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From Dust: 'PSN and Xbox Live have allowed us to do something creative'

Ubisoft on how the industry's changed for better...

From Dust is one of those weird games where you don't have to shoot anyone in the head.

Instead, what Ubisoft's PSN and XBLA title offers gamers is the chance to play God and manipulate Earth itself, giving a lonely tribe a chance of braving the elements.

By shifting sand, water, magma and more in a world where every material moves according to stunningly realistic physics, players can reorganise the land before them to build dams, rivers, mountains and islands to cater for the little people depending on them.

With this intriguing engine sitting in a game of massive visual quality, From Dust offers gamers the chance to tout their hobby as an art-form once again rather than a shallow kill-frenzy.

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We sat down with creative director Eric Chahi and international product manager Guillaume Cerda to discuss the industry today, how accommodating it is for creative rather than destructive games and the benefits of low budget titles.

How would you describe From Dust? What kind of influences does it have?

Eric Chahi: It's a tricky question because when we present the game we say there is some influence from Populous and Black and White but it's more to give an idea of how close it is to other games. In the beginning we didn't say, "Oh we want to do something like Populous."

During the creation process this wasn't supposed to be a God game, you weren't manipulating the terrain.

How did it work then?

Eric Chahi: The universe was the same except that each person could use powers in some places. But it wasn't fun because it was really laborious to wave at this man and tell him to "Go here, go here."

Beside this we had a sandbox editor, the simulation was already implemented so we could put some soil here, drop a lot of water and see how it flowed and that was so pleasant - to interact directly with a simulation.

So we said, "Okay, to make the game fun maybe we should try to interact directly with the terrain. Not creating matter but just having the constraint of taking what already exists - taking something there and dropping it there."

We tried this and that was very cool, and because the game was already about obstacles you had to remove it was nice to do this directly. We were scared of the change but with all this simulation and erosion it was easy to put it at the same level of difficulty for the player.

From Dust is about creating rather than destroying. How well do you think the industry today fosters creative titles?

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Eric Chahi: Today we have more creativity than some years ago - maybe seven years ago. 2000 to 2003/4 was really a time where there was no independent scene, there were few risks - it was very rare.

But digital distribution, which started on PC then later on the console, was a really, really major step that saw originality coming back.

Guillaume Cerda: Thanks to the downloadable platforms that we have now, there's a way to create some original games such as Limbo etc. So for us it was an opportunity to create something really original and something creative.

Eric Chahi: We think that around 2000 there was no place for small games, there were big games with big prices - a lot of cost and a lot of cost means we want a level of profitability, it was difficult...

Guillaume Cerda: And you can't take risks, it's always the same type of game - a lot of shooting games etc. So if you want to do something original like Eric, we have things now like Xbox Live Arcade or the PlayStation Network.

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