Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Where are they now? - Éric Chahi

Screenshot from Another World
Éric Chahi - Creator of Another World

I'm not a big fan of platformers but they were obviously all the rage back in the 1980s and early 1990s, even on the PC. I guess many PC developers wanted to emulate the success of games like Super Mario Bros. although there were plenty of examples of exceptional platformers for the PC such as 1989's Prince of Persia by Jordan Mechner. It was around this time that a Frenchman called Éric Chahi developed what would become one of my favourite games of the early 1990s, a cinematic, sci-fi platformer called Another World (it was called Out of this World for the American market). But where did Chahi come from? What was his previous experience before working on this iconic game? What is he up to now?

Chahi was born in 1967 on the outskirts of Paris. He started developing computer games in his teens with his first game being released in 1983 called simply Frog. Most of his early games during the 1980s were targeted for the Oric, and Amstrad.

(You're now able to download all of these games he developed for the Oric and Amstrad from his website - but you'll need to find an emulator.)

In the late 80s he started to develop games for the Amiga and Atari ST. In 1989, Chahi started work at one of France's most famous development studios, Delphine International Software. He initially helped game designer Paul Cuisset on the graphics for Future Wars but soon started development on his own game outright.

The result would be 1991's Another World, a game where Chahi did all the designing, programming, graphics and sound effects (the only thing he can't claim to have done is the excellent soundtrack by Jean-François Freitas). Amazingly, Chahi spent 2 months working on the game although he had to put in 16 hour days in order to achieve that feat. It was all worth it in the end since the game was a critical and commercial success, despite reviewers criticising its short length.

Chahi continued to develop content for Another World and the game would be ported to many platforms. Around 1994 though, he left Delphine along with some of its employees to develop a new game called Heart of Darkness. Heart of Darkness was to be another cinematic platformer, in a similar vein to Another World but due to production delays, the game was released four years later and this may have adversely impacted its reception. The company closed down that same year.

For the few years after Heart of Darkness was released, Chahi took a break from game development and got into other creative pursuits such as painting and photography. He especially took a lot of photos of volcanic eruptions (no doubt an inspiration for a game he designed in more recent years).

Delphine International Software closed its doors in 2004 and Chahi was able to secure the Another World IP from them - and so began the many ports and remasters of this classic platformer with the game being ported to Game Boy Advance and mobile phones in 2005, an updated 15th Anniversary remake being ported to PC in 2006 and a 20th Anniversary HD remake being developed for Xbox One, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, PS Vita, 3DS and Wii U in 2014.

Chahi was hired by Ubisoft in 2008 to work on a new game as Creative Director called From Dust. The game is a mix of god games like Populous or Black & White and Lemmings, and was released in 2011. Chahi left Ubisoft around that time and for the past few years has been working as an independent game designer.

Will Chahi ever develop new games? I hope so as I think he's come to the end of the line for what he can do with Another World, as good as it is (it's on just about every platform conceivable at the moment). Another cinematic platformer by him would be choice - in fact, I might even go out of my way to play it!

LINKS:
[ MobyGames: Eric Chahi ]
[ Wikipedia: Éric Chahi ]
[ Official Éric Chahi Website ]

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