Interview with Kheops Studio "The Secrets of Da Vinci"

Δευτέρα, 22 Μαΐου 2006, Συντάκτης Fallen Angel

Interview with Kheops Studio "The Secrets of Da Vinci"

[BH]: Benoit Hozjan, Managing Director and co-founder of Kheops Studio
[MT]: Marianne Tostivint, Game designer and co-founder of TOTM studio
[OT]: Olivier Train, Art Director, Project Manager, co-founder of TOTM Studio

Thank you, Benoit, for taking the time to talk to us again.

[BH] You are welcome!

First of all, I would like to ask you a couple of questions about JttM. What is the feedback you are getting on it? Are you satisfied with the sales so far?

[BH] It's too early for significant sales numbers. Even if the notation on gamerankings is close to our previous productions (between 74% and 78% each time), we have seen very different feedback for JttM. It was certainly more difficult to enter inside this game and it was also graphicaly too strange for some players. By the way, players who have finished the game have understood how deep and coherent was the universe we have proposed. Finally, we can see that it is easier to be attractive with realistic world than fantasy world.

Now, I have some questions regarding your new project "The Secrets of Da Vinci". To begin with I would like you, if it is possible, to provide us with a clarification on the matter: Is this game based on the best-selling novel of Dan Brown, "The Da Vinci Code"? Lots of people seem to believe so.

[BH] No, this is totally different, the story takes place where Da Vinci died, at the "Manoir du cloux" a well known place in France, near the Ambroise castle and now called "The Clos Luce"

[OT] Indeed, the game does not have anything to see with the well-known book. When we thought of a game on De Vinci, we wanted to center the subject on the character himself and his multiple talents, by respecting to the maximum its historical dimension. Our first step was to propose our project to the "Chateau du Clos Luce". Not only the place was perfect to imagine an adventure around Leonard,( because it had lived there the three last years of his life), but also allowed us to use historical characters who also had lived there, such as Francois 1st (King of France), and Marie Babou de la bourdaisiere, her mistress. Convinced by our scenario and its respect of the Leonard's works, the "Clos Luce" has given access to us all the elements necessary to the development of the game. This partnership have had a great importance and enables us to have an indisputable historical guarantee on "The Secret of Da Vinci".

Would you like to tell us a little bit about your new game? What is it about? Is it about the life or the work of Leonardo Da Vinci? Is it about the great artist or the innovative scientist and inventor?

[MT] "The secrets of Da Vinci" is an adventure which will plunge you in Da Vinci's universe. You will embody a young italian man, who was pupil in the studio of Francesco Melzi, the heir of Leonardo. To achieve your mission you'll have to discover and to appropriate the Da Vinci's works and inventions.

When does the story take place and where is it situated? Are we going to travel to Europe some centuries ago or in the modern world searching for old secrets?

[MT] The story takes place in 1522 in the "Manoir du cloux", near Amboise. Leonardo Da Vinci is dead since three years, when Valdo arrives, looking for a original manuscript which was hidden by Leonardo. It's not really an historical game, but we try to be as exact as possible in re-creating the atmospher of the century.

Would you like to tell us what should we expect of the game's puzzles? We are awaiting for some quite intriguing ones since many aspects of Da Vinci's work is a puzzle on its own for everyone up until our days.

[MT] Some puzzles are based on Da Vinci's works. For example, you'll have to understand the mechanism of a turning bridge he has invented, and to repair it. You will also use a cric, a small boat, a flying machine designed by him and you will realise a copy of Monna Lisa! Some other enigmas don't use directly Leonardo's inventions but are inspired by his researchs in optics and hydraulics. There are also many other puzzles or interactions which are technical, like the water mill, or more practical, like all the recipes you'll have to prepare (syrup, perfume, smoke, ink...). The dialogues are very important too and represent a big part of the game. For example, if you want to charm Babou, you'll have to be very attentive to what you choose to tell her!

In "The Secrets of Da Vinci" will we be given the opportunity to face puzzles not necessary for the game's process? Have you included a point system?

[MT] Yes, some puzzle are not obligatory to finish the game but if you choose to do it, you will collect some bonus points. In many cases, you've also the possibility of resolving a situation by different ways. For example, when you need bronze, you can make it with some tin and copper or buy it to Saturnin. Of course, if you choose the way easier, you don't collect any points and you spend your money! To have a lot of points could be just a challenge, but it also can be useful: the points can be spent to change the level of your gauge of conscience...

How about the inventory of the game? Will we be able to combine various objects together as in RtMI and JttM or we will able to combine them only on specific hot spots that we will come across the game, as in ECHO?

[BH] RtMI and JttM were designed by our own game designer, Alexis Lang, around the combination system inside the inventory. You will continue to see this feature inside one of our next games but not in SDV which will use the same hot spots system as ECHO, Marianne Tostivint (TOTM Studio) was also the game designer of this game.

[MT] Effectly, You'll not be able to combinate objects in the inventory, you'll have to do it directly in the decor. But the inventory and the interface in general are not comparable to the system of ECHO. (A measure system, your personnage that you can equip with different accessories, a "briefcase" where you put documents you find during the game, etc...)

