Interview: Blossom Minds on their first XBLA release Walter
It’s always nice to talk to a developer working on their first XBLA game. So it was great to get an interview from newly formed developer Blossom Minds on their upcoming debut title, Walter. The game has gorgeous visuals and is looking to surprise some players upon release. We chatted with Ludovic Chabanon, CEO and Programmer and Jerome Braune, Desire Designer at Blossom Minds about the studio, Walter and what we should be looking forward to in 2012.
Did you all come from game developer/designer backgrounds at Blossom Minds?
Indeed we all met in a professional context during the past ten years developing games at Infogrames or Eden Games. We define ourselves as “(soft)war(e) veterans” as we survived a decade of games development :)
This being your first XBLA game, what made you decide to go the XBLA route?
We started considering developing games for XBLA when Shadow Complex was released. We were impressed by the quality of this title and we began to think that what we learned in the AAA budgets games industry could be used to make much smaller games. Old school / 2D gameplay mechanics mixed with (almost) state of the art technology and graphics.
We had the talent to go this route. We wanted to make shorter production cycle games, and deliver them directly to the players. Digital distribution was the way to go. We are using all our development experience to deliver almost a retail quality title to XBLA, where technology, arts and gameplay really shine.
You mention you want to stray away from the mobile game space and make controller-based games, what fueled this decision?
The first reason is technology. We want to provide a great visual experience, using as much processing power as we can. We cannot make the same advanced game on mobile / touch devices. And we want our game to be enjoyed on a big screen.
We have been developing games for consoles for the past ten years, and we are using this experience to deliver the finest possible experience. It would be a waste of knowledge and time to start from scratch on mobile development.
Walter can be a fast paced game at times and we want immediate and precise response from the player. There is no better device as a gamepad. Finally, as gamers, we all play console games, pc games sometimes. We have this magic link with the controller.
How did the idea of Walter spring? (Excuse my pun)
To be quickly operative on our first game, we concentrated on the team’s skills. Ludovic Chabanon (our beloved CEO and programming wizard) did a lot of research on fluids and physics while he was working on Alone in the Dark. He made some great water routines. He also developed on his own a smoke simulation algorithm.
And, all of a sudden, this all connected. Water, vapor and…ice! The latter was the easiest part. This allowed us to get a prototype running quickly. As we got the core gameplay with the water cycle states, we added a whole pack of other features to ensure the game experience was keeping renewed. The name “Walter” itself came a bit later. The prototype codename was simply H²0
What makes Walter deeper than the usual platformer?
It may sound cliché but Walter has a story of more than 10 words. We even have included some story twists and revelations. The game takes place on our contemporary world, which is an unusual setting for a platformer. There is no level based on lava, a castle or haunted house. If the princess is in another castle, it’s not Walter’s business.
Besides reflexes, we think players have a great intelligence. Movies can talk about serious matters, why can’t games do the same? We hope the player will keep strong sequences in mind when he has completed the game.
Could you give us a brief rundown of the plot of the game?
The plot is quite simple : in a very near future, the world’s oil reserves have dried up. To cope with the growing demand, a company has succeeded in transforming clean water into oil. Walter will be nature’s last hope, stopping the company’s greedy plans.
Did you want to give off an environmental message with this game or the “one against all odds” feeling with Walter’s plot?
The game carries a green conscience at his core but we’re not preaching.
The art style is very gorgeous and almost like a pastel painting, what kind of style were you going with for Walter?
The art direction, conducted by Arnaud Real, mixes highly realistic textures and slightly deformed objects and scenery. Some inspiration came from CG animation movies techniques, from Pixar and the like.
Are you publishing in addition to developing the title internally at Blossom Minds?
We are only in charge of development. We are currently in talks with publishers for the other part.
When can we expect release of our new lovable hero?
Surely during the second half of 2012.
Bonus Question: What’s your favorite XBLA game on the marketplace right now?
The choice is hard as there are many gems on the marketplace, but I’d say Shadow Complex, as this game really raised the quality bar.