Interview: Alexis Bacot (Izle)

Izle LogoKickstarter has been a huge deal for a number of projects that people have wanted to make.  It’s benefited the creation of numerous games and even brought about the existence of a console.  There are dozens of projects on there at any time.  Sometimes one catches your eye and you want to know more about it.  That’s the case with Izle.  A few weeks ago I was sent an email from someone telling me about an upcoming project called Izle that was to be launching soon.  I replied back that I wanted to be kept up to date on the project and was sent another email just before the project went live.  I was able to get together with one of the developers of the project and he took a few minutes to talk about the project and just what Izle is.  I want to thank Alexis Bacot of Area Effect for taking the time to talk to us and tell us just what his game is all about.

Thanks for joining us today.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and just what Izle is?

Hi! I’m Alexis Bacot, the founder of Area Effect, and creator of Izle. Izle is a 3D procedural action adventure RPG, and it’s actually a very Nintendo-like game! We give you a lot of freedom to really build your own world it’s very creative and at the same time we give you a ton of gameplay inside that world. We’re currently on Kickstarter, if you want to support us!

IzleCan you go a little deeper into just what the story of Izle will be all about?

When you start the game you’re introduced to your character background (which I won’t spoil here!) and to Izle, the last world of Light. There is a war between the Light and the Shadows, and this fragile island is under attack, and you must protect it. This is how your quest begins; then you will make your own story as you progress, because most of what happens in the game is procedural.

Some of the information on the Kickstarter page makes it seem like your decisions really craft the world.  You can make it as beautiful or as desolate as you like. Is that the case?  If so what type of decisions can you make to alter the course of your world? 

As you progress you will rebuild Izle, using terraforming powers. Most of these powers will allow you to build entire islands, connected to your world. Others will allow you to upgrade, or modify, existing islands. And finally you will have destructive powers, these you can only use when you have been corrupted by the shadows (yeah that can happen!) and these will be you sacrificing a piece of your world to progress in the game.

What we want to do with terraforming is to give you the ability to create your own world. But also the choice to protect it or to watch it be invaded and destroyed by the shadows, in exchange for powers for your character. Izle is all about this duality between your character and your world; the trade-off you can make and their permanent consequences.

Izle TelescopeHow difficult has it been to take a procedurally generated world and make it respond to player actions? 

It’s been very fun to make actually! We’re still in alpha and trying a few different things, but already seeing the Shadows invade the islands and kill everything, change the terrain, the meteors falling down, shattering entire islands, it’s a lot of fun.

You, as the player, get to create the world’s landscape through terraforming.  How many different terraforming actions are there to perform in the game?

This will really depend on our Kickstarter. There will at least be 20, but there could be a lot more, depending on our success, or not, on Kickstarter. Also note that these terraforming powers create totally random islands, so you can create the same island a few times and still find new things, have different dungeons, quests, and loot.

How big can the worlds in the game become? 

It will depend on the platform, and on your hard-drive space, because we have to save the voxels somewhere, and they are millions of them. They are a few things we can do to drastically improve our world size on console, and I’m thinking we’ll have fewer limitation than Minecraft has (which is limited to a thousand block in each direction).

Will there be some strategy to where you place different islands in the game?  For example would you get bonuses or even negatives for putting volcanic islands near grasslands? 

When you build islands you place them on a 2D grid, we call it the Strategic Map, it’s almost like a board game. Depending on which tile you place your new island you can get various bonuses, which are influenced by the element of the island you’re creating. That gives you a lot of choices and gameplay opportunities, for the short term, and also for the long term, because to get the bonuses that are far away you’re going to have to plan for it. Some of these bonuses will be very important for your progression and to make sure you can navigate in the world easily too. Think of it as the Windwaker map, except what’s on each tile is determined by you!

Izle Player MapThe visual style is reminiscent of games like The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. Was that an inspiration when working on the design of the game?  What other games, if any, did you think to when creating the world of Izle?

I love the design of Zelda Wind Waker! Been playing it on Wii U, and it’s just fantastic, one of the most beautiful game out there. But the initial art style of Izle does not come from Zelda at all, it’s inspired by the work of two guys in California who have a site called geo a day. There were ones of the first to really push the low poly art style, and it inspired Izle a lot. Over the years (we’ve been working on Izle for more than 2 years already!) we’ve incrementally changed our style to better match and improve the gameplay experience, and we’re still working on it. Still There are a lot of things we can do to improve the visuals, we’re only alpha.

