Carte Blanche
 
Interview with Jonathan Lessard  
by Danyboy
October 3, 2006

Story:
Freshman comes into town…

Raised in a small town bourgeois family and recently graduated from college in humanities, Edgar Delacroix has yet to discover what the big city has in store for him.  After a fortuitous entry in the world of private investigation, he has to deal with twisted and suspicious individuals, solve sinister mysteries and risk his life in rather unpleasant circumstances.

Montreal, 1924...
Both a financial and industrial metropolis, a center of vice and alcohol smuggling, Montreal in the twenties has all the assets to cater to the needs of criminals with any amount of imagination.  The seamiest intrigues will be Edgar’s daily bread and cold sweat his squalid, bitter butter.

A cinematographic adventure game...

Using the 7th Art's visual language, Carte Blanche offers an experience akin to cinema, and especially its less advisable genre - the classical Hollywood Film Noir.  Carte Blanche is also certainly the first video game to offer a cinemascope format and a deliberate choice of black and white.

Character development...

Depending on the player’s actions, Edgar will gain specific proficiencies and items which will follow him from one episode to the other.  As the episodes go by each character progress differently, developing in accordance with the player’s style, thus making each session unique.  Can you do that in the Myst series? No?  Well there you go!

A twisted world...

Saving the world from the claws of abject individuals doesn't mean you can't have fun.  In fact, it doesn't mean you can't have lots of fun!  Although real life is at times crazy and absurd, Carte Blanche's universe brings these fields to new heights – more than the Eiffel tower, Himalayas and Shaquille O’Neil combined!

Since reality is often stranger than fiction, we give Carte Blanche to the player to reinterpret the Roaring Twenties in his own way, stomping on old cigarette butts as well as his childhood’s lost innocence in the process.

Introduction:

Jonathan (Big Bang) Lessard:  Perfect genetic cross between Genghis Khan, Margaret Thatcher, Delphi’s Pythia and Copernicus, Jonathan is first and foremost the master founder of Absurdus.  Relentless administrator and certified torturer, he’s managed to keep the discipline among this ragged group of neurotic individuals with an iron fist.  Formally denies all links with both the Enron and Canadian Liberal Party sponsorship scandals, as well as with Pinochet’s regime in spite of official accusations.  Beware, for this Machiavellian genius’ time is coming!  You can now download his first adventure game for free, Eye of the Kraken.

Can you give us some details about the different stories?

I wouldn’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say that things are never what they seem!  And the robbery of a huge Olmec sculpture might well be hiding some terrible plot that would justify this episode’s title: For a fistful of teeth.  Whose teeth?  Why take only a fistful when you can take the rest?

Who is Edgar Delacroix?

Edgar has just earned his Phd on the Napoleonic wars in Québec, a smaller Canadian city.  His parents are forcing him to move to Montréal, the big city, in order to become a man and begin a career.  He’s to live in the apartment of his eccentric uncle, taxidermist by trade, who’s gone in Africa to hunt down marvelous animals to stuff.  Edgar would have gladly stayed in the comfortable intellectual community of the University, but I suspect he’s also secretly glad he was pushed to try new things.  In any case, he’s in for some new experiences that go far beyond discovering a new proof of Napoleon’s secret baldness.

Montreal has a history of crime stories of all kinds, are the game stories based on some of these real events?

The intrigues of the first episode are completely fictional.  We’ve done a lot of research on the period for character and setting development, but we haven’t found yet a series of events that would be fitting for the game.  If we ever hear or read of something very juicy, we’ll be glad to integrate it!

The action takes place in Montreal in the 1920’s, why did you choose this place and that time period?

We all live in Montreal and are really in love with the city.  This game is a kind of homage to her.  We thought the twenties of Montreal would be perfect for a noir series for many reasons.  For one, the city was already very mixed in ethnic origins: apart from the French and English Canadians, you have the Irish, Scottish, Italian, German, Polish and Russian immigrants to provide with a handful of national clichés to play with.  It’s also a time where the city was a center of crime, notably a platform for the illegal export of alcohol in the US from the prohibition, as well as a center of illegal gambling and prostitution that attracted shady individuals from all around.  It’s a kind of smaller Chicago with a northern and European flavour.
 

