Beautifun Games

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The BeautiFun Team Stories - Lourdes Nicolich - Artist - Part I/II


This week we start our interview to Lourdes Nicolich, artist and co-founder of our studio. In this first part you will know more about her gaming background. Her life with games is really intense and she also has a great memory, so be prepared for an amazing travel back in time!

Lourdes: Almost could say I literally was born surrounded by video games. My parents loved them since the very beginning, even before they married they were absolutely fascinated with the first arcade machines. So before I was born they already had played Pong and Space Invaders arcades, then bought a Coleco-Vision! 

As I was growing up I found out they had bought an Amiga and an arcade cabinet. My father installed some kind of connectors on it that allowed me to play Amiga games like if it was an arcade. I remember it was on that Amiga computer and with those arcade joysticks where I beated the first Prince of Persia!


We also had an MSX that worked with a cassette tape. Each game we wanted to play on it took a really long time to load! Many times the game would hang during the process, so my father, with  infinite patience, had to use a screwdriver to try to re-adjust the cassette and plug it again. 

Something curious I strongly remember is each and every title screen from each of the games we played at the time. Since I was a small kid, I unconsciously received the influence of my mother's passion for crafts and drawing. Always got  astonished looking at those pixel art screens, they made my imagination ran free! One of the most memorable title screens for me was the one from Mad Mix Game, a Spanish game inspired by Pac Man. In that cover it seemed like the character was getting its own life and he wanted to jump out of the screen. 

Another games I fondly hark back to are:
  • Mickey's Runaway Zoo, an educational game I played while riding a train.

  • Rodland, a beat'em up I played along with my sister. Remember we crafted really cool cooperative strategies to kill all the enemies around, and we finally beated the game, it was quite hard, especially because we couldn't save our progress and, once we died, we had to restart everything again from the very beginning.  

  • Cannot forget to mention Silk Worm, a side-scroller shooter starred by a heavy armed Jeep and a helicopter were my mother and I spent countless hours playing co-op mode, obsessed with the idea of getting further and futher without being killed.

  • I was fascinated with Flashback, especially watching its introductory sequences. It was awe-inspiring to see how with so few polygons the game could transmit you a lot of feelings. 


Jesús: So your family was a key factor in your gaming life. Could you explain a bit more about your gaming habits with them? 

L: Yes, I used to play a lot with my parents back then, and I still do it nowadays when I visit them. My father was the one who started this hobby for video games and then my mother got really passionated too. My father loves pinball games and also plays FIFA from now and then. Lately he is pouring many hours into GTA Online with my sister and her boyfriend when they all come out of work. My mother loves platformers like Mario, puzzle games, and adventure titles like Zelda.

J: I see you love Mario games, I would like to know your opinion about how well Mario has aged since the first game came out.

L: I think they have kept the essence of what makes Mario an excellent platformer. And at the same time they have innovated in their playability. For example Mario Galaxy produced me a really exciting vertigo feeling. I also enjoy a lot when we play four people at the same time in any of the last Mario games (New Super Mario Bros Wii and the likes). 

J: Here I asked Lourdes if she had tried that Nintendo Land mini-game called Luigi's Ghost Mansion with her family and friends. I had played it and really think it was bringing something new to the typical multiplayer gaming experience with the usage of the Wii U GamePad controller. 


L: That kind of gameplay is not so innovative, it looks really similar to what had been implemented for Pac-Man Vs., a mini-game launched in 2003 that was included as part of Namco's R: Racing Evolution. Three players were controlling ghosts, that could only view a limited part of the map, and the fourth player was Pac-Man, that was controlled using the Game Boy Advance handheld. Pac-Man's goal is the classic one, to eat all the pills and also defeat ghosts on its way before he could be captured. 


So there was a clear similarity between both games, and that's not something that should surprise us, since the game designer was nothing less than Shigeru Miyamoto himself!

JI see you mainly played consoles during the last 20 years, can you tell me about the story of the different consoles you had?

