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Alien After All

Game Info

DSiWare | Neko Entertainment / Alien After All | 1 Player | Out Now | 800 Nintendo Points

4th January 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

Last year, Alien After All & Neko Entertainment teamed up to bring us DodoGo! - a fun new IP that was just as charming as it was memorable. We decided to catch up with Denis Mercier, the Head Designer over at Alien After all, and engage him in this alternative approach to our usual way of doing interviews. Please let us know what you think of this new feature! 

KS8: Welcome to the Wiiloveit Lounge! A brand new approach to our standard interview practices. Today, I'll be conversing with the Head Designer behind the DodoGo! series for DSiWare. Denis, I'd like to welcome you to our show!

DM: It's good to be here!

KS8: May I offer you a drink? Let’s see what we here... What would you like: Apple or Grape Juice?

DM: Gosh... As a Nintendo enthusiast, please remember that Apple is totally prohibited here, even in the form of a beverage.

KS8: Ha ha, talk about your devoted fanboy! Well, welcome once again. It's great to have you here! How does it feel to be our first guest on the show?

DM: It's such an honour for me to try out this new program for the first time, especially in such a cozy place, with drinks… But I can see what you're trying to do here: get inside scoops or confidential information on games using the ruse of delicious fruit juice. You'll have to do better than that!

KS8: And here we thought we could pull a fast one on you! Next time we'll be sure to select a narrow-minded candidate who can't see through our clever ruse, we promise. ;)

DM: I don’t believe you... Alright, let’s get serious. So KnucklesSonic8, tell us about yourself. 

KS8: Hey! Since when did YOU become the host of the show? 

DM: Don't you know that Wiiloveit readers deserve to know more about the reviewers they blindly follow. See it as an opportunity, or better yet, think of it as a therapy. As a journalist aren't you fed up with always hearing the same complaints from developers? “Not enough budget!”, “Not enough time!”, “Too much competition!”, “Pizza!” Meanwhile, YOU are secretly facing the same realities when writing reviews. You need to speak, to confess... tell us more!

KS8: Wow... Talk about a turn of events!

DM: Everyone, please forgive my lack of discipline.

KS8: So what's say we try this again, hm? Tell me Denis, in a perfect world with unlimited resources, what would you say is your biggest dream or goal as a developer?

DM: Well I DID want to interview a game journalist, but it doesn’t look like that’ll be realized today. 
Sometimes as developers, we wonder why nobody rates reviews to indicate to players the best articles published. It could be fun, no? 

KS8: Ha ha. Actually, I might like to see that. Could be useful feedback! Tell you what, if you're feeling particularly eager to give this a shot, feel free to analyze one of our reviews. How's that sound?

DM: I’ll tell you after reading DodoGo! review ;)

KS8: Great. So Denis, what was your main inspiration behind DodoGo! and when did it come to fruition? 

DM: The main inspiration first come from the desire to develop a touch-screen game specifically designed for the Nintendo DS. I wanted to give the player the opportunity to interact with the ground or other game elements using nature-based materials. Dig, mold, scrape, cut, hit, saw, trace, etc… Then the idea of using fragile eggs came from the topology of this kind of side-view with many cliffs.

As a gamer, a lot of references and “souvenirs” bump into your head at this stage: Worms, Lemmings, The Lost Vikings, Whistler’s Brothers, New Zealand Story, The line/linéa, and even Mr. Magoo. DodoGo! is a mix of all these ingredients as a science of reminiscence. A “reminiscience”, if you will.

KS8: I imagine that after this recipe was concocted, you stayed away from eating eggs altogether. ;)

DM: Just because there were no eggs left in my fridge... I had to experiment a bit, using crack & crash tests. Let's warn sensitive souls that most of the eggs are unfertilized, and no chicks were harmed in the making of the game.

KS8: I bet PETA will be happy to hear that. So, how long did it take for the game to finally arrive on the DSiWare service?

DM: 4 years and 3 months, from the initial idea to the street launch. That's quite unique for a DSiWare title. We should call for a Guinness book entry.

KS8: That's a long time! I'm sure the road was a very bumpy one. Without making any cheeky frying pan/furnace jokes, what sort of challenges did you guys have to endure to get these little guys to their home nest on DSiWare? 

DM: The game was initially planned for a cartridge release. The major challenge to turn it into a DSiWare title, was essentially to reduce the size of the game. 

KS8: Well obviously you guys did a great job, because it's really high quality!

DM: Thank you! Every member of the team has put their best to add extra value to the game. Some projects federate, others don't. I have no explanation for that, though. It's always a sort of mini miracle when this happens.

KS8: Now that the game's been out for a good while now, you've been able to view a wide range of opinions on your title. What do you think about the response towards DodoGo! and what were some of the most helpful pieces of feedback that you received?

