The dark 3D platformer Evil Twin: Cyprien's Chronicles is currently in development at French development studio In Utero for the PS2, PC, and Dreamcast. Recently, a Q&A session was held with the game's developers, and you can read the full transcript here. The people involved are Stephan Hernandez (project manager), Stéphane Bachelet (art director), Diego Fernandez-Bravo (lead programmer), and Julie Salzmann (marketing manager).
GameSpot: 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 advice of a TV producer, we turned toward the game medium. Then came the meeting with Ubi Soft--a sharing of skills and creative spirit to produce what we hope will be a truly fascinating game.
GS: There have been a few approving comparisons with the work of Tim Burton in the preview coverage of the game. 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 Tim Burton and us. We more or less belong to the same generation, where a whole bunch of references converge, such as German expressionism and 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.
GS: It's interesting that Cyprien has an obsession with comic books, and that the obsession helps him in his quest. Can you give us some specifics on the comic-book-related powers in the game?
SB: 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 superhero. There wasn't really one model that served to create Cyprien/SuperCyp. Let's say that we were all fans of comics, whether it be Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, or European books like Casterman or Delcourt, or artists such as Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewickz, Simon Bisley, Brian Bolloand, Moebius, François Bourgeon, and many others. Cyprien/SyperCyp is a mixture of all of them.
GS: Tell us about your own interest in comic books. What comics have inspired you? What about inspiration from other art forms?
SB: The reference in comics would be Little Nemo in Slumberland. It's an American or an English strip, I don't remember, from the beginning of the century that tells the adventures of a young child in Slumberland--his own imaginary world that he created with the 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 falling out of his bed awake. In between, he had lived a dream full of incredible adventures.
While we have all sorts of influences (literature, classic and contemporary art, and 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.
GS: The idea of regular kids being transported to alternative worlds is pervasive in literature and movies, from Alice in Wonderland to The Phantom Menace. Do you think this fantasy will ever lose its appeal?
JS: 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.
GS: The demise of the Dreamcast must have been a blow to you. Tell us your thoughts on the Sega situation. Do you regret choosing this platform?
JS: Saying that it was a "blow" is a bit exaggerated, though we regret Sega's decision of ceasing production because the DC was really a good system that was easy to develop for thanks to its architecture, which closely resembles the 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 publishers in 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 it still is. We, personally, particularly liked to develop on the DC for two main reasons: First, it was really easy to work with. Second, it had a lot of graphic memory, which was good for us since graphics are one of our strengths here at In Utero. And as far as audience is concerned, there are still 8 million Dreamcasts in the world.
GS: Apart from the PS2, are you looking to other console platforms, such as the Xbox?
JS: Yes, indeed. We would very much like to be approved by Microsoft or Nintendo to develop on their platforms. Before E3 we were already discussing the opportunity of developing on the Xbox, but 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.
GS: 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, and Shadow of the Beast have the best gameplay with very precise character moves. We [might admit] that we took some camera tricks from those games.
SH: Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie.
GS: What have you brought to the genre that is different and innovative?
SH: In terms of gameplay quality, we can say that the game approaches Rayman 2, but it's not really innovative. But the graphics and atmosphere make it a kind of dark fairy tale for adults. And the complex story line makes this game absolutely unique. What truly defines Evil Twin in the existing sea of other 3D action platformers 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 or her daydreams. The action gameplay is the means we chose to link the pieces of the story together. So we think that it is the atmosphere, the graphics, and the story line that will truly separate the game from the crowd.
GS: Tell us about camera control. How have you solved this problem?
DFB: 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 percent of the time, we have a follow camera that automatically stands behind the character, looks for [the character] when it disappears behind an obstacle, and even rotates if the player wants it to. The rest of the time, we either have a side camera that follows the character in 2D-like levels or a track camera that has predefined moves as in movies.
GS: What has been the biggest creative challenge in creating this game?
SB: Without any doubt, the biggest creative challenge in the game was the universe. Creating a new world was incredible work. When you start intending to tell a story, which was our aim, you need a serious and coherent scenario in its largest sense to give your story life. Consequently, we had to go very deep in creating Cyprien.
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 real, and even if sometimes the player doesn't realize how far we went, we still think it was a benefit for the game as a whole. Plus, it was a true way of motivating the team--each of us supplying his or her own ideas and participating in creating the game, not just executing a task.
The PC version of Evil Twin is currently set for a European release on September 28, and the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 versions are scheduled for a November release.