Will the players be able to learn something interesting about Montreal of the 1920's?

I don’t know if people will actually learn things about the city, but we do hope to share some kind of enjoyable fantasized vision of it.  Also, I think the general sense of the time period is pretty well rendered, with the socio-economic realities of this golden age of industrialization and anarchic urban development.

Are the different locations in the game based on real places?

The visual style of the locations are directly inspired from pictures of the time, but most of them a fictional.

How many episodes will we have to play?  From what I was able to understand, each episode will have its own mystery, is this correct?

We’re not sure yet of the number of episodes, it certainly depends on the relative success of this one!  But there will be at least two, or else it wouldn’t be a series!  In any case, each episode will be autonomous and playing everything in order will not be necessary to understand.  Yet, there is an overarching mystery which is set up in the first episode and will unfold progressively.

Edgar will have to solve different mysteries, are they all connected?

Some of them, but not all.

In the game resume we’ve read that Edgar will risk his life, does that mean the character could die?

We’re not fans of dying characters in adventure games, that somehow breaks the continuity of the story by forcing to manage a lot of saving and loading.  So, no, he’s not going to die.  But that business is risky anyhow!

Edgar will have to deal with twisted and suspicious individuals, can you talk a bit about those individuals?

Well first of all there Jeannine, the agency’s secretary.  That’s certainly one of the scariest character we’ve ever seen.  She’s the bureaucratic equivalent of a grizzly bear.  There are also two fat twin Mafiosi brothers whose added intelligence doesn’t add up to that of a squirrel.  If you’re wise, you can summon the ghost of a Byzantine icon robber.  The barman has had an affair with the princess of Denmark while running away from Bismarck in a stolen submarine prototype… You get the picture.

What kind of puzzles should we expect to see?  Are they integrated into the stories?

Although we respect all opinions on adventure games, we strongly prefer our own.  And that includes puzzles integrated into the plot, and not aligning gems in constellation patterns to open your garage door.  Why would someone invent such a mechanism which allows you to eventually open the door when you could simply lock it?  Apart from the usual inventory puzzles, you also find dialogue puzzles as well as competence puzzle.  If you have enough of the “ventriloquy” competence, you might manage to force someone in believing someone else has said something!

Why did you choose to make the game in black and white?

Apart from the fact that we are all albinos, I mean color-blind (I always get these mixed up), we thought it would be a smooth move to make the first intentional black and white video game in history!  It was also an aesthetic choice: it allows for nicely contrasted visual compositions reminding of the noir movie genre of the 40s.

What do you think the player reaction will be after he’s finished with the game?

I think they’ll be sending us letters to hurry up the production of the sequel!

Can you talk about the members of your team?

I’m the only one with actual experience in video game development, but the others have a lot to offer in creativity and talent.  Simon is a great concept artist and he’s the only one with a car.  Jean-Denis is a very inspired writer, albeit disorganized and neurotic.  David is a talented jack-of-all-trade and a world-class player of online games.  Of course, that hasn’t helped to speed up development.

What is so special about the Carte Blanche game?

I think that you won’t find on the market a game with such a funny and original scenario.  This is not an industrial product designed to meet a market, we wrote it because it makes us laugh our keyboards off and we think that pleasure can be shared.  As an independent product, there’s no censorship, no marketing-based decisions, just pure inspiration.  We’re the real artists, and if people don’t like the game, we’ll spend the rest of our lives complaining that we’re not understood, that people are simply not ready.

Where are we going to be able to purchase the game?

On the Internet for sure, but if all goes well, it should also be available in some stores all over the world.  If not, call me one my pager, I’ll bring you some.

What are your plans for the near future?

Complain the rest of our lives that we’re not understood as artists!  Actually, when the game actually is released, we’ll probably spend a few weeks drunk talking to lamp posts as a reward for our hard work, and then get to working on the sequel!

Official website:

Carte Blanche 

Jonathan, thank you very much for the time you have spent answering our questions.  Good luck with Carte Blanche. 

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