Code Lyoko Interview

Later this month, The Game Factory will publish the DS title Code Lyoko, which is based off the French cartoon series of the same name. AMN recently had the chance to talk with DC Studios, the game’s developer, producer Dorian Kieken about the game.

AMN: The Code Lyoko cartoon is one of the most popular series on Cartoon Network. What is the hardest part about bringing a popular franchise, like Code Lyoko, to a handheld video game?

To respect the integrity of the show while maintaining creative freedom to make the best game possible. It’s the same when working with any license, especially one with a strong fanbase.

AMN: Code Lyoko incorporates many different styles of gameplay, how much time went into planning specific aspects of the overall experience (such as character abilities)?

Like any project time is always in the essence, but we did do a lot of research and brainstorming to ensure that there were enough diverse elements to keep the player engaged. We also spent a lot of time pacing and structuring the game, not only to be faithful to the plot of the series, but to mix up the gameplay styles as well.

AMN: This game makes great use of the touch-screen, and at times almost acts as a space for additional buttons. Is this something you would expect to see more of in future DS titles?

I think that’s one of the DS’s strongest features, the touch screen has really leveled the playing field in terms of getting people to play games. No longer do they have to memorize crazy button pressing sequences, it’s simply touch and play. I think with Nintendo trying to reach out to everyone, and tapping into new demographics, the touch screen has definitely been a key factor in that strategy.

AMN: We love the care and effort put into the game’s overall presentation and use of the license. What do you feel your team has done with the license that’s particularly noteworthy?

For one, we had the chance to add to the universe by creating a few unique game enemies as well as expanding and elaborating the original environments. We’re hopefully going to be taking the player, and Lyoko fans as well, to new and exciting places.

AMN: Were members of your team familiar with the Code Lyoko world before the start of development? What do you think of the franchise as a whole now?

Most of the team have seen the show previously, but since working on the game have found a new respect for the ongoing and intriguing storyline.

AMN: Code Lyoko encourages players to use each character equally instead of relying on one or two for the majority of the experience. How much thought and planning was put into the level and enemy designs to accomplish this?

Practically everything in the game relies on this. With the DS we wanted to emphasize the notion of teamwork, but there is no way you can have all four characters on screen at the same time. Therefore we came up with the character switching system, where each character has their own combat and environmental uses. Yumi can levitate heavy objects, Odd can climb and Ulrich can run fast through dangerous areas. You’re going to need to use all of the characters different skills to navigate through each level.

AMN: Is there a character in the game that emerged as an obvious development team favorite?

Aelita. She was the most interesting to model and animate. She is also the only character who has been done in high-rez for the end cinematic. From a design perspective she was interesting as she has no offensive powers, so using her is all about brains rather than combat.

AMN: From a gameplay standpoint, Code Lyoko provides a lot of variety. What were some of your team’s influences going into development? Are there any games that have been clearly identified as office favorites?

As inspiration we looked at a lot of games, but it was mainly games that used character switching to navigate the environment. So Lost Vikings and Munch’s Oddysee were great games for that. The hassle free camera from God of War was also used as a basis for us to design our levels. Gameplay is always more fun when you don’t have to keep messing with the camera all the time.

AMN: The Game Factory has worked with many licensed franchises, where does Code Lyoko rank in your mind compared to the other franchises you’ve converted into games?

Code Lyoko was definitively one of the most interesting to make. There are a lot of different elements that all came together really well. It was a real challenge for all of us and we’re really pleased with the result!