There’s a conspicuous absence of a boardroom table – or indeed boardroom – at today’s group discussion. Instead, the modest coffee table and sofa arrangement that our hosts at DONTNOD tell us was hastily assembled earlier in the day makes for a pleasantly understated (and comfortable) change of scene. Here to discuss living and working in Paris, what constitutes a French game and why World Of Warcraft might actually be one, are DONTNOD CEO Oskar Guilbert; Wizarbox COO Cyril Labordrie; SpawnApps CEO Alex Macris; Roman Vincent, CEO of Kylotonn; and from Capital Games, project managers Jean-Baptiste Franjeulle and Félix Rimbeau.
What’s good about living and working in Paris?
Roman Vincent It’s one of the best-known cities in the world – everyone knows the Eiffel Tower and everybody dreams about coming to Paris one day to see the Louvre and all the beautiful monuments.
Cyril Labordrie The city is beautiful, there’s great nightlife here, and a lot of museums and theatres.
Oskar Guilbert From a practical standpoint, Paris is hugely accessible by plane and train. There is Paris, and then there’s the rest of France, so it’s very difficult to have a company in Nice or Lyon – the best place to be really is here.
RV And the transport system within Paris is also very good.
Alex Macris First you decide to live in Paris, then you decide to work in Paris, not the other way around. There are other places you discover because you want to work there – for example, the Bay Area in California. You go there for work, then you discover the country and the city and that you might like to live there.
RV But also all the main companies are based in Paris. People working for us came from places like Nice to work here because of that – most of the people working at Kylotonn are not Parisian. If you want to make videogames, you have two choices in France: Lyon and Paris.
Jean-Baptiste We’ve got 70 per cent of the French videogame industry here in the Paris region. And that’s one of the main reasons we decided to talk a little about Capital Games at events like Game Connection Europe, which was originally based in Lyon. It’s now moving to Paris because it’s more convenient for everybody in France, Europe and all over the globe.
OG Yeah – it helps when we try to work with some famous American artist or UK game designers. Our technical director, who’s originally French, was based in the UK before we hired him. The fact that we are in Paris was one of the big motivations for him to work with us.
Wizarbox COO Cyril Labordrie (left) and Kylotonn CEO Roman Vincent
With so much of the industry based here, what are the relationships like between studios?
AM It’s quite an old industry here in France. A lot of studios have been around for a long time, so we have all worked together at some point – for example, I started 17 years ago in the industry and my boss was this guy [points to our photographer, Emmanuel Forsans, who as well as having held positions at Infogrames and Cryo, is president of the French Agency for Video Games].
CL It’s really nice – we’re able to have tight relationships with other studios for a change and to share our experiences.
OG But on the other hand, it’s also good to have Capital Games more active now than before. Usually, just to be honest, we tend to meet in Cologne or San Francisco and it’s not so often that we actually meet in Paris [laughter]. Maybe I’m not attending all the events, and maybe it’s my fault, but I think it’s not so usual that we have meetings together – maybe we should have more. It’s good to have Capital Games to push this.
JBF This is a kind of traditional joke in the French industry, I guess. That people always say that they are meeting each other at big events like E3 or Gamescom, but never in Paris. Despite such close relationships, studios are meeting on the other side of the planet, so it’s important that we gather locally. I’m pleased to hear that the members of the association are saying that that’s useful.
CL Quite often companies work together on common projects. Generally this kind of collaboration is on a technical project, with help from the government, and by now I think most of us have worked with another studio through such partnerships. For example, Wizarbox and SpawnApps have already worked on a government funded project together. It’s interesting because you learn a great deal from how the other company works. It’s always different, and there’s always something new to discover.
RV And of course for collaborative projects like that, there’s no competition between the companies – it’s all about working together and trying to create something strong and interesting.
Does having the Channel Tunnel on your doorstep promote natural links with UK studios?
OG Well, we are doing all our motion capture in London, and there’s also the fact that if we want English-speaking actors, the closest ones are in London! [Laughs.] We also work with a company called Side which is working on all the dialogue for us. So, yes, we are collaborating more with UK contractors. Of course, there are many publishers in the UK too, so it’s easier for us to visit them.
RV Hiring or working with, for example, UK artists is easy today, but I’m afraid it’s more due to the financial crisis than to the Channel Tunnel!
OG The good thing with the UK is that there is very little time difference, whereas working with the US requires people to stay up at night which isn’t very good for your family life!