Interview – The Dead Flowers Case, part 2

Welcome back to the conclusion in our talk with Stéphane Halleux and Michel Bams, creators of The Dead Flowers Case, an adventure game for PC, Mac & Tablets in a Steampunk universe

Part one can be read here.

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Airship Ambassador: What elements of gameplay are needed in this kind of mystery game and what makes this game different than other detective type stories?

Michel Bams: Adventure games are driven by the storyline. But they must also be fun to play. So, we wanted to really avoid the “pixel hunting” that’s common in many other games of this type. We also wanted to avoid excessive or useless travelling in the settings, in order for the player to find or use a new inventory element. We wanted to focus on two things. First of all logic-based puzzles in which the player will have to use his brain and make logical deductions by comparing evidence and clues with what they will learn from questioning the suspects. Second, we wanted to add a “dexterity” layer through the use of the forensic tools. However, in this Steampunk universe, forensic tools are far from reliable. So, when the “Big Machine” gives you a piece of information, it’ll be also linked to a reliability rating which will almost never be 100%

 

AA: It’s nice to have a multi-layer effort in the game. What can you share about the gameplay itself? What can players expect once they launch the game?

MB: Lots of fun (hopefully!). We want to offer an experience consisting of around 10 to 12 hours of gameplay, and we would like the players to be rewarded for their good deductions but also by being immersed into the universe.

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AA: With the press release out now, what are some notable initial reactions to The Dead Flowers Case which you’ve heard about?

MB: It’s still a bit to soon to say. So far, we’ve had some very enthusiastic and encouraging reactions from those who saw the project, whether they belong to the game industry or not. Namely, Stephane’s fans seem to enjoy the game’s universe a lot.

 

AA: What kind of attention has The Dead Flowers Case generated outside of the steampunk and gaming community?

MB: Luckily for us, Stephane’s work is getting more and more recognition every time he does an exhibition. We know that he has some famous fans, such as Guy Laliberté from Cirque du Soleil or Tim Johnson from Dreamworks Studios. Beyond these celebrities, there is a huge and active fan community, following his work, helping us to spread the news about the video-game.

Also, there’s this great short animated movie based on Stephane’s work called Mr Hublot, based on his work. We just found out that Mr Hublot has been shortlisted in the Best Animated Short Category for the forthcoming Academy Awards/Oscars

 

AA: Congratulations on the shortlist, that’s a great accomplishment! Every project has a unique journey to completion. This journey is only midway at most – what has the experience been like?

MB: It has been a great experience, really. It’s always a privilege to work with creators such as Stephane. Now that we have built the universe and the scenario, the challenge is to get the final production started.

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AA: For the aspiring artist and game creator, what lessons did you learn about creating this and other games?

MB: That it takes time and patience J The videogame industry lacks original creators. But the good news is that it leaves more room for aspiring creators and new talent.

 

AA: Sounds like tehre are opportunities for creative people with unusual and original ideas. If you weren’t writers, producers, and artists, what else would you be doing now?

MB:  Accountants maybe, dreaming of being rock stars… I don’t know, really. Olivier and I have been involved with video games for over 20 years now, and I guess that we must like it. However, one of the reasons why we like this industry is really when we’re given the opportunity to work with authors and artists.

Before becoming a “full time” artist”, Stephane was working in the animated series business as an animator and 2D artist.

 

AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?

MB: It’s hard for me to answer this question… I’m really not an artist myself.

SH : At the beginning I was spending a lot of time thinking about technical problems…however, after several years and gaining more experience, I can now spend more time on the artistic aspects of each piece.

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AA: How is Paris, France for this kind of work? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc.?

MB: Paris is fine. We have very good schools in graphic arts, programming, game design. It is also quite a creative city. There are lots of interesting business connections as well. French people, and among them Parisians, often complain about living here. It must be part of the “always complaining” French character…. But we don’t: we’re happy to live and work in Paris. I should also mention that Stephane is a Belgian and lives in Belgium.

 

AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests and topics fill your time?

MB: I listen to music a lot, and I’m a very bad guitar player. I also try to read even if I feel that I have less time than before for it, and watching movies and TV series.

SH: I’m looking for antics most of the time 😉

 

AA: Antics, LOL! Sounds like a code word for “Almost but not quite getting into trouble”! What other fandoms are you part of in some way? (As a fan or other participation)

SH: I’m a big fan of pop art, commix, animation movies (stop motion and 3D) and I’ve had great opportunities to be in contact with many of the directors I admire a lot

 

AA: How do those interests influence your work?

SH: Probably, in an unconscious way, my work is a mix of those interests.

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AA: For each of you, who do you count among your mentors, influences, or role models??

MB: Keith Richards. He will outlive us all…

SH: The list is long ;)… Henry Sellick, Terry Gilliam, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Jean Giraud (moebius), Michel Gondry…etc.

 

AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers?

MB: Just hoping that people will like “The Dead Flowers Case”

 

Big thanks to Stéphane Halleux and Michel Bams, creators of The Dead Flowers Case. Check their website to stay up to date on their progress and latest news!

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Published in: on December 15, 2013 at 9:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with the creators of The Dead Flowers Case

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

 

Published in: on December 8, 2013 at 11:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Review of Teslacon IV 2013

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O.M.G (Insert your personal “G” word here)

Teslacon IV The Congress of Steam was amazing! Four days of events and entertainment, October 31 – November 3, 2013, was enough to make the most energetic person drag home in grateful exhaustion and fatigue.

