Master of the Macabre Hubert Chardot

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Once I heard about the release of a game based on the movie From Dusk Till Dawn, I couldn’t wait, so I fired some questions in the direction of writer Hubert Chardot. He is the Creative Director of the French-based developer Gamesquad, but you will know him best for creating the seminal survival horror series Alone in the Dark in the early 1990s.

More recently, Chardot was consultant and script doctor on Infogrames’ Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare. That title enjoys continued success. And last year he wrote Devil Inside for Cryo. So what makes this master of the macabre tick? Read on, if you dare, wah ha ha!

Gamesquad – www.gamesquad.fr

GiN: What made you decide to base a game on the movie From Dusk Till Dawn?

Chardot: The initial idea to adapt a game from the Dusk license came from Cryo, the publisher we work closely with in Paris. They proposed several different movie licenses and FDTD was one of them. It was not very difficult for us to make our decision. We talked with Cryo about what kind of game we wanted to develop. We wanted to be sure they didn’t expect a kid’s or family game.

After 30 seconds we shared the same vision. We wanted something violent and fun that would equal the original premise in the feature film; horror, action and set against a backdrop of rock-n-roll violence.

GiN: Aren’t you worried about going down the same route as the dismal array of other games based on movies? Have you learnt from their mistakes?

Chardot: I think you mainly learn from your own mistakes. It’s very difficult to learn from others if you don’t know the context of global production. The day after we signed the deal, we were happy and very anxious. We always tend to get a little worried at the beginning of the development process. Are we making the right decision? Are we on the right path? Are we going to satisfy everyone who was first drawn to the originality and offbeat nature of the Robert Rodriguez cult movie?

It’s pretty tough to be confident with your first design. I don’t want to speak about the technical problems the team had to solve, the production and budget stuff (money, milestones, etc) and the state of the art 13 months further (we were supposed to deliver the master 1-year after we the first meeting with the publisher.) I think we delivered a satisfying solution when we took the decision to create a kind of "virtual gaming sequel" of the movie and positioned the plot on the survival horror genre. We didn’t want to make an interactive Xerox copy of the movie.

We were kind of worried about the reactions of the movie’s producer because he had to show our initial design to Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. After about a week they got back to us and gave us the thumbs up. They liked it.

It gave us tremendous satisfaction to have confirmation that we were on the same level as the original director of the movie and the scriptwriter. Several years ago I worked with some Hollywood producers on the Mission Impossible game for Infogrames. Some of these guys included Tom Cruise’s staff. It was tough to understand each other when it came down to discussing some of the gameplay points.

With Miramax (re: From Dusk Till Dawn), we had free hands on the gameplay. I think that’s the most important thing that can happen to a development studio. You have to gain the trust by the different partners. The problems concerning code, techniques and money will always be evident, no matter what type of game you are producing.

It’s got nothing to do with stroking egos. It’s all about creativity, communication and sticking to a working philosophy that benefits everyone involved.

GiN: So the game has an original plot. How does it tie in with the movie, apart from having the same characters?

Chardot: The connections between movie and film exist on some actions, sets, and the psychology of the hero. The challenge was to communicate fresh news about Seth Gecko. We wanted to reassure his fans that everything was cool. It was almost as if we were saying, "Don’t worry boys, Seth is alive and well now, but he’s got some serious shit going down behind bars. He is sentenced to death on a maximum-security ship with only 72 hours to live. To make matters even worse, a bunch of bloodthirsty vampires assaulted the prison wardens on the ship and now they are on a gorefest rampage."

Basically, I felt compelled to help Seth escape from his cage. It was as if we took Seth from the ending of the first film, and we created an entirely new storyline that filled a gap between the movie and the game scenario.

GiN: Does the game play along the same lines as the Alone in the Dark series, or have you taken a departure from that format?

Chardot: FDTD is more like a shooter. Alone in the Dark is more like an action adventure game. Devil Inside, our former game, was a kind of "new millennium version of Alone in the Dark." We when began the design, the first strong vision we had from the first movie was the scene where George Clooney points the .38 special handgun right to the face of the cashier in the liquor store. Clooney warned, "Everybody be cool. You be cool." We wanted to re-create a similar crazed and immediate feeling and give it to the gamers.

