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Profile on DanLabGames
December 8, 2004 | D.G. Chichester
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In a design studio in Longuyon, a small French town near Belgium and Luxembourg, two icons of popular culture bear witness to mod characters in groovy buggies racing across a vibrant 3D terrain on a large LCD monitor. To one side of the display, a poster of Patrick McGoohan as “The Prisoner,” enigmatic protagonist of the cult-classic sixties TV show, best known for declaring, “I am not a number, I am a free man!” To the other side, a poster of Wile E. Coyote, star customer of the Acme Corporation, best known for self-inflicted disaster in pursuit of a fleet-footed desert bird.

And striking a balance between the two is Dan Labriet, the creative force behind the zooming buggies, vehicles in a new game still under development. “The Coyote is all my life,” explains Dan. “Always trying and falling into the canyon, always trusting what Acme says about their products. ‘The Prisoner’ is my way of thinking.”

If by that Dan means independent — absolutely. It’s the hallmark of the digital entertainment company that borrows parts of his name: DanLab Games. Marked by an evolving graphical style that is colorful, bright and engaging, this growing shareware library of puzzlers, strategy challenges and action titles includes something for many tastes.

There’s the frenetic action of Jailbreak, an alien themed platform adventure, and the considered strategy of Owari, a 3D rendered bead game in the style of the board game classic Mancala. Mahjong Solitarus sucks down free time with its version of the tile-matching diversion, featuring a layout editor for endless gameplay variation. Froggy’s Song delivers musical memory play, while Argonaut unleashes a barrage of outer space obstacles in an update to the “Asteroids” theme. Islands Mini-Golf provides 54 holes of 3D putting across a series of fanciful, tropical paradise locales. It’s the most popular of the company’s games — and proved something of a breakout title when it was showcased prominently by Apple Computer.

“The Apple gaming team has helped me a lot,” explains Dan, “by featuring my games on top of their game downloads page, and by featuring the Islands Mini-Golf trailer on their Web site. I didn't ask for their help, though. They just seem to enjoy the kind of games I make.”

DanLabGames currently offers 11 games at its site, www.danlabgames.com, plus an Egyptian-themed add-on for Islands Mini-Golf. All are reasonably priced, between $10 and $25, with a Mega-Pack option bundling five titles at a 30% discount. $10 will net you a sampler CD with all the games in demo mode — you’d still need to purchase a full license for a particular game to unlock all its features and levels. (But once you’re “in,” updates are free.)

Early Pixel Pushing
It’s a nice little business — and all the more impressive considering Dan only got serious about making “real games” about 2 years ago. “I spent 4 years in a design/advertising school,” relates Dan, “where I learned a lot of drawing techniques. After getting my degree, I worked for several advertising agencies, but they were not my place to be. After some bad adventures with silly bosses, I decided to work for myself, so I created DanLabG, my design studio. It was a big decision to start a business and do what I know best, making games and doing graphics like ads and Web sites.”

Creating with the keyboard seems to come naturally to Dan — he’s been coding since he was just 11. “My father bought me a VG5000 computer,” Dan recalls, “a model that became obsolete right after its release. It had bad graphics support and was really slow. I made some silly game with Microsoft Basic, but the computer was really limited: 1 MHz CPU and 24/16 KB RAM.

“Later, I bought a Commodore Amiga 500+ with a lot of memory — a whole megabyte of RAM. Then I started making real games like Cross Country and Amiwalé.” (Disk images of both of these early creations can be found at http://www.back2roots.org/Games/Find/Daniel%Labriet@2C1/, and should work on the Mac with an Amiga Emulator like UAE.)



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