The excitement started before the convention with a series of radio announcements, which detailed events leading up to the convention itself.

 

Some people started arriving on Wednesday as there were already panels and events on Thursday. There were panels on writing, 19th century history, and mixed media to get things rolling. After that, there was the Masquerade Ball, and even though it was only the first night, people really brought their “A” game with their outfits.

One thing I really love about our community is the creativity we bring to everything we do. Some people make their clothes, some pull purchased items together very well, but everyone, from waif to aristocrat, looks great.

Another great thing about our community and fandom, which was again evident at Teslacon, is how steampunk is not only family friendly but inter-generational friendly. It was great to see whole families dressing up to enjoy the weekend as well as seeing people from eight to eighty talking together without hesitation for any reason. We are all steampunks together, and we often converse and discourse like one. Our interactions for fun and education are definitely not bound nor restricted by age, or gender, or any other externally imposed factor.

Panels for the weekend thankfully started at a civil 10am, except for a handful on Saturday which started at the rude hour of 9am. Thanks to all of you who came to the panel I was on at that time. 🙂

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A big thanks is deserved to the programming team at Teslacon for the varied and enjoyable panel topics and events they pulled together for the weekend. I was on eleven panels and participated in the Opening Ceremonies, which meant there were a large number of panels that I missed  😦 .

The schedule is here and here for posterity, and so all of you can either remember what you attended and for everyone else, what we missed.

Friday included panels on cosplay and fashion, history and reviving older traditions today, writing and literature, and music and performances. The highlight of Friday was the Opening Ceremony. I always appreciate opening ceremonies at conventions because not only is it a definite marker of the official start, but it’s also a great way to bring everyone at the event together, united as a con family at least for that moment. We’ll see each other coming and going during the weekend, but for that moment, we are all together as one.

This year’s ceremony for the Congress of Steam included a processional March of Airships from around the world, including the US, France, Canada, Belgium, Ukraine, England, Saudi Arabia, China, and Spain. It was quite a sight to see groups large and small, well known and not so much, parade in with their banners. The ceremony also included dancing by the Stoughton High School Norwegian Dancers. They were absolutely amazing and I was so caught up in watching, that I suspended my disbelief completely and completely forgot I was at a convention in a hotel in Madison, Wisconsin and felt like I as a delegate at diplomatic proceedings in Oslo, Norway.

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Because the room parties on Thursday weren’t enough, there were even more on Friday, and still more on Saturday. Snacks, foods, birthday cake, and drinks of all concoctions, virgin and definitely not, were all part of that grand entertainment supplied by other guests and groups. Anecdotally, it was remarked that Out From Behind the Curtain had the best party with absinthe, drinking vinegar and gluten free spice cake, along with an amazing locally made steampunk birthday cake.

Saturday also sported the same type of programming tracks and reflected a real diversity of topics. There was definitely something for everyone at every hour of the day. Sunday morning started with a non-denominational worship service and wrapped up with a handful of panels before the closing ceremonies.

While some people had to sadly check out and hit the road to head home before the closing, almost every seat was still filled as our friend and host, Lord Hastings Robert Bobbins III, Prime Minister of England, graciously sent us on our way with several things to think about and a few easy things for us to do.

He reminded us that steampunk is OUR fandom, and that while we each have our own definitions of steampunk, beyond that we create our fandom and events in the way we want them to be. WE decide what our conventions look like – panels, performances, presentations, fashions, and socializing. We also create things – even if some commercial group or company came out with amazing and quality items that we would gladly buy (and sadly, so many big companies trying to chase the steampunk dollar genuinely don’t understand us at all) we will still take that thing and gleefully change it anyway to suit our personal needs, wants and tastes.

The action item we were challenged with by Lord Bobbins was this: in February and July, bring two new people to any steampunk event, big or small, local or regional or international. It’s a small and easy thing, one where we can share our enthusiasm and interest with others. Not everyone we bring will stay and be involved, but there will be those who do and who will thrive in the community just as we do.

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This isn’t some plot, as some have speculated, to get more people to Teslacon, which has a capped attendance, or about any one individual. It’s about all of us around the world including other people we know in something we enjoy. There is no ‘saving’ of steampunk, or any other fandom, in this. There is no agenda, no grand vision, and certainly no conspiracy, LOL – it’s about sharing.

While Madison is not on the major travel routes in the US like Seattle, Chicago, and Atlanta, it does have a very nice airport with efficient and friendly staff. The Madison Marriott was also a wonderful hotel with a free airport shuttle, and with staff who look forward to seeing us each year. The restaurant (Hi Pearl!) serves good Midwestern fare, including gluten free bread, and a great breakfast buffet with made to order omelets. The standard rooms are nice, with the usual basic amenities (no fridge), and internet connection for a fee. Unlike some other convention hotels, I had decent cell phone signal in the actual convention space. The one amenity I wish they had was a computer and printer to print out my boarding passes before I left for the airport. Maybe that was in their business center and I just missed it.

If you like a medium sized convention with a variety of programming tracks and panel topics, and a thematic storyline and performance running through the weekend, then Teslacon might be a good convention to attend next year. Be quick to get your tickets, though. Pre-registration is already half sold.

See you in 2014 as Lord Bobbins takes us to the Center of the Earth!

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Published in: on December 1, 2013 at 1:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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