Microids ‘Lucas Lagravette on Syberia and today’s adventure games

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How to a 20 years old adventure game franchise survive and adapt to the modern age? Syberia, a series that launched during the dark ages of early 00s adventure gaming, has managed to survive and expand into the modern era. Originally released earlier this year, Syberia: The World Before launches on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S on November 15.

Adventure games evolve in the modern era, thanks to adaptations by developers like Telltale. Most adventure games can be divided into those that resemble the original adventure games of the 80s and 90s, such as Ron Gilbert’s (literally) Back to Monkey Island; and things that incorporate more popular mechanics like the built-in selection mechanism from Telltale or Supermassive. In those respects, Syberia, which appears very similar to how the first game came out in 2002, is a little different.

GamesBeat spoke with Lucas Lagravette, director of Syberia: The World Before, about the series’ long history and survival in the modern video game market. Here is an edited transcript of our interview.

GamesBeat: In regards to The World Before, what happens when it comes to adapting that franchise, that story, and that gameplay for a modern audience?

Lucas Lagravette: As you know, when we started working on the third volume, it was all the beginning of the Telltale craze, if I may say so. It’s a revival of pointing and clicking, but in a different way. We want to be a part of that. On The World Before, with the experience of what we tried to create in the third episode – there were other games that came out, games like the one from Quantic Dream or even the Supermassive game. Actually, Until Dawn is a great reference for us in terms of game control.

GameBeat: So that’s the type of play you figured out [Syberia: The World Before]? Because it is not exactly the same as the original point and click style, but it still has the feeling of pointing and clicking.

Lagravette: Yes correct. What’s really important to us is that the fourth episode is fully playable with just one mouse. But it was also a big challenge to make it fully playable with a controller. For our level design team, it’s like designing each level twice. It has to work with a mouse and it has to work with a controller. We also have the puzzle aspect, which not many modern adventure games or narrative-driven games do. That’s our thing.

GameBeat: How do you think Syberia, and the adventure game genre in general, has changed since the first Syberia came out in 2002?

Lagravette: The modern formula favors a three-A story-driven role-playing game, like Quantic Dream or even Supermassive. It was an orientation point and the click was done. You also have a very classic style – I say this in a positive way – like what they did with the last Monkey Island, really for die-hard fans of the series. I guess we’re trying to be in between those two coasts.

GamesBeat: What adventure games do you think have remained the same since the turn of the millennium?

Lagravette: Triple-A games, maybe they put the puzzles and riddles aside a bit for more action sequences. Although they are very simple to play. Very action oriented. We’ve tried to keep the puzzle dimension, which for us is a mainstay of Syberia’s gameplay. But again, inspired by more modern puzzle games. Room [the video game series] is one of our references. It is not unique, but it is one of our references for puzzle sequences.

GamesBeat: Now that you’ve completed The World Before, what would the continuation of Kate’s story look like?

Lagravette: When I played the first two games, right before my internship interview for Syberia 3, that was 10 years after they were released. I was amazed by Kate’s modern treatment and her psychological evolution. I really want us to continue with that. It aligns with Benoit Sokal’s vision of the Former World, a lot about Dana Roze [the deuteragonist of The World Before] and how her story connects with his own and his family’s story. We think it’s interesting for Kate to question herself, who she is, and why she runs. In the third part, Benoit found a formula that I think is great, so to say that Kate is acting like a traveler with no destination. That’s what we wanted to ask in the fourth game, and how can we connect that with exploring Dana’s story in the past.

GamesBeat: Was Dana inspired by any real people? I was reminded of some while I was playing.

Lagravette: Actually, it was inspired by Benoit’s own family story. I think his grandfather was selling art in Vienna when the Second World War and the Nazis broke out. He has to run away. That’s what Benoit meant.

GamesBeat: What do you think about Kate Walker that kept her around for so long? What do you think about her that resonates with gamers?

Lagravette: I guess Kate Walker’s story can be summed up as liberating. She is shunned from her job, from her friends, from her family, from New York. I guess her life is a bit too much for her. When given this opportunity to be free, she did not ask permission. You can see in the first game people don’t understand what’s going on with her. She’s like, okay, but that’s too bad. I will still do that. I will still go. I guess it’s something that still resonates to this day. That’s something I can admire.

GamesBeat: Do you think the gameplay will change in any way in the future? We are now in the post-Telltale era of adventure games. Do you think the gameplay will become more modern, or go back to nostalgic trips, as you said? Or will you try to maintain balance?

Lagravette: I guess there will always be a balance – we saw that with Syberia 3. We tried everything and we went too far, I think, for the fans in some respects. I hope we can identify some non-negotiable points for fans, such as point and click. I think it would be very difficult to have a Syberia without pointing and clicking. But you can invent more modern ways to do point-and-click. I hope that’s what we achieved with The World Before. If we do a sequel, we will continue this development.

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