Antoine Routon

Game Developer at Square Enix Montreal. Worked on Hitman GO & Lara Croft GO

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON January 28, 2016

Discussion

Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
Hey guys! My name is Antoine and I've been a game developer for 10 years. I come from a AAA background and in 2012 joined Square Enix Montreal to work on mobile games. Working there, Creative Director @Lutzmade and I designed Hitman GO, a new take on Agent 47's world of assassination. We were so thrilled by the positive reception from Hitman GO that we went on to imagine the GO version of the Tomb Raider universe. After a long road full of exciting challenges, we released Lara Croft GO last summer. We had such great feedback that we decided to add extra content and released the Shard of Life expansion a couple of weeks ago. I'm excited to be here and to talk about what happened behind the scene, the transition from Hitman GO to Lara Croft GO, our unique studio here in Montreal, and more!
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What lessons did you learn from Hitman GO and how did they translate over to Lara Croft GO?
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@jakecrump Hi Jake, It's definitely one of those "one year older one year wiser" kind of thing. In terms of level design for instance, we were able to keep levels more compact by making sure all the game mechanics could interact with each other. In Hitman GO, most mechanics interact only with Agent 47, independently from each other. In Lara Croft GO, we designed the mechanics so that they would interact with each other: for instance, a spider can push a plate which activates a block which pushes a pillar which then kills an enemy. This provides more interactions with fewer mechanics, which then allows for more elegant, compact levels.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What's one thing about being a game developer that no-one else knows?
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@ems_hodge Making good games is a lot of work! It's fun for sure, but also very demanding. One thing for instance, is that people see a finished game and think: "man, if only I had gotten that idea!" But the idea is just the beginning. Ideas are pretty cheap... The execution, and all the mistakes that happens, THIS is the hard part. In the same line of thought, sometimes we need to throw away a good idea because it doesn't work with rest of the game... It can be hard not to get too attached to your ideas, especially the good ones.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What initially made you want to get into game development?
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@jakecrump Believe it or not, as a kid I didn't have a console or a PC! On the weekends, I would get to play at my friend's house for a couple of hours. So during the rest of the week, I would fantasize about the games I'd play on the next weekend. In the end, I'd spend more time daydreaming about what the games would be rather than actually playing them. I guess in a way that frustration developed my imagination and it might very well have been a cornerstone for my future career!
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Are there any plans to adapt other gaming franchises to the 'GO' style in the future?
Carlos Oliveira@carlos78oli
@bentossell Ben stole my question (😜), but would like to add: without revealing any details, can we expect it/them in 2016?
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@bentossell Hi Ben, We're definitely investigating different avenues, but there is nothing I can confirm at this point. The only thing I can say is that as a studio we're aiming at delivering mobile games of the highest quality. So if we go for another GO game, we need to make sure we find a compelling proposition that brings great value to the player.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What is the working environment like at Square Enix Montreal?
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@bentossell To be honest, it's an amazing place to work! We're small teams (5-10) with a lot of ownership on our projects. In a way, it almost has an indie spirit... but with the means of a big studio: the best of both worlds, really! It's a lot of fun but we're also setting the bar really high for ourselves, and that demands a lot of work... which all pays off when we see the players feedback. :)
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What was the moment that you all realised that you had a 'winning' game on your hands?
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@ems_hodge To be honest, only once we saw the positive feedback from players and journalists... I mean, we knew we had something we believed in, but we were not sure what the general reception would be.
Hussein Yahfoufi@husseinyahfoufi · Family and Tech.
Thoughts on the Montreal Jazz Festivals and Juste Pour Rire?
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@husseinyahfoufi Hmm, I haven't played those games. Are they on mobile? ;P
Bips@oranlopes
Hey, What is that thing that every programmer should have while programming or creating a app or a game?
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@oranlopes COFFEE! Haha, seriously, the main lesson I learned working as a programmer on the GO games is keeping a balance between coding quick and dirty to test out gameplay ideas and keeping the code somewhat clean so that it doesn't become a complete mess only understood by me! It's pretty challenging but I believe being agile and reactive is key to the creative process.
Zach Cmiel@zach_cmiel · CEO, PoKoBros
What do you think the future of mobile games will be in regards with A.I. and V.R.??
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@zach_cmiel Hi Zach, That's a tricky question. Regarding VR, it's something we're looking at closely. We've announced a VR version of Hitman GO, and it has been great fun to explore this uncharted territory. From a UX/design standpoint, so many things have to be invented! It's been a really cool learning experience for us.
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · PMM @Twitter // Previously @ProductHunt
What are you currently playing? P.S. I'm painfully bad at games (career .3 KDR in COD) - I think I was born this way...
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@andrewmettinger Look at @tomstocklein's question that I answered above.
