Mages of Mystralia is an amazing game. It makes you realize what it truly means to be a mage, learning and crafting your own spells rather than just equipping and using them at the press of a button. It has a deep spellcrafting system which is incredibly complex and at the same time really easy to use. And the game does everything with a gorgeous and adorable art style, which is easy to fall in love with. I can go on and on, but it’s much easier if you read our review of the game.
Naturally, we were curious about how such a great game came into being, and fortunately we were able to bag an interview with Patric Mondou, the Creative Director at Borealys Games (previously Senior Designer at Gameloft). The studio was founded by Patric and his long time friend, Louis-Felix Cauchon with an aim to turn their immense potential and vision into reality. With time the team grew in both size and talent, and well, the rest speaks for itself. For Patric’s views and responses to our questions, you can read the whole interview below:
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m a gamer who grew up with pretty much every console since the Coleco. I was very badly advised by career councellors at school (careers in video games or even digital media in general were almost fiction back then) which led me to study science. Eventually I ended up in Web development and much later, games. I’m the father of 3 little gamers, so my life is all about games now.
When did you get started with playing games (and what was the first game that you remember)?
The first game I remember playing is Donkey Kong, on the Coleco. My dad had bought the console for himself (I was not older than 2) but as it turns out, I’m the one who spent the most time with it. My dad is a gamer himself – probably one of the very few from his generation. As a Christmas gifts to me and my brother, he bought the NES and (later) the SuperNES but we learned rencently that he actually secretly played with the consoles himself before wrapping them and putting them under the tree 😉
How did you get started with developing games?
I wanted to run away from Web development (which I hated because of clients) so I went back to university and graduated in Media studies, which led me to work in research. There, I did all sorts of projects which were very close to games. Usually they were small educational apps or experimental projects with the arts and literature department. Eventually, I got a job offer from Gameloft and I jumped in the actual industry. Never regretted that move.
If you weren’t a game developer you would be a…?
I often ask myself that question. Probably an unhappy Web dev 🙂
How did you come up with the idea for Mages of Mystralia? What games, movies, books inspired the game?
Louis-Felix, the studio co-founder had the idea of making that game. It’s based off an opinion that we shared when we were colleagues at the university. We thought that games about magic always failed to deliver a complete experience of what it truly is to be a mage; using your cunning and knowledge of magic to overcome obstacles. We gathered everything there is to know about magic systems: Magicka had a very interesting twist, Harry Potter had a very clever way of explaining magic, Dungeons & Dragons, etc.
In retrospect, I can say we never really had a clear idea of what our game (and our spell system) was before we were halfway through production. As a company DNA, we knew we wanted something accessible (like good old Nintendo games from our childhood) and everything was pulling us towards a very hardcore, nerdy and unbalanced spell system. Next we tried the opposite, simplifying everything until it became a customization system (similar to Diablo 3’s rune system). At that point we thankfully noticed an educational game called “Codespells“. The game is used for teaching kids how to program (actual programming here) by programming spells. We were very excited because in essence, that’s what we were initially trying to do and thought it to be too hardcore. So we had playtesters come to the studio and we reworked our system again until we had something that didn’t feel like programming but still had the depth of a turing-complete system – ie, recursive spells. Only then was our “idea” complete. When we launched our kickstarter, we had only just begun implementing puzzles and situations using that new and improved system.
How does it feel to be successfully funded on Kickstarter? What inspired that move, and how has the overall experience been?
We were relieved to see all those backers join us on the first day 🙂 Turning to Kickstarter was not an easy decision for us, because we felt the game’s production was already very advanced. We were using Kickstarter to make our game better and we hoped people would get that. We reinvested all of it (and even more) into polishing the game and in our opinion it made a huge difference! The experience was very positive.
I only regret one single thing and that’s not having enough time to engage with the community and get their thoughts on the game much earlier. If it’s possible in the future, I’d plan the campaign ahead and put more time in between the Kickstarter campaign and the launch of the game, so that every backer – collaborator – is able to communicate their thoughts. That’s how great games are made.
Apart from gaming, what all do you enjoy?
At the studio here, we all have different hobbies and interests. Playing board games is something we often do as a group. It’s a great way to study game design, too. There is a pub not too far from our office with a huge library of board games. It’s a great hideout for us because most in the team a huge “connoisseurs” of craft beer 😉
What games are you playing lately? Which games are your favorites this year?
I’m a big fan of Blizzard so I play a lot of Overwatch and Hearthstone lately, and I played Darkest Dungeons quite a bit, especially since they launched their Crimson Court expansion. I admire how they were able to create so much replay value while keeping a modest scope overall. I buy many indie games but that one really caught my attention.
But there’s one game this year that really nailed it (imo!) and that’s Breath of the Wild. I can’t imagine I’ll see such a major benchmark anytime soon. Nintendo ventured into a game genre that they barely knew and still managed to show the whole industry what that genre should feel like from now on. BotW let me explore, but never lost me. They let me grow stronger without ever enforcing it. Sometimes when I played, I was so absorbed into quests that I completely forgot that I could, at any moment, just turn around and go somewhere else. And if I did that, it would be so well designed that It’d feel like I was meant to stray from the path at that point. I think (or hope) that every company working on an open world adventure or RPG is currently studying the awesomeness of BotW, because there is a lot to learn in there for us game developers.
Anything else that you would like to add?
I listen to heavy metal music. There, I said it.
So now you know what it is that makes Mages of Mystralia such a great game. It’s an awesome project worked hard upon by a team of equally awesome and dedicated people. Also, I think I need to get in touch with Patric more often and discuss about music and board games too!