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Inside the IGF Student Competition: Betes Noires

In a new series, sister educational site GameCareerGuide talks to student developers who have submitted games to this year’s Independent Games Festival. In this i
In a new series, sister site GameCareerGuide talks to student developers who have submitted games to this year’s Independent Games Festival. In this interview, Yann van der Cruyssen discusses Bêtes Noires [video], a sandbox-style game with musical monsters developed at ENJMIN -- The Graduate School of Games and Interactive Media in France. In the freely downloadable Bêtes Noires, the user can create monsters, watch them grow, and make a kind of music with them. Each monster sings a specific note depending on his characteristics. This note evolves as the monster grows older. Monsters can eat other monsters, grow new limbs, or reproduce and make babies that are a mix of their parents. These actions also affect the notes the monsters are singing. We asked the developer about their project: How did Bêtes Noires change through its development? Yann van der Cruyssen: Since we considered every suggestion and piece of advice that we received during development, the overall project changed a lot. First, it was supposed to be a random, friendly adventure game based on Propp’s theories. Then, our first prototype was a platformer that took advantage of perspective. And then, for some reason, we had to change a third time to do something that wasn't really a game anymore. The common point between all the stages was the procedural aspect and the fact that we wanted shadow shapes. I kept the engine I made for the platformer game. I’m currently trying to complete it and make it stereoscopic. Our school asked us to make an interactive piece of work that an average user could understand within 10 minutes. But I also wanted to go beyond the school's request by developing some features, like customization, creature exporting, beat synchronization, and the possibility of triggering the monsters with a MIDI or computer keyboard. I hope some players will want to use it their own way. What sets your game apart from others in the IGF? YC: Except for the font, every asset of our game is generated by the code. Although the player isn’t supposed to know it, I think it’s important -- it’s something you feel when playing. I was adamant on keeping every artistic element as simple as possible. For instance, pictures are composed only by basic shapes with very few different colors. I hope this helped to create a sense of consistency. Tell us about the block art style -- it’s both dark and playful. YC: We used shadows for both practical and aesthetic reasons. I noticed that a lot of recent or upcoming games, as well as various ongoing projects from some friends of mine, use shadows the same way. We especially liked an interactive toy called "shadow monsters" that modifies existing hand shadows [to make them] look like weird animals. I also was inspired by Jim Woodring’s drawings when creating the sky creatures. Something funny about it is that I recently found something quite similar to our game on his web site. What was the most difficult part of developing Bêtes Noires? YC: The ergonomic aspect was quite complicated. And it was also difficult when I had to modify the interface. Since almost everything in this game comes from the code, it was also hard to apportion the work. Because we didn’t have any programmers in our team, I had to learn programming myself, so that was the main thing. [An extended version of this interview with screenshots is available on GameCareerGuide.com, Gamasutra’s sister site for information and advice about education and careers in the game development industry.]

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