Interview: Alice Team

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Alice Team is a French developer team of two people, Julien Desquenne and Nicolas Pochet. Their recent project is Alice Dreams Tournament, an explosive multiplayer for the Dreamcast, based on Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland. Julien answered our questions.

1.Do you remember your first video game? When did you fall in love with games?

My first video game was Moto Rodeo on Atari 2600. I was 8 years old, we were in 1988, and it was a fantastic christmas present for me and my sister. I liked the games on the Atari 2600, but I really felt in love with games with the Sega Master System. Alex Kidd built in the console was so great! Sega became my favourite for years! And since this incredible time, I’ve always had this dream to create a console game and see people play it and have fun.

2. How and when did you start developing games?

I started developing games when I was 14 or 15 years old. My parents didn’t have a computer, but I had a graphical calculator for studies and it was possible to code programs in BASIC language. I wrote simple soccer games and then a pong, without never having some programming lessons.

3.How many people were participating in developing the game?

To develop Alice Dreams Tournament, we were two : Nicolas Pochet, who made all the graphics, and I, Julien Desquenne, who made the code. We had help with music and sounds, thanks to Yoann Ouabdesselam, Philippe Vendi and Cyril Denis.

4) Why did you choose to develop for the Dreamcast?

We choose the Dreamcast at the beginning of our first project (Alice Dreams, platformer, 2002) because at this time, it was the best console which gives the opportunity to make homebrew games without any hardware modification. It was very important for me to be able to give people the opportunity to play the game as easily as possible.

5) What do you think separates homebrew games from indie games? Is there such thing as a separation anyway?

When we started some years ago, there were only homebrew games. The indie games started when homebrew projects were made to be sold and developers tried to live with that passion. It’s so incredible today to see people playing indie games on PS4 for example. If you go back to the PS2/PS3 area, people were largely interested in AAA games. It’s great to see that the video games are cyclic and today we have a great interest for games made by a few people with a limited budget. For the separation between homebrew and indie games, I think it’s a difference between a mentality of developing free games and games designed to be sold.

6) From where do you get your inspiration for the games you make?

Alice Dreams Tournament actually started life as a mini-game of our first game, Alice Dreams, which was a platformer inspired by the Lewis Carol novel „Alice in Wonderland“.  But, as we’ve shown this mini-game in retro public conventions and it was popular, we decided to turn it into a complete game. And ten years later, the game is now in front of you!

7) Do you think it’s important to give more official opportunities to hobbyists to develop games?

Yes, it’s very important. A game developed to be played on a computer is one of those too numerous project and has few opportunities to be known. To develop on consoles offers more visibility. It’s very important when you develop a game to show it and people play it, to have returns and improve it. It’s a very important fact and developers have to never forget: a game needs to be played to exist!

8) What are your tips for a newbee who wants to become a freetime game developer?

A newbee needs to start with an easy project. There are plenty tutorials on internet and it takes not too long time to understand. Then I recommend to try to program a game which he or she likes and as soon as possible to show it to others. If other people like it, then continue and show it later again. If there are negative reaction, do not worry. Stay calm to understand problems, and show it again improved!

9) What were the most enjoyable parts while developing? What sucked?

Developing the AI was great and it was so much fun to be beaten by the computer. It’s certainly strange to read this, because players only want to win. But I can assure you that when you program an AI you love to loose! What sucked was the most annoying bug I encountered. To sum up, the game was freezing randomly and I totally don’t understand why. It took days for me to understand that it was the Windows firewall which broke the connection between my computer and the Dreamcast!
So there wasn’t a bug in the code…

10) How much time did you spend creating your game?

As I said previously, it took 10 years. But, this game was developped by passion in the free time. There were months without being able to continue the game, because of lot of works or other problems. So it’s difficult to count hours. I can only say that i didn’t saw those 10 years passed, but I’m so happy that the game is now finished and that you can have fun with it 😉

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