There I was, working as a consultant on 1666 Amsterdam while still practicing law in parallel
Marc-André De Blois
Senior Game Designer
Hi MAD! Tell us a little about yourself.
What was your dream job as a kid?
Wildlife Conservation Officer
Why the gaming industry? Tell us about the path that brought you to Panache.
I got into the gaming industry by chance. In 1997, I was fresh out of a program in Arts and Technologies in Media and was working as a video editor for TV at the same time as producing short films. And suddenly, a new possibility arose: that of working as game designer. So I tried my luck and first started as a game tester, but soon graduated to game designer. The first game I worked on was Hype – The Time Quest with Patrice Désilets and Philippe Debay. Our relationship goes back a long way! Following this, I was offered a Lead Game Designer position in New York to work on Batman – Vengeance where I had the chance to work with the best animator: Alex Drouin! Back in Montreal in 2001, I joined the team of Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time.
But then I felt like a change of scenery and tackling a new challenge so I quit the industry to go to law school. I continued working in game design as a consultant for small independent studios during my studies and then worked full time as notary. But after some time, I had a burning hitch to revive my passion for game design.
That’s when THQ announced its new Montreal studio with… Patrice and Alex! The opportunity of working with long-time friends was hard to turn down. So there I was, working as a consultant on 1666 Amsterdam while still practicing law in parallel. Weird mix, I know! But the similarities between the two professions are obvious to me.
Unfortunately, THQ’s bankruptcy put an end to that project (but not forever, I hope!) and I went back to law full time for a while…
That was until, a cold night of December 2014, I got an email from Patrice saying that I was officially hired as game designer on a project called Ancestors!
So… why the gaming industry? Because I believe it’s the most powerful entertainment medium. By asking the players to participate in creating their own journey, it’s possible to get them to experience a greater range of emotions than through cinema or literature.
What is it, in your opinion, that’s different about Panache compared to other video game companies?
In a few words: working with friends. There is genuine camaraderie among us all and the sentiment of working together on an eventual success it very powerful. In short, it’s more than work. It’s a common desire to build something that will be ours and knowing that each other’s contribution is unique and precious.
What’s your role at Panache? And in concrete terms, what do you do?
Senior Game Designer.
In concrete terms, I’m usually the one who, after having fully understood the direction of the creative director, articulates the different systems into game rules in order to achieve the desired experience.
I see myself as a playability architect: there is a multitude of concurring and complementary systems that run in parallel, so I’m responsible for ensuring coherence through it all.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?
Making sure that the player’s learning curb is logical with our game while keeping in mind all the different ways one can play.
Whether an idea comes from a designer, programmer, artist or the creative director, it doesn’t really matter. The end result for the team is the same. We need to integrate the idea in the game, meaning that we need to review the entire rule ecosystem. And when development stretches over a few years, the amount of micro decisions that can have an impact on the ecosystem is staggering. So it’s really important to stay focused on the global experience otherwise it would be easy to get lost.
So the challenge is to communicate clearly the architecture behind the rule ecosystem and to adapt that said ecosystem along the way.
What is it about video games that you like?
To have fun, to evade or to feel that I have accomplished something. These are all emotions that are very hard to program. I’m constantly amazed to see how these emotions can suddenly arise when playing a game. Because a game is basically a group a rules organized in such ways to generate competitiveness. This profound relation between rational and emotional expressed in the gaming world is something that truly fascinates me!
What are your favorite games of all time?
Final Fantasy VII
The Last of Us
Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Other than video games, what are your interests?
Spending time with my 7 year old son. The world is so much more beautiful through his eyes!
If you could meet any living or dead personality, who would you choose? Name 2 and tell us why.
Geddy Lee, lead singer and bassist of the band Rush, for no other reason than telling him how fan I am of the best progressive rock band on the planet!
John Rutsey, original drummer of the band who quit after their first album to thank him for doing so and allowing Neil Peart to take his spot!
And finally, Alex Lifeson, because he’s the third band member and I wouldn’t want him to feel left out :)
If you had to write your autobiography today, what would its title be?
I Will Have The Last Word
If you could have a super power, which one would you choose?
The power of freezing time for a few seconds before saying something important. This way, I could practice what I’m about to say and make sure the words are in the right order and in line with my mind.
And now, loose questions:
Favorite places in Montreal?
Villeray, the neighbourhood I live in with my little family as well as Laurier Street, between De Lorimier and Parc. It’s along this street that I’ve lived in 4 different apartments since I’ve been in Montreal. This street will forever be what represents the heart of Montreal to my eyes.
Your desktop background?
A picture from the Lascaux artwork.
Your favorite time of the week at the office?
I have to thank Philippe, Sarah and Étienne for this one. No matter the time of the week, my favorite time is when a creative conversation starts and, for a moment, a small window opens on the vast world of possibilities… Even if these ideas don’t necessarily end up in the game. I just love creative exploration!
Your favorite hobby?
For the last 15 years: watching religiously every season of Survivor. It’s such a great lab in terms of game design and human behaviours!
Who had the most influence on you professionally?
Patrice Désilets, without a doubt. He’s my total opposite: he’s the embodiment of raw emotions and unfiltered thoughts while I am pragmatic and rational. Working with him brings me to surpass myself and give the best of me without overthinking everything.
The best tip you were ever given?
“Shut up“ – Alain Bérubé, Editing Professor, ATM, Jonquière