Music seems to be a very important part of the world of Izle.  Can you talk about how the music will integrate into the overall game?

We’ve worked with mindthings for a year and a half on the original music for Izle. We inspired him, and he inspired us, it’s really been a great collaboration. We have some crazy ideas too about what to do next to improve, we want to procedurally modulate the music based on elemental factors (fire, ice, etc.) but we’ll need a good Kickstarter for that!

Izle Terraforming MapIzle uses elemental abilities for just about everything in the game.  On the Kickstarter page you talk about using that to help you balance the game.  How exactly will elements play out and how can players use those to their advantage?

It’s a very broad question since lots of things in Izle have an element: items, abilities, islands, environments, monsters, quests, etc. We use them to procedurally modify content, and create surprises, and new situations. Each element has a distinct gameplay pillar, and as a player you’ll recognize these easily. If you want to be fast and have high mobility you know you’ll be a wind player, and create more wind islands for that purpose. And overall each time we create content, we try to balance it out, so that each player finds his own way. In the end you will be able to specialize toward one element or the other, but you can also use items from different elements, and create a world with a bit of everything, I think it looks good that way!

The game is coming to a number of different platforms (PC, Mac, Linux, Wii U, PSN, and Xbox).  How difficult has it been to make sure the experience is the same for players across all those platforms?

It is our goal to publish on as many platforms as possible, and that’s a choice from the start. The controls were designed from the ground up to work on PC and console, and it’s coming out very well. We haven’t started porting to consoles yet as we’re a small team and it’s more efficient to do this in the end, but it’s already working with a Xbox controller on PC, and you’ll be able to try that very soon.

Will there be any platform specific features, such as Game Pad use on the Wii U? 

I think Izle fits the Wii U platform very very well. On the secondary screen we’ll display the Strategic World Map, it’s great. Very much like a Windwaker.

What about multi-player?  Will players be able to hop in and out of friends worlds to help in their quest to bring down the Shadow?

The Izle we’re kickstarting right now is a single player game. We decided to make it single because we’re a small studio, and we thought it was more realistic. And the single player Izle is already very ambitious! But we hope that we’ll be able to make it multiplayer later on, because we love online games. But it will be one step at a time!

Izle Shadow TitanYou’re currently running a Kickstarter for the game that runs through the end of April.  Why did you look towards Kickstarter rather than going the traditional route of a publisher? 

Publishers right now can’t take much risks, and Izle is a very innovative game, with a particular art style that is quite hard to push on a big publisher. Kickstarter is perfect for us. It’s also a good test to see if people would actually be interested in a game such as Izle.

How has the response to the Kickstarter been? 

We haven’t had a lot of coverage yet from media, but people who end up on our page become true fans, they pledge more than expected, and our conversion rate is high. So if only we can manage to spread the word about Izle then it will be a successful campaign.

You’ve talked about having a demo for the game ready soon.  Is that going to be available to the general public or will it be limited to Kickstarter backers?

There’s actually no easy system to give a demo to backers before the Kickstarter ends. Otherwise I would do it! So in the end, the demo will be public to everybody, and I think it’s better anyway. And I have 4 more things on my to-do list before it’s ready 😀

Izle is an ambitious project that seems to be rather large in scale.  Just how much overall content do you think is in the game and how long do you expect players to spend in the game once it’s released?

I don’t know yet. Again this would depend on the Kickstarter, but I don’t know yet how long is a game going to be. It might sound weird, but you know it’s still an alpha, and I want to allow myself to try different things. I want to try an arcade mode right now where things progress faster, and see if it’s more fun or not. I want to have the time to try these things, that’s why we’re doing the Kickstarter. Izle is new, even to me!

Izle Fire ElementSpeaking of release, when are you looking at for a target release date and pricing for the game?

I’m hoping end of 2016 for a great beta version almost release, with a price around $20.

Thanks for joining us today.  Is there anything you want to tell our readers before we leave?

We started revealing Izle at Paris Game Week a few months ago, and since then we’ve had so many good feedback from the community. And you know every one of these good comments, words of encouragements, every nice tweet and every backer on Kickstarter… makes me so happy, but more importantly gives us motivation to keep working on Izle. So thank you guys for making this an awesome experience, it has really been a great ride, and it’s only the beginning. I’m so grateful.

And don’t forget to share our Kickstarter campaign with your friends and on social media, we need all the help we can get J Thank you my sweet Izlers.

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