Continuing Gamasutra’s ‘Road to the IGF’ feature, which profiles and interviews Independent Games Festival 2007 entrants, today’s interview is with Benoit Brabant of St Diffusions, developer of SimTractor.
Brabant is a young French developer who grew up on his family’s farm, where he says he spent his free time either on tractors or computers.
Inspired by a love of flight simulators, technical drawing and farming, Brabant started work on SimTractor back in 2000, and has worked on the title in his spare time since then. In the time following the game’s initial release as shareware, an impressively large community has developed, something Brabant notes is helping him “improve the simulation”. Of the game itself, he comments:
“SimTractor simulates farming operations with fields, featuring varied terrain and weather conditions. Add to this over several of the worlds most exciting farm machines, accurately modelled in every detail, combines, sprayer, loader and tractors. SimTractoris the first complete motor farm game available and the most immersive driving experience possible.”
Gamasutra caught up with Brabant via email to discuss the game.
What is your background in the games industry?
My background is more 3D technical drawing (with software like AutoCAD) than 3D design. Since I’m young, I love the Technic Lego, and my favourite tool is now Virtools. I also like machinery design.
When was St Diffusions formed?
Officially, in July 2006.
What inspired the game, and why did you decide to make it?
I grew up on my family farm, and my cousins and I had good days each time our parents received a new tractor from a machinery dealer, because the tractors were always bigger and bigger with more technology. And now, these vehicles are just like video games with throttles and wheels, and farmers can harvest like in a video game; that's a pleasure to work.
What were your expectations from your game, and do you feel the end product lives up to those expectations?
I just wanted to make the dream of young farmers and machinery fans. There are a lot of things still to do with SimTractor; I think there is no end. SimTractor could offer new features like new crops and others amazing vehicles as add-ons.
What do you think the most interesting thing about your game is?
The vehicles precision and the crop precision. I tried to reproduce each vehicle’s behavior in SimTractor, for example you can turn the Xerion cab, or you can lower and raise your combine header. Also, most of the vehicles' information are displayed on the console cab like the fuel, RPM, gear, just like in reality.
What kind of market do you think is out there for a title like this?
Young farmers, machinery fans, and of course people that would like to live on a farm.
How long did development take?
I began the development first in 2000, but I spent only my spare time to make it.
What was the development process like?
I'm using Virtools DEV and the graphical user interface to develop sophisticated applications (like SimTractor) by visually assembling objects and behaviours. I created some custom behaviors with the SDK to improve the crop management in SimTractor. The Virtools team and their tools helped me a lot to have a final game like SimTractor.
What do you think of the state of independent development, and how do you think independent games fit into the industry?
Perhaps that independent development allows people to make other games to innovate.
Have you checked out any of the other IGF games?
I haven't had the time to check them all, but I’ll try to do it.
Which ones are you particularly impressed with, and why?
Stunt Bike Island looks great – nice character and bike animations.
Which recent indie games do you admire, and which recent mainstream titles do you admire, and why?
Flight Simulator, and all the simulators in general, because they make me dream of things like SimTractor.
Do you have any messages for your fellow contestants or fans of the IGF?