iPhone developer Bulkypix talks Blair Witch, filmmaking and Hysteria Project

Could this be gaming's first interactive TV series?

iPhone developer Bulkypix talks Blair Witch, filmmaking and Hysteria Project

When Vivendi Games Mobile was closed down after the parent company’s acquisition by Activision, Vincent Dondaine and a collection of his colleagues got together to form their own iPhone game development studio, Bulkypix.

Their first game - a live-action, choose-your-own-adventure title called Hysteria Project - is about ready to launch, so we decided to find out a little bit more. Here’s Vincent to explain how Hysteria Project came about.

“Our team’s last projects for Vivendi were Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D and Virtual Villagers, both for the iPhone. It gave us a rock solid experience on this new market and the feeling that things are moving on mobile gaming platforms.

"With the iPhone and iPod touch, we have a great and unified platform on which you we enough space (hundreds of megabytes) and power to create the experience we have in mind. It’s a new beginning.”

And the best thing about this new beginning is that Vincent and team are now calling the shots.

“The whole team is fan of choose-your-own-adventure-books and the Blair Witch Project. It was our starting point for Hysteria Project, and we wondered how we could capture the same feeling on the iPhone.

"An interactive movie with quick-time events seemed like the best way to help you feel like you’re the hero.”

Two teaser trailers for Bulkypix’s unusual, inaugural game have been circulating around the blogosphere, and generating more than a little interest thanks to the unique cinematic approach taken to promotion.

“In Hysteria Project, you see short video sequences from a first person perspective, and you have to make the right choices to survive.

"You start the adventure in an old cabin in the forest, with no idea why you’re even there. You're bound and can’t move, your vision is foggy, you can hear strange noises and there’s this bizarre logo everywhere.

"Figuring out what’s going on is the only way to survive! We want to create a totally innovative and immersive user experience.”

Alongside the choose-your-own-adventure motif, there’s a strong resemblance to the classic laser disk games of the early ‘80s, like Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace - something that will differentiate Hysteria Project from the recently released detective game Alternate Endings.

But working with film is very different from working with pixels, so Vincent and team had to innovate to make this unique iPhone vision come true.

“The main difference is that we’re working with movies. We need to focus on how to make the story immersive, even if we don’t have 3D graphics to do it. We’ve been dealing with the same kinds of problems as movie producers, and had to work with different professions from those we’re used to.

"At the same time, Hysteria Project is a big story and we’re having to anticipate what’s going to be in next episodes, what the storyline will involve and the events you’ll face. We hope everybody will like Hysteria Project enough to want to play it again, only bigger and with new themes.”

Episodic game content is becoming increasingly popular, but here in Hysteria Project it really makes sense. The game will, in all likelihood, be one of the first examples of an interactive series.

Maintaining our interest between shows is a challenge that Bulkypix is going to have to face without much in the way of precedent.

“It is going to be episodic for sure. Hysteria Project is the beginning of the story that we want to deliver step by step.

"Each episode walkthrough takes around 30 minutes, for a cheap price. We will have new gameplay mechanics for each chapter to renew the interest in parallel with the new story.”

Exciting stuff, and to help with the technicalities, the team was lucky enough to once again recruit from within its own former ranks.

“It was necessary to involve a movie professional in the game’s development. Fortunately we were able to collaborate on this project with an ex-Vivendi colleague, Guillaume Lebrasseur.

"This guy is awesome, as he’s able to handle all video aspects - making the film, post production, adding effects, sound design and music.

"In the past he created and managed all Vivendi Games Mobile trailers. Urban Attack is a good example of his work.”

So, after forging all this ground in terms of interactive series for the iPhone, is there any chance Hysteria Project could expand into other media?

“We’re totally open to any partnership on Hysteria Project. If we have the opportunity, we’ll certainly make it available on other platforms!”

Thanks to Vincent and his team for taking the time to chat with us during this busy period as Hysteria Project gears up for launch.