Making Movement: An interview with Compulsion Games' Animator



The city is quiet as I exit the metro at Place St-Henri. I walk a block or two and come to a large building in front of which Jean-Richard Beaudry, Compulsion Games' 3D animator, is standing. He greets me and we begin the walk up a loud metal staircase and eventually emerge in a wide hallway. We walk past several doors until we come to a gray one with the Compulsion logo next to it.

The first thing I notice as I enter the studio is how much it feels like a large living room. There are no cubicles, but rather large desks cluttered with books, figures, coffee cups and bonsai trees. Besides a conference area and a small kitchen, there aren't any distinct rooms. Computers line the walls, but the centre space is dedicated to a TV and a bright red couch. Some Contrast merchandise decorates the studio, a reminder of Compulsion's debut in the games industry. Beaudry had turned all the monitors off prior to my arrival so as to make sure I don't get an accidental peak at the developers' currently unannounced title.

As we sit comfortably on the couch, I begin my interview with the experienced games animator.

JB: Why are indie games relevant in today's market?

JRB: I'd say that indie studios appeared when they were meant to--they became the natural balance in the video games industry. We're going through a time where consumers demand bigger and better games, with more content and prettier stuff, to the point where it costs a truckload of money to deliver almost any kind of game. I think that the indie wave helped bring perspective to the whole thing, for the gamers as well as for many developers. It reminded everyone that small games are awesome too.

JB: As a gamer, have you had the chance to enjoy many indie games? If so, what are some of your favourites?

JRB: I often find myself trapped into the pattern of playing specific games abusively, so out of the incredible number of games that came out in recent years, I've played too few of them. Having said that, I absolutely loved Castle Crashers, Sound Shapes is a lot of fun too, very relaxing and challenging at the same time, and I recently started Volgarr the Viking and it's pretty good.

JB: What do you like most about Montreal's gaming community and culture?

JRB: Everyone has a lot of respect for every other studio, I find. It's so easy to make great friends and contacts just by going to one of the dozens of community events that take place in Montreal each year.

JB: What kind of insight has working in an indie studio given you about the games industry as a whole?

JRB: That no matter what kind of studio you're in, people run on coffee and beer, in no particular order.

JB: What are some of the things that you didn't expect or had to adapt to when you were hired?

JRB: Being the boss, kind of. Of course coming in I was aware of my responsibilities, but it's hard to realize that you're your own boss, and automatically the boss of anyone hired under your department. We're given the complete ownership of our work, so I guess it's a pretty cool thing to adapt to!

JB: You said that you were pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere at Compulsion. Can you give us an example or two of moments that could only happen in an indie studio?

JRB: I doubt that bigger studios would send their artists to IKEA to buy furniture and order a kitchen. That was a lot of fun.

JB: Are there any things you miss from your time at Ubisoft and Warner Bros.?

JRB: Yeah for sure, especially Ubisoft. The ubi-life is great. There are a lot of nice places to eat and drink around the building, then there's an active community doing sports and lots of different activities within and around the studio, stuff like that.

JB: You've been on teams for both triple-A and indie games. Does having this experience colour your long-term goals?

JRB: Not really. Right now I just enjoy making games, wherever I'm at. Long-term, I just want to be a great animator, hopefully work on CG animated movies in a studio like Disney--I really like what they've been doing in the last few years.

JB: Larger development teams usually go through the infamous crunch time in the weeks before their product launches. Are long, high-pressure work days a reality in indie studios?

JRB: Absolutely. The approach is a little different in terms of being pressured, but a crunch is just something you need to go through when you're making ambitious games. When you're indie though, you have to push yourself because there's no one there to take you by the hand.

JB: Indie games are usually more personal projects. Considering you joined the team when the current game was already in production, how would you qualify your attachment to the current project?

JRB: It's great, and I love the game. I mean, yeah the pipeline was created before I got there, but in a little studio you get invited to meetings on your first day, so you get involved pretty quickly.

JB: What are some of the uniquely indie challenges that you have to resolve in your day-to-day work at Compulsion?

JRB: Recurrent decision making and crappy chairs.

JB: I understand that you're the main animation resource at Compulsion. Can you explain how that changes your approach to your work?

JRB: I get to do whatever I want, that's a big step from Ubi. Obviously we don't work with as many tools in our software since we have no specialist to develop them for us, but for animation it doesn't change very much. I just do what I do.

JB: Would you recommend that all game developers spend some time in both types of studios?

JRB: Well, yes and no. It really depends on what kind of game do you want to make.

JB: Do you think indie games will eventually grow out of style considering the fast-paced progression of the games industry?

JRB: I don't think so. They're a key part of the progression we're seeing in the industry. The trend may shift but everything will follow; I'm confident that indie studios are not ready to disappear just yet.

Beaudry looks around him, and I can tell he'd be disheartened to lose the great team and workspace he's grown accustomed to. Fortunately, he assures me, Compulsion intends to keep making great games for as long possible. Visibly excited, he adds that he can't wait for their forthcoming game to be revealed.


Hmmm, if only I had this while growing up. Great article that will surely please many readers simply due to its topic. However, maybe you should revise your interviewee's initials to make your dialogue easier to read and distinguish between your questions and his responses. Other than that, great job!

I want his job!!

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