This week we are talking with Stéphane Halleux and Michel Bams, creators of The Dead Flowers Case, an adventure game for PC, Mac & Tablets in a Steampunk universe
Airship Ambassador: Hi everyone, thanks joining us for this interview.
Michel Bams: Thanks a lot to you.
Stephane Halleux: Yes, thanks for the invitation.
AA: The press release for the game was pretty intriguing, and the images and sculptures from Stephane are quite engaging. What is the game all about?
MB : Thanks. The game is an adventure centred around a mysterious crime. A man is found dead at his desk, and close to him are some dead and dry flowers. What’s unusual is that in this ordered and mechanical universe, plants, once seen as too freeform, have long disappeared and no one has seen flowers for decades. So, as the player (and the one who is in charge of the investigation), you’ll have to solve a double mystery. First, who killed this man, why and how, and second, what were these dead flowers doing there? In terms of gameplay, The Dead Flowers Case combines “classic” point and click mechanics, with more innovative elements such as using Steampunk-inspired forensic tools.
AA: That’s an interesting premise. What was the motivation for creating The Dead Flowers Case? How did the gears start turning?
MB: It started, as is often the case, with a meeting. My partner, Olivier, saw one of Stephane’s statues in a Gallery and felt strongly that this universe could make a great video game. We contacted Stephane via his website and he told us that he would be in Paris the week after for the opening of an exhibition. He suggested a meeting. We met, chatted about his work and also about our previous experience with other creators (such as Benoit Sokal or Enki Bilal). We got on very well, and decided that we should progress things from there.
AA: It’s always interesting how the smallest action can result in new opportunities for each of us. Steampunk is still growing as a global community, and Stephane’s work has been exhibited around the world. For this game story, then, why choose steampunk as an aesthetic, and why Stephane’s style?
MB: The choice was driven by Stephane’s work. He creates characters, but never their environment. So, we had to discuss with him, and see if he bought into the vision of the world that we were thinking of for his characters. We thought of a world driven by mechanical productivity, so quite dark but with a humorous layer thoughout. In many aspects it has been inspired by the classic movie Brazil, but it also takes inspiration from many places including “Wallace and Gromit” J. In the end, after several discussions and meetings with Stephane, we “fine-tuned” the universe. Now that it has been created, we couldn’t picture Stephane’s characters in any other environment because they so naturally seem to belong in this one.
AA: That sounds like a wonder collaborative effort, and one where everyone is on the same page. Mando Productions will bring Stephane’s artwork to life. What can you share about the team and their process?
MB: First of all, everyone at Mando is very motivated by this project. It’s not often that there is so much enthusiasm shared by the whole company around working on a new project. Most of our senior team members were already there when we worked on adventure games such as “Paradise” with Benoit Sokal or “Nikopol” with Enki Bilal. So, they were enthusiastic about producing a new adventure. As we say in our Kickstarter video, adventure games are in our DNA. We like telling stories and creating games in which the players ask themselves “what will happen next?”
AA: Artists often add fun items into their work, something meaningful to them or an inside joke to viewers. How did this play into The Dead Flowers Case?
MB: We might have played with some names, but I’m not going to reveal the private jokes here J Stephane’s work is pretty humorous in of itself, with lots of his characters using complex but silly mechanisms. Some of his creatures are also “half mechanical”. The victim in the game, for instance, is called the Mecabrain. He has different switches on his head, helping him carry out sophisticated calculations. You can’t play with them on the real statue (unless it’s yours), but we though that it would be fun in the game. So, by trying out different combinations, you’ll eventually get access to the Mecabrain’s final 20 seconds of “RAM” memory, just before he was killed… That’s an interesting feature for a crime case investigation, isn’t it?
AA: That is fun item for players to try to find. What kind of back story is there for The Dead Flowers Case which didn’t make it into the final storyline?
MB: Lots J We’ve created a whole universe, which despite its silly aspects is still pretty rooted in logic. So we tried to ask ourselves the typical questions that a player would ask such as: why is there no plant life, but still some wood? Who controls the Nevrovitamin? Is there an opposition? If yes, then how can you become a member? We have the answers, but they’re not all in the game.
AA: With a whole unexplored universe already created, are there any plans for a sequel or spinoff?
MB: We would love to create other games based on this universe. Sequels of course, but also some based on different gameplay. For example, we’re also thinking of a 3D real-time action / adventure game, but we have to successfully launch The Dead Flowers Case first.
AA: When people play The Dead Flowers Case, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters, aside from an entertaining gaming experience?
MB: Emotions and fun, basically. We’re making games for people who also watch movies, read novels and have an interest in arts and creativity. We hope that the game will create emotions, and that the story will be thrilling. We’d also like the gamers to discover more about Stephane’s amazing work.
AA: What kind of research went into creating The Dead Flowers Case world?
MB: It’s very difficult to give a complete breakdown of the research as it has been so extensive. As I mentioned, many of the team members have been heavily inspired by “Brazil” and most of Tim Burton’s movies. Then, Stephane’s art creates a whole set of emotions in people. Some find it very sad, and may think of a very dark universe whilst others find it more humorous. We’ve heard a lot of different inspiration sources, showing how rich Stephane’s art is.
We’ll break here in our chat with Stéphane Halleux and Michel Bams, creators of The Dead Flowers Case. Check back for the conclusion as they talk about game play and the elements in creating the world.