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are your favorite games in the following categories: 1) Consoles 2) PC 3) Mobile
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@tomstocklein Hi Thomas, I don't own a console but I play on PC and mobile. On PC, I like all kinds of experiences from Diablo to Steam games like Don't Starve or Binding of Isaac... On mobile, I like to keep myself up to date by trying the weekly Editor's Choice.
Carlos Oliveira@carlos78oli
@arouton After the stress and rush of a given title's development cycle, do you take pleasure playing that game when it's finished, or do you take a break, catch your breath, and play it at a later time? The reason I'm asking, is that whenever I worked at/with something that was a passion, the personal time I spent with that thing always felt like... work.
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@carlos78oli Haha, I think it's pretty standard to hate the project you're working on a few weeks before release. You see so much of it every day, and all you see is the little flaws here and there. But after release, you take a step back, look at people enjoying the game, and it feels great.
Carlos Oliveira@carlos78oli
Greetings from Portugal, Antoine. Where did the idea to adapt Hitman into a turn-based game come from? Was it a "winning" idea from the beginning, inside the studio?
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@carlos78oli Hi Carlos, When we got the mandate to do a mobile version of Hitman, we knew we had to approach things differently. Turn-based gameplay seemed really appropriate for a mobile game and that's how we started our thought process. Then everything slowly fell in place: if it's turn-based, why not draw inspiration from board games, etc. So to answer your question: the initial concept came fast, but refining into a fun, high-polished game took quite some time.
Carlos Oliveira@carlos78oli
@arouton Hitman GO is now moving from mobile to the console realm. Can we expect, in the future, to see it (and Lara Croft GO) on the Apple TV? What do you think might be the biggest obstacle in that transition?
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@carlos78oli I can't really confirm anything about Apple TV :) While porting Hitman GO to another platform (Steam, PS4/Vita - coming soon), we learned that there are definite challenges to properly porting a game. Think input, graphics, and all kinds of platform-specific idiosyncrasies. So we want to make sure we take the time to do things correctly rather than rushing ports.
In which particular ways math helped you out in development of your recent games?
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@alexgol95 Hi Alex (and congrats on that twitch playthrough!), I'm not gonna lie: there is a lot of math in a programmer's life! Not all the time for sure, but especially for 3D games, you need to understand trigonometry and basic linear algebra - nerd alert! ;) Designers and artists have it easier when it comes to math, but they have their own challenges for sure!
@arouton That playthrough was something, I tell you. At the end of it my brain cells probably just started BSoD'ing. On the serious note, I am probably pushing it a bit but can you give any hypothetical examples? Programming movement of objects usually? I am about to start Games Technology course this autumn (hopefully). I just need a hint of where to start (except programming on your own as much as you can, surely).
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@alexgol95 My best advice is: start simple! If you don't know 3d math, try to code simple 2D games, or even text-based games. The soonest you can get in the loop of trying out an idea and seeing it working, the best. Math will come with time, just keep your gamedev passion alive by aligning your ambition with your skills.
Tyler Ohlew@tylerohlew
Some puzzle games take the approach you took with Hitman GO and Lara Croft GO, in that there's fail states that require a restart of the stage. Other games like Stealth Inc. 2 create puzzles that can always be completed, while a death may force a restart, there's never a point where you've run out of possibilities (I've had moments in Lara Croft where mistiming a move meant I had to restart). Do you believe one approach is better than the other? Is one more difficult to produce than the other?
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@tylerohlew Overall, I think it's probably more elegant to not have a fail state - especially if completing a level takes quite some time - but it's harder to implement. With the GO games, we felt like a level playthrough was so short, that the cost of restarting wasn't such a big deal... So we went for that. Time being of the essence in a 1-year-long production, one needs to choose his battles!
Guillaume Taillefer@guitail · Product manager, Hibernum
Hi Antoine, Happy to see a guy from the Montreal industry in this Q/A. Good job for Hitman Go & Lara Croft Go huge successes. I have a question regarding the downloads of the game. Head of your studio, Patrick Naud, said that you got 11,000,000 interactions for Lara Croft GO and 7,500,000 for Hitman Sniper. What did he mean by interactions? Reference: http://www.pocketgamer.biz/news/...
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@guitail Hi Guillaume and thanks! You should ask him directly on Twitter @DrNaud :)
Armin Zahirovic@ixdfoundation · Designer, Interaction Design Foundation
Hi Antoine, can you think a situation when your team hit the wall (design block or anything else that prevented you in that moment from moving forward) creating Hitman GO or Lara GO and how did you overcome it?
Antoine Routon@arouton · Square Enix Montreal
@ixdfoundation Hi Armin, there were so many walls we hit! One example would be how slow the game became when we added animation to Lara Croft GO. The reason for that was that, before the next move, the player had to wait for the enemies to move and for the potential consequences to resolve (let's say a spider stepped on a plate and triggered a mechanism, etc.) We didn't really know how to solve this, and imagine all kinds of ideas, including the enemies move at the same as Lara... but nothing seemed to work. We left that issue aside for a while, and one day someone suggested to fasten up the enemies animations if the player started to enqueue inputs too quickly. We tried it... and it worked!