We got in touch with this enigmatic young gent and asked him about his titles, his views on other WiiWare games and the perils of independent publishing.
WiiWare World: You've recently said you're displeased with Eternity's Child, but do you think it's because you're something of a perfectionist?
Luc Bernard: Well, I wanted Eternity's Child to be 20 hours long and to be gigantic and epic but due to lack of dev time and budget we could not achieve that goal, that's why the animations were not hand drawn and used ‘rag doll’ animation instead. I just wanted it to be better, that’s all. As a 500-point game I think it's the best game you can get on the service.
WW: Do you think the ‘500’ price point is important? Many people have said that stuff like Final Fantasy: My Life as a King is good, but at 1500 points it's a big barrier to entry, whereas people will be more happy to spend 500 points, even on a whim.
LB: Well I believe that if you offer games cheaper more people will try them out.
WW: Do you think it's possible to create the games you want to when you're selling them for 500 points?
LB: Yes and no. Eternity's Child had the smallest budget of all the WiiWare games, but for the future I would prefer to work on WiiWare games with a more normal budget.
WW: What's the budget for Rose Princess like?
LB: Well the Rose Princess hasn’t even got started yet, but if I start on it and a publisher picks it up it would be $50 000 in budget, while most WiiWare games are $100 000.
WW: So it's still below what many other companies are spending?
LB: Yes. When I do a game I hardly take a big salary, the maximum I take is $2000 dollars a month. I would rather it be spent on the game than me.
WW: With this in mind, do you think there's an argument that says if you release a game for 500 points instead of say, 1000 points, you take a loss on each one but you could potentially sell a higher volume? After all, you don't have to worry about pressing the discs or printing covers…
LB: I believe myself games are too expensive, and business wise I think cheaper games equals more sales but also I want as many people to play it, because if everyone offers 1000 point games players wont be able to buy most of them.
WW: If Eternity's Child sells well, what would be your next move?
LB: Clearly if Eternity's Child does well I will set up my own studio and start doing 100 point games (if I can!) and bring on the people I want to work with to make games even better.
WW: I'm sure there are some people who will read that and think you're crazy, but as we've just said, a price point of 100 points means that many more people will download the games, which could potentially mean massive sales...but how do you think other WiiWare developers would react? Especially if you're selling a game that is better than theirs, but at a much lower price?
LB: Well I don't know if it's allowed by Nintendo yet and it's not going to happen right not but it's something I plan to do. I just believe in cheap games; you give the consumer something that is good and not making him poor he will support you, that’s why people pirate music and films - they cant buy everything because its so expensive, it’s up to us to adapt to the consumer, not for them to adapt to us.
WW: It’s interesting you say that because lots of other industries are clearly thinking along the same lines, yet the games industry seems to be very reluctant to reduce prices.
LB: I'm going to be honest here, it's all about the money and doing clones of the same product over and over again; that's the games industry! Then they sugarcoat everything with PR.
WW: How do you view the flood of casual titles that have invaded the market? You recently said you didn’t care about casual gamers?
LB: I'm just not into casual games, that’s what I meant. I don't even play videogames that much anymore because they are either all the same with a big muscle man on steroids, or its casual games and I'm just not into them. There are loads of publishers who create casual games if you want to play them, but I won’t be making any.
WW: Do you think the commercial success of some of these casual titles is almost forcing developers to make more of them in the hope that they can get some of the profit? Again, it comes back to your point about the industry recycling what is successful?
LB: Yes, if a company sees that one game has got success they will do their own version, it's like record labels that each have their own Britney Spears clone.
WW: Has Nintendo had anything to say about your games? For example, Eternity's Child has some very adult themes running through it…
LB: What’s adult about Eternity's Child? There are zombie games planned for WiiWare with blood all over them. Eternity's Child does not have anything mature in it really.
WW: I guess what I meant was that although these zombie games are full of gore, they're brainless. Eternity's Child has some very mature ideas behind it…
LB: Well I'm trying to make the stories kind of have a meaning, like not always putting out the whole revenge story or heroic stuff over and over again. All the characters and stories I design aren’t really heroes at all.
WW: Storytelling is a really underused thing in videogames, I think. Do you think the issue of the player controlling the action (and therefore being able to change events) prevents developers from crafting really epic tales?
LB: There are too many epic tales about saving the world. Most games start off with a game idea and then the story is done, while I do it the other way round. That is why I then need to adapt the gameplay to the story.
