Luc Bernard talks iPhone Mecho Wars, Rose Princess, and future projects

Ebullient designer covers everything from Advance Wars to Looney Toons

Luc Bernard talks iPhone Mecho Wars, Rose Princess, and future projects

A lot has happened in the life of Anglo-French game designer Luc Bernard since we spoke with him in October of last year.

Not only has the creator of the dream-like platform title Eternity’s Child uprooted himself and relocated in the US of A, but he’s also in process of forming a new company focused on creating games for downloadable formats like Apple’s iPhone and Nintendo’s WiiWare service.

Keen to avoid rumour and unearth specifics, we tracked him down and chucked a few probing questions in his precise direction.

Pocket Gamer: What have you been up to since we last spoke to you?

Luc Bernard: I’ve mostly been involved with setting up a new development company that I am part of and working on Mecho Wars with the main programmer (who I can’t name at the moment), trying to keep the gameplay balanced, since that’s very important for a strategy game.

Can you explain the concept behind Mecho Wars?

Well, when Mike Fahey of Kotaku mentioned in his review of Eternity’s Child that he wanted to know more about the plot, I thought about a game that would focus on the expanded story and the events prior to Eternity’s Child, so that’s essentially where development on Mecho Wars began.

Also, an old friend who has been in the industry for years suggested the idea of doing a turn-based strategy title; it seemed like an excellent way to expand the story and also a great fit for the iPhone.

There are 18 different units for the player to choose from, with air units, water-based ones, and multiple ground units.

Also we are currently thinking about adding online multiplayer and offering two versions on the App Store: one free with a small selection of multiplayer maps and the other a paid-for release with the full single-player campaign and all the multiplayer maps.

Mecho Wars clearly owes a debt to Intelligent Systems’s Advance Wars series. Is this intentional?

Let’s put it this way: Advance Wars and Fire Emblem are the only console strategy games I can stand playing, so they are a big influence on us! I still play Advance Wars 2 regularly.

Is former Eternity’s Child staffer Shane Gill involved this time around?

Yes. Shane looks through my game designs and tinkers with them, adding things that I’ve overlooked or simply forgotten to include. I prefer to have someone to tell me if there is something wrong or not, or if the game isn’t fun enough.

(Mecho Wars.)

I know you can’t tell us much about the lead programmer you’re working with on Mecho Wars, but could you give us little bit of information on his background and the games he’s previously worked on?

Well I can’t say much I’m afraid, but a couple years back we collaborated on several small demos. I can tell you that he’s a former Electronic Arts guy and without a doubt the best programmer I have ever worked with.

We respect each other and never get into fights; this collaboration is already resulting in wonderful results. I am very happy with the team I currently have.

You’ve mentioned that you’re looking to expand into WiiWare publishing as well. Fans of the service are probably wondering what has happened to the WiiWare version of Eternity’s Child - can you give us any information?

We’ll be focusing on WiiWare once we get official approval; I’ve actually just talked to Nintendo about it so it should be very soon.

As for Eternity’s Child, I’m in the same boat as you. I just know that Alten8 (the WiiWare publisher) is reworking the game.

I don’t talk to them as much now since I have my own business to worry about, so I’ll only be able to play Eternity’s Child WiiWare once it’s out and I’ll see how it’s turned out then.

I must admit I thought it would be out by now, but it’s out of my hands, sadly.

Is it possible that you might revisit Eternity’s Child and port it to iPhone?

I don’t think so. I would rather focus on new games. Plus it would be a terrible fit for the iPhone; I’d rather do new types of games adapted especially for that platform.

Can you tell us anything about Rose Princess? Will this be coming to iPhone as well?

Well, I should probably mention that Rose Princess was a game I had designed for my ex-girlfriend when we were still together. It was supposed to help launch her career, but now I’m not with her any more, I’ve decided to reassess Rose Princess and change the concept slightly, as well as altering the main character’s appearance.

Now the game is set in Paris and plays very much like Konami’s recent DS Castlevania titles. We are aiming for a kind of ‘Moulin Rouge meets Looney Toons’ feel.

The story involves a Pug cult, a mechanical rabbit with serious personal issues and a Princess who has the ability to kill humans with just a touch. I guess you could call it a unique concept!

Unfortunately, this won’t be coming to the iPhone. The platform doesn’t have a traditional control pad, so it would be unplayable. Rose Princess can only work on systems that have a conventional D-pad.

It’s possible that we might look at releasing it as a DSi-Ware title, but in all honesty we are eyeing the WiiWare service a lot more for this one. I certainly don’t expect this to be finished before this summer, regardless of which platform it appears on.

(Rose Princess concept art.)

What’s the long-term plan for your new studio?

Our studio is going to focus mainly on download services, and we have a game planned for practically every genre you could mention. We don’t want to be known for sticking to one type of game.

For this year we have four games planned - Mecho Wars, Rose Princess and two other titles - but those first two are the ones that we are focusing on right now.

The Star Thief has been renamed Mechopolis, and we were doing some work on it last year, but it has been paused until Mecho Wars and Rose Princess are finished.

As for the fourth title, I can’t really reveal anything, but it will be collaboration between me and my business partner, who is actually a Grammy-nominated songwriter. It’s actually an action adventure game where the game reacts to the music, but I can’t reveal anything because there’s a very real danger that the idea will be stolen!

Now I have the right game designers and programmers to work with, I think this will help me to make great games based on my characters and worlds.

As for the company’s name, I’ll be announcing it once the time is right. Thanks to the issues surrounding the release of Eternity’s Child I’m painfully aware that sometimes hype works against you, so I’m being less public this time.

What’s your opinion of the iPhone games market these days? Are you still as positive about it?

It’s great, but I would say there is one key problem with the App store - it’s such a mess. There are so many apps and it’s becoming increasingly hard to find the quality ones. However, the idea of a premium store is great, but I like the notion of $19.99 games a lot less.

Not even big Xbox Live Arcade titles have a price that high.

Our thanks go to Luc for taking time out to speak with us. Eternity’s Child is available on PC via the Steam download service, and Alten8 plan to publish the WiiWare version some time this year.
Damien  McFerran
Damien McFerran
Damien's mum hoped he would grow out of playing silly video games and gain respectable employment. Perhaps become a teacher or a scientist, that kind of thing. Needless to say she now weeps openly whenever anyone asks how her son's getting on these days.