PAX 2010 Preview
Ankama Games of France has partnered with Square Enix to release their next MMO Wakfu in North America. Set about 1,000 years after the world of Dofus, Wakfu is set in the same World of Twelve (reflecting their 12 playable characters and classes) and will continue to be a free to play, turn-based, tactical MMO. Dofus may not be that well known in the US, but in the French speaking regions of the EU, commands 35 million registered users, 10% of which pay five Euros monthly to access its full content.
The partnership seems to be a match made in heaven. Ankama’s art style is a blend of Japanese Anime and classic French comic illustration, and in France, Dofus is not only a game, but is a comic book (like Japanese Manga), merchandise – models of characters, stuffed animal Mobs, and a TV series. They have also issued coffee-table books of the Dofus and Dofus 2.0 artwork. Although Square Enix hasn’t announced any plans to bring other Wakfu properties to the North American market, they have the experience, and will be publishing Wakfu, assisting in the localization, providing the community support and in-game support.
“We really needed a partner who knows the North American market,” said Cedric Gerard, International Marketing Manager for Ankama, “and looking at Square Enix, “ he continued, “it was like… this is the kind of thing that we do!”
Apart from the similarities in their business, features in common in their games included the similar art style and the “big world” storylines of both games.
The world of Twelve remains the very cute and engaging world of sprites and anime styled characters and structure we saw in Dofus 2.0, but in Wakfu, Ankama brings in the concept of Wakfu vs. Stasis, i.e. Action vs. Stillness. Yin and Yang, two sides of a coin. This concept permeates the world and the game play.
“Some classes exhibit more Wakfu, and others, Statis,” said Franko Fonseca, Assistant Producer for Wakfu North America at Square Enix, “and this force is found throughout the game world.”
Dofus has been termed a casual MMO as the game is turn-based. Hence Wakfu will be since it employs the same mechanic. You are given a certain time to react although it’s still not safe to go AFK in a dangerous or PvP area as you can be engaged in combat while you are away, as timers do run out and then it’s your opponent’s turn. Cute and turn-based or not, it is a full featured MMO, with housing, auction house, guilds and PvP. What Wakfu does bring to the game front is the concept of Ecology and Politics. Players can affect the world in these two spheres.
Nature prefers a balanced Ecology. It likes having plants and animals of Wakfu and Statis co-existing in a region. If too many players are hunting the same creature over and over again in a small area, the creature will become less common and there is a chance that the creature will become extinct. To keep the balance, players of another nation will get a quest to prevent players from hunting those creatures, and if it’s a plant that is in danger of going extinct, the quest may be to re-seed the area, or re-introduce an animal by capturing some in their own region and releasing them there.
As for Politics, at character creation, players have several different nations to choose to affiliate their character with, each with an NPC clan leader who provides PvP quests and urges the conquering of territory. In each localized region, a Governor can be elected from players and remains in power for two weeks. During these two weeks, players will get bonuses from the alignment of the Governor and his actions. The Governor will have an alignment – whether Wakfu or Stasis and players of the same alignment will receive a bonus in that region. The elected Governor will also make decrees – such as the protection or destruction of a certain plant or creature. That again increases either Wakfu or Statis. To balance the world though, the game will actually give missions to players to counter player campaigns. So it’s up to the player to choose to support the Governor or to keep balance in the world.
I also got some hands-on play and found the world and play-style similar. The same twelve classes (although they have evolved in the thousand years) with the same tongue-in-cheek names such as Xelor’s Sandglass (they manipulate time), Sadida’s Shoes and Enutrof’s Fingers (a very lucky class), each with 25 spells. The same turn-based combat with the grid layout super-imposed over the landscape with movement and combat phases (think traditional DnD). The same humorous creatures like the fat little chicken called the Tofu – kill enough of the little critters and its big mean cousin, the Big Tofu might pop, the round, fluffy sheep-like Gobbal, darling of tailors everywhere and his cousin the Gobbalrog. The writers must have really enjoyed writing the descriptions of the drops in this game. The humor is definitely adult and here’s a description of one of the classes, Osamodas’ Whip:
“You might say that only an Osamodas would say a thing like this, but... your skin would make a beautiful lamp for my living room. And let me tell you, you'd better have a thick skin if you intent coming soul hunting with me... and you won't have any skin left at all if you cross me. Ah yes... that Ecaflip, she was your friend was she? What lovely skin she had, so soft! Well I won't tell you what became of her, but let's just say that we're still very close...”
Evil Dandelions drop stems which are THE material in the making of whips and other disciplinary implements which are essential in the upbringing of children and to a healthy, open relationship between consenting adults, and the Gobbals don’t just drop wool; it’s a smelly bit of wool used by tailors and much sought after by Enutrof Fingers to hide their bald spots. I wonder if Santa Jaws is still on Kwismass Island and how his descendents have evolved.
Wakfu for North America will go into closed beta in 2011 and the Wakfu site is up in English for readers interested in knowing more about the game and beta sign-up for the North American version is also open.