GiN: Who is the main character?

Chardot: Seth, of course, mainly because I like the non-conformist, loveable bad guy character. I also like the fact that he was the only guy who survived the vampire massacre at the Titty Twister nightclub at the end of the first movie. I just didn’t think the plot of the game would be lend itself to utilizing Juliette Lewis’ character. She was too nice to be thrown into a high security prison context.

GiN: Do you prefer to write a game from scratch, or is it quite nice to have a springboard like a movie?

Chardot: I prefer the "from scratch" angle. It enables me to have more freedom when creating the characters, situations, gameplay and universes. In the beginning it is just sheets of paper. You can throw away all the stuff without any production or budget implications.

If the result is bad, you have nobody else to blame except yourself. You just have to go back to the computer and type something better. To adapt something into a video game context, it has to be a lot more frightening. You start off with the basics but you always have to root out solutions to the gameplay, and that involves translating the book, the music, the movie and comics.

Emotions and feelings have a lot to do with it.

GiN: Did you work with Tarantino at all whilst working on the game?

Chardot: Sadly, no. We were supposed to meet each other during at the last Cannes Film Festival but he didn’t come to France.

GiN: Where does your predisposition for horror come from?

Chardot: I really don’t know. I had a happy, normal childhood. I never met a vampire or participated in a black mass. I have never slept in a coffin. One time I did experience a weird telekinetic event (I really don’t know how to qualify this fact), but I’ve always liked that specific genre.

As a kid, the movie that really had an impact on me was when I saw Nosferatu, the Murnau movie on a black and white TV at my grandparent’s home. I’ve always admired good horror movies produced by Universal and Hammer Horror. I like directors like James Whale, David Cronenberg, John Carpenter. Authors I rate include Stephen King.

The influence had an impact on me when I wrote the H.P. Lovecraft games (Shadow of the Comet, Prisoner of Ice, Alone in the Dark). I guess horror helps people to characterize me. There are some publishers who dial my number, whenever they want a story about a mad guy with axe in hand who has a curse and an old haunted mansion.

GiN: So what is your favorite horror-based computer game?

Chardot: It would have to be Silent Hill and Resident Evil. I know it’s very common to quote these two titles, but they are really masterpieces. I am desperately waiting for the computer game adaptation of The Thing.

GiN: What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever seen?

Chardot: It would have to be a business deal when a publisher said, "Trust me."

Actually, it’s about a real a real ghost story. One night, a bunch of friends and I went to a house that was supposedly haunted. It wasn’t too far from Lyon, the city where I live.

Of course we were young and full of beans. However, we were not so confident about the history of the place (one suicide and three murders had been committed there). One member of our Ghostbusters gang showed me the newspaper clippings that detailed the dreadful events. They belonged to the family of a good friend of mine.

At midnight we parked our car and entered the old dark house with torch lamps. We put the keys on the marble mantelpiece by the chimney in the main room. Eventually, we walked down the corridor to the electric distribution board to switch on the light. When we returned to the main room, that was entirely lit, we suddenly realized the keys had been mysteriously moved from the mantelpiece and had fallen on the floor. We never saw the continuation of the events, however, we did check to see if there were any tricks connected to it like thread, magnets or elastics. We ran out the old house as fast as we could.

Also, if you love the French Alps, a good friend of mine owns a haunted chalet, but the ghost that inhabits it is apparently very kind and hospitable (no joke!).

GiN: Can we expect to see From Dusk Till Dawn on any other platforms? Are you planning any sequels?

Chardot: Yes, but now that depends mainly on the decision of the publisher. It’s a typical business verdict. If the game sells well then everything is possible with a powerful license. We are now looking at some interesting projects about a quiet American street situated in a small town where nothing ever happens. All I can say is"stay tuned.

From Dusk till Dawn will be by published in the US and Canada by Dreamcatcher, this Fall. It was published in the UK and Europe by Cryo on September 7.

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