DM: We are in line with all reviews of the game that point to the pros and cons of DodoGo! All those reviews together give a good snapshot of what's beneath the game, including its strengths and weaknesses. From a work perspective and for re-evaluation purposes, game reviews could be seen as a kind of massive Focus Group. It's priceless especially when reviewers opinion are in line with audience opinion. It give us some bullets to continue to fight. The indie way is a wild one! 

DodoGo! reviews point to the excellent value for money, and DodoGo! Challenge the sequel will do better thanks to a price tag of 500 Nintendo Points. The team at Neko have worked hard to compress the data to death so they could keep as many levels as the first opus, and offer an even better longevity.

KS8: Wow, that's great. Do you think Nintendo could've been more helpful during the creation/marketing process?

DM: The most helpful thing Nintendo could do is mainly to promote and develop their electronic channel. Of course they have to maintain a traditionally retail business, but they need to develop their online business too because of the competition. This is the part where you’d see something like "Here comes a new challenger!" pop up. The recent Nintendo announcement of the compatibility and transfer of DSiWare titles with the upcoming Nintendo 3DS system was a breath of fresh air for all the studios that supported Nintendo’s electronic channel very early. Since this announcement, customers don't hesitate anymore to collect more DSiWare titles since there’s no longer the fear of a dead-end investment.

KS8: Exactly. I mean hearing how much stronger the 3DS will be in terms of online incorporation has me very optimistic. Do you expect Nintendo will more effectively cater to the needs of developers? I mean, it's no secret that Nintendo needs to step it up with their services...

DM: From a third-party point of view, the most valuable feature of the next system is online capabilities, especially the connect & collect services for games and system auto-updates. We have to wait until future press releases to know more about the reality of such feature in this field. Technical possibility without willpower leads nowhere.

KS8: Well said, I agree with you. It's the person/people behind the tools that make it work - a tool is just a tool in the end. Speaking of tools, how did you come up with the different ideas of interacting with the Dodo eggs using such a variety of methods?

DM: You're right, in DodoGo the stylus is a real swiss knife. We adopted a Tool approach for the interaction with the environnent. And after some playtests, we decided to add some direct interactions on the eggs: to stop them or play with their moods.

KS8: Y'know, I wonder if DodoGo could pass as a line of new virtual toy pets? Move over Tamagotchi!

DM: Very tempting indeed! Could be a clever move to address the Japanese market. Don't you know that the empathy felt by players for our facetious egg faces earned us numerous demands: apparel, toy, pouch, couch, slippers... even ice trays!!! "So Fresh" was the name of our last Video. The new Video is called "So Touchy". I can't even imagine what would be  requested next... Dodogo-On-Demand?

KS8: Yeah, merchandising all the way! Forget about that Messenger Bag on Club Nintendo. Give me a backpack with DodoGo eggs plastered all over it! Speaking of sales, level with me here... How well did the original game perform?

DM: He did very well and keeps on going, carried by word of mouth and outstanding reviews. The noticeable fact is that the sales between America and Europe/Oceania are almost similar.

KS8: Great to hear! Just hearing you say that made me think of the Energizer bunny, but let’s not get into a discussion about that. Would you say that success was partly due to the marketing techniques that were employed?

DM: Fortunately nobody has found a secret recipe to warrant word of mouth and good reviews. But just think for a moment: Do you really want to live in a world where developers have the formula for commercial success? It could be the basis for an interesting script in a book, a movie or a game. I can see it now... “In a world, where the key to success has just been unveiled… Consider your life as a Game Reviewer in ‘Success Land’: Another game to test. Another 100% to give!” Perfection surrounding everywhere, imagine your whole life like a Gillette TV commercial!! Terrific, no?

KS8: Ha ha. You're a real character, you know that? But if that was your way of dodging my question, I'm onto your little game!

DM: I’m not dodging anything… Your question is pertinent and I thank you for asking.

KS8: Yeah, yeah...
So about the leaderboard/Internet Code system... How tricky was it to do something like that? And can we expect a similar system in DodoGo! Challenge?

DM: Tricky!!!! Are you kidding? It’s rocket science! Just look! The game gives you a new code each time you improve your stats. You just have to login on the official website, and enter your new one-time code. Your position will be automatically updated on the world ranking.

So that’s how it works for the first opus of DodoGo!. The same for DodoGo ! Challenge, you’ll keep your profile, and the website accepts codes for opus 1 and opus 2. The World Ranking displays the total of your stats on opus 1 and opus 2 (i.e., number of eggs saved, number of golden cup Eggs, time save on the par).

Please let me take the opportunity to congratulate KARIN our brand new world champion! She takes the power over EGG FEVER who dethroned RYGUY last month, the best player of this Fall. Such fighting spirit, it’s incredible! Believe me, these players are half-gods. They are perfection embodied, they are the living picture of GILLETTE commercials!

