French developer Ankama Studios first brought DOFUS, a turn-based strategy MMORPG based in Flash, to the world six years ago. Recently, they did a full overhaul of the game and launched DOFUS 2.0. With improved graphics and a sleeker programming, DOFUS 2.0 exists as a way to keep this deep and addictive strategy title competitive with other MMORPGs.
After having seen what all DOFUS 2.0 has to offer, we at RPGFan had some questions left in our minds. Who better to answer our questions than Ankama themselves? The following text reveals the answer to our questions. We received answers from Answered by Cedric Gerard, International Marketing Manager, and Answered by Mathieu Bourgain, Lead Game Designer on DOFUS. Without further ado, here's our interview with Ankama Studios regarding DOFUS!
RPGFan: First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions!
Cedric Gerard: Thanks for your interest in what Ankama does!
RPGFan: Who came up with the name "DOFUS," and does it have any meaning?
Cedric Gerard: The word DOFUS was inspired from OVUS which is the word for "egg" in Latin. Since the story revolves around dragon eggs, it seemed like a good name. In English, it has got a funny connotation, but it's all well in the spirit of the game.
RPGFan: Speaking of names, many of the class names in DOFUS are normal words or brand names spelled backwards (example, the time mage "Xelor" or "Rolex" backwards). But what about classes like "Pandawa," which clearly is an anthropomorphized panda? How did you guys pick the class names, and why isn't the "backwards" rule applied consistently?
Cedric Gerard: Back then in 2002-2003, the names just came up to our founders as jokes. There was no real consistency as to when the backwards rule would apply or not. I'm not sure it sounds very glamorous now, but our Creative Director came up with the names of Sram and Feca because that's what he had that day for breakfast: A coffee and a Mars bar.
Dear necro-assassins: you were named after a candy bar. That is fantastic.
RPGFan: Many people over the years have commented on the high quality of the character art and design for DOFUS. It seems to be a merge of Japanese Manga and traditional European cartooning. Tell us, were there any specific influences (a specific franchise, or design studio) that you had in mind when designing these characters?
Feca players to Ankama staff: "please make us more useful."
Cedric Gerard: Of course Miyazaki's and Studio Ghibli's footprints are in the heart of minds of most people working at Ankama. Classics like Dragonball and Saint Seiya, which became very popular starting in the late 80s - early 90s in France, also played a big role. For more recent influences, probably series such as Bleach, Death Note, have all brought a lot of inspiration. Many of our lead artists come from classic French-Belgian comic book background studies.
RPGFan: Currently, the majority of DOFUS players are from France. Do you think this is because marketing is simply easier to do within one's home country, or is there something specifically appealing to French gamers in DOFUS? What do you think?
Cedric Gerard: I think both statements are true, and DOFUS has been around since 2004 in France. We only really started marketing the international versions starting in 2007, also releasing a much better translation for the English version. Also, DOFUS is filled with cultural references and jokes which can be challenging to understand for a non-French person, stressing the importance of good localization.
RPGFan: DOFUS is currently available in most European languages. What is the current time-table to make DOFUS available in Asian languages (Chinese, Korean, Japanese, etc)? Do you think DOFUS could be successful in an Asian market where there are so many anime-styled MMORPGs?
Cedric Gerard: DOFUS will come out in Japanese later this year. We also aim to release it in Chinese and Korean later on. Indeed competition can be a problem, but DOFUS has a lot of European influence in its art style that will make it different, and again, the tactical aspects are quite unique.
RPGFan: Alongside its beautiful artwork, DOFUS puts heavy emphasis on the strategic combat as well as the obvious social element. Does Ankama intend to continue to refine these elements, or expand and attempt to do something entirely new with the game in the coming years?
Mathieu Bourgain: We're waiting for our new expansion "Frigost" to be released in a few months, in order to work further on class balancing. Some of the classes are a bit unbalanced during lower levels, and we want to make the game balanced and interesting at all levels. We will make changes to the Cra (Archer) class, which is too powerful at lower levels, and Fire Iops (Warriors) which are also too powerful. We would like to review the Feca (Protector) class which is not doing too well during PVP phases at the moment.
Later on, we want to work on the summoning problems from the Osamodas (Summoner) class, they actually make turn-based fighting a bit too slow. We want to make this class more tactical and raise their value when grouping.
RPGFan: Many MMORPGs today rely on microtransactions for funding, but DOFUS uses a low-cost subscription plan alongside a limited free-to-play option for new, low-level players. This funding model has paid off for you, as you currently have over three million subscription-based players. However, the MMORPGs using the free-to-play, microtransaction-based model are also popular and well-funded. Why do you think this is? And would you ever consider adopting the model for your own game(s)?
RPG? No. Potentially awesome action game for XBLA? Yes.
Cedric Gerard: Micropayment is a convenient model, sort of pay as you play, but communities on those games are not always very welcoming, it's about how much money you spend, and if you don't have money to spend, you don't make any friends.
We do not think that's what a game should be about. We do not want to implement a classic item mall system. We are going to implement new elements that will influence the way the community interacts and the in-game game economy evolves in the next few months. But you will have to stay tuned for the details since it's top secret for now.
There will be a lot more information that you can obtain on your character, customization, and no, it will not be an item mall, don't worry. It will be very community-driven, and each player will benefit from it whether they are paying subscribers or free players.
RPGFan: Outside of DOFUS and other Ankama products, what games do the staff of Ankama enjoy playing? Please give as many specific examples as you can!
Cedric Gerard: We play everything, from consoles games to MMOs to pen-and-paper RPGs.
Mathieu Bourgain: Officially, we call it benchmarking. Just joking! But yes, we do play a lot.
RPGFan: There have been a few examples of MMORPG creators taking their product and making a handheld variant that doesn't necessarily run on a large server in a persistent world, but instead offers small-scale multiplayer (notably: Ragnarok DS and MapleStory DS). Have you thought about taking DOFUS to a market other than the PC? Have you considered working with Nintendo to make a DS-friendly version of DOFUS? Or, perhaps, would you consider making an entirely new console or handheld RPG that isn't an MMO?
Cedric Gerard: We plan to release Islands of Wakfu on Xbox Live Arcade later on this year. The game, which will be our first attempt at console gaming, is created by our subsidiary Ankama Play, and is a collaborative beat 'em up game, with up to 2 players joining forces in a world set 10,000 years before the events of Wakfu. We have thought indeed about bringing DOFUS and Wakfu to DS, but there are no definite plans as to when that will happen.
RPGFan: Are there any plans in the near future to introduce a new class to DOFUS? We know the twelve classes have been tweaked and balanced, and you wouldn't want to upset that balance, but certainly the players must be aching to try out a new class...? Also, do fans of the game ever make suggestions about a new character class or submit "new" concept art for you to consider?
Mathieu Bourgain: There no plans to bring a new class to DOFUS at the moment. But that may well change in the future, you never know...
Our thanks go to everyone at Ankama Studios for taking the time to answer our questions. We'd also like to thank Scott Fry and everyone at One PR for facilitating this transatlantic interview.