Alice Team Exclusive Interview.

Many keen Dreamcast supporters will remember a unique platforming game called Alice Dreams that was in development in 2008 by Team Alice, although the game only ever got to demo stage, the team were also working on a multiplayer party title called Dynamite Dreams which was in development from 2008 where it took a temporary hiatus from the public eye until 2012 where work continued. Dreamcast Today is proud to present a chat and insight into the game and it’s developers, Julien Desquenne and Nicolas Pochet to catch up on development of this promising game.

 

DCToday – Thank you for taking the time to have a chat with us, Julien and Nicolas. How did you first get into programming games? Was the Dreamcast always a system you both wanted to program for or was it the easiest to release a product on?

Julien:

With pleasure! I’ve been passionate about video games since I was very young. I’ve always had this dream to create a console game and see people play it and have fun. I started programming games in 2001-2002 during my computer studies. At this time the Dreamcast was the most powerful console on which we could develop in a legal and free way with KOS. In addition, I loved the console and I played thoroughly Virtua Tennis 2.

Nicolas:

I bought a Dreamcast one year after its death, because I liked the concept to play  emulators on a console. For my part, I also always dream to participate in the production of a video game. I could not resist to the announcement of Julien on a forum dedicated to the console, who, was looking for a graphic designer to start off a game project.

 

DCToday – How have you found working with the Dreamcast? Has it posed any challenges for example ram and CPU speed or is it quite an easy console to program for? 

Julien:

After several years working on Dreamcast, I am very happy with its power. Initially, the biggest challenge was the video RAM. In fact, Nicolas created stunning designs and the resolution was so big the Dreamcast video RAM could not store everything that Nicolas wanted.

I had to use compressed textures for the backgrounds of “Alice Dreams” and there was a loss of quality compared to the original drawings. Today, I better handle the texture management. I learned a lot developing “Dynamite Dreams”, in which you will find all the drawings of Nicolas’ are excellent quality!

Another challenge was to handle fast loadings. Those of “Alice Dreams” were not optimised at all. I managed that they are almost non-existent on “Dynamite Dreams”, despite of so many textures to load!

I also struggled to manage the effects of dynamic transparency for our “Hide and Seek” game play (see screenshots). The video card of the Dreamcast has no shaders. So I had to develop my own rendering engine. I was very afraid that the Dreamcast CPU does not handle it well – it blew me away because it works very well without any slowdown.

dynam_now

 

dynam_before

I can also mention the videos. We really wanted to provide quality videos in Dynamite Dreams, for the intro tutorials and the solo mode. The Dreamcast is not too comfortable in this area. But with the help of Mike Multimedia and Ph3nom, we managed to develop a full screen video player, powerful and with a really decent quality, more evidence that this console is really powerful!

Nicolas:

To my mind, I find that working for a console makes me learn a lot about how to build a game with fixed capacities. In fact, everything is possible if we optimise well the work for the machine. At the time, the video memory was filled with only some drawings. Once, I found the whole images for one “guilty gear” character on DC. There were more than 400 for a character with a resolution twice more sharp than in “Street Fighter 3” ! At this moment, I realised we could do something very beautiful in a very few colours. So you can save a lot of space. This is an example, among many others. We can say that today Julien can really handle greatly the specificities of the machine!

DCToday – You’ve attended many retro game conventions in the past where you’ve shown various builds of Alice Dreams and Dynamite Dreams, has there been a positive response to your games? Has the market for a Dreamcast game shrunk in your opinion?

Julien:

Indeed, these retro conventions allow us to present our developments and to have the feelings of passionate people. We organised many tournaments on Dynamite Dreams and people really enjoyed it. We had very positive feedback, great ideas that we implemented in the game, and we took advantage of the negative reviews to improve several points. I think of the playability that we refined year after year. I think we found a good compromise, in any case, it is the positive feedback we received during the “Past Game Rebirth 2012”, the “Retro Gaming Connection 2012” and the “Digital Heroes” events that has been the most praiseworthy.

Nicolas:

This is what mainly motivated us to continue the development of the game. We really feel supported by the people who were able to test our game. I may be mistaken, but since there are more people who love retro gaming, there is probably more people who can be interested in our title. The indie projects are always a good opportunity to get out the console of the closet 🙂

DCToday – Last time we saw Dynamite Dreams, you guys were implementing Visual Memory functionality into the game, what will it be used for and has it been challenging making it work in the game play?

Julien:

Today it’s called asynchronous gameplay! It was set up on Dynamite Dreams in 2006! It is used in two ways:

– In the dedicated gameplay “Hide & Seek”, a player is hidden and does not appear on the screen. The other three players are visible on the screen and are in search of the hidden player in order to kill him and take his place! In order than the hidden player can play and move, he plays looking at the screen of his VMU. The huge advantage of the Dreamcast is that each player has its own screen on the controller, so when a player becomes the new hidden one, there is no need to switch between player controllers.

