Especially for our Patrons in Tier 2 and 3, we have made another Indie Dev interview! Consider joining us on Patreon in Tier 2 or Tier 3 for as little as $3.00 a month and unlock it all!
This time our Indie Dev interview is with Sébastien Bénard, solo developer and founder of Deepnight Games. Sébastien was Dead Cell’s main developer and game designer and developed the recently released Nuclear Blaze on the Nintendo Switch, which James reviewed and loved, giving it our highest score of Two Thumbs Up.
James had this to say in his final thoughts on Nuclear Blaze.
I really liked Nuclear Blaze. On its surface, it seems like a pretty standard platformer. But this is a game that doesn’t waste the player’s time. There was never a moment where I felt bored or felt the mechanics had outstayed their welcome. The game’s pace feels spot-on, keeping levels tight to the point and adding new abilities at the right spot. Even the difficulty is just the right challenge to keep you hooked without becoming overly frustrating. This was a game I didn’t want to put down. It set my heart ablaze, and I could not recommend it enough for all audiences.
Time to chat with Sébastien.
Who is Sébastien Bénard?
Hi! My name is Sébastien Benard, also known as “deepnight,” and I am an indie game developer and game designer. I have been making games since the Atari ST era when I was a child, so it’s rather safe to say that I kind of enjoy creating games!
How did you start out as a game developer, and how did Deepnight Games come into existence?
I joined a company called Motion Twin in 2001, initially as an artist. However, they quickly realized that art might not be my strongest suit, so I transitioned back to a dev position (I love coding). Later, I discovered game design, and more specifically, game feel, and found a passion for that aspect as well.
I left Motion Twin after Dead Cells, which I led as the main dev and game designer, and started my very own company, Deepnight Games. This was a lifetime opportunity to take advantage of the success of Dead Cells and focus on my very own projects, so here I am today 🙂
Inspiration for Nuclear Blaze
Where did you take your inspiration from for Nuclear Blaze?
I always had a vague idea of a firefighting game in my mind but never had the opportunity to turn it into an actual playable prototype. But the Ludum Dare game jam happened, and I thought to myself: hey, maybe I could try this idea and see how fun a game without enemies would turn out.
Game jams are amazing for that: you can try any crazy experimental idea and create a quick prototype without thinking about potential commercial success. Many cool titles came into existence, like that: Dome Keeper, Evoland, Dorfromantik etc.
The fire mechanics in Nuclear Blaze are fascinating. Was this hard to program?
The mechanics are fairly simple: each “fire block” has a chance to spread to nearby non-burning blocks. When you douse it with water, the fire’s progression is temporarily halted for a few seconds, allowing the player some control. If you water it sufficiently, the fire goes out.
The real challenge was ensuring that the entire level could run without causing the player’s CPU to overheat, which would be somewhat ironic (but highly meta).
To achieve this, I had to employ numerous tricks to ensure proper performance on PCs. However, optimising the game for consoles proved even more difficult. The team at Red Art Games did a fantastic job addressing this issue: they took my less-than-perfect code and, with a bit of magic and hard work, made it run smoothly on consoles!
Fixed Adventure or Rogue-lite
Did you always want Nuclear Blaze to be a fixed adventure? Did you ever consider making it a rogue-lite similar in vain to Dead Cells?
At one point, I had the idea to turn the game into a Bubble Bobble-like adventure with more replayability. You would battle against fire in single rooms, then proceed down to the next one, with many random power-ups and various enemies.
But as the game progressed, I found more interest in developing the storyline and the exploration. I especially loved designing secret places with cats on all levels. That’s something I’d like more games to have: tiny rewards for players that like to explore dark corners of the levels.
Want to read the rest of the interview too? Find out about the kid mode in Nuclear Blaze and about Sébastien’s approach to difficulty and providing the player with flexibility in the game!
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