L: Yes, the Amiga, as happened with all the other 16 bit computers, was  dethroned by the PCs and my father was looking for the next big thing to give us for Christmas, it had to be something we could all play in the living room. He researched a bit and finally bought a Super Nintendo, he liked the graphics and the kind of games it offered at the time (1992).

Then we started renting Super Nintendo games, one each week, on a constant basis. So we easily ended making a great friendship with the owners of our closest video club, a couple around the same age of my parents that didn't take too long in adding us to their VIP clients list. That privilege allowed one day to be one of the first to try Donkey Kong Country, a game that my father was curious about after reading some magazine reports. He sent me to rent the game and as soon as I came back home I started playing, and couldn't stop! My father came back from work and when he saw the game he was astonished, petrified. He saw the whole evolution of videogames, and he couldn't believe that the Super Nintendo was able to handle those character animations, beautiful and detailed scenarios, that music, the smooth and responsive control... that was an instant buy for him (and me too).
Another really curious anecdote happened the day my father connected the console to our Hi-Fi system and started recording the game music. He asked me to play some games without being killed (so we had no FX in the audio), so he could record the music of each level to listen to it at anytime. We loved to listening to that music during travels or simply at home. That also created a great culture of listening to game scores in all the family. For example, recently I enjoyed very much the Castlevania: Lords of Shadows soundtrack. 


As my father started collecting computers and consoles at a very young age, I was really lucky to be able to play pretty most of the systems available. We didn't buy all the consoles at launch, only the ones we really loved. We have been adquiring most of consoles followed by the one that offered the best games and stories. Since we got a Super Nintendo we were big fans of most of Nintendo titles, but also appreciate SEGA systems, games like Sonic or Ecco the Dolphin justify the purchase of a Megadrive or a Dreamcast. 

J: Can you mention some games from the 90s that left you a strong mark?

L: From Nintendo 64 era I adore The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the story, the world, the depth in the gameplay, that beautiful music, it got me hooked. The game was full of surprises and mysteries, the hidden magic caves, the fairies... Was fascinated with the owl that magically teleported you to other areas of the game, Zora and the whale, the part when you meet Epona, the game is full of memorable details that really make up a superb experience.


Tomb Raider is another saga that I won't forget. I loved how Lara was depicted in the game, she was a mixture between an explorer and a warrior, and the game had also some sci-fi / mystic elements that fascinated me. Totally loved the challenges and puzzle resolutions Tomb Raider games always presented. 

J: And during the last decade, which games have been the most significative for you?

L: I have been impressed by a few games to say the truth. First one would be Bioshock, where I loved that discovery feeling of exploring strange old worlds, the powers of plasmids was kind of magic and fascinating, a story that unraveled progressively. I was a bit afraid during the last part of the game, but my sister took control and she beated the game while I was watching and encouraging her. Something similar happened with the first Dead Space, but I also loved it!


Also, I cannot forget to mention the last two Rayman titles. Now I'm playing them both, when I get tired of Rayman Origins on the Wii I alternate with Rayman Legends on the PS3. The previous Rayman games (Rayman 1, 2 and 3, etc) were more adventure-oriented around a story (something like Zelda), and the last ones are more focused on pure old-school platformers, quite challenging and filled with tons of crazy fun!

J: As a player, how do you see the evolution of videogames and the state of the industry nowadays?

L: I have to admit I'm tired of those AAA games that aim to imitate films, to be more and more realistic while repeating the old gameplay formulas we all know.
But we still have some classic sagas like Mario, Rayman or Donkey Kong that, while keeping the same characters and mechanics, they are somehow fresh and still have the original high quality production values that made them so successful.


Now with us, the indies, things are really more diverse. Recently Jordi recommended me to play Deponia, Aniol told me about how cool Fez was. So I have to try them out! I'm used to play together with friends and family in the living room, so PC gaming is a bit of a problem for me. But somehow I will connect the PC to my TV, plug a controller and dedicate a good time to dive into the vast indie game catalog available.

Continues in Part II.

You can get in touch with Lourdes on Twitter, she is @llEvadne

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