Interview with Ankama Studios
The CMP Game Group (producer of Game Developer magazine, Gamasutra.com, and the Game Developers Conference) established the Independent Games Festival in 1998 to encourage innovation in game development and to recognize the best independent game developers. They saw how the Sundance Film Festival benefited the independent film community, and wanted to create a similar event for independent game developers as well as the student population of game developers.
Oli Wilkinson speaks to Thomas Bahon of French independent game developers Ankama Studios about their IGF competition finalist game, DOFUS. Nominated for two awards, Innovation in Visual Art and the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, it's inspiring to see a small team developing a game of such a challenging genre, the MMORPG.
Hi, for the benefit of our audience can you please introduce yourself and describe your role in Ankama Studios?
DOFUS is a finalist in two categories this year - including the grand prize - how do you guys feel about that?
Is this your first game to be entered in the IGF competition?
what made your team enter the competition this year?
Tell me a little bit about DOFUS, what exactly is a DOFUS?
What sets DOFUS apart from the other MMORPG games out there?
What is your main target demographic with DOFUS?
Your turn-based combat system is pretty fun, how did you decide on that particular method of combat in the game?
The turn-based system really brings an element of tactics into the game, was this intentional?
How long, roughly, has DOFUS been in development?
Being an independent studio, did you ever have technical, community or other problems that made you think DOFUS would never see the light of day?
One of your finalist categories is Innovation in Visual Art; when I first played DOFUS it stood out as having a wonderfully cute and quirky, graphical style. It's often more like watching an interactive cartoon than playing a game! How did you develop your style? Were your team influenced by any particular cartoons/comics when developing the graphics for DOFUS?
Has DOFUS always looked the way it does now, or has it changed over the development cycle?
At times, the graphics remind me of the classic Dragon's Lair series of games - was this intentional? :)
One thing that strikes me about DOFUS is that the client is entirely coded in Flash; for a MMORPG game this is pretty innovative, why did you decide to use Flash?
Does Flash have any specific features that you just could not live without? What makes Flash a good tool for you to use over, say, C++ or another language?
Were there any specific limitations to Flash that you had to overcome to get DOFUS up and running?
When playing DOFUS I noticed that the world is literally alive - with many players running about, selling items, fighting monsters (and each other!) and going on quests - has the DOFUS world always been this busy? What was your principle method of getting people to join in and play your game?
How many regular players do you currently have? How long did it take to reach this number?
When running around the DOFUS world you notice that there's a variety of languages being spoken, are your players largely from an international audience?
DOFUS is largely bilingual (French/English) have you faced any problems with maintaining these two distinct versions?
What would you say that the biggest challenge was in creating DOFUS?
What has been your best experience about creating DOFUS?
Finally, do you have any advice for independent developers who'd wish to tackle making a MMORPG game of their own?
Do you have any final comments you'd wish to add?
Thank you for your time Thomas and good luck in the IGF finals!
An overview of DOFUS
DOFUS is a cartoon-style tactical MMORPG. It has been in development for over 3 years and has over 30,000 regular players. It features a wonderful graphical style that matches the game well. DOFUS is up for two awards at this year's IGF finals; the Innovation in Visual Art category and the Seumas McNally Grand Prize. DOFUS is available now, from http://www.dofus.com
Interview conducted by Oli Wilkinson