Denis Bourdain of Load Inc. and Mad Tracks fame was kind enough to have a chat about Mad Tracks and the reaction to the game with Xboxic, as well as discussing the future for Load Inc. and what will be on show for us at Leipzig. There are also some revelations on what he and his team are currently working on, and if the Playstation Network will ever receive the Load Inc. treatment.
Xboxic: Starting with Mad Tracks: the game scored 62 on Metacritic, were you disappointed or do you agree with the criticisms leveled at the game?
Denis: As a rule of thumb, we try not to take press critics at heart, otherwise, no one would be making video games. Good reviews are always a plus, bad ones are part of the ‘game’. And anyway, the game got 100% by our mothers, and that’s the real reward!
Xboxic: So what were your true feelings from the 5 at Xboxic?
Denis: At that point (when you reviewed Mad Tracks) we had sold more than 20,000 games in only a few days, and had great feedback from players, so no bad feelings. What I had a hard time with is the fact it was coming from Xboxic, the only site we had a history with. Also, you can’t help to compare your game with other ratings, like retro nostalgic scoring high 90’s for quickly done ports. That gets you thinking a moment - but not too long. (Denis pointed out that he also didn’t hide from the score, with a comment right away in the forums.)
Xboxic: What have you learnt from the experience that Mad Tracks brought to you for the future, and what would you differently next time?
Denis: You always learn when releasing a game - Mad Tracks taught us a lot on the Xbox Community and how to work around XBLA specifics.
Xboxic: Such as?
Denis: Such as never be afraid to ask the community, never be afraid to take their ideas (and put their Gamertags in the credits) and never be afraid to say ‘no’. On the specifics: making a game for a new console takes you on a learning curve that is much shorter on the second cycle. We’re very comfortable with the 360 now, less surprise, less stress, more games your way!
Xboxic: So does that rule out any chance of you making a game for the Playstation Network?
Denis: We’ve been talking to SCEE (Sony Europe) for a while but there are a couple of things that get in the way - like hardware and that damn learning curve again! If someone could port our games onto the PSN, that would be ideal, but there are not as many PSN developers as there is for the XBLA
Xboxic: Back to Mad Tracks, how well has Mad Tracks and the subsequent DLC sold?
Denis: Very well, but we won’t have official figures before early October.
Xboxic: Is that because MS don’t tell you?
Denis: Precisely. They don’t give out numbers, you noticed!
Xboxic: That must be annoying…
Denis: It’s not annoying and we rely on the leaderboard system, it’s pretty solid.
Xboxic: Any rough figure then?
Denis: Above 50,000, which is more than expected. (Denis later told me that Sonic has just sold 100,000 in a month, to our surprise.)
Xboxic: And is there any more DLC planned or is that it now?
Denis: That’s all for the summer, however we are negotiating a cool DLC with MS, but it’s too early to tell.
Xboxic: Do you have any details on what might be included? Or is it tight-lipped at this stage?
Denis: I will not give hope just yet.
Xboxic: Moving away from Mad Tracks, what are your plans for the future? Are you working on a new game or taking a well-deserved rest right now?
Denis: Rest? We don’t even take a week off during the summer! We have two project in the works; one is top secret and I can’t talk much about the other
Xboxic: Not even a clue as to the genre or anything?
Denis: You’ve heard about ToW, well it’s an all racing game
Xboxic: No screenshots to show just yet then?
Denis: The game will be presented in Leipzig two weeks from now so I need the surprise for my beloved publishers.
Xboxic: Do have anything else to show at Leipzig?
Denis: Trade shows are pretty hard on timing. I’ve never had luck presenting more than one game properly, so now I stick to only one, even if we have another team selling another XBLA game - the top secret one!
Xboxic: Do you have plans to venture into a full retail game? Or does Arcade suit you and your team better?
Denis: For the moment, minimum investments for a retail Xbox 360 game are a bit high for us, it’s not our core job. We like mid-size games, we feel there’s a lot of creativity, less expectations from the community in terms of high tech gizmos.
Xboxic: Does that mean you will make your next Arcade game bigger than the 50 MB restraint Mad Tracks suffered to, now that the limit has been increased and all?
Denis: We’re planning on 130 MB for now, knowing we’ll have a 20 MB buffer just in case.
Xboxic: Do you wish you had that opportunity with Mad Tracks, so that you could have included more in the base package?
Denis: Sure. We had the whole game in 80M after maximum compression, but the bad part was that MS gave the green light for Castlevania and not for us.
Xboxic: Any reasons for that?
Denis: Castlevania is a big license, Mad Tracks was just an unknown game.
Xboxic: That must have been very irritating for you…
Denis: Nah, we know who we are. We started in the living room, four people and no money, and we were happy with the minimum treatment! Now we have a small office, we’re nine but we still have no money!
Xboxic: You’re very good with the community; you appear on our forums, on the Xbox.com forums and so on, is it important for you as a developer to reach out there and show that you are interested in their thoughts? Since alot of developers don’t actively partake as much as you do.
Denis: I don’t see it like that - I think it’s a personal thing. It’s important to me so I do it. When I was working for a major publisher, I was relying on focus groups, now I have the XBLA community. They are a great crowd, pretty smart and demanding - exactly what we need.
Xboxic: Well it certainly makes you different, and as a consumer, it is refreshing.
Denis: I love to get people’s opinion, even if exposing myself has not always been easy. I like it way better than staying in the dark. We often talk about what we’ve read on the forums during our production meetings.
Xboxic: So you and your whole team visit forums then?
Denis: About three of us regularly, yes.
We thank Denis for his time as it was much appreciated, and we look forward to seeing him in Leipzig where we hope to get a sneak peak of the new game ToW from Load Inc. Keep an eye out on our forums for him, he’s quite active!