Benoit Sokal Interview Up

Matt Barton's picture

Philip has just posted our interview with Benoit Sokal, designer of the highly acclaimed Syberia games and a half dozen more recent titles. It's well worth reading for anyone interested in GAG development or the state of the genre. I thought Seb might also be interested in this guy because of his background in comics and art. Here's a little snippet concerning the future of adventure games:

I see two directions for ‘story telling in video games,’ if this is a definition that could fit with the word ‘adventure.’ One is the Internet, with probably episodic content. The other one is ‘high budget’ productions on console.

Enjoy, and let us hear YOUR opinion on these issues!

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Seb
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Hope?

It's a shame that there isn't much of a market for PC adventure games anymore. Syberia was developed in Montreal by a small studio, Microïds. In the end, they were bought out by Ubisoft. The 50 or so employees left were scattered on different teams. I wonder if the iPhone will rekindle an interest in adventure games? Hotel Dusk: Room 215 & the Phoenix Wright series were popular on the DS... so there is people interested out there. Maybe the future of adventure games is on handhelds?

Matt Barton
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My take on this is that

My take on this is that there is nothing wrong with the adventure game dev being what it is. Let the small time people do it; they have love for it and will do a much better job than some big company trying to make a cash in. All the big companies offer anyway is better graphics, cut scenes, etc., and most adventure games don't really need these as long as they have good stories and puzzles. Sure, you could have Day of the Tentacle with Crysis-level graphics, but who cares?

The only major downside to the foreign companies doing these games is that the translations tend to suck REALLY badly. Stuff that might be really funny in Italy just doesn't work in the US.

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Seb
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Graphics?

These type of games are very labor intensive, and it's been my experience that unless there's some kind of financial reward for all that hard work, people tend to lose interest very quickly. It's difficult to keep a team motivated for such a long period of time, especially for any projects that fall under the "hobby" category. Who's going to work 10-12 hours a day for a year, unless it's your job? This being said, I'm confident that there's a future for adventure games. Unlike the hardcore gamers, the casual crowd isn't allergic to puzzle based entertainment. Who could have imagined that titles like "Brain Age" or "Professor Layton" would have had so much success? Adventure games are such a natural fit for handheld devices. It's the perfect way to kill time during long commute.
As for graphics, I believe they're as important as story and puzzles. We're a visual oriented culture, and unless you have high production value people just won't care. I'm not necessarily talking "Crysis" ultra-realistic graphics, but visuals that fit well with the subject matter of your game. Day of Tentacle beautifully stylized backgrounds still impress me more than most games i see on the shelves nowadays, including Crysis.

Matt Barton
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I think we actually agree on

I think we actually agree on all points, Seb, so I'm thinking I just wasn't clear. I'm not saying that people should do this just as a hobby. I'm saying that there is a small market for it compared to the big stuff, but I'm sure there are enough people interested in these games to pay people. Do people working on the latest Halo game necessarily make more money (higher salaries) than the programmers working at smaller outfits? My guess is that it probably doesn't make that much of a difference to them pay wise; there just wouldn't be so many programmers so the game would take longer or be smaller in scale.

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Seb
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Original ideas

People who work on Halo probably make more money than programmers working at smaller companies. My guess is they get performance and sales-based bonuses on top of their salary. That's fairly standard in the industry. Unfortunately, big budget games usually translate into a more conservative creative approach. Nobody wants to be the one responsible for killing the golden goose.
There's more creative freedom with smaller developers, but budget and technology are often lacking. You can sneak in more original ideas, but you don't have much time to implement them well.
Of course, there's always the reality that most of the gamers out there aren't interested in games as an art form, and are perfectly happy to be playing a slightly graphically superior version of last year's hit. That's the sad part.

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