KS8: Well I for one thought the way you guys incorporated that was just brilliant, and I totally applaud you for it. When you were developing DodoGo!, were you fearful of the type of reaction you might get towards this new "cutesy" IP? I mean, hello! They're just so adorable!

DM: Concerning the character design, it’s impossible to predict if something could seduce people on a large scale, in various territories. The design has to seduce you and your team first, then your close friends and family, then strangers, then aliens. Listen carefully to the remarks made by people who live differently from your lifestyle (aunt Lydia). If your design still makes the unanimity, there is a chance that you’re holding a Weapon of Mass Seduction. 
Time is another good way to tell if a design is mature: a good design don’t grow old. We cross our fingers, now that the DodoGo! character design is 4 years old.

KS8: I can assure you that I definitely haven't outgrown DodoGo!, and I'm sure others feel the same way. I imagine holding focus groups were helpful in achieving that desired result in eclipsing gaps in perception and all that. Whatever you guys did, it obviously worked. I asked that question because many are too quick to judge titles by the way they look or, in the case of retail games, the appearance of the boxart. While there is something to be said about the way the design of a game's case can turn people on or off, shouldn't people still at least do research to see what a game is all about? Perhaps it's just an air of laziness that has taken over consumers.

DM: Thanks for the kind words. 
For the packshot design you point out something essential: To be or to seem? Is it designed to reflect what the game is, or is it designed to attract the customer's eye on the shelf? The most brilliant combine both. In term of design and visual identity it's troubling. Just look at the car industry. Everybody acclaims concept cars but when the time comes to buy one, the most innovative ones are not necessarily preferred. The same in our industry. Two months ago, a journalist of a video game magazine told me how desperate he was for the cover of his magazine. Every time they try to do something original the magazine sales fall that month. To sell well they are obliged to put Knight with big sword, soldier with big guns, thin girls and muscle cars, not the opposite. ;)

KS8: Heh heh. Yes, only the true visionaries can create masterful packaging: effectively illustrating what the game is about, and still serving as an eye-catching draw for the average consumer. So I heard you guys were once working on a WiiWare version of DodoGo! but it was later scrapped. Think we might see DodoGo! on the 3DS?

DM: Sooner or later but only with a unique gaming experience. A 3DS version should be radically different from a DSi version. DodoGo! exists around the key points of the DS system. A 3DS version might deserve a custom design too.

KS8: Great answer! Well, if you guys are looking for an advisor or an intern of some sort....

DM: Heh. I’ll take a note of it. Good-willed people are always welcome - could be useful for a focus group...  ;)

KS8: Sweet... But, um.. let's shift our focus before this becomes more of a business proposition. 
So as a fan of Nintendo platforms, what else do you play on your DS? Perhaps something that helps you during those sleepless nights?

DM: I have always loved puzzle games, but I recently discovered AlphaBounce. My last breakout experience on the system was Nervous Brickdown a fantastic exploration of the genre. If you thought that everything was done in term of bouncing balls against walls and bricks, Alphabounce proves that with the same bricks you can tell another story. Not better nor worse all in all, it's just another brick in the wall. In this case it's more a saga than a story, the game is as deep as space! 

KS8: Nice! Yeah, Alphabounce is a really good game. Hard to believe it's only $5 for something so deep. Play anything on Wii lately?

DM: Lately, I’ve played Super Mario Bros, Mario Galaxy 2, and Bit.Trip series on WiiWare all tease me. It's seems that the Spring-Summer 2010 collection was kind of a Back to basics/Back to platformers trend. Do you have any idea of Fall-Winter 2011 trends?

KS8: Hmmm.. Well it seems like Nostalgia has been the trend this past holiday season, with Super Mario All-Stars and Donkey Kong Country Returns. Let's not forget the Dancing trend, with the new DanceDanceRevolution for Wii in addition to Just Dance 2. I'm not really sure what else at the moment, especially when it comes to WiiWare. I mean if anything, lately it's been a big trend of one unexciting release to the next. But that's another story.

DM: Oh I see... So talking about excitement and Wii Remote shaking, have you considered Michael Jackson: The Experience ? The game look very engaging, and comparing it to Just Dance 1, the level of polish of the game is impressive.

KS8: Yes, of course. I'm keen to try it out, since I love MJ's music. However, I'm disappointed that such seemingly-obvious picks like 'You Rock My World' aren't in the game. I'm looking forward to testing out the choreography in both games, though. 

DM: I'm eager to read this! Do me a favour: Please drag photos of yourself during the ‘Body Movin' routine. Go for the Beastie Boys track! Everybody would love to see KS-Eight step into a dance world.

