Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Last Dragon Standing Interview


I recently chatted to two founders of Werewolf Montreal, a Canadian game company who will soon be releasing a game on the Xbox 360 Live Indie section. 

The game in question is called Last Dragon Standing, and is a reinvention of the classic retro game Pong

I chatted with Jean-Francois Roy and Sebastien Duval to find out more about their upcoming indie game. 

Q. You are one of the co-founders of Werewolf Montreal. Can you tell us a bit about how the company started, and why you ventured into game development?
Jean-Francois Roy:

It all started around a round of drinks (doesn’t it always :)), where we talked about how cool it would be to make our own games and it evolved from there. At that point, I and Sebastien had been in the video game industry for more than ten years and were a bit disillusioned. We had worked on a racing game together and had enjoyed the experience. At that point, I was between jobs so I just started full time from there, learning C sharp and getting familiar with XNA along the way. Sebastien and Olivier Raymond (our artist) joined in soon after. 

Sébastien Duval:

Jean-François Roy (my partner) and I worked on a project together a few years ago called My Sims Racing. This project went very well especially because programming and design worked hand in hand. We tried to reproduce this success on a following project, but it failed for various reasons, one of which was team size. Some friends, JF and I started to play Xbox Live Indie games for fun, but also as a way to see if we could compete with what was out there.  There was a good chemistry on My Sims Racing because we were fond of the multiplayer nature of the game and because we could all play together, so we decided our first creation would be a multiplayer game. The result is Last Dragon Standing.
Q. Last Dragon Standing will be released on the Xbox 360's Indie games section soon. What should we expect from the game?
Jean-Francois Roy:
A fun multiplayer next generation pong Dragons game where you get to blow stuff up and humiliate your friends! 

Sébastien Duval:

Last Dragon Standing is predominantly a multiplayer experience. The campaign mode includes 9 levels, a store with 3 different upgrades and a boss fight. Whoever wins the most games becomes the Dragon God. There is an AI with three difficulty level in case there are not enough players. Last Dragon Standing may look chaotic at first sight, but it quite strategic.

Q. Where did the idea for the game come from?
Jean-Francois Roy:

It took us a while at the beginning to settle on a genre. We kept on pitching ideas but never could all agree on it. In the end, we decided that for our first game we should start with a simple and addictive arcade game that took its roots in a classic, time-proven mechanic. A pong type game appeared like a good choice. So we took that concept, and expanded upon it by asking ourselves a series of questions. What would players enjoy doing in a next generation Pong? What if paddles were Dragons? What if they could burn innocent villagers and gain Power-ups? What if they could gain gold and buy upgrades between battles? So on and so forth. I did a quick design document and from there the process was very iterative. We had a playing prototype early on, and kept on adding features and tweaking as we developed the game.

Sébastien Duval:
At first, we only intended to make a small Pong game to learn the tools and let JF improve his programming skills. So I proposed the idea of a Pong game (it is pretty much the very first video game after all), but features crept and we ended up with a totally new game.
Q. From the trailer and screenshots, Last Dragon Standing looks like a modern take on the retro classic Pong. Was Pong, and any other retro games, inspirations during the development of your game?

Jean-Francois Roy:

Pong and breakout are the main inspiration, although there is a little bit of missile command in it as well, where projectiles have different speeds and properties calling for quick decisions as you defend your Dragon Eggs from being destroyed. Smash TV was also an inspiration for the cartoonish violence.

Sébastien Duval:
Pong was clearly a strong inspiration, as well as Arkanoid. But on different levels, games like MotoRacer (Turbo Graphix 16) or Micro Machines were also inspirations as we were looking for this level of multiplayer fun. 

Q. The game appears to be the most enjoyable with three other players. What made you decide to market this as a multi-player game?

Jean-Francois Roy:

We do recommend that you play the campaign by yourself as well to improve your skills so you can really dominate your friends when they come over. From the onset, we decided that our first game would be a hot-seat multiplayer game for two main reasons: first, we would have free testing and pizza since we were already doing Friday gaming nights. Secondly, we saw a lack of those games where people could compete together and have fun on the XBLIG marketplace.

Sébastien Duval:

There are so few truly multiplayer games and since it was our first independent project, we decided to make a game that we could play with our friends and have a big laugh. And we do, even after 9 months of development; we still play the game regularly. We hope gamers will do, like us, pop a few beers and enjoy the game.
Q. Judging from the trailer and screenshots on your website, the game has a great art style. What made you settle on that style?

Jean-Francois Roy:

Since we had decided to make a classic arcade game, we decided to have a classic fantasy type setting. Our art represents this: it is crisp, brightly colored and a bit cheesy in its seriousness. It’s a bit like the paintings you would see on a bike or a pinball machine.

Sébastien Duval:

We were looking for a retro "pin ball machine like" style that would enhanced the nostalgic nature of the game, but also cute/boyish enough to appeal to a wider crowd. We are really proud of how the game looks; Kudos to Olivier Raymond, our artist partner.

Q. Last Dragon Standing is a semi-finalist on Microsoft's Dream. Build. Play 2011 competition. Can you tell us a little more about that? 

Jean-Francois Roy:

Qualifying as semi-finalists for Dream.Build.Play was a great boost for our small team. We’ve put a lot of love into Last Dragon Standing and we know it’s a fun game, but it’s also our first game. So this contest was a great opportunity for us to get known as well as acquainted with the community. In return, it also helped us secure extra funding for our next project.

Sébastien Duval:

The Dream. Build. Play competition is meant to promote XBLIG games. This year, there was over 500 games registered and the quality was there.

Q. What are we to expect from Werewolf Montreal after Last Dragon Standing has been released?
Jean-Francois Roy:


We are just getting warmed up! LDS was a great start for us and it allowed the team to gel and establish a more concrete production pipeline. If the game does reasonably well, we might have an expansion pack or even a full blown single player campaign in the works for XBLIG. Our focus will also turn to next generation social games that will allow for the same “play with your friends” feel. These games will be available across multiple platforms. We will have some exciting news in the months to come. Stay tuned!

Sébastien Duval:

We are working on another project already. The Xbox Live Indie platform being a bit restrictive business wise, we have decided to focus on web games and phone Apps. Our next game will still have fantasy taste to it, but will focus more on character creativity and asynchronous multiplayer game play. Stay tune for more details.


2 comments:

  1. Any time Smash TV inspires something is a good thing -- and, wow, you are ROCKIN' the interviews!

    ReplyDelete
  2. NintendoLegend: EVERYONE has to love Smash TV! It's so fun. So yes, I agree with you on that front! I got lucky with the interviews. They've slowed down a bit now, but I'm going to try and find some more!

    ReplyDelete

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