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Questions For Evil Twin

by Thomas on Sept. 3, 2001 @ 6:57 p.m. PDT

Ubi Soft interview the developers so we don't have to.

Opening Notes: Thanks for agreeing to this interview. I've tried to keep the questions as open-ended as possible. Readers respond best to chatty answers, strong opinions and coherent arguments so feel free to tell us what you really think. Don't worry about syntax, grammar, spelling or any of that nonsense. We'll clean it up later. It's more important that you just talk openly…
  • When you first set out on this project, what were you aiming to achieve creatively, other than the obvious goal of creating a fun and successful game?

[Julie Salzmann] : In Utero's priority in developing the game was clearly given to the ideas, the diversity of the aesthetics and to the scenario itself, in other words, to the novelty Evil Twin represents in the world of video games… Actually, to start with Evil Twin was intended for television, with a series of animated films whose theme explored childhood fears in a harrowing and distorted atmosphere. Faced with the magnitude of the project and the technical skills involved, and thanks to the advise of a TV producer, we turned towards the game medium. Then came the meeting with Ubi Soft: a sharing of skills and creative spirit to produce, what we hope to be, a truly fascinating game.

  • I have read some previews and there have been a few approving comparisons with the work of Tim Burton. Why do you think people make this connection? Is this a comparison that you enjoy?

[Stéphane Bachelet] : There is a line of thought that exists between us and Tim Burton, for example. We more or less belong to the same generation where a whole bunch of references converge, such as German expressionism, decorative art from the Vienna school… References you will notably find in the graphic world of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Thus, we were working on the concept of the series when Vincent, Tim Burton's short film, came out. There was obviously the same preoccupation between this child who imagines himself to be Vincent Price and who lives in an imaginary world, and Cyprien, the adult-child.

  • Interesting that Cyprien has an obsession with comic books, that helps him in his quest. Can you tell us some specifics of comic-book related powers in the game?

[Stéphane Bachelet] : Well… indeed, Cyprien's obsession with Comic Books is really illustrated by his alter-ego Supercyp. As a fan of Comic Books, it was logical that Cyprien in his imaginary world would be a super-hero. There wasn't really "one" model that served to create Cyrpien/SuperCyp but many, plenty! Let's say that we were all fan of comics whether it be Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse or European Editors like Casterman or Delcourt, or artists such as Frank miller, Bill Sienkiewickz, Simon Bisley, Brian Bolloand, Moebius, François Bourgeon, and many others… and that Cyprien/SyperCyp is a mix of all.

  • Tell us about your own interest in comic books. What comics have inspired you? What about inspiration from other art-forms?

[Stéphane Bachelet] : "The" reference in comics would be "Little Nemo in Slumberland" of Win(d)sor Mc Kay. It's an American or an English strip, I don't remember, from the beginning of the century which tells the adventures of a young child in Slumberland" - his own imaginary world that he created with his logic of a young child. The very first picture of the strip was always little Nemo in his bed starting his night and the very last was always him fallen of his bed awake. In between, he had lived a full of incredible adventures.

While we have all sorts of influences (literature, classic and contemporary art, architecture…), they are all mixed up within our own perceptions. We believe this applies to all of us. However, there are some direct references: Arcimboldo is one of them. His paintings, in which he creates faces from plant material, are surrealistic and ahead of their time; we wanted to take this idea and bring it to life. Bosch is another of our references, but it is more intertwined.

  • The idea of regular kids being transported to alternative worlds is all pervasive in literature and movies, from Alice in Wonderland to The Phantom Menace. Do you think this fantasy will ever lose its appeal?

[Julie Salzmann] : It is true that Cyprien is the product of a great tradition of children's characters confronted with dramatic situations. David Copperfield, or Victor Hugo's Gavroche spring to mind more than Alice, but for us, characters like Jim Ballard in Empire of the Sun and Antoine Doinel in François Truffaut's The 400 Blows are closer to our world.

Regarding the appeal of that kind of fantasy we believe it will never end. Since we all have been children, we all have apprehended the world around us, and dreamt of being strong enough to overtake our fears.

  • The demise of Dreamcast must have been a blow to you? Tell us your thoughts on the Sega situation. Do you regret choosing this platform?

[Julie Salzmann] : Saying that is was a "blow" is a bit exaggerated, however we regret Sega's decision of ceasing production because the DC was really a good system, easy to develop on thanks to its architecture close to the one of a PC. To us, it seems that the failure comes more from the marketing side than from a defect in the machine, which is really a pity… Anyway. Instead of developing on the Sega platform we "will" develop for Sega, as we develop for Ubi Soft or other editors of the video game industry.

