Vincent Berlioz is producer at the company Silenn in Paris. They are specialized in porting adventure games onto the DVD-Video format. With this technique, players can play games like Syberia or Return to Mysterious Island on their standalone DVD-Player. Silenn calls this DVD-i format. We have asked Vincent several questions about this:
Adventure-Treff: Could you shortly explain what Silenn actually does?
Vincent Berlioz: Silenn is an “Interactive Video DVDs” Producer. Born in the end of 2005, Silenn has produced 12 titles in collaboration with “Mad Monkey Studio”. Our Production has started with the adaptation of Syberia 1 (3 episodes) , and has go on with the adaptation of 3 other PC adventure games (Egypt III, Return to Mysterious Island, ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern). We have also produced also a Poker Simulation, IQ tests, 3 Language learning method (German, Italian, English) and a French Test Highway code. We are actually producing Syberia 2 (3 more episodes) and 2 more learning language method (French and Spanish)
A.T.: What was the reason for you to produce only interactive Video-DVDs instead of offering general DVD-Video Authoring?
Berlioz: Well for to main reasons: 1. We think there is a whole new market in the area of interactive Video DVD. 2. We come from the video game industry so we both have a good knowledge of complex interactivity and we have the will of sharing our interest in games with as many people as possible. The Video-DVD is a perfect support for that because a lot of people have a DVD player.
A.T.: Most companies working with interactive DVDs decide to port interactive movies or games with a lot of animation and simple gameplay to DVD because they´re easier and shorter to author - like American Lasergames Shot'em Ups or games like Dragon's Lair. Silenn ist the first one to port more complex point`n click interfaces to DVD - like Syberia or Mysterious Island. Why did you focus on porting such games with more complex gameplays?
Berlioz: We love challenges! In fact we wanted to retrieve, in a universal support (DVD-video), the game-play experience of a real adventure game. PC adventure games like Syberia or Return To Mysterious Island have a story with a linear progression. This kind of game play is perfect for interactive DVD-video. We hope that we have succeeded to translate this interactive experience with Syberia, despite the limited DVD-video technology. You can play and enjoy a real adventure game in you sofa with friends or family only with your DVD video player and the remote control!
A.T.: Concerning such games, what do you think is the most difficult part to port to DVD-Video?
Berlioz: DVD-video is a linear technology. You can only put in video sequences and choose what sequence you want to see. The most difficult parts are: 1. to cut the game in several parts (several thousands) and combine it to simulate the interactivity 2. to program the many puzzles and mini-games of adventure games 3. to offer to the player a real inventory with all the possibility.
A.T.: How do you solve save game or inventory issues?
Berlioz: We can’t save any data on a DVD player. When you shut down your DVD player all the memory is erased. So we chose to make checkpoints in the game. When the player reaches a checkpoint, we are sure that he collected certain items, then when you are loading the game from a checkpoint the items are added to the inventory.
A.T.: What programs or utilities do you use to port these games?
Berlioz: We use the source code of the game to generate videos. We use many little programs that we made to make the data up to be authored.
A.T.: How difficult is it, to get the licenses of adventure games to port them to DVD-Video? Do you youself buy them or do the publishers come to you?
Berlioz: We buy ourselves the licences. Long hours of negotiations...
A.T.: If you could decide: What game would you like to bring to interactive DVD?
Berlioz: We have a dream: Myst in DVD game. But the right is too difficult to buy.
A.T.: Most people have a PC nowadays that can play these games - why would one buy a DVD-i game anyway?
Berlioz: The rate of PC equipment is really not the same (around 50% for the PC versus more than 80% for DVD), and the target is not the same. We want to target mainly the casual players and the people who did not play often with their PC or who never played before. The second target is the people who know those PC games and want to share them with their family, child, girlfriend or friends. No installation, no bugs, no virus, no need of Internet. You can play with all the family around your TV.
A.T.: Your games have been published in France, Italy or Great Britain - but not in german territories - why?
Berlioz: Yes, we will even be published in Russia, but not yet in Germany. Well, we tried to publish DVD Games in Germany, but the difficulty is the same everywhere: The traditional PC publishers don’t know how to sell Video and the traditional Video publishers don’t know how to sell interactivity. Except in the UK, in Europe we do not have yet a specific place in the stores for interactive-DVD , like it exists for Music Video-DVD.
A.T.: Do the new specifications of Blu-Ray or HD-DVD bring any advantage for you as interactive designers compared to the old DVD-Standards?
Berlioz: Yes a lot, as well with the Java of Blu-Ray, or with the XML Script of HD-DVD. But of course it will increase compatibility issues, naturally between the 2 formats, but also inside the same format with players which won’t implement the more complex interactivity specifications in the same way... But as soon as there is a mass market and a winner we will be present to produce titles in HD!
A.T.: What's your perspective of the DVD-i market?
Berlioz: They are a real market in UK with a place in stores. In the rest of Europe, it’s growing more slowly than in UK, but its real and we also have ideas to sell interactive DVD in complement with press (Newspapers, magazines). In US, the market starts, and we already have done the adaptation of our titles in NTSC format.