Interview of Alain Saffray

Q : Could you tell us a bit about yourself ?

My name is Alain Saffray, I am 28 and I live in Nogent, near Paris. My first computer was a Sinclair ZX-81 (that I bought in kit at that time) and I had many different computers while I was studying. I spent a lot of time on my Atari ST, making demos with some friends and then worked in administrative computing after my studies, which as you can guess, was not really fascinating. Then I crossed the line and found and exciting job as I joined a game development studio.

Q : How long have you been working for Nevrax and on the Ryzom project ?

I've been working on Ryzom for 2 years and a half. I was not really happy in the company I was in, but I did not want to leave for a new studio. That was before I met the people of Nevrax. First, I was really impressed by the internal organization of Nevrax. But what made me think I had to work on Ryzom were the two hours during which David Cohen took me on a wonderful trip arounf the world of Atys. I was really enthralled by the scale of the project, its ambition, and the challenge it represents. Also, seeing that the boss of the company was really involved in the project convinced me that great stuff could be done.

Q : What does your job consist in exactly ?

I¡¦m the lead game developer, which means I manage a team of coders who turn the gamedesign into working software elements. Of course, we have to work with all the other teams, be it for the NeL library (3D engine, network...) or the artistic aspects (animations, objects, sounds...). One person in my team is in charge of the client programming and all others are working on the gameplay services (i.e. the software that administrates all the game systems). My team does not handle the A.I. and other technical services like client communication or collisions. Almost everything created for Ryzom eventually comes by us so that we can turn all elements into a a credible virtual world. And it¡¦s a tough job ! To sum it up, we are the place where technical stuff, ideas and art are merged together. A colleague used to say we are creating dreams, this is pretty true ƒº.

Q : What's your typical day like ?

I usually wake at 8.30 and already start thinking about the current difficulties. I start working at about 10am and I check the work load of the day. I give the current task to my team and I spend a lot of time answering different questions about specific game systems. At noon, we have our daily meeting with all the leads to point out the current obstacles. Daniel Miller (our technical director) gives the goals of the week, for the development and the company as a whole.

During lunch break, I play Battlefield 1942 and then go back to work with game systems coding, team management, questions and meetings. This usually ends between 8 to 11pm depending on the work load. When I get back home, I check the fan sites and go to sleep at 2am.

Q : What are you working on right now ?

We are currently working on the few things missing before we can launch the beta. This includes the mission system, some combat tuning and the first careers to be available. I personnally worked on the resources settings to see how the Kamis will react to those impudent characters who dare to steal the life of Atys... I am also working on a new merchant and price system and I am tuning the progression system following the alpha test reports.

Q : What kind of problems do you usually come across ?

As you can guess, for this kind of development, there are a lot of potential obstacles. That said, the team at Nevrax as all the proficiency to handle them, so the real difficulty is the schedule.

Q : What is your best memory about the developement of Ryzom ?

That's a hard one. Each stage of development had its own great time. Was the first one when I discovered the Fyros city ? Or the first time I saw the magic system working ? In fact, there are many great memories : the first step of the 3d engine, new game systems, new ecosystems integrated... Each time we were all flocked in front of the screen with that ¡§wow¡¨ look on our faces.

Q : The worst one ?

Each time the project has been endangered by external issues. Hopefully, a lot of people believe in us and in our vision of the game.

Q : Anything you would like to add ?

The Saga of Ryzom seemed amazing to me even the first time I heard of it, and I still feel the same way. As a former Everquest player, I think Ryzom is one of the rare announced projects that will truly bring something new to the genre, be it in terms of universe or of gameplay. So I will add only one thing, I really long for the release of Ryzom :-)