Eric Chahi, the creator of moody landmark adventure game Out of This World (aka Another World), once fought with his publisher, Interplay, via fax machine. Things got so bad at one point he attacked Interplay’s offices with the dreaded “infinite fax”.
Chahi explained what an infinite fax was during his Out of This World post mortem at GDC while delving deeply into the creation of his game. According to Chahi, when Interplay signed on to bring the PC version of Out Of This World to the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, it asked for a few changes. Interplay wanted the game to be longer. Chahi agreed, but wound up making the already difficult adventure game even harder.
Interplay also wanted Chahi to change the game’s music. He refused.
“This lead to a fight by fax,” Chahi said, which ultimately lead to a stalemate. “I decided I’d use a new strategy. This consisted in sending an infinite fax. It’s a long string of paper that is attached to another piece of paper with strips of adhesive tape.” Feeding that into a fax machine, it looped over and over again during an overnight call to Los Angeles, reams of paper being printed on Interplay’s fax machine with the message “Keep the original intro music!”
Interplay relented, but only after Out Of This World’s publisher in France, Delphine Software, intervened.
Chahi recounted other publisher headaches, saying that Out Of This World was almost transformed into a point and click adventure at the request of Virgin Games. “If you want to make it a hit, make it into a point and click,” Chahi was told. “He almost convinced me. But to convert it would have been too huge. So I maintained my direction.”
The developer also battled over the game’s cover art, which Chahi wound up illustrating himself. He recounted the various ways he’d been burned by previous publishers, showcasing the awful cover art for previous games Profanation, Danger Street and Le Sceptre d’Anubis. Those covers got laughs from the crowd.
Chahi also talked about some of his design decisions while developing Out Of This World. When creating the game’s main character, Lester, he used himself as a model reference. But this eventually proved unsettling for Chahi.
“I didn’t want him to look too much like me,” he said, because Lester was often killed by the games’ enemies and its environment. “It was disturbing!” Chahi recalled. He gave Lester bright red hair, in part to distinguish his game’s protagonist from its designer, but also to make Lester stand out against the game’s backgrounds.
He put laser guns in the game, he says, because he “always loved the way they rendered laser beams in Star Wars movies and always wanted to see this in a game.” He also placed a big emphasis on the relationship between Lester and his co-adventurer, his hulking alien friend.
Chahi pointed to the cinematic nature of Out Of This World’s cut scenes, touching on their more subtle cues. His key point was showing a close-up of Lester’s alien ally early. That shot, Chahi said, gave players a look at his companion’s face, establishing him as an important character.
“The real media is a players imagination,” Chahi said. “Seeing it once, he can picture the game universe in his mind.”