How it all started
In mid-1999, right after the release of Outcast, we started pitching new ideas about a sequel and tried to convince Infogrames (our publisher) to fund a pre-production, quickly.
This is the exact same scenario over and over, when a studio finishes a product, there's pretty much no money left and the studio is highly dependent on the willingness of its publisher to keep the studio alive. This is possibily the worst time to sign a deal, but unfortunately you often have no choice.
Fortunately, Infogrames had stock in our studio Appeal, and as partners they were more inclined to help us proceed with the sequel. They were cautious though. The sales reports from Outcast were underwhelming, way below their one million initial target (we ended up selling slightly over 400k boxed units).
At first we managed to sign a pre-production deal and we proceed with R&D and graphics design. As sales were disapointing on the PC, Infogrames insisted that we should make the game for consoles first. They also insisted to have more action and less adventure, because that's what console gamers want they said, something Yves in particular was not very happy with.
Falcon ships from the World Federation Army attack Aldelpha. Cutter is back to defend his adelphian friends. Image by Yvan Hendrick
From PC to Playstation2
Another difficulty started when it became evident the Playstation2 would be the best selling console of the generation. Yves wanted to work on the Xbox, which was the superior console in term of rendering capabilities, and easier to work with, but from the publisher's point of view it made no sense to work for the smaller installed base. We all liked the idea of working on consoles in general, as close systems have their sets of challenges but are very interesting to work on, and we had this arcade background that made us probably overconfident, especially considering the Playstation2.
The Playstation2 was a very difficult console to work with, especially for a studio with most of its engineers only experienced on PC, and it took some times to get the dev kits and actually realise what a PS2 was (there was a lot of speculation at the time). With the dev kits finally available, we were progressing slowly and initially had a lot of performances and stability issues. At some point, Yves would decide to quit and start his own company (Elsewere Entertainment) to work on the Xbox.
We finally signed a production agreement. At first it was a 7 million contract, but got reduced to 5 million as Infogrames was starting to feel pressure from the market. We managed to develop a working demo (see video above) with a lot more work also done behind the scene on the game's universe and environments, but we were far from being ready to ship an actual product. Internal difficulties also raised when we hired a designer to replace Yves, only to find out a bit late that the guy was heading the design in the wrong direction. That didn't help either as we had to rethink the whole design again in the middle of the production.
The project was killed after spending about 3 millions as Infogrames stocks were hitting a new low in 2001 after the internet bubble (and all IT companies as a side effects) exploded. They pretty much killed all their 3rd party projects, focussing all remaining funds to their internal studio, Eden.
The main bridge in Saar, the city of pillars, has been put down by WFA invaders. Image by Yvan Hendrick
The start of the end
However, as Infogrames were shareholders in our company, they couldn't kill us so easily (they would have to clear-up the debts). Instead they sold us back their stocks in exchange of a new pre-production contract around a Tintin game. We didn't have much choice if we wanted to keep the studio alive, but for them it was a win-win situation, they were set free from their shareholder duties and had a working prototype they could show to Moulinsart (the company that holds the rights to Tintin).
When the Tintin prototype was completed, they did not sign the Tintin game (purposely or not we have no idea) and we went bankrupt in 2002. Yann and I purchased back most of the assets belonging to Appeal the Curator could not sell, including the unfinished technology that would help us later to develop and (finally) ship Playstation2 games Wild Water Adrenaline and Mountain Bike Adrenaline.
Various screenshots from realtime PS2 captures
Besides the art department direction I did a few specific tasks on the game:
R&D on graphics and character rigging; Cutter character rigging, facial setup, and some animation.
Snow is particularily difficult to render. I used a technique where I would create a texture first, and then 'sculpt' the low poly geometry on top of it. All textures were 128*128 pixels and quantized to 4bits (16 colors) for maximum GS (Graphic Synthesizer) throughput.
The cottage level can be seen running at 60fps on the PS2 in the video.
Thanks to extreme texture cache optimisations, and massive object instancing, all levels where running at 60 fps.
One of the map had a network of basements for which I did the modeling, texturing and level building:
Some of the 128*128*4bits textures :
Lighting was vertex based, and computed with radiosity, as can be seen in the following screenshots:
I also did Ganzaar level template; Cruise ship template; Battleship crash zone (working prototype) sky, lighting and some level building; Cinematics animation. (see videos)
In the following video you'll see a variety of work in progress and prototype material, mainly shot from within Maya.
UPDATE: This video has been made private in order to prevent potential O2 spoiling. Thank you for your understanding.
There's so much more
There are tons and tons of concept arts, characters design, storywriting and prototype level buildings that I was initially planning to share on this page. However, as Yves, Yann and I recently purchased back the rights of Outcast and are willing to develop the franchise further, I think it would spoil any potential future experience to make all that public at this point. So stay tuned for more adventures.