– In the other gameplay, some maps reveal some surprises: for example, the lighting of the room shows some problems, which plunges the map in the dark! The only way to continue to play and fight is to look at the screen of his VMU. It’s really great to see people have fun with it during the tournaments!

Nicolas:

What an advance that the Dreamcast had on other machines! It is astonishing that the VMU was not used more at the time. All shooters were playable with the mouse and keyboard officially on DC. This is not always the case on current consoles today :/

The Dreamcast has the power to surprise us for many years yet.

 

DCToday – Hucast, KTX Software and Reticon have all explored the Kickstarter approach to ensuring their games get funded, is this something your team are considering or would you prefer a traditional developer/publisher approach to Dynamite Dream’s release?

Julien:

This is a question that is difficult to answer today. We are in discussions with one or more publishers, so we can not yet give a clear answer. Sorry.

 

DCToday – Many fans will remember the Alice Team for Alice Dreams, an interesting platform adventure that was last updated in 2008, is there a reason why the game was never finished, will it be something resumed at a later date of was it just a tester for Dreamcast development?

Julien:

Indeed, our first project was “Alice Dreams”. At the end of each level, we decided to offer a mini game. At the end of the first level, we have developed a variant of the game of “solitaire” card game. At the end of the second level, we developed a sort of Bomberman with the characters of “Alice Dreams”. Besides, if you finish our latest version of “Alice Dreams”, you will have access to this draft playable upon to 4 players, already named Dynamite Dreams (there is also a cheat code to go directly for the less brave. 😉

When we worked on this mini game, a competition for independent game was launched on the DCEmulation forum. The first prize was to be published and it made us dream. We had to provide a complete game in a few months. It would have been impossible to finish “Alice Dreams” in so little time, but it seemed possible to improve and finish “Dynamite Dreams”. We were passionate like crazy for this contest. We had a lot of free time then. The idea of ​​the gameplay with the use of VMUs came at that time and it brought something truly original. In fact, since the beginning of “Alice Dreams” project, we wanted to exploit the VMU screen but could not find a really interesting idea. “Dynamite Dreams” has achieved this goal. Unfortunately the contest was canceled, and when we showed “Dynamite Dreams” in retro conventions, the interest of the players made ​​us want to add more and offer a complete multiplayer game.

To return to Alice Dreams after we stopped its development – I do not know at all if we can resume it one day.

Nicolas:

Alice Dreams is a much bigger project. This is a project like many others too large. For my part, I think that if we start again a platform game, I will start from zero, with a good foundation that will allow us to work faster. At this time, we worked by adding things progressively. In any case, the game has allowed us to learn on the machine!

 

DCToday – Dynamite Dreams seems a concept we don’t see that often on Dreamcast given the fact that ‘shumps’ are the most catered for genre on the console, what was your influencing factor of making a multiplayer game?

Julien:

I see the Dreamcast as a console that offers great arcade games playable for up to 4 players: Virtua Tennis 1 & 2, Chu Chu Rocket, Unreal Tournament … The idea was really to offer a game using the maximum qualities of the Dreamcast : 4 players, VMU screens, VGA, full screen video, etc …

Nicolas:

I agree ! Although I like ‘shumps’, we may wonder why everyone insists on making ‘shumps’? There are way too many out there.

 

DCToday – Dynamite Dreams disappeared from the release radar for almost 4 years, was there a reason for the resumed development and how far along is the work on the game?

Julien:

We had initially planned the release of Dynamite Dreams for 2008. We never really stopped its development, but since it was impossible to estimate the actual release date, we do not want to give a new one. From 2008, my free time has also decreased significantly.

Nicolas:

It is not always easy to manage free time to create a game. The most important is that we didn’t give up 🙂 The remaining work is difficult to estimate accurately. We want to finish by the end of 2013.

 

DCToday – Do you have a favourite Dreamcast game and particular memory of the console that sticks out in your mind?

Julien:

I will never forget the endless parties on Virtua Tennis 2 in 4 player mode!

 

Nicolas:

I organize events time to time in the evenings where I get out my Dreamcast. The games are great with VGA box. We realize that the game render was better on Dreamcast than most PS2 games at the same time.

Under Defeat with the vertical screen, 24 hours of Le Mans, Jet Set Radio, Chu Chu Rocket, Dead or Alive and more have not aged in gameplay.

There’s too many good games on this machine!

 

DCToday – if you could create any kind of Dreamcast game where money was no object and development tools were there, based on the Dreamcast’s specification, what game would you make?

Julien:

I would love to work on a game like WindJammers: very arcade, nervous and super fun!

 

Nicolas:

Personally, I strongly believe that Rayman Legends could be ported on Dreamcast. I find it crazy that it took so long to see a 2D game of this magnitude.

I’d like make a real multiplayer game platform as complete as it, in a completely different universe.

 

I’d like to thank Julien and Nicolas for welcoming our interview questions. Dynamite Dreams is currently in development for Dreamcast. You can find more information about the game on Facebook. A link along with new images of the game can be found at the bottom of the page.

Interview conducted by Forbes Longden.

https://www.facebook.com/dddreamcast?fref=ts

 

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