Interview with Area Effect CEO (Izle)

There comes a time, every so often in gaming where a game has the potential to change the landscape, to break the mould using a fusion of ideas which complement each other in such a way that makes a game magical.

Izle from Area Effect, definitely has the potential to be one of the best games we have seen this Millennium. Area Effect have started a Kickstarter campaign to raise some funds for Izle, that will be released in 2016. I for one am backing them to be the next big thing in gaming.

Area Effect are a small studio based in Paris, France that were founded in 2011. They first started in the mobile business, creating two games: Startales and Pathingo. Area Effect then moved on from mobile and worked with Ubisoft to develop Bipolife: a game for bipolar patients to help them understand their condition better. Now they are moving on to Izle.

I managed to catch up with Alexis Bacot, the CEO of Area Effect, to ask him a few questions about their upcoming title, Izle.

    1. We like to start of every interview with the same question, to see the many responses we will get. The question is very simple. What game has been the biggest influence in your life and why?

First let me tell you it’s not an easy question, just because games have many distinct dimensions: art style, mechanics, design, intentions, meaning, communities… But if you consider all that together, overall I think the games that have had the most influence on me are Starcraft, Everquest, Passage, Braid and Minecraft. I think what matters most to me is to find a game that let me be creative as a player, in which I can feel I’m writing my own story and living my own experience. I think for me it’s not about games as an art form, but more games that allow players to be artists themselves, I think that’s what I love most.

    2. What are the challenges of developing Izle for multiple platforms?

Almost each platform needs to be seen with a different angle in term of design and control, and of course there is the huge difference between mouse / keyboard and controllers. Before there used to be this hard technical barrier of having a rendering and physics engine working for all platforms, but now Unity takes care of it. In the end the hardest part is always the submission and making sure you follow all the “Technical Certification Requirements”. This is why we will work hand in hand with a play test lab because these guys know those TCRs very well, otherwise on your own it can be a very tedious process.

    3. What Differences, if any, are their between the many versions of Izle you are developing?

I’m the only developer on Izle and my goal is to minimize any differences between the platform versions, to reduce the workload. That being said, we haven’t started anything else than to support the Xbox controller on top of the mouse and keyboard. We’re still working on the core concept and testing wild gameplay ideas, we’re not ready yet to make specific console versions. This will be next year.

    4. On your Kickstarter, for Izle, page you say that ‘Entire kingdoms and islands will be created or shattered based on your gameplay decisions.’ Does this mean that different players can have different experiences?

Yes, a lot of things will be unique to every game. First you will have a lot of choices in term of how you build Izle, which islands you go for and which bonuses you choose to activate for your islands (strategic aspect). But on top of that each island is completely procedural and random. It’s always going to be very different. Monsters have their AI generated procedurally, chests will be giving you different things, quests will be different, dungeons will be procedural as well… The idea behind all that is to give players a gameplay toolbox, lots of freedom of action, and then let them find ways to go around these obstacles in creative ways.

    5. Some people have described Izle as a coming together of Zelda, Minecraft & Godus. What, if any, are the main influences for Izle and why?

Izle is influenced by the early Zeldas for the gameplay, and by the recent ones for their art style. It’s using voxels, but we’re really not going for the Minecraft experience, because Minecraft is doing that very well already. It’s influenced by many procedural rogue games, Dwarf Fortress, Spelunky, Diablo… I love procedural games J They give you surprise, and force you to adapt to what you encounter and use what you have, makes for very fun and engaging situations.

    6. In the game you get ‘terraforming powers’, can you explain what a few of them are and how they can be useful?

The terraforming powers come in different flavours. Most of them will allow you to build entire islands, connected to your world. Others will allow you to upgrade, or modify, existing islands. And finally you will have destructive powers, these you can only use when you have been corrupted by the shadows (yeah that can happen!) and these will be you sacrificing a piece of your world to progress in the game.

What we want to do with terraforming is to give you the ability to create your own world. But also the choice to protect it or to watch it be invaded and destroyed by the shadows, in exchange for powers for your character. Izle is all about this duality between your character and your world; the trade-off you can make and their permanent consequences.

    7. As I mention before you have a Kickstarter campaign for Izle, Is this the first time you have had a community funded project?

Yes it’s our first time on crowdfunding. It’s actually been a lot of fun to design the rewards and the campaign, I hope you guys like it.

    8. What do you think of crowdfunding as a whole? Good or bad for the gaming industry and why?

I think Izle is very much the kind of project that can benefit from a Kickstarter. The game itself is ambitious and innovative, we’re really trying something new, but above that, it’s about our indie studio as well. If the Kickstarter is a success, not only it will create jobs, but it will be the birth of something bigger, it’s pretty much my company I’m Kickstarting there as well. That’s why I’m giving away all our future games for free in some of our rewards, this is how much it matters to me, and to us.

    9. As you started out in 2011, as primarily a mobile game developer, what is it like to be producing games for a consoles and PC?

I stopped developing mobile games very quickly because not only it wasn’t my type of games, but also because I thought the mobile market was extremely hard and aggressive against indie developers. I know PC and console gaming a lot better, and I feel I have full connections with the players on these platforms, so I feel a lot more confident. I understand the issues a lot better, and most of all, I just want to make a game I will enjoy playing myself, which makes things a lot easier!

    10. As a company that is only 4 years old, where do you see Area Effect in another 4 years time?

I would like to make Izle Online and also step into eSport. I love online games and I think Izle could be amazing in multiplayer. I would love to do that first, and then introduce matchmaking and mods, and then create eSport mods using Izle as a base. Think DotA from W3 kind of thing, except we can do very innovative gameplay with the voxels and our item system. So for now I mostly have plans for Izle, and to work on this IP exclusively.

Any other comments you want to make?
We started revealing Izle at Paris Game Week a few months ago, and since then we’ve had so many good feedback from the community. And you know every one of these good comments, words of encouragements, every nice tweet and every backer on Kickstarter… makes me so happy, but more importantly gives us motivation to keep working on Izle. So thank you guys for making this an awesome experience, it has really been a great ride, and it’s only the beginning.

I’m so grateful.

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Written by: Hugo

“Don’t be so gloomy. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” ~ The Third Man

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