GRAPPLE, the video game developed by Ahmin Hafidi is revealed in a free demo published on the Steam platform and as much to tell you: we are happy. First because GRAPPLE is a very refreshing experience (and not only because it takes place in the mountains) but also because we had a long discussion with the developer several months ago. The opportunity is therefore found to share this meeting.
And yet, it’s been several months since I really wanted to tell you about Ahmin’s journey. It realizes the dream of many Westerners passionate about video games: to make a living from it, in Japan. Arrived in October 2012 on the archipelago, Ahmin Hafidi was able to work for various prestigious companies and productions – which he is not always allowed to speak about – “I can say that I worked on No More Heroes 3 as a level designer! ». At the age of 32, in his free time, he completed the creation of GRAPPLEa video game in which you have to… climb (we’ll come back to this).
Read also: Video games. Our test of “No More Heroes III”: Veni, vidi, vintage
From Mario to Lester Chaykin
As for many workers in the branch, the attraction for games and consoles was born in childhood: “I didn’t have enough money to buy myself a console but they put me in front Super Mario World. What I like about video games is its interactive side, it touched me and always attracted me”. Many games then pass through his hands. Of the classic type Super Mario 64 up to Eric Chahi’s games: “I would really like to meet him one day, to say thank you” Ahmin says.
Read also: VIDEO. Meeting with Éric Chahi, video game developer
“He inspires me a lot! Whether with Another World Where Heart of Darkness. I think he knows it, but there are a lot of Japanese developers who are inspired by him. For me, his work is a cornerstone, masterclasses ». He was also able to get his hands on the Japanese box version ofAnother World, “I would like to have it signed by Éric. Maybe someday ! ».
A year to find yourself
This affection for video games was then translated into specialized higher education. After his baccalaureate, Ahmin decides to enter ITECOM Art Design (Paris): “I had the wrong idea of what game design was. In the end, it was a training for 3D artist. And I’m not an artist, I wasn’t very good to be honest”. It was during an internship at Tetraedge Games, a company behind a lot of smartphone game ports (including the entire Microïds catalog) that he realized the problem: “I was a quality tester and I went to see the artistic director with my portfolio to do something else. He laughed and told me that I had taken the wrong path! ». Ahmin is more focused on gameplay concepts: establishing the rules, thinking about game design. As a result, he left this school to go and train at ISART Digital in game design training, “after that went relatively well, preparation and 2 years that followed”.
Barely graduated, already gone
A long way has been covered since the end of his training in France. “It’s funny because I watched a movie called Wasabi (yes, with Jean Reno) in 2011 and I said to myself that I would go well to Japan” : just graduated from ISART Digital (Paris), he takes off with a Working Holiday Visa (PVT). “I told myself that if I stayed six months, that was already not bad! says Ahmin who finds a job in three weeks, “I thought I would do odd jobs, but by a combination of circumstances, I started working in video games directly”. Mostly good research and a stroke of luck: “After having an interview in a company that was not yet recruiting, one of the collaborators called me back for another project after the resignation of a collaborator”.
When he arrives he can barely communicate, “You feel like you’re living in a bubble”. “ There are a lot of things about Japan that confused me a bit. In my first company, I was lucky enough to be able to speak French with colleagues, there were also a lot of English speakers and I didn’t even feel like I was working in Japan! », it’s when he leaves work, facing all the signs in Japanese that he really realizes where he is. Today, no more worries “Even though Japanese is a secondary language, I’m not doing too badly and it’s such a cosmopolitan environment that I don’t feel different. Finally, it is the return to France that would be the most difficult. Uprooting yourself twice is hard to explain”.
A rigorous work not to let go
If in Japan, we work a lot, Ahmin considers himself lucky: “I’ve always kept fairly normal hours, I try as much as possible to avoid pressure [le « crunch » N.D.L.R.] although I sometimes feel like it’s inevitable. But I never did 80-hour weeks. I really try to keep a healthy life, I was lucky enough to be able to do that! Most of my friends too.
These friends precisely work at Square Enix, Nintendo, in smaller companies… “It’s funny because in fact you have small communities that have been set up. There is the podcast Pixel Bentoanimated among others by a former NoLife for example ». He takes the opportunity to praise the work of Anne Ferrero, “she worked on a series of documentaries about independent developers in Japan, Archipel, it’s absolutely incredible, superbly done”. She joined an organization asōbu”a community of indie developers who often host creator talks.
In the final stretch of the project, “the feeling of satisfaction to see the game take shape helps a lot”even if it was necessary to juggle between his work and his free time to move forward, “It’s frustrating, but I try to set myself rules: at least one hour per evening to work on the game with always a concrete objective per session. I have to give myself the impression of moving forward, not having an evening for nothing”.
If he has one regret, it’s not having been able to talk about the game beforehand, but “Press relations is a profession! ».
“GRAPPIN”, a rational and poetic game
In addition to Super Mario and D’Another WorldAhmin has always been a fan of first-person gameplay, as Mirror’s Edge, “It also inspired the graphic touch, with this low poly aspect, fairly pale colors” and for all that is inspirational, this is the series Metroid Prime that he carries in his heart. “I loved this game: using the scanner, scrutinizing this or that enemy, feeding a database. I would have loved to be able to add analysis components in GRAPPLE ». But he also has another reason for choosing the game with a first-person view: technique. “I am neither a graphic designer, nor a programmer, nor an animator at the base. It allowed me not to model a character! ».
Here you have a camera with collisions around. And that’s enough! Same thing for the “low poly”modeling with large polygons: “I can make blocks with seven polygons, it’s very good not to get into super-detailed models, already because I can’t spend too much time on it but also for the clarity of the gameplay .
In GRAPPIN, you play as a character who discovers a magical artefact, the “Grip”, which allows you to cling to certain walls, easily identifiable clay attachment points in the decor. Everything is simple and readable. “In the end, my technical constraints coincided with what I wanted to produce”.
The game is fluid, poetic at will, with a very special mention for the music of Benoit Malis which sticks perfectly to the environments. A free demo is therefore available on PC via Steam.
In addition, the first relic you can find in the game (a shiny object to collect on your way) has a name that will speak to all French people and especially to Bretons: “In the valley, Oh Oh, I could between the echoes”. may GRAPPLE writing its legend as the Tribe of Dana. Ahmin Hafidi does not intend to stop creating independent games, “It may seem boring but it allows me to express myself. When I work on big productions for other companies, I am just a link in a chain”. So there remains focus on projects of “small scale” for “stay in achievable things”.
After GRAPPLEAhmin Hafidi wants to make small prototypes with the Unreal Engine 5 game engine. “I really need time to explore a few new directions. I want to play some stupid games on the couch. In any case, give me time before finding something new to do”. And regarding his life in Japan, “I think a lot of people would love to work there and make indie games as well. I consider myself really lucky”.
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He develops his video game “GRAPPIN” alone from Japan
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