Interview : Fabien Bihour, CEO of Wizarbox

This time, Pig-Min did an e-mail interview with Fabien Bihour, who is CEO of Wizarbox.

Wizarbox did several outsourcing job for 6 different platforms for 5 years, and released their 1st. own IP [So Blonde] (adventure game) for PC & will release sequel (or spin-off) for Wii & NDS. And now, they are working for [Gray Matter].

Korean version of this Interview

User image

Cover of [So Blonde].

1. First of all, please introduce us your company Wizarbox & your job role.

Wizarbox is a videogame development’s company created in 2003 as JEI (French Government Label for Innovative Company) employing 60 employees ( programmers, game level designers, artists,…).

The company provides services on 6 different platforms (XBOX360, PC, Wii, DS, PSP and PS3) and works worldwide with international prestigious partners such as Ubisoft, DTP-AG, Atari, Koch Media, etc.

The company has mainly two activities:
?    A video game development studio
?    A services provider specialized in technologies, production pipeline and conversion

Moreover, the company can outsource or insource customers’ projects in order to offer the perfect answer to the customers’ needs and become a gain of time.

My name is Fabien Bihour, I am Wizarbox’s C.E.O.
My job consist in taking into consideration the company's needs and have a global vision of the future of the company. I am also taking care of the commercial and business aspect of the company


2. Wizarbox is from France, but we don't know much about French gaming scene. Gameloft / Infogrammes / UBIsoft are from France, but not more than that. Please let us know about French game scene.

The French scene is well known outside with UbiSoft, Atari/Infograme and Gameloft, but there are also lots of talented smaller developer. Mainly the studio are located in 2 areas : Paris and Lyon.

We have studios working on AAA like Darkworks, Arkane studio, Eugen System and other smaller studio like Neko, Menkensleep, Eko, Loadinc … The studios know pretty well each other and we meet very often to share our experience.


3. Wizarbox visited G-star 2008 as B2B booth. G-star seem to be too dedicated to Online gaming, but Wizarbox is not making Online games at all. How come to visit G-star? And did you visit Korea (G-star or something else) before this year?

It is the third year that Wizarbox come to the Gstar. As you explained, G-Star is dedicated to the online market, and obviously Wizarbox is not doing online game.

But we really think that some of the PC Korean game could be converted and ported to the consoles (PS3, X360, Wii). I have seen lots of Korean casual game which could fit perfectly to the XBLA, Wiiware or PSN. Even if the console market is not very strong in Korea, it could be very interesting for them to optimize their revenue by porting their game into consoles.


4. Wizarbox was doing several outsourcing job, and [So Blonde] is your first original title. How come to make your 1st. title, as PC Adventure game, while you did several other various games for Consoles in the past?

Wizarbox was created as a service provider in programming. This positioning provided us quick revenue and a track record. Then I wanted to develop our own game in order to give an IP to the company.

Why we have chosen a PC Adventure game while we’re providing hardcore programming on consoles? The answer is easy, it’s just because I wanted to start with a “no risk” project. So I have met publisher with a 0 risk project in all area: No risk in programming, No risk in graphics thanks to our graphic team, no risk with the story thanks to Steve Ince("
Broken Sword") . And of course the development budget of an adventure game is pretty low, which helped to find a publisher.


5. Adventure Game is good genre, and Adventure never died. Adventure fans have strong Community & Webzine, as GameBoomers / Adventure Gamers / Just Adventures. Do you have some friendly contact with them, as sending review copies / doing some giveaway contest / answering direct questions from their forum?

Yes, of course, we are always taking care of our public because we think that is very important to answer questions and help them for examples with the puzzle-solvings of the game. Moreover, thanks that, customers can feel that they are closer to us.

In fact, our Lead Game Designer, J?rome, answer questions in some websites and forums where it exists So Blonde reviews.


6. [So Blonde] sequel will be released for NDS / Wii. Some other adventure games were re-made for NDS recently, but no console-only sequels were made. Do you have some specific reason to release sequel for console only, and no plan for PC version? And what will be difference between NDS & Wii version?

So Blonde DS Wii sets itself as a combination of game genres which could be defined as adventure-party game. It is aimed to be playable by all audience above 7 on both Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii.

The story is written by Award-winner Steve Ince (“Broken Sword”) in a way that it  perfectly completes the PC version. If some events take place in both stories, the Nintendo version has been designed to be a stand-alone game but also a complement of the existing PC game. Having played the PC version is not required to play So Blonde DS Wii.

The game is not a conversion of the PC version but is an entirely new story based on a simple starting hypothesis: What if Sunny had awakened on the “evil” side of the island instead of the “good” one, like on the PC version?

Although some places, characters and situation will be the same as in the original game, some places disappeared while some new locations will be accessible. Several existing locations have been entirely re-designed to fit on the console’s adventure games standards and thus fulfil console player’s expectations.

On Nintendo systems, the mini-game approach will be slightly different to take full advantage of each platform’s unique controllers. These mini-games benefit of a better integration into the story to feel more “natural” when they start. Last, the object management in general and the game controls have also been completely revamped in order to take advantage of both DS and Wii unique controllers.

We have chosen this approach to develop So Blonde’s universe. We learn more about the island, more about the characters, more about the history.


7. Wizarbox is working for [Gray Matter] at now. Well. It has somewhat long history in the past, and Wizarbox is not first maker who deal with that. If you could share some updates about [Gray Matter], please do.

I can only say that Gray matter will be a very good game with very nice graphic and story. We are working very closely with Jane Jensen and it is really a pleasure for us to work with a such talented writer.


8. Please recommend 5 Good games & the reason why.

Everquest : my first MMOPRG game. Wonderful experience with very nice people. Unfortunatly no actual MMO game give me the same feeling I had with EQ…maybe because it was the first time, maybe because I’m older.  :)

GODS : I’m a big fan of the bitmap brother game. Gods is for me one of the best platform game. But I’m also a huge fan of their other production (cadaver, xenon, speedball…)

Powermonger : The first time i had the feeling that a game was living by himself

Bioshock : almost the perfect artistic direction. The atmosphere and the gameplay are really nice.

Gran turismo / Forza : because I really like the simulation game and these 2 titles are very realistic.

And I could have spoken about : FEAR, Rez, Q3, Fable 2...


9. Did you try some Korean games, or even heard or experienced about them? If so, please share your thoughts about that.
 
Yes, I already heard about Korean game!

I have played to Lineage for the MMO, and I tried some other games like pangya.
They are really different from European game and it is very interesting to see something new.


10. Please leave some message for Pig-Min readers.

Thanks for the interview! I was surprised to see that there is a fan community of adventure game in Korea and  I really hope you will enjoy to play So Blonde!

Korean version of this Interview
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