We’re taking a small break from my GOTY event to bring an interview! Cowcat Games were generous enough to accept my offer of an interview with them. A solo developer, Fabrice Breton released Brok the InvestiGator earlier this year, a truly fantastic beat-em-up/visual novel game that’s caught my attention. I haven’t been able to write a review for Brok yet, but I guarantee, you’ll be seeing my thoughts on the game before the end of the year!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you do?
Hi ! I’m Fabrice Breton, a 38 year old French solo developer & publisher. I’ve coded games all my life, starting with an Amstrad CPC 6128 when I was 8 year old! But my professional game developer career started more recently.
What does being a game designer actually mean?
Usually this is meant as “how do you make the game itself”, all the choices you make. As far as I’m concerned, designing a game means handling pretty much every aspect: the base idea, the coding, the story, characters, dialogue, gameplay, publishing, marketing, accounting…and a lot of the art!
There has been a great deal of controversy in recent years about micro transactions in gaming. Not so much an opinion, but why do games tend to cut out content to sell later as DLC and lootboxes? Is it to do with development costs? Or is it time related?
I believe once players are engaged with a game, they may want more from it. It makes sense but it’s been overused so much that it’s now a primary way for big games to make money. And they went even further by exploiting psychological human weaknesses from players, using fear of missing out and other schemes to sell skins and lootboxes akin to gambling…
If I made a DLC myself, it wouldn’t be cut content but additional stuff I would work on way after release, and only after a game is successful enough to deserve it. This is how DLCs should be.
Tell us about your current project.
I’ve just released my biggest game to date, BROK the InvestiGator: the first ever game to truly combine a traditional adventure game with full beat’em up gameplay and some RPG elements. In addition to this, it is a detective story with deep characters and narrative spanning over 6 chapters.
As anyone who creates anything, we must all deal with criticism from consumers. How do you go about it particularly in the prolific and viral standard of gaming today?
I am pretty lucky that ratings for BROK are very good! (98% positive on Steam) That said, getting negative reviews always hurts. I tend to try and fix what can be. If several reviews say the same thing then it might be a real issue to work on.
What advice would you give new developers taking the plunge into game design?
Make sure you have the ability to spare money if you intend to go “full gamedev”! You’ll need to be able to live on your own funds for your first game. Even if you get a publisher it may not cover all of it, and making games always takes more time than you expect.
If you still have time to play video games, what are some of your favourite ones to play?
That’s the irony of being a gamedev: I barely have time to play myself XD
I used to play very varied genres when I was a kid. As I grew up, I noticed a shift towards genres of games which have a lot of narration: JRPGs, visual novels and Point & Clicks are among my favourites. I still like the occasional platform games and rhythm games though!
What inspires you to do what you do?
Anything can be an inspiration. In the case for BROK, the Disney Afternoon cartoons from the 80’s/90’s, in particular the character designs and relationships – but I gave Brok a darker spin compared to them.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Does it count if I say “everything”? ^^’
Really, there’s no easy part when it comes to game development. But if I had to pinpoint particular areas difficult to programming, designing and implementing controls for all options (mouse + keyboard, keyboard only or controller) for both modes and making it possible to switch seamlessly from one control scheme to another was a lot of headaches and some hard choices. Mouse controls prevented from adding grab moves, for example. You don’t often see Beat ’em ups with mouse controls, but it was required to make this mix work!
What was your favourite thing about game development? Is there anything you find difficult or challenging in dealing with the struggles?
I love it when everything starts coming up together. Most of the development time, you have no real idea how the game will play like, so it’s kinda magic when you can see it become a “real game.”
What lessons have you learned from your first game?
Unless you already have a popular game series like Monkey Island, humorous adventure games do not sell well. Also: don’t put any text in your graphics! It makes it super hard to do localizations afterwards!
What are your future project(s)?
I intend to do more with Brok as a franchise! Making a full sequel will take a few years (it took 6 years to make BROK!) but I have other plans in the mean time!
If you couldn’t be an game developer, what ideal job would you like to do?
Something in the computer science field for sure, I was web developer for a while. But I much prefer making games “for myself”!
Finally: what is your ideal video game if money and time was no object?
I would push the “hand drawn animated film” aspect of my games even further, with Disney-like animation! Maybe even make a Brok animated series spinoff !