The Average Gamer

Interview: Michel Thomazeau, Cubical Drift

Hello everyone, my name is John “Proto Foe” Pinnick, and this is my first piece for The Average Gamer. I hope you enjoy it, and I’ll see you all around the interwebs.

Shortly before Christmas, 2014, I had the privilege to interview Mr. Michel Thomazeau. He is the Big Boss of Cubical Drift, a small, independent studio based out of Cannes La Bocca, France and working on an adventure game called Planets³. What drew me to the game, before I had even watched a trailer or seen any information, was the image below. The bottom paragraph is rather powerful: “But as computer performances increase, and it’s only a matter of time for what is impossible today will be possible tomorrow.” This, for me, extends beyond just video games, but quality of life, too.

After being drawn to the game via the above quote, I watched the Kickstarter interaction; the community banter, the feedback, the evolution of the title over those long, long weeks. I saw, and still see, Planets³ as my game to ultimately escape into, like my son does with Minecraft. I mean, space, RPG mechanics, motorcycles… They had me at space.


I know you must be very busy with preparing the first alpha release of Planets³. How did you and your team come together? And is this your first title?

This is our first title as Cubical Drift. But one of us, Fabien Perrot (aka CodingMarmot), had already created videos games when he worked in a small French video game studio for 4 years.

The project was initiated 2 years ago, June 2012 by Fabien Perrot, Guillaume Grodwohl (aka Guyk) and myself. At the beginning it started just being something fun to do on weekends; to code a “C++ blocks engine”. Then the 3 of us began talking about our ideas, what we wanted if we had the time to develop a game. Then, 2 months later we put a name on all these ideas: Planets³

At that time I had a feeling: this could a great but it’s now or never! So I decided to quit my job to launch the project.

In 2013 I was searching for funds, first with “classical” investors such as business angels. They did understand the project’s potential but was not interested (too risky.) My second solution was Kickstarter and I decided to go on the US crowdfunding platform in May 2013.

The team at that time was lacking creative people, we are engineers, but have no talent with 2D/3D creation! So I searched for them and in June 2013 we found Sayo who draw the first 2D concept of the game. During the 2 following months Sayo introduced the team to Martin, Wilfried and Alexandre who became the artistic director of the project.

We worked a lot with Alexandre during 6 months leading to the trailer. We needed to make 3D concept art that had a strong impact on our future players but also that explained the game simply, and that was not easy because our concept is not so simple!

You are approaching alpha, which will be available to some of the backers from your successful Kickstarter campaign, of which I am a backer. Can you tell the readers a little about Planets³, and what ways are there for people to play the game and help shape the content that you and your team are creating?

I can’t wait to release the alpha! It should be available in a matter of months. We did modify our planning because the engine migration took us 3 months. The alpha will be released later than what we originally planned, but it will be bigger, with more features.

We want Planets³ to be an RPG set within a blocks based universe, and it’s not an easy “mix”. RPGs work very well in a fixed and finite world, but blocks base games work better in a dynamic and infinite world. It’s our challenge, and I know that the result will be great!

job-master-watts-blacksmithThere will be quests that will help the player to evolve, there will be different kinds of gear the players will need to craft with raw resources they will find in the universe. And there will be different enemies to kill as in any RPG. We also want to bring the concept of creation into this RPG environment. There will be quests that will ask players to constructs things, such as buildings and vehicles. In fact all the players’ evolution will depend on how he will explore the different planets and how they will harvest materials to build items.

We couldn’t create this game without using all the potential of a random block based terrain. So players will be able to create their own universe with a tool we will name “the editor”. This editor will be delivered after the release of the game and will allow players to change a lot of things in the game. For example; they will be able to change the world generation or the 3D models or even the story! It will be a complex tool that will be hard to use but also hard to create! It’s the reason we it will release after the game.

And of course every players will be able to share their creations to the community.

In a world where titles such as Minecraft, League of Legends, and World of Warcraft exist, what can developers, like yourself, do to make their titles worth the investment in time and money?

I always say that it’s the beauty of the video games world: each product has a chance. Of course it needs original ideas, because creating a game that is a copy of another is not worth the investment. In Planets³ there are already “approved” concepts (block based terrain, quests, crafts …) but there are also original ones (like the cubical planets, to be able to construct vehicles with blocks directly in game, our cubical shaped models …)

In fact it’s all about how you present the game, there are the visuals that are important but also the story. We will not reveal any of the story before releasing the game, but I assure that it will be original!

What, if any, titles inspired you to make the leap into this genre?

It’s hard to reply to this question because we all love a lot of genres, so I will give some examples.

Obviously we did make an RPG because they are my favourite type of games (Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, Secret of Mana, Zelda …) We all love space movies but also space video games (Star Wars, Star Trek, Mass Effect …) And of course we all played Minecraft and loved the game!

What kind of purchase model will you be using?

For the first release it will simple: you buy the game, you play the game. Nothing more.

When the editor will come, we will see what kind of purchase models we will use.

Do you have any plans to branch out beyond the PC space? If so, what platforms are of interest?

We chose to release on computers first for 2 main reasons:

  • Our expertise
  • It much more easy to release on computer than on consoles

Of course we will go on the consoles, but it will depend on the PC/Mac/Linux sales. We will start to work on migration sometime after the computer release. For the moment we do not have plans to go on mobiles.

bigbang-concept-artDo you have any other titles in the pipeline?

It’s a secret ;)

But this first project will give us work for many years!

I bet you get asked this a lot, do you have a release date that you are aiming for?

We are a flexible team, it’s one of the advantages of being a small and independent studio, but at the same time it’s can be seen as an inconvenience for our future players: because we are also flexible on release dates.

We are planning to release the alpha end of April, but you know, a lot of things can happen in 4 months!

In closing, if you could only say one line to your perspective audience, what would it be?

I can’t wait to see players have fun with our game and creating content that will perhaps be better than ours!