KS8: Lol, I'll stick with Firework or Maniac instead. If you're impatient to see "KS8" dance with a slick get-up and everything, then here's a video for you. ;)

DM: Wow congrats! DDR is a really incredible game. In arcade hall, seeing performers play is spectacular, especially with a duet. Executing fast-paced routines while arrows scroll at light speed! Here in Paris players still queue for playing: Half sport, half dance, half game.. 150% sweat! DDR dancers are a community, with as many male and female members. It’s quite unique for an arcade game, no?

KS8: Oh thanks, but I've done much harder routines. :) Yes, it is an incredible game and the whole community aspect is a big draw online and at arcades. I've never played it in an arcade before, but I've had many suggest I give it a try. With respect to the split between genders, I was especially happy when DDRHP3's cover stuck a guy in there since the other ones for this sub-series featured only women.

DM: The DDR community phenomenon, on a social perspective, is very interesting to observe. Dancers leave their living room and gather for public night and day game sessions in arcades where these places become a modern dance hall. You've got friends, crews, and the stars of the dance floor all sharing the same passion around this game.
The last time that I observed the same social interest was after the launch of the NDS in Paris. Many organized a Wi-fi party in public gardens, in cafés... Everyone was invited and could come with their own multiplayer cartridges for Mario Kart, Tetris, and Animal Crossing. I do regret that most of time in the media, TV coverages show video games through its excesses: the lack of social factor, violence acting out. Public DDR battles, NDS free party or online gaming sessions are nice illustrations that the human nature is deeply social and video game plays a contribution to that.                                Image courtesy of Gaetan Duchateau

KS8: Well said. Thankfully, Nintendo has come to this realization and over the last few years, you can see that their games really exemplify the sort of social interaction that creates unforgettable memories. Which leads me to the 3DS again! Would you like to discuss your thoughts on this for a bit?

DM: Yes, novelty is always exciting. First-party titles will be the most interesting to look at with the 3DS lineup. I think that it's a chance for most developers since Nintendo is bringing an auto-stereoscopic system to the market first. In-house traditional software coming along with the hardware benefits from months of advance and dedicated gameplay. It’s exciting! 
Remember in 1996, Nintendo come to the 3D scene with Super Mario 64, where its control scheme and camera management acted as THE reference for most developers. Because Nintendo’s development teams focus mainly on the gaming experience, it will be very interesting to see how they consider stereotypical views from a gaming perspective and where the boundaries stand on this system.

KS8: You bring up an interesting point, actually. With every system since the Nintendo 64, they've pushed boundaries, and revolutionized the gaming industry. Makes you think what sort of potential the 3DS and Wii's successor both have. Are you ready for a new and improved console?

DM: Connection is the key! We have talked about social gaming earlier, but if Street Pass/Spot Pass is not the shiniest feature (compared to the 3D camera and the 3D views), it could represent one of the strongest points of interest for this new system. Especially for IP’s like Animal Crossing, Pokémon, Nintendogs & Cats and all  other games based on trading, or collecting. But on the far side, I wish that such technology could track your everyday moves with full-scale Treasure hunts, Wild West duel, Crime Scene Investigations, Manhunt, Foot-orienteering, Quests, or Capture the flag in the city. Adrenaline and surprise! It's all about bringing extra dimensions and social interactions on a daily basis. So tell me now, from the perspective of memorable moments in gaming experiences, what thrills you more: depth inside an LCD screen or on a full-scale level? If the 3DS system brings us both, Nintendo will earn new market share for sure. It depends on how envision StreetPass/SpotPass, as a passive or an active feature. 

KS8: Very true. And I never thought of it like that. I would love to play a forensics-focused game that carries unparallel depth, or as you said, Capture the Flag beyond just your bedroom. 

You know, I think that about wraps things up here at the Wiiloveit Lounge. Thanks so much for being here with us, Denis. This was fun! Would you like to close us off? 

DM: The end already...? Thanks for the invitation. I appreciated this pleasant chat. It was like a ping-pong game - more lively and informal than a Q&A. I'm eager to read the new lounge chat and discover who will be next on the grill. Bye for now and "bonne chance" playing DodoGo! Challenge!

Huge thanks to Denis for being so willing to give this opportunity a shot and for supplying us with these fantastic, humour-filled images! This whole interview was a lot of fun, and I look forward to seeing how our readers respond to this "experiment", if you will. In the meantime, if you have yet to experience what DodoGo! is all about, I highly recommend you pick it up. It's currently available on the DSiWare service for 800 Nintendo Points. You can also grab the sequel, DodoGo! Challenge, for 500 Nintendo Points. We hope you enjoyed the first "episode" of the Wiiloveit Lounge!

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Denis Mercier 
was talking to KnucklesSonic8
For more information on this title or the developers, click here.

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