One of the nominees at this year’s Canadian Videogame Awards was Ludia, a Montreal-based developer. Their handheld title, Dragons: Rise of Berk (iOS and Android), went on to win the Fans’ Choice Award for 2014 – and deservedly so.
We are still working on our review of the game (the battle mode was just recently released); in the mean time, we posed some questions to some of the staff at Ludia and they provided us with some answers! Big thanks to Coralie Munier (Producer), Fred Bibet (VP of Production), Mike Kitt (Game Designer), Terry Maranda (Lead 2D Artist), and Matthew Macaskill (Community).
TT: How did you end up working with DreamWorks? Did they approach you? Or did you approach them?
CM & FB: Ludia has a very strong relationship with its licensors, based on confidence and mutual respect. We work hand in hand with our partners and are continuously in contact with them. They enjoy working with us, as we develop high-quality games and respect the deadlines. Moreover, products such as Jurassic Park™, How To Train Your Dragon and Family Feud, have enabled us to further win the confidence of licensors. Today, they are the ones who contact us when they have new intellectual properties or new movies in the works.
How difficult was it to adapt the movie framework into a workable game design?
MK: The whole thing is based on trust. We fell in love with Dragons and DreamWorks trusted us to make a game that got the heart of the franchise. The themes of the film really clicked with where we wanted to take the game: building up Berk, exploring the world, training dragons, etc. Often times, when you work on a movie-based game, there’s a tendency to take the context too literally. If you say “Hiccup did x, the game must do x”, your game stops being about being fun and it starts becoming about realism. Because DreamWorks was really on board with the direction we were taking Berk, they gave us the freedom to take the game-play where it needed to go. Also, they were highly involved with the story and the art direction. Their guidance was invaluable in shaping the feel of the game.
Without the respect we have for each other, Rise of Berk wouldn’t have been a success.
Were there strict rules in regards to working with the How to Train Your Dragon property?
TM: When we first began conceptualizing our Viking buildings and dragon related environments, DreamWorks was quite strict with making sure we used the right materials and that the architecture was within the right historic time frame and geographic location. After sending them our rough sketches and ideas, I remember them sending back loads of references and scribbled notes; telling us how Vikings would stack stones, frame building roofs and sculpt statues. It didn’t take us long to get the hang of Berk’s rough and barbaric style. Now that we’ve helped players create their own Berk, we’re getting a lot more free reign to develop and come up with our own unique ideas to enrich the world of How To Train your Dragon.
What is your favourite part of the game?
MM: Creating our very own Berk with our favorite Dragons from the How To Train Your Dragon franchise. With so many Dragons to choose from, each player’s Berk is unique and has a history of its own.
Also, we love the moments when Toothless comes back from his exploration, especially when we have sent him on the hunt for a limited dragon. The excitement of opening the exploration bags and the joys of discovering a new egg! It’s a real treat.
If you had a magical spell that let you include something in the game from the get-go without cost or time constraint (instant) – what would it have been?
CM&FB: Without hesitation, a combat mode! From the beginning of the project, we had in mind to develop a mode where the dragons would protect Berk from the invasion of a Viking fleet, operated by Drago, the very ugly “bad boy” in How To Train Your Dragon 2. This is also the most popular request encountered on our community page. We are very happy to announce that this is not just a “magic spell” – we actually did it! Unfortunately, the production of a game does not just happen instantly, like magic – we worked very hard for this update. Is has recently been made available!
Thanks so much for chatting with us! Congratulations on your award!