We have read that the game includes a "good and evil" measure system. Would you like to explain it to us? And, is it true that, depending on our course of actions, we will be able to see different endings?

[MT] The interface indeed includes a gauge of conscience which evolves according to the choices of the player, and whose level will influence the continuation of the game. The more this gauge will lean dark side, the less the player could be generous, and conversely. Only a relatively balanced gauge makes it possible to choose his way. There is indeed often several manner of solving the same problem. If he is too nice, for example, he will not be able to strike a guard which obstructs him and will have to divert his attention. But no matter what it arrives, he will always have a solution to be left there.

The players who wish it will be able to also operate this gauge while spending of the points no-claims bonus, gained with the resolution of the enigmas. The gauge also intervenes in the structure of the dialogues, in particular with Babou and Saturnin which are the two principal characters with which the player will have to discuss. "The secrets of Da Vinci" is a non-linear adventure, usually the puzzles can be resolve in the order you want and this gauge add to this non-linearity the contengencies of human conscience! ;-)

How will the interface be? So far your games are realized using a first person view. Have you used the same POV in this game as well?

[BH] Yes it will. We also have a game in preproduction with a third person view but not scheduled for the moment.

[MT] Even if the inventory system seems to be classical, we tryed to make it as original and complete as possible. That's why we've incorporated in it, some new elements. The interface, which is full screen, is composed of:

* an inventory which can contain more than hundred different objects,

* the gauge of conscience,

* a purse (at the beginning, Valdo has five gold coins),

* a knob to access the interface of the goals (it's realized like a logbook where Valdo notes progressively all the indications he finds)

* a portrait of Valdo (you can put on this portrait some clothes or accessories helpful for the game)

* a briefcase, where you class the letters and documents that you find. Those documents will be interactive and some of them contain puzzles.

SDV is realized using a first person view because it's a system well-known by the team, so we had the possibility of working fast and concentrating on other difficulties, like for example the realisation of the "briefcase" in the inventory which contains indications and puzzles. I think it's also the system which is the best to favour the immersion of the player.

What could you tell us about the graphics and music of "The Secrets of Da Vinci"?

[OT] Graphically, we have reproduced the "Clos Luce" most accurately possible, certain parts did not change since the time of Leonard. Others, were modified in XVIIIeme sciecle, like the Studio of leonard, therefore we have invented it, as it could have been at this time, using references of studio of Renaissance's artists. The mill also was completely invented to be in accordance with the period and useful for the Gameplay. For the sound illustration we have chosen a cinematographic music (Composed by Ludovic Sagnier), to accentuate the emotion, and to emphasize the strong moments of the game. It is not a music typically "Renaissance", although it have been recorded by a string quintet, there are also winds instruments like a Baryton saxophone.

Have you cooperated with other companies, as in your past projects, to bring to life "The Secrets of Da Vinci"? Which are those?

[BH] We continue to work with our partner Mzone Studio for the graphical production, they know our processes and we continue to improve our tools for an always better collaboration. After "ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern", "Secrets of Da Vinci" is the second collaboration with TOTM studio. They have quicky learned our processes and how to use our tools, so they can express their creativity.

When should we be expecting "The Secrets of Da Vinci" to be released? Have you already found a publisher? Moreover, will there be any demo of the game made available?

[BH] We have found a producing structure, Elektrogames, and a publisher, Nobilis, to finance this project. The game has been released late april in France and in may in most of the european territories. It should be released in june in the US. We have delivered a French demo and we are waiting for the publisher position to deliver a localized version.

Could you tell us something about your future games?

[BH] We will continue to open our production workflow and expertise to new external talents and two more games will be released this year.

Safecracker 2 is a puzzle game (like Safecracker 97 or Rhem for instance) developped for DreamCatcher, you will have many more or less complicated puzzles to solve using sometimes clues and sometimes logic. As an expert, you were hired by a family to find the testament hidden somewhere in this house. As the player will discover, the owner was very excentric as old rich men used to be! ;-) This game should be finished in early july and released in late summer or fall.

We also work on an adventure game for Nobilis scheduled for fall. It will be based on a novel but not Jules Verne this time! ;-)

Both titles will be with a first person view.

You have recently proposed a survey on your website. How does it work?

[BH] We have received more than 350 answer and we hope to overpass 500. We will study all the answers very soon. It will be a very important source of feedback from players to identify where we need to improve, where we are wrong or right. It will for sure have an impact on our future developments in addition to information found on reviews and forums. It will definitely help us in our choices during the tuning of the a game.

And a final question. You have localized in Greek "ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern". Are you planning to do the same for "The Secrets of Da Vinci"?

[BH] Your readers have to know your strong implication for this localisation, thanks again for your contribution. If the publisher and the local distributor are ok, we would look at a subtitle patch if you are ready for this new experience! ;-)

Is there anything else you would like to say to Greek adventure gamers about "The Secrets of Da Vinci"?

[BH] Well, enjoy yourself!

[OT] We wanted to make a game which makes it possible to have fun while discovering many things on Leonard de Vinci, its life and its works. We wish that you will enjoy it as much as the public and the French press seems to enjoy it.

Thank you very much for your time. We wish you the very best for your new game!

[BH] Thanks


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