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Taking Independent Videogame Developers out of context since 2010.

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A Common Thread: Renaud Bédard

My name is Renaud Bédard. I’m a 27 years old tall, skinny guy from Montréal, Québec, now living in Toronto. I’m mainly a C# programmer but will use other languages if forced to do so. I’ve been working with XNA a lot in the past few years, but FEZ, the project I’m known for, was my first project using XNA. Before that I was using an engine called TrueVision3D, and now I’m into Unity when doing game jams and personal projects.
I’m part of a jam group called Les Collégiennes, which has a varying roster but usually implies me and Aliceffekt. We’re working on-and-off on a game called Waiting For Horus, a frantic multi-player third person shooter with small robots and a flat shaded art style.
I’m currently employed as a programmer at Capy Games in Toronto with plenty of awesome dudes.
Otherwise I enjoy petting my chinchilla and listening to new music all the time.

You are a self described game jam enthusiast. To clarify, you’re referring to the physical ‘everyone making games in the same room’ type of game jams?
Yes, the ones with a fixed location and smelly people and a demo party at the end.
Describe the experience of the first game jam you participated in?
The first game jam I went to was the first edition of “Bivouac Urbain" in Québec City, and I went with Heather Kelley. We had a two-person team with no artist - she’s a game designer and I’m a programmer. The Bivouac is special because it happens in a big tent outside, and it gets really cold at night so people don’t tend to stay there overnight, I sure didn’t. 

At the time I’d been working on FEZ for about a year and I was still working with lower-level systems, and it was hard to see a day-to-day impact on the project. Going to a weekend jam and finishing a game was a huge motivator, it showed me what I was able to do with enough focus and direction. We even rewrote the game from scratch halfway through (because we realized it was going nowhere) and still got a fairly good-looking, working game in the end.

It also showed me the shortcomings of my “personal project engine”, what slowed me down, what needed more abstraction, which also helps when you’re establishing the workflow of a bigger project like FEZ.

You’ve participated in game jams such as TOJam, Global Game Jam and Bivouac Urbain. Do you have a favourite?
TOJam is excellent. Best organization of any jam I’ve seen, Jim and Em and the rest of the team are dedicated and it shows. The rooms are spacy and the atmosphere is super casual. They even provide food, snack and drinks, and it’s free…!
Aliceffekt and Henk Boom are two regular game jam team members. Does collaborating with the same people on multiple occasions mean that a lot more content and polish fit into the game jam development time period?
Yeah, every time we work together there’s less overhead, less that gets in the way of getting the game done. We’re used to using Unity. Aliceffekt knows the interface and can get his models in it quickly, and I’ve gotten to know him so well that we can almost read the other’s thoughts as we iterate on the game. We like to mix it up though, we bring new people in every time. Last time we had Dom2D working with us, and his input and art was amazing, despite him joining a more “established” team.
Is it important for you to ‘complete’ (or make playable) what you’re working on at any given game jam?
I’d be really bummed out to have an unfinished product at the end of a jam. A big part of the fun of being in a jam is to play your own game at the end, and seeing other people play it. When I worked with Aliceffekt on Volkenessen, we had a working prototype after the first day, and we spent the rest of the time just polishing it and working on controls, and we had a blast. Much less stressful. I think we tend to aim for games we’d like to play ourselves, and not super high-concept ideas that look good on paper but don’t play well after 36 hours.

You’ve participated in both 48 and 36 hour game jams. Which time frame do you feel more comfortable with?
I don’t recall feeling a big difference between the two formats… I think 48 hours is more enjoyable, if you can afford starting on the Friday evening; usually the jams aren’t in my home town, so it’s not always simple to be on time. But I always see the format as “a weekend”, and the more we can space things out within that, the better.
You haven’t participated in Ludum Dare. Is this something you would participate in if their was a gathering in your area?
I don’t know much about LD since I’ve never tried it. I didn’t even realize they had in-person gatherings. Doing the game at home within time constraints doesn’t seem like the “jam experience” I’ve been learning to love. They seem to happen really often too, it’s good to space jams out so it stays special (space jams, get it).
I understand that the small, throwaway game format doesn’t make sense for everyone. But I met Aliceffekt, who is now a really good friend and frequent collaborator, because of a game jam. I got to use Unity because of a game jam. The skills learned there are transferable to any other game project, no matter the scope.

And even if your game is shit, you just spent two days with inspired & inspiring developers who you wouldn’t have met in other circumstances. And we keep hearing stories of internal game jams (like Double Fine’s Amnesia Fortnight, or even TOJam) kickstarting projects for game companies, these are games that wouldn’t have seen the light of day otherwise. I have a hard time not perceiving game jams as a positive thing.

Do you personally still currently find yourself challenged and learning new things from the game jams that you attend?
I think the key to continued learning experiences in a jam, is never to do the same game twice. As Les Collégiennes, we made a strategy game, a fighting game, a shmup, a typing game and a tower defense-like. It’s a challenge to find a new idea to experiment with and that fits the jam format, but you learn an aspect of what can make that genre fun for you, and how you can interpret that genre. 

Bringing more people into the group means we have to communicate more, even do some project planning and use collaborative source control tools to make it happen, and that’s kept things interesting too.
What are your thoughts on the Depth Jam?
I don’t think a “regular” game jam and a depth jam are events that can or need to be compared. I don’t see myself participating in one for a while because I don’t have a deep idea to develop. But at one point, maybe.
You’ve been involved in game jams for a number of years now. Have you noticed any changes in the way that they are run?
I’m not a long-timer by any means. TOJam has been running for 7 years and I’ve only seen 3. But to take that example, it’s grown so much in terms of numbers. This is good because it shows how accessible and open these events are, and it’s incredible to see how many games come out of them. But at the same time, it feels a bit less personal when you can’t possibly talk to everyone attending, we’re on different floors even. I’d like to attend No More Sweden. The small format makes it seem really friendly and cozy.


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