WW: If Eternity's Child does do well, do you think you might revisit the concept and hopefully be able to spend more time and money on making something that is closer to your vision?
LB: Well Eternity's Child is planned to be a franchise, the WiiWare game is just a introduction to the world. However the sequel would probably be an RPG - not a big epic one, but a WiiWare one.
WW: I believe you mentioned that a movie is planned at some stage?
LB: I'm already doing some merchandise, and I talked to Uwe Boll for a animated movie based around the franchise where I wrote the story for it, it would be part of the series and not just a adaptation, but we'll see if that develops or gets off the ground.
WW: Uwe Boll? That guy gets an awful lot of abuse these days!
LB: Yes I know! I think his haters are a bit silly, I mean you can't really do a good story with Blood Rayne or stuff like that, and they are B movies and are still fun to watch. I guess it's just always easier to hate someone.
WW: At least the guy is serious about what he does. I guess it's similar to what you're doing, if you look at Boll's budgets he has hardly anything to work with…
LB: Well, Uwe Boll is very passionate about what he does, so that's what I like about him. He is also honest. The man gets kids hating him for no reason when he is one of the nicest guys I have talked to. If they don't like his films then they should just not watch them. Honestly I don't think there are any hardcore fans of Blood Rayne or House Of The Dead that are like "he ruined my favorite game", they are movies of those games so he did them the right way, you can't do a Oscar winning film based on those games.
WW: Exactly, and why should a film ruin someone's game? There's also not a lot of plot to work with on some of these things!
LB: Yeah, I mean the Mario Bros film was terrible and well I still love playing the games. The film hasn’t made me hate the franchise or Bob Hoskins!
WW: What's your opinion of the other titles you've seen on WiiWare so far?
LB: Lostwinds is hands down the best title on the service and I can't wait to see what Wayforward will put out, but the rest I must admit aren't really my kind of games.
WW: What about Defend Your Castle? Interestingly, they put it out at 500 points when people expected it to be more, maybe they're thinking along the same lines as you? It seems to have worked as well, because it's very high in the US WiiWare sales charts…
LB: I have nothing against it, it's just not my kind of game, I like to play a character.
WW: You've hinted that Imagination Is The Only Escape (adventure title about the Holocaust) could revolutionize the way we see games...could you tell us a little more about it? Is it still DS-bound? I know it's secret but whatever you can tell us...
LB: I can't tell you if I did it would give things away and people would copy it! But I can say there’s been a change of platform and I'm going to spend more time on it than any other game, and not going to let it come out until I am fully satisfied with it. This game can make a change but if it's not right and with the right budget it could be terrible.
WW: Do you see yourself working on content for other platforms, such as XBLA and the PS Network? Or is WiiWare currently the best fit for the kind of product you're looking to produce?
LB: Those platforms have HD and more disc space so I must admit I’m liking them a lot at the moment.
WW: We've touched upon the freedom that DLC games grant developers, but would you consider producing a 'proper' retail game if the situation was right?
LB: I'm not going to even consider that, if a WiiWare game costs $100 000 to make in general and I have problems getting funding why would I even try a retail title?
WW: But say Eternity's Child is a massive success and a big publisher came knocking?
LB: I still wouldn’t do it, I prefer online digital distribution.
WW: I guess traditional publishing comes with serious limitations? Not only on creative freedom but also in terms of financial burden?
LB: Well it’s all a question of money, if I have problems financial wise just with WiiWare games, why would I even consider retail?
WW: True, but my point is that once you have a few successes under your belt it's a lot easier to get finance…
LB: That is not true really. I know people who have done loads of games and still have problems getting financing, but what I plan to do is invest my money into things rather than wait for investors.
WW: And thereby get more creative freedom?
LB: It's got nothing to do with creative freedom; I was never told what to do on a game. I'm not an employee, Eternity's Child is a collaboration between me and Alten8, so I have never had those problems of creative freedom.
WW: Personally I think it's great that you've in that position, I've played too many games where I sit there thinking that the developer has sold themselves short by sticking to convention too much. As many people say there aren't enough risks taken in the industry these days…
LB: Well, there is no risk in Eternity's Child. It's just a simple old school platformer, nothing more.
WW: that is true but you have to admit from the buzz the game has created on the net, the visual style has helped to raise the game's profile. I think a lot of publishers would look at it and be worried because it's not got a furry animal in the lead role! I think given the chance, the general public responds well to games that are original in style.
LB: Well, other publishers do not think the style is mainstream I agree.