A few years ago (it seems like an eternity today), I met Cédric Bourse at a coding party over here in France. I was very impressed by his game Elansar for the Falcon and when I saw its sequel Philia, I was more than convinced this guy was an amazing programmer. I thought he was mostly interested in adventure games like Myst, but I was wrong: Orion_ (which is Cedric's nickname), has more tricks up his sleeve. An example is the amazing platformer Alice's Mom's Rescue (available for Windows, Linux, the Atari Falcon, the Jaguar CD and Android) which has quickly become one of my favorites. This game is superb and if you have never played it, check it out at once! Now Cédric has just released a brand new game called Escape 2042. After publishing a full review, it was now time to talk to the creator. Orion_ gladly agreed to share some details about his work on the Atari and other machines, the games he has created and his other projects...
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2) How did you start?
3) Orion_? What is that?
4) First steps as a programmer
5) Biggest accomplishment
6) Favorite language
7) Any use of a game maker program?
8) System preferation
9) Favorite games on the Atari ST
10) Modern gaming
11) The Demo scene
12) Escape 2042
13) A question of time
14) No STf version?
15) Escape 2042 on mobile?
16) A new physical release for the Atari ST
17) The Jag CD aquisition
18) The Jaguar scene
19) Mobile gaming, a lucrative business?
20) What's next
1) Hello Orion_. For those who do not know you yet, can you introduce yourself in a few words? Who are you, where do you live and what do you do in life?
My name is Cédric, I live now in the south of France, and I am a developer of independent video games specializing in consoles and retro computers.
2) What was your first journey into the world of computers? And what about consoles?
I had an Atari STe, which introduced me to video games, computer science as well as Basic programming. Afterwards I discovered the [url=org]Sega Master System[/url] console, NES, SNES, Megadrive and Gameboy mainly at my cousins and friends. Eventually I bought my first console, the PlayStation 1, partly paid with my own savings.
3) Can you tell us a little about your nickname? Have you always used this same alias? Did I understand that you wanted to avoid confusion with Orion of the Replicants?
I did not know Orion of the Replicants because my interest in the demoscene came later on. I simply chose the Orion nickname because at the time I admired beautiful spatial images like the Andromeda Galaxy and the Orion Nebula.
The underscore is a nod to the DOS system, with its flashing underscore on the command line. But also because the nickname "Orion" was often already taken on discussion forums :)
4) You are now well known for your many achievements in the world of homebrew video games. When did you learn how to code? What was the machine that initiated the spark?
I learned to program on my Atari STe in Basic, without having internet, nor any single person being able to really teach me the art. My realizations at the time were very limited. But there was this desire to create video games, to learn and understand how computers worked.
Later on with the help of the internet, I taught myself several other languages on the PC, before returning to my childhood machine, the Atari STe, on which I learned 68000 assembler (and incidentally continued to learn this language in high school during off-peak hours on my TI89 calculator, which also had a 68000 CPU).
5) Which game(s) are you most proud of? And which one was the hardest to code?
I'm proud of every game I've made, because each of these projects was a dream for me. I remember being crazy about the game Riven, the sequel to Myst and always wanted to make a game like that. That is what I did with Elansar and after that Philia.
I dreamed of making an RPG on the PlayStation 1. So Zia and the Goddesses of Magic was born. I think it was this project that took the most of my time (over one year), because with an RPG building up the story with its complete history takes time. Creating a coherent combat system is another hard task.
6) What is your favorite language?
This is the C language, which is quite flexible and works on almost all machines.
Secondly I prefer 68000 assembler, which is also my favorite processor to code for.
7) It almost seems like you can code on any platform without too much trouble. Do you use special tools or do you systematically code from scratch on each computer / console?
I almost always program from scratch, so I can really master the machine and understand what I'm doing. There is no GameMaker software for retro consoles yet. I almost made one, but the Kickstarter was a failure (author's note: the project was named Retro Game Designer, you can see a presentation on YouTube).
8) Which system do you prefer? Or better, which machine would you like to spent more time with?
I would like to do more things on the first PlayStation, but unfortunately this console isn't loved as much by the retrogamers compared to other systems, and running a homebrew on it has its restrictions - you need a modchip or a modified Action Replay cartridge.
9) Did you play a lot on the Atari ST? What are your favorite titles?
I played quite a bit as a kid. My favorite titles are Rodland, Logical, Gods, Action Fighter, Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion.
10) Do you also play current gen titles? If yes, which ones?
Oddly enought, I play very little these days. Right now, I'm having a go at Crash Bandicoot on the PS4, and recently I finished Thimbleweed Park. I tend to play the nostalgic titles mostly: very few recent games make me want to play, except for some independent games like Superhot VR, which is really nice.
