Dofus is most likely the most popular Flash-based MMORPG that you've never heard of - with 7 million registered players, comic books, and spin-off titles in development.
The title was originally launched in September 2005, and in this Gamasutra interview, Ankama Studios' Cédric Gérard and Frederic Brunet discuss the France-based company's current status and upcoming titles, including Dofus-Arena and Wakfu.
When we last spoke to you, you were preparing for the 2006 IGF, where you won the Audience award. How have things been going for Ankama since then?
Cédric Gérard: Well things have been amazing and really hectic! We've grown to 7 million registered players and 800,000 subscribers worldwide, we launched a Spanish, German, Portuguese version, with a Russian and Japanese version in the works, we've opened an animation and a comic books division, and grown to 250 employees.
So you continue to support Dofus?
CG: Dofus is being constantly updated, we have 4-6 updates a year with new zones, new monsters, new spells, a new character class, lottery tokens and items, new unique living items that you can feed and grow, new pets…
How big is Ankama now?
CG: We’re close to 250 people at Ankama, working for Ankama Games, Ankama Animations, Ankama Editions (Comics and Manga), Ankama Press, Ankama Web and Kalmeo, our new mobile division.
How many people support Dofus?
CG: 30 people at Ankama Games work exclusively on Dofus.
Dofus is primarily a subscription based MMORPG, but do you have any interest in any other funding methods -- such as microstransactions?
CG: We respect the fact that different type of players like different funding methods. Our opinion is that a game should always have a free trial version to allow the players to evaluate their interest. How the game is funded then depends on how the gameplay is built.
It would be sort of dubious to change from one business model to another by implementing an item mall just because that's what everyone else is doing. It's not that simple, a game has to be designed in order to be balanced and fun and not too expensive for a player to enjoy if it wishes to use an item sales model.
You're currently in beta with Dofus-Arena. Why create an tactical PvP Dofus title?
CG: Well we actually found out that no one was doing it, and we thought we could come up with something really satisfying for the players based on the Dofus experience.
We’ve played and loved offline tactical RPGs, and thought it would be amazing to create an online game that would immerse players in a whole new world by allow them to fight each other on the internet through creating their own teams and characters, customizing them with various items and spells, and creating their own battle tactics.
We also like the competitive spirit that is found in PvP games, and we really look forward to seeing Dofus-Arena championships around the world.
Why not just make it part of Dofus?
CG: Well, PVP is already present in Dofus, but it has been refined and revamped for Dofus-Arena. Also the graphic engine has been developed from scratch; all the animation and graphics are different.
The game is coded in Java and was really meant to be a totally different game than Dofus, focusing on PVP. Players can just login to Dofus-Arena to play a quick match if they want to, instantly, because PVP is the whole purpose of the game.
Dofus-Arena is not really a MMO, it's a tactical PVP game with free roaming elements, too. The kind of players you end to encounter in MMOs are different, less keen on competition, more on socializing.
But Dofus-Arena does also gives players the choice to socialize and not only fight if they want to, they can just roam freely on the world map.
You're also working on Wakfu -- is it a ‘sequel’ to Dofus?
Frederic Brunet: Wakfu is, yes, the sequel to Dofus, set one thousand years after the first game.
What's new in Wakfu?
FB: Wakfu will be a unique MMORPG for various reasons. First of all, it will have no NPCs. The game will revolve around players and their actions, and give them entire freedom and control over their world.
The ecology will be very important in Wakfu, plants will die if left out without water or constantly harvested, players will have to reseed, plant trees. The weather will also be a very important element of the gameplay.
The game will also have a complex political system where elected players will act as governors on the different islands, and will have to decide for the future of their islands, and seek the well being of their citizens. The world of Wakfu will welcome up to 25,000 concurrent players per server.
Is it your intention for customers to migrate from Dofus to Wakfu?
FB: Dofus and Wakfu are different games, and we respect the Dofus community too much to just expect them to migrate from one game to another. We know that both games may attract different types of players, and we know most players are very attached to Dofus. We hope they will come to like Wakfu as much as we like it, but we know that a lot of them will keep their Dofus characters.
We think Wakfu will bring a major revolution to the MMO genre in terms of world interaction, so we don't see why players would not want to give it a shot. Also Wakfu will be very accessible with low specs required for the low detail settings, but for users with better specs, amazing details and lighting effects with the full details settings switched on.
Also, we can imagine players travelling from one game to another with a common avatar or transferring skills from Dofus to Wakfu… everything is possible!
There's also a TV series connected to Wakfu?
FB: We wanted to give players a unique experience, and the opportunity to be immersed in the Wakfu world by using a cross media concept. The game will evolve alongside the TV series, changes in the series will impact on the game. It will be the opportunity for players to discover new faces of their world, and also convert animation fans into MMO players.
We also have a magazine which will be available in the shops, a manga based on Wakfu which will give more clues about the world and add background to the story, and a trading card game to translate the tactics and battle aspects into the real world.
What's the intended demographic of the cartoon compared to the game?
CG: Our core audience for Dofus is 12-16 years old, the Wakfu TV series will start a bit younger, with an audience from 9 years old.
Are most of your players in France?
CG: 70% of our players are from France. The most important other markets for us at the moment are US, UK, Spain and Latin America, Brazil and Germany.