Former Ubisoft man Emeric Thoa looks to Japan for inspiration
Like Nidhogg, Furi is centred on the art of duelling. Originally conceived during a plane flight as Paris-based designer
ideal game, it draws on the flowing combat of Bayonetta and the caution of Dark Souls to deliver an uncommonly intimate game about crossing swords.
“The original concept was of one long boss fight, but in the end we decided on several long boss fights,” Thoa tells us. “Each opponent is formidable, and you’ll need to learn and master their attack patterns to beat them. A fight usually goes back and
forth between two states: longrange combat, where you need to weaken the opponent, and close-range combat, where the focus is on sword fighting only, more like a samurai duel. In both cases, dodging is very important and a key to survival.”
That reactivity extends to the controls. Thoa, who worked as a director of game design at Ubisoft prior to co-founding The Game Bakers, is a big fan of Japanese auteur Shinji Mikami’s work, and Furi is influenced by his corpus as well as the other Japanese designers who favour fluid action over fluid animation. “With the influence of great triple-A games such as Uncharted or Assassin’s Creed, videogames nowadays try more and more to look like a movie, with a character that moves realistically,” Thoa says. “But there was a time when the most important thing wasn’t for the animation to play, but for the character to react. I always liked that about Japanese games – the fact that they value player feedback over realism.”
This focus called for a distinctive look, too, so The Game Bakers approached manga artist and Afro Samurai creator Takashi Okazaki. “Because the game is about duels between two characters, working with one of the best character designers in the world was our first objective,” Thoa says. “Takashi was our first choice. We simply wrote to him with the game pitch and he said, ‘OK, that sounds interesting!’”
The results are certainly beguiling, Okazaki’s artwork imbuing Furi with a surreal beauty and rich character. The extent of its visual ambitions will become clear when the game arrives on PS4/PC in 2016.