Regarding Evil Twin we don't regret at all choosing this platform. The DC was cherished by many hard core gamers as well as many developers, and still is. We, personally, particularly liked to develop on DC for 2 main reasons : first, it was really easy to work with, second, it had a lot of graphic memory which was good for us since graphism is one of our strenghts here at In Utero. And as far as audience is concerned there are still 8 millions of Dreamcast in the world…

  • Apart from PS2 are you looking to other console platforms such as Xbox?

[Julie Salzmann] : Yes indeed, we would very much like to be approved by Microsoft or Nintendo to develop on their platform. Before E3 we were already discussing the opportunity of developing on X-Box but since we truly believe the GC is going to be a great platform and we don't want to miss it.

Furthermore, it wouldn't be a good thing to refuse to develop on one system or another. On the contrary, we take these changes as challenges for us to test our flexibility and our capacity to adapt, and as doors to new markets…

  • The game is packed with characters. Tell us about a few of your favorites who you believe are the most original and interesting.

[Stephan Hernandez] : That's right there are plenty of characters in the game and about 30 with which the player can communicate.

[Stéphane Bachelet] : My favorite character is Wilbur. He is the most enigmatic: an elephant on a swing hooked on nowhere that falls from the sky at any time… It was both a wish to change from the regular cute pet that helps the player and to introduce humour in the scenario.

I also like very much Dr Folk, who is a failed Indiana Jones, that Cyprien has to deliver from the tricks he went into by himself because of his clumsiness!

And I like Cyprien's Friends and their "evil" sides in the twisted world of Undabed : Vincent, the hippie one, that you find under… hmm "something" in a vegetative state, of the most surprising in a game environment ; Jocelyn, the glutton one, that becomes a huge dirty "Gargantuan" really disgusting (especially from behind)… I like all those people made for the story, a mix of dreams and underground fantasies.

  • Which platform games do you think offer the best gameplay and pacing, and why? What tricks have you taken from the best platformers?

[Diego Fernandez-Bravo] : Rayman 2 / Crash Bandicoot / Shadow of the beast : best gameplay = very precise character moves. We may say that we took some of camera tricks from those games. [Stephan Hernandez] : Mario64 / Banjoo Kazoie

  • And the flipside of that question is; what have you brought to the genre that is different and innovative?

[Stephan Hernandez] : In terms of gameplay quality, we can say that the game approaches Rayman 2 but not really innovative. But the graphics and atmosphere, kind of dark fairy tale for adult, and the complex story-line make this game absolutely unique. What truly defines Evil Twin in the existing sea of other 3D action platformer is the story. Indeed, our first and foremost objective is to tell a story, to plunge the player in an involving story-line and unique atmosphere and add some fantasy to his (day)dreams. The action gameplay is the mean(s) we chose to link the pieces of the story together. So we think that it is the atmosphere, the graphics and the story line (,) which will truly separate the game from the crowd.

  • Tell us about camera control. How have you solved this problem?

[Diego Fernandez-Bravo] : Camera control is always tricky to implement. To palliate the difficulty we chose a mix between an automatic mode and a manual mode. For instance, 60% of the time we have a "follow" camera : the camera stands behind the character (automatic), looks for it when it disappears behind an obstacle (automatic), and even rotates if the player wants so (manual). The rest of the time we either have a "side" camera that follows the character in 2D-like levels or a "track" / "path" camera that have predefined moves as in movies… (both automatic)

  • What has been the biggest creative challenge in creating this game?

[Stéphane Bachelet] : Without any doubt, the biggest creative challenge in the game was the universe ; creating a new world was of an incredible work. When you start intending to tell a story, which was our aim, you need a serious coherent scenarioin its largest sense to give your story life. Consequently, we had to go very deep in creating Cyprien, the primary characters like Lenny, Wilbur, Dr Folk even the secondary like the people Cyprien meets as well as the background : the story behind, the islands, etc.

We had to imagine a totally new world with its own history, inhabitants and rules. We had to go very far into details to make it "true", and even if sometimes the player doesn't realise how far we went (because he's playing a game and not watching a movie so the perception is different) we still think it was a benefit for the game in its whole. Plus, it was a true way of motivating the team, each of us bringing his own idea, participating in creating the game and not just executing a task…

Other Stuff

  • Can you tell me your name and job title?

Stephan Hernandez : Project Manager

Stéphane Bachelet : Art Director

Diego Fernandez-Bravo : Lead Programmer

Julie Salzmann : Marketing Manager


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