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Game Design

Saying Oui to Graphic Adventures

France's Xilam Animation draws alien characters with universal humor in 'Stupid Invaders.'

April 05, 2001|SCOTT STEINBERG | steinbergs@hotmail.com

UbiSoft is known for high-end entertainment, not low-class jokes. Still the game publisher's latest effort, "Stupid Invaders" for the PC and Sega Dreamcast, is a comedic foray into raunchy territory. Sebastien Hamon, game producer for creator Xilam Animation, discusses the state of adventure gaming.

Q: Are graphic adventures dead?

I honestly don't think so. I think it may become bigger in the coming years. Games always have been heavily related to fashion circles, and fashion circles come and go. Adventure games used to be very big years ago, being the major gaming experience you could get.

Anyway, graphic adventures need to transform, as it's time to take advantage of the push forward that 3-D gaming brought to video games. It's now time to find ways to blend the excitement of a 3-D action game and the depth of an adventure game. Stories and characters need to be back with a vengeance in the gaming genre, and graphic adventures may be the solution.

Q: How did you envision such raunchy, offbeat jokes?

First, it's important to say that "Stupid Invaders" is based on a cartoon series we produced in France four years ago called "Space Goofs." Which means we already were very familiar with the characters, their attitudes and the universe they exist in. The 52 episodes already depicted various situations, so we worked on a completely new story, with all-new jokes. The jokes came from various angles, from the great work of our two writers and from all the jokes we brought together as a team.

Q: Is what you do really considered work?

Most of it is. The graphic vision we had for the game already is beyond what we expected, which is a great surprise. I still believe the backgrounds of the game are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen in a video game. I love the animations too. We tried to have a cartoon quality to it, and I hope we are not too far from it. Even now, the dialogue in the game still cracks me up.

Q: Why go with strange aliens instead of instantly recognizable main characters?

Because we love those characters. They act like a classic human family, only they are weird looking. The big secret behind them being aliens is that they act and react very much like some of us would in certain situations. We hide our jokes behind alien-looking characters, but they could very much be depicted as human beings, a family with Mom, Dad and weirdo teens.

Q: How much material was cut from the final version and why?

Unfortunately, we cut some of the locations and the action that was supposed to happen from the game. That's a shame; we had so many more jokes to tell.

Q: Encounter any censorship?

Not at all. The only sequence we cut was the one where a Japanese cook sliced Candy, the green alien character, sushi-like. However, it was our own censorship, and we decided to do this because of artistic considerations, not content considerations. We felt free with this game, as censorship is greatly stressed when it comes to writing for television, which is something we have to deal with every day for our TV series. It's a different medium, different situation. In the meantime, I honestly don't think that "Stupid Invaders" carries shocking situations, only jokes. Stupid jokes, I admit it.

Q: What's the craziest thing that happened while creating the game?

"Stupid Invaders" is our very first game as a team, even though some of us had other game-creation experience prior to this project. First times are always crazy. Maybe the craziest thing that happened during development was the time our boss persuaded us to dress as the Space Goofs themselves, claiming that if we impersonated them all day it would be easier to create the game.

Q: Any scenes you're especially proud of or embarrassed over?

We are very proud of the intro sequence of Chapter 2, the one where the alien spaceship crashes in the swamps around the huge dung factory. Of course, I do love the ending sequence--but I won't talk about it. Also, I love the dialogues between Candy dressed in a diving suit and the plastic Treasure. Beautifully absurd.

Q: How are puzzles dreamed up and then tested for viability?

We start with a script, very much like a script for a movie. Then, we work several months on turning the story into interactive sequences and non-interactive ones. We add interactivity above the story, which is easier and better this way, rather than the other way around.

Q: Think you went a bit overboard on the potty humor?

We are French, you know?

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Scott Steinberg is a freelance writer specializing in video games.

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