Miyamoto and I have one thing in common. Neither of us have any talent when it comes to playing/making music. But in the same ways that Guitar Hero and Singstar allow people to overlook this fact, I try to get gamers to enjoy music in an interactive environment. I try to test myself; combining different genres with rhythm games. Mouse Avoider, Shoot em Up, Platformer, these were all different challenges I set to combine with rhythm and it worked out fairly well. Whenever I run out of game ideas, I often just listen to music until something pops into my head. And often at times, a song may just be so crucial in the development of the idea, I then have to make the game based on the song, sort of as a tribute to it and the artist behind it.

Which of your games do you like the best? Which game did you have the most fun developing?
I feel like Lightbot is my best accomplishment. It started with trying to combine the preliminary concept behind Bill the Robot (on Newgrounds) and then adding on to it. First I created a user-friendly interface that allowed for concepts like functions and recursion to be implemented. Later, it grew to be an educational experience. This was often at times a first for players, trying to think about the backbone of functional and procedural programming (on a very basic scale). The fact that I created a puzzle game that was enjoyable and sort-of-in-a-small-way taught programming makes me proud.

Besides Lightbot, I would have to say Rhythmworld and Music in Motion are my other favorites. Rhythmworld allowed players worldwide to submit songs and sync them on their own without any complicated interfaces much like some music/ddr game sites require. And Music in Motion was proof that platform games and music can mix. I felt like I used up all of my creative juices on that game, haha, I couldn’t think of any new ideas for months.

You are a young developer, what are your plans for the future? Do you plan on continuing Flash development, or are there other goals?
I’m definitely planning on continuing game development. Flash games, possibly later also iPhone/XBLA as well. Either way, I don’t think I’m ever going to leave Flash behind simply because it’s a great way to reach a large amount of people and let them play your own games for free. In the end that’s all any indie developer wants. I am working towards a degree in Computer Science to broaden the scope of my programming knowledge to make more technically advanced games, and maybe in the far future when I grow old and bitter and have no more game ideas I’ll get some boring office job. *shudders* Until then expect to see more!

Are there any games you have in development or any plans for future games?
Lately I’ve been making lots of engines and prototypes. Platformers, Dynamic Lighting, 3D, Multiplayer Online. It’s fun to experiment with engines but in due time they will all be put to good use.

Lightbot 2 is always on my mind and I’m thinking of ways to make it more of a learning experience without just slapping on new gimmicks like enemies and whatnot. But there is a working level editor for user levels and I plan to release the game by 3rd Quarter 2010.

People often ask if I’m going to make a new rhythm game, and to answer… who knows? It’s often a matter of finding the right song that inspires me in a new way. Either way, keep a look out.

Do you play any console games? What are your favorite types of games?
Lets start with the fact that I’m a Nintendo enthusiast. I own a Wii and enjoy playing basically any game with the name Mario in the title. (New Super Mario Bros, Mario Galaxy, etc) But besides these, I tend to stick to games on the Gamecube or N64, favorites being F-zero GX, Fire Emblem Path of Radiance and Smash Bros. Oh and LOZ Ocarina of Time. Whew, almost left that one out.

What are some things you like to do when you are not developing Flash games?

I enjoy playing Tennis, Squash… any racquet sport really. I also enjoy dance, Latin being my favorite style but having Michael Jackson be my biggest inspiration. On occasion I will try to see a Raptors/Blue Jays game (Basketball and Baseball for you non-Canadians) or catch a play.

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!