Cartoon 2021 - Cartoon 360
Industry Report: Animation
At Cartoon 360, Edouard Gaudel and Luc Verdier reveal how narrative video games can help expand your IPs
The two experts shared their experiences on transforming Firebird and Blacksad's great stories into successful narrative video games
On day 2 of Lille's Cartoon 360 (16-18 November 2021), John Lomas-Bullivant chaired a keynote titled "How narrative games bring existing IPs to a new level?" The talk saw the participation of two experts, namely Edouard Gaudel of Ludogram and Luc Verdier of Babaoo.
After introducing the speakers, Lomas-Bullivant asked to define what narrative games are. Gaudel explained that these games' main focus is on the story and that they should allow players to explore its universe and modify it. The definition of narrative games is rather broad, he argued, as it may embrace a wide range of works, including experiments such as Netflix's interactive film Bandersnatch. The simplest strategy at the basis of these games is "pushing a button to make a choice," but as the genre is rapidly evolving, a number of more complex systems are emerging.
It's also difficult to quantify the real market share of narrative games: "Many say their games are 'narrative,' and more and more people play them, also because they’re generally easy to play."
Next, Gaudel started talking about Ludogram and how the idea was to gather people who didn’t come from a gaming background and to allow them to create video games easily. "That’s the reason why we started with mobile games, and we needed tools easy to use," Gaudel explained. In detail, the tool developed by Ludogram allows creators to write the game as a play, with lines, actions and short descriptions. To simplify, the tool analyses the text, looks at the available assets and translates the words into pictures. This was particularly helpful for the making of Ludogram's game Firebird. The original book is more linear but since it’s the story of a road trip, the team decided to expand it and add three endings, while remaining loyal to the original universe. Speaking about the gaming experience, Gaudel added: "It takes about two hours. You’d play this game in one evening as if you'd watch a movie."
Later, Verdier spoke about Babaoo's work on Blacksad. Originally a comic series created by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido, and published by French publisher Dargaud Lombard, Verdier said that approaching such an established IP required much caution, while keeping in mind the main goal to "surprise fans and be accessible to new audiences." Some so-called "fan services" were obviously part of the project, and these concerned in particular the most familiar characters and iconic places from the IP. It was crucial to keep every genre component alive – crime, drama, noir, romance, the presence of a femme fatale – while brining in new themes such as the influence of advertising and the sports star system. According to Verdier, fans of such games generally demand player agency, interesting choices and IP consistency.
In the last part of the talk, Lomas-Bullivant asked Verdier to touch upon the popular game mechanics of the "20 second response" often understood as "the quicker you decide, the less reasonable – and more emotional – you are." Both speakers were also asked what are the budgets normally required to transform a piece of storytelling into a video game. Gaudel answered that the figure really depends on many factors, but that Ludogram's very small projects can start from as little as €20,000 for a one-hour mobile-only game, given that the backer can provide most of the assets ready to use. A slightly larger project, perhaps available also on Switch or PC, may require €60-100,000.
As opposed to the low budget figures provided by Gaudel, Verdier said that Blacksad required €2 million, but that is still considered a rather small amount compared to the very high-end narrative games projects, often ranging between $20-50 million.
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