11) Let's talk about demos. Are there any releases that left their mark on you or your work (on ST or other platforms)?
On the Atari ST, I was impressed by the following demos: Japtro, OddStuff, Fantasia, Posh, Oxygene's STNICCC, and more recently by Thunderdome, which is a technical marvel, especially the 3D level.
12) Can you tell us more about Escape 2042 for those who haven't played the game yet? How did you come up with the idea of this type of platform game?
I was inspired by recent independent games to make a game with fast and fluid gameplay. I wanted to mix the whole with a hacking aspect that remains accessible, which gave the world a little futuristic theme. Then, I added some political awareness that I picked up for the script.
The game takes place in 3 different environments (prison, desert, forest), with a reversed shoot-em-up minigame in between levels.
You have to avoid security cameras, collect grenades to get rid of enemies, hack prison computers to open doors or disable electrical fields.
13) How long did it take to develop a first prototype? What machine was Escape 2042 originally developed on and why?
The game was originally developed for Gameboy, since the graphics were rather suited to 4 colors. I wanted to start with the least powerful machine to make sure the game engine worked properly on it. It took me about 2 months to make the first prototype, than two more months to complete the Gameboy version.
Afterwards I ported the game to the Megadrive and added two extra worlds and two mini games. It took me another four months. Finally I ported the Megadrive version to the Sega Dreamcast and the PC.
The Atari STe version took about two months to port. To keep the game running at 50 fps, I had to dig a little deeper to optimize the graphical routines using the blitter and hardware scrolling. Making sure the game would only need 2 disks and 1 MB of memory was also a challenge. At first the limit was a 4 meg machine and 3 disks, but because I want to release a physical copy of the game, these numbers had to go down some more.
I really wanted to make the game playable on a basic 1040 STe as if it had been released during the 1990s.
14) Why does the game only run on an STE, and not on the STF?
In order to guarantee the original gameplay at 50 frames per second, the STe's capabilities were indispensable (Blitter, hardscroll).
Doing the same thing on STF would have asked for at least 2MB of RAM and the FPS would have dropped to 25 frames per second.
15) Is a mobile version also considered?
No, because it's an action game that requires a controller, it wouldn't be playable on a touch screen.
In addition, Android games really don't do anything for me. It's really not worth the investment of time and effort.
16) A boxed version is obviously planned. Can you tell us a little more? Will you change the design? What will the price be?
The boxed version of Escape 2042 will be published by Coté Gamers in association with RayXamber. The price will be approximately 45 €, depending on the goodies that will be added in the box, with perhaps a 3D figurine of the hero Shun for the collector's version!
17) There is a cool story about how you got a hold of a Jaguar CD. What do you have to say about that?
The game Philia, the sequel to Elansar, didn't fit on a single Jag cart. So the Jaguar community contributed a Jag CD so I was able to support the game. Philia probably is one of the most successful Jaguar homebrew games. It includes 20MB of graphics data as well as 55MB of high quality Cinepak video using an unprecedented 16bit audio codec.
In return, those who contributed had a price reduction on the game and the Jaguar CD programming library and the video player that I made during the creation of the game are freely available on my site for developers to use.
18) Are you still interested in the Jaguar scene?
No, I sold my Jaguar. This might sound weird, as it is the system I have made the most games for, mostly because of the amazing community. I got a lot of support from the Jaguar players. However, it is one of the consoles I like the least. I don't want to disappoint people, but the consoles I owned during my childhood will always come first, including the PS1. I only had the Jaguar in 2005 and only for the purpose of programming on it.
19) A few years ago, you focused more on mobile apps. I remember you showed me Alice on Android at a RGC party. Are you finally able to earn some decent money with your games, thanks to the mobile world?
I currently earn less than € 2 a month with my Android games. So, I will only publish a new game on mobile, if there is great demand for it. It will also only be a game that lends itself nicely to touchscreen, like Elansar.
20) What are your plans for the future? Do you have a demo or a game in preparation?
I'm considering stopping porting on multiple systems, because it requires too much game testing time and porting work on each platform.
I am gonna build bigger, more elaborate games on a single platform (either the Dreamcast or the Megadrive).
For my next project I would like to try 3D. I'm in the middle of doing 3D engine tests on the Dreamcast just for this purpose.
Also, since my multi-platform GameMaker project failed, I may be attempting a YouTube adventure. I would like to make tutorials to teach how to program on computers and retro consoles, with concrete examples and by providing example code. And all of this supported by Patreon and Tipeee. Let's hope this will become more succesful.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Cedric and we wish you all the best with your future projects. Make sure to keep us up to date! ;-)
The Jaguar not only had the original Myst. Cédric created the beautiful Philia and Elansar. A screenshot of the latter is displayed here.
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