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The history of No Cliché and its original Dreamcast games, from Toy Commander to Agartha... not forgetting Toy Racer !

No Cliché was a development studio created in 1997 by Sega, and supervised by Frédérick Raynal. The small French company was composed of most of the former members who worked on one of the very first survival-horror made in 1992: Alone in the Dark. The company was based in Lyon (74, rue Maurice Flandin69003) and employed 22 people: graphic designers, programmers, game designers, musician, etc. They all shared the same passion: designing video games!

No Cliché's adventure with Sega lasted 4 years, during which they created the studio's most emblematic game: Toy Commander. Other titles followed, such as Toy Racer, Quake 3 Arena (coding only) and Agartha, which was cancelled.

Following Sega's abandonment as a console manufacturer, the company will cease operations in 2001.

The history of No Cliché

In 1992 the game Alone in the Dark was released by Infogrames. It is considered today as the precursor of survival-horror. The game created by Frédérick and a team of 7 people allowed its author to become known to the general public and to make a name for himself internationally.

In 1993, several disagreements with Infogrames and Frédérick Raynal forced the designer to leave the French publisher, accompanied by Didier Chanfray (quotes in italics on this page), and to found their own development company called Adeline Software. From this new entity, Little Big Adventure was born in less than 2 years, selling 500,000 copies (first edition). It was such a success that a second episode was immediately started. In the meantime, Time Commando was released on PS1 and PC. The year Little Big Adventure 2 was released (800,000 units sold) marked an important step in what would become the future No Cliché.

No Cliché studio logo

No Cliché at the 24 hours of Kart. They will beat those of the Eden studio.  Frédérick Raynal's daughter was born the next day.

Sega had a roadmap, the management was striving to own European studios. The goal was to cater to all continents by offering players the style of game that best suited them. Japanese games tended not to sell well outside Japan (cultural differences). The manufacturer had signed up several large studios across the globe to enrich its future catalogue of titles to be released on Dreamcast.

«Sega was a great experience. I learned a lot, especially from the game designers. We had been to Japan a few times, we talked to other designers like Sega Rally, Sonic, Jet Set Radio, super humble guys. We had a good relationship.»

Team No Cliché Frédérick Raynal

Sega's takeover of the studio was by chance. Every year, the Japanese company used to visit the members of Adeline Software. The company with the blue hedgehog was investigating to find external developers (Third Party) in order to program games on a new console, the Katana, which will become the Dreamcast. As in 1997 Delphine Groupe had decided to sell Adeline Software, Frédérick Raynal took the opportunity to point this out.

«It was the first time we were with a manufacturer. I had been with a publisher, Infogrames, and then we were independent. It's another way of approaching production. There are no longer any financial problems, we were free of that!»

Photo by the No Cliché team from the old website

photo.jpg

The No Cliché team in photo (Time Commando era)

When No Cliché was for sale, Sega, but also Nintendo (Shigeru Miyamoto had liked LBA a lot) were in the running. The choice was between Sonic and Mario. Sega was chosen, because the characteristics of the future Dreamcast were impressive.

Sega had not really acquired Adeline Software. Licences like Little Big Adventure or Time Commando were not included in the buyout package. They only took over the contracts, the staff in a way. It was an opportunity for the Lyon team to work for the first time with a console manufacturer.

Didier Quentin (Senior Game Designer for Agartha)«We all knew each other very well, since No Cliché was built on a large part of the Adeline Software team. I remember that, very often, we celebrated birthdays in the studio, in the evening, after working hours. I think the studio carpet remembers that!»

The bond between them made it possible to understand what each individual could bring to each of the No Cliché projects. They relied on the creativity of all the members of the development studio and everyone contributed to the daily running of the studio. This was a big part of a pleasant working atmosphere where everyone was aware that their skills were helping the projects they were assigned to.

Contrary to the name Adeline which had been imposed on them, this time they had the possibility to decide on the future name of the company and design the new logo of the development studio. They wanted something simple with French sounds, but also with English sounds. No Cliché was the perfect choice!

For the first collaboration with No Cliché, Sega wanted a multiplayer game with a target audience of 14 year old boys (teenagers). Agartha wasn't going to be for the moment, as the Japanese company didn't want an adventure game as the first software with the French team. Frédérick will still have to wait to make his baby!

«This was the only constraint given Sega's marketing and editorial position at the time.»

No Cliché Team.jpg

Structure of Sega France, with telephone number of the studio

Sega France Document No Cliché.jpg

Sega trusted them and, although they obviously had a studio-publisher relationship, they did a lot of work before showing them the progress they made on the games . Of course, Sega would sometimes be surprised by a direction they were taking or would want to control their creativity to make sure they had a game that could meet a large audience, but this was not something they felt on a daily basis. On the contrary, they felt free but knew that sometimes they had to defend their choices, which was quite normal.

And so the Toy Commander adventure began!

The Toy Commander adventure

Toy Commander, initially known under the working title "The Gutherman Project", had been in the works since the first versions of the Dreamcast development kits, PC graphics cards commonly known as SET 2, appeared. The trade press first mentioned the title on September 30, 1998 with a mysterious photo.

Mockup of Toy Commander menus with its code name

 Gutherman Project Dreamcast sketche
artwork  Gutherman Project
Mockup Toy Commander

First test of the Toy Commander title screen

Toy Commander early main title

First test of a Toy Commander menu in connection with the Mockups above

Early Main Menu Toy Commander

Cutscene (Bumper), first test in connection with the Mockup above

Bumper Toy Commander Test

I can't find an equivalent for this first test!

conceptual material Toy commander

The kind of photo that is a pleasure to see, hoping that the CD-Rs are not rotten!

Toy Commander and Toy Racer Bakcup.jpg

«Very quickly the idea of a little boy who dreamed of being a pilot came up, Gutherman may be the name of a famous aeroplane pilot, I don't really remember.»

No Cliché always used code names for its projects, Toy Commander came much later by careful choice of the marketing department. It was on May 12, 1999 that the final name of the Gutherman project was revealed, during the list of games presented at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) on the Sega booth.

At that time, the exact specifications of the console were not known. The Dreamcast controller did not yet exist, it was still at a conceptual stage. The first developers to work on Sega's latest console initially imagined their games on the model of the Saturn controllers. This was the case for the collective led by Frédérick Raynal.

The controller configuration based on a Saturn 3D pad

Toy Commander conceptual draft
conceptual Toy Commander sketche
Toy Commander sketche

«There was an incredible challenge for the programmers, they liked it. The machines (development kits), at the beginning of the graphics cards, looked like nothing when we got them.»

Every time they received a new version of the development kit, a number of features already developed no longer worked. The programmers would roll up their sleeves and modify the code to make it compatible. Once the frustration was over, they were all amazed at the capabilities of the Dreamcast!

Didier Quentin :«Really, the Dreamcast was exceptional and should have had a much better fate.»

It was on his way home on the evening of the meeting with Sega to finalise the contract between the development studio and the console manufacturer that the story of toys flying around in a house was born in Didier Chanfray's imagination. Sneaking into his son's bedroom in his pyjamas, then aged 3 or 4, a slipper in one hand and a Lego in the other, he started bombing a Kapla block tower that his child had carefully erected before it collapsed. As you can imagine, the boy started to cry, what emotions!

«I like the angles in a hou