QUANTIC DREAM & ME – INTERVIEW WITH JULIEN, LEAD TOOLS
Quantic Dream is a French video game studio that brings together employees with different profiles and from different backgrounds, both geographically and professionally. In this third entry of a series of blogs, dedicated to introducing Quantic Dream employees, meet Julien, Lead Tools.
Quantic Dream: Please introduce yourself! What’s your name, where are you from, and what is your role at QD?
Julien: My name is Julien Braconnier. I was born in the Dominican Republic, where I spent the first 5 years of my life. After a brief return to France, I went to live abroad again for 6 years, only this time in the United Arab Emirates. I then came back to France and settled down in the Arcachon Bay area, for my last school years. After that, I spent about ten years going back and forth between Andernos-les-Bains and Bordeaux, before leaving for Paris in 2014, where my girlfriend was already living. That’s when I joined Quantic Dream as a Data/Tools developer. I am now in charge of managing the team as Lead Tools.
Quantic Dream: How did you come to work in the video games industry? Was it a lifelong dream, or did you luckily stumble into it?
Julien: I’ve been passionate about the world of video games since the early 90s, and I think that’s what strongly encouraged me to study computer science. When I started my professional life in the early 2000s, the gaming industry was unfortunately in a bit of a crisis. So I went for software publishing and then moved to web analytics. It was only because my girlfriend lived in Paris and I was offered an opportunity to join Quantic Dream that I took the plunge, at last! And so working for the company that created the famous Nomad Soul, a game I had discovered back when I was in college, became a life goal.
Quantic Dream: Let’s talk about your job at Quantic Dream! Could you elaborate more on your role, and the role of your team?
Julien: Unlike most other studios, Quantic Dream chooses to develop its engine and tools in-house, trying to limit the use of third party software as much as possible. This allows us greater flexibility in terms of what we need to address to make the games we want to make.
The Tools Team is therefore in charge of the development of all the tools used for the design of our games. It goes from a scriptwriting tool, Feather, to Buildozer, a Visual Scripting tool, that is to say schematically boxes that are connected to each other, and that will literally form the game itself. PopCorn is another one, dedicated to the editing of the cinematics and scenes that take place outside of the gameplay sequences. To put it simply, it looks like a regular video editing tool. Then, there are also other tools that allow us to set up our Motion Kits – the animations of characters – to adjust the behavior of the cameras during the interactive scenes, or to modify the tones, once the rendering is finished. We really do everything from A to Z, to keep control over the entire production process.
The team also deals with other tools designed to make things easier for the developers in the Research and Development department, or the management of servers allowing, among other things, the automatic and regular construction of each new version of the games we produce.
My role is therefore to help the members of my team, on the one hand by participating in ongoing developments, and on the other hand by ensuring the coherence of the developments, carried out in relation to the needs of the other teams.
Quantic Dream : Tell us more about the members of your team. Any fun story to share?
Julien: The Tools team is made up of seven members with a wide variety of profiles. We do have a strong cohesion in our quest to create the best possible tools, though. During coffee or lunch breaks, we love to share our opinions on a wide variety of subjects, always very important: for example, determining whether the end of Game of Thrones makes sense or not? Who will be the next to be kicked off the Top Chef show? Knowing whether you can consider that you’ve really experienced a game from the moment you’ve watched someone play it on Twitch? Such powerful existential questions, as you can tell!
Quantic Dream: Can you describe a typical day for you? Does a typical day even exist?
Julien: Well, like a lot of people, I don’t think I have a typical day. But to sum up, my time is generally divided between several types of tasks, with development of course, but also coaching and communication, both inside and outside the team. In my humble opinion, one of the main assets of a Tools developer is his interest in the user experience. We must make the use of our software as pleasant and intuitive as possible. There is no better way to do this than to maintain a constant dialogue between the team and the users. It is my responsibility to keep this dialogue open and fluid, no matter what.
Quantic Dream: What are your external inspirations that are reflected in your job?
Julien: Again, one of my main inspirations comes from the users themselves. It is only by using the tools we produce that it is possible to have aobjective feedback on their qualities and defects. Who, indeed, could be in a better position than our teams to express this? Apart from Quantic Dream, the keynotes of other studios during dedicated events, such as Game Developers Conference, are very enriching sources of inspiration. And we too hope one day to be able to share with the whole world our own experience.
Quantic Dream: Be careful, BIG question… What are your favourite games?
Julien: Big question, indeed! The very first games I truly fell in love with were Cryo Interactive’s “Dune” and the very first “Monkey Island.” Even though they are two very different worlds, both games captivated me with their amazing narration. At a time when all my other games consisted mainly of old-fashioned platformers, like the early Mario on Super NES and MJ’s Moonwalker on Megadrive, I was sold on these new kind of deep experiences! Now, recently, Quantic Dream games aside, I had this incredible feeling of touching an exceptional work of art again while playing “The Last of Us,” which by the way I just finished for the third time, just to be in the right mindset before starting the second episode!
Quantic Dream: Tell us more about your hobbies outside of work.
Julien: When I’m not at work, I like to share moments with some of my colleagues to play some sports, such as climbing, badminton or squash. And when I’m home, I often spend my evenings catching up on series I like. Right now, we’re on Peaky Blinders season 4 – yeah, I know, I’m not up to date on that one – and frankly, to put it in one word: wow!!! Otherwise, as soon as we can, my wife and I take the opportunity to go to the movies. Of course, as a fan of novels and games, I’m dying to see the new adaptation of Dune! And finally, I love the art of photography, which I try to practice as a more or less enlightened amateur. For the curious, I share my pictures on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/braconnier.julien/.
Quantic Dream: All right! What does your perfect Friday night look like?
Julien: Even though I’m not against going out with friends on Friday night, I usually wait until Saturday. It allows me to spend my Friday night relaxing with my wife and our daughter. With that said, what is our perfect Friday evening? Introducing our daughter to a beloved animated movie, let’s say a Disney movie, like The Lion King or The Princess and the Frog, for example.
Quantic Dream: Do you have a message for our readers?
Julien: It’s never too late to pursue your dreams! If you have something that is important to you, no matter how old you are, don’t be discouraged and give yourself the means to achieve your goal. Be curious, be open, share your ideas; I truly believe that there is nothing more important than communication to learn and move forward.
Quantic Dream: Final question! Chocolate cake or Fruit pie?
Julien: If I really had to have only those two choices, I would say strawberry pie. That said, my favourite dessert remains the family recipe inherited from my grandmother, on my father’s side: the Broyé du Poitou. We each have a slightly different way of preparing it, in my family, but we always enjoy eating it, no matter who’s cooking!
Pictures by Alexandre Bremard