The Develop Award-winning studio has stolen the spotlight this year with episodic adventure Life is Strange. James Batchelor finds out more about the French developer
What was the biggest development for Dontnod over the past year?
Oskar Guilbert, CEO: Life Is Strange was our biggest development this year. Stepping into a new genre was challenging. It’s an invaluable experience for us.
What are your goals and priorities for the year ahead?
We are currently working on our new action RPG, Vampyr. We also have several surprises to come, but I cannot reveal them now.
What makes Dontnod different from other studios?
I think we made a little difference with Life Is Strange because we approached mature themes and concepts, and tried to do so with care and subtlety. Those themes are not always dealt with in video games, and that is what we wanted to bring to an interactive title.
Also, having a female lead character in both Remember Me and Life Is Strange felt natural for us, but that’s not so common among other developers.
What did you learn from the success of Life Is Strange?
We had no idea it would be such a success. It has been very rewarding and we’ve learned a lot. The episodic format was new to us, so we had to prove ourselves.
We learned a lot from the community also. Their feedback pushed us forward in the right direction. We’ll definitely use this experience to develop our future projects with everything we’ve learned.
What do you attribute Life Is Strange’s success to?
When we started to work on the game, we knew we wanted a game centred on characters dealing with issues and facing difficult choices. A slice of life, really. Something that feels real enough that people could relate to it. I think we’ve achieved this goal, and that’s probably a huge part of the success of the game.
We received a lot of mails and fan arts from the players telling us that they feel a little less alone when they play this game because they can see that they are not the only ones who are having those problems. This is what we wanted to do: just talk about those problems, and also having fun playing those characters, but inside this realistic environment.
We received a lot of mails and fan arts from the players telling us that they feel a little less alone when they play this game because they can see that they are not the only ones who are having those problems.
Oskar Guilbert, Dontnod Entertainment
What were the biggest challenges of developing Life Is Strange?
One of the biggest challenges was to structure production so you can ensure steady time windows in-between releases.
The creative challenges are really what drew us to episodic, as it was refreshing to rethink the way we would structure our experience. The episodic format was also a challenge for the teams. Everything is multiplied by five – five voiceover sessions, five mo-cap sessions, five submissions phases.
Also, planning-wise, we were really optimistic in the early stages about our capacity to work over many episodes at the same time. We realised along the way that it was really better to focus our energy on a single episode rather than spread it among episodes that were all at a different stages of production.
Are you planning to expand your team?
Yes and we are always looking for talented people. Profiles such as programmers’ are pretty rare, but we have needs for others, too.
Tell us something no-one knows about your studio.
The studio is located very near Centquatre-Paris, an artistic establishment that supports and works with young artists. We like this place; it’s always nice to have cultural activities, exhibitions and concerts nearby. And they have some of the best pizzas in Paris.