Benoit Hozjan for Kheops Studio

Τρίτη, 09 Αυγούστου 2005, Συντάκτης Fallen Angel

 Benoit Hozjan for Kheops Studio

First of all, Benoit, I would like to thank you, on behalf of the adventure-advocate team and the Greek adventure community, for accepting to do this interview. It's always a great pleasure to get to know better the people who are 'behind' the games we admire.

It's also a pleasure to answer to people interested by what we are doing.

Let us begin with something that we are all wondering about: Kheops Studio's who is who! That is: Who are those guys in Kheops Studio that gave us 3 great games in less than 2 years? Who is creating those marvellous chromatic sceneries? Whose mind is hidden behind those fantastic puzzles? Who visualized this innovating inventory format? Who wrote the music for JttM? Who is taking the final decisions so that the games will reach us as they are?

So, let's start with the birth of our studio. We were few years ago salaries of Cryo Interactive, after the bankruptcy, the company became DreamCatcher Europe and few months later Dreamcatcher has decided to close the internal development studio. It was during the summer of 2003 and then this bad news was the beginning of a new adventure because it was an opportunity to create a new studio. All the members of Kheops Studio were already colleagues at Cryo! Kheops is a quite small studio, with capabilities in Game Design, Design, Art Direction and programming/integration, the graphical production is done with some partners. We have also some external contributions in Game Design. Most elements of our games are proposed by our game designer, then he works with a designer and the art director to illustrate his ideas. All development long, the whole team is involved to propose improvement which is something important to be proud of the result, especially when we are working with small budgets games. Puzzles are proposed by the game designer and some other collaborators, the inventory system was a way to combine many objects with a small graphical budget. Yan Volsy used to create the music of our games "Return to Mysterious Island", "ECHO, Secrets of the Lost Cavern" and "Journey to the Center of the Moon".

Most players -me included- admit that your games managed to completely immerse them in their world. Some of them were fans of this kind of adventuring, others not (mostly those who prefer a rapidly unfolding scenario and stories full of mystery and secrets). However, all of them seem to have become addicted to your games. How do you explain such a deep impact among adventure gamers as the one that your titles have had? Have you (re)discovered the secret of success in adventure games development?

I don't think so, we just know that if we want to continue to live and to create games it's important to make quality games. We have smaller budgets compare to older games on which we have worked at Cryo but it's a challenge. Maybe our games are shorter and with smaller environments, but it was necessary and we knew that it wasn't incompatible with a good game. In fact these constraints help us to push creativity and to find economical solutions. The technical team has also made a great job to optimize our productivity and prepare future evolutions.

So with such a motivated team it's possible to finish 4 games in 2 years.

We would love to ask you a little bit about some of your recent games. Both "Return to Mysterious Island" and "Journey to the Moon", had a very engaging and innovating inventory system, which allowed us to combine various items together and then dismantle them in order to try something else. While on the other hand, "ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern" was standing on the exact opposite side; no items were to be combined within the inventory. How come there is such a great difference regarding this aspect of your games?

It's true and the main reason is the fact that "ECHO" was done with new collaborators in game design. An old colleague came to see us, he has an idea for a game and was looking for a solution to turn his project to reality. The game concept was interesting, it was a good idea to make a game with a prehistorical background and even if it was a classical small inventory system, it's possible to combine objects directly on some working stones in the game. The way frescoes are used as puzzles was also fresh. "ECHO" is closer to "Egypt 3" than RtMI or JCM from this point of view. We will continue to use the RtMI inventory system but we will continue to modify it a little bit. "ECHO" was self-financed by Totem Studio for the game design/Art Direction, Mzone Studio for the graphical production and Kheops Studio for the integration and the coordination. We are working together on another title for early 2006.

It's a fact that all your puzzles are logical and have no demands of using our imagination in a 'too much creative', even twisted by some standards, way. Moreover, you offered, in JttM, a very unique choice to players (for which we must congratulate you!) to select whether they want to explore the environment and obtain little by little the 'master keys' or confront a puzzle right away and 'burn out' their brains. Should we expect such an approach in your future projects as well?

We always try to find intuitive and not too difficult puzzles. We used to propose alternative each time and to let many clues. In RtMI it was already possible to make many actions with 2 different ways ("smart" or "brutal"). Non linearity is an important thing for us, it's far more difficult to create and to test than a linear game but more interesting and it offers a way to play the same game again.

The scoring system is a way quantify if you have done everything or not. The maximal score is not public and it's very funny to see players sharing there experiences and scores on forums.

Your games are depending on, as well as defined by, their puzzles. And for that Kheops Studio has now become a synonym of a Puzzle Heaven to many adventure gamers. However, they do not have a breathtaking story to back them up. And please don't get me wrong, I did enjoy their stories. It's just that I couldn't engage myself to a long conversation upon them, as I would do for your puzzles. So, does someone have to compromise to one or the other? Moreover, are you planning on using the same pattern in your future developments?

We are working on a new game with a deeper story, everything will be clear but we hope that we will surprise the player! We will continue to have the same kind of puzzles connected to the story and using logic, music, colours and so on. We will also continue to propose alternatives to be sure that it won't be a nightmare for death or daltonian people.

The worlds you pulled us in, through your games, were fascinating. Two of them actually were 'borrowed', at a certain extent, from Jules Verne, who is well known for his imaginative ability. What was it that inspired you to create the games within those worlds? And, while we are on it, are you a fan of Jules Verne's work or was it just a calculated strategic move to base a game on such stories?

Our publisher asked us to adapt Jules Verne novels. From a marketing point of view, 2005 is the century of the death of Jules Verne and from a creative point of view Verne is a great source of inspiration for game creators. As you have seen, our games are not really adaptations but more a tribute to this author. Verne novels gave us the background and then we keep the spirit with some freedom!

For sure we love Verne; he was not only imaginative but also a visionary.

We know that you are currently engaged in the development of two more adventure games. Would you like to tell us a little bit about them? What are they about? Will we encounter any novelties? And of course, when should we expect them to be released?

The first one has just been announced, it will be a game on Leonardo Da Vinci and take place where he died, in France at the Manoir du Clou, know called "Le Clo Luce" close to Amboise castle. This game is developed by the same partners as "ECHO".

The other one will be an investigation and will be our first game with a 3rd person view, real-time 3D characters in precalculated backgrounds (like Syberia, Nibiru, ...)

These games will be finished during the first and the second quarters of 2006. Shipping dates will be announce later.

I guess that wishing you good luck in the future, as a closure to our interview, would be at least unnecessary to say. It's certain that you will succeed whether luck is smiling at you or not, since your games are the outcome of such a great job. So, I will simply wish you a fruitful year and invite you to come and visit us here in Greece.

Thank you Cristina, I hope to have some good news for our Greek fans very soon! ;-) Hope to visit Greece soon.

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