Interview: Antoine Thiebaut on Ankama and True Tales' upcoming MMO Waven

Interview: Antoine Thiebaut on Ankama and True Tales' upcoming MMO Waven
First published: | Updated:

| Waven

Earlier this month, Ankama announced its next MMO, Waven. You might be familiar with the developer if you've played any previous games the studio has released, such as Dofus and Wakfu. Both titles were incredibly popular in France, but Ankama hopes Waven will possess more widespread appeal.

We recently had a chance to speak to Antoine Thiebaut about all things Waven. Together we discussed what players can expect from the game in terms of difficulty, microtransactions and endgame content. Beyond that, we also touched on whether or not you need any experience with Ankama's previous efforts to understand what's going on in the story.

Could you introduce yourself and your role on Waven to our readers, please?

Hello, I’m Antoine THIEBAUT and I’ve been a game designer on Waven for more than 2 years now.

In terms of difficulty, where would you place Waven as an MMO? For instance, is it more for veterans of the genre, or will newcomers find their feet easily?

First, I think it’s important not to compare too much Waven to other MMOs. We have a similar vibe as we allow players to connect with each other on our different islands, go through deep dungeons, create their own builds, etc… However, it is very different from our previous games (Dofus and Wakfu) which are actual MMOs. In Waven we made sure that newcomers wouldn’t be lost, we want to offer a good entrance to the tactical RPG genre while keeping our identity. Everything is accessible to anyone, but mastering all classes, through fight and deck building, will ask the players to dig through many possibilities and synergies!

Naturally, MMORPGs are a social affair. However, is it possible to tackle the PvE content solo? Or will become too difficult for anyone trying it beat it alone?

Almost all the content can be done in solo. We even have certain quests that offer more exotic content and mechanics that wouldn’t work in multiplayer. However, we encourage the players to play in groups of 2 or 3, as it will allow them to have an easier progression. The possibilities of positive synergies are also multiplied in multiplayer, leading to a path of many new interactions and combos!

Can you tell us how the multiplayer will work? Is it still turn-based? And if so, is it real-time, or can it be enjoyed asynchronously?

We have a very singular multiplayer system in Waven. You still play against the same monsters with one or two friends, turn by turn. However, to balance that, one of the monsters in each fight will be upgraded to champion! It will have a bigger body and will play between each of your turns (normal monsters only play once all players finished their turn). It creates new dynamics, priorities and urges, and a great foe to battle against.

Can you explain how Island Defence works? Since it's a little bit different from the rest of Waven.

Island defence is pretty simple. You build a deck with any of your characters, and an AI will play it against any player that tries to attack you while you are away (which means that you can attack another player’s island if you want to!).

The winner will receive a special loot, so you should prepare your defences carefully as this is a great “passive outcome” for you, as a defender. Note that there are 2 deckbuilding elements that are exclusive to your island defence: First, an island power, that will add a new rule to the fight, to torment your opponent, and last but not least a minion! This is a small (and very cute!) creature that will defend your island alongside your character!

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Despite being set in the aftermath of a devastating flood, Waven is a colourful and light-hearted game. Why did you choose to take a more cheerful approach?

There are many reasons for this, but the most important one would be the very philosophy of Ankama's creations. The Ankama universe has always mixed epic and humour, and the very basis of our way to tell stories is that we should all know how to laugh at everything and not take anything seriously. This gives Ankama stories a fairytale atmosphere, where it is possible to talk about the hardest things without being driven to despair. On the contrary, you can keep your chin up whatever the disaster.

Take for example Tristepin, one of the characters in the Wakfu series, who loses one of his arms after an epic battle. How do the people around him react to this? By making jokes. It's the best way for him to get through this ordeal - and in his following adventures, his handicap is one of the key elements of his charisma.

Besides, without that light-hearted approach you're talking about, we wouldn't be able to criticise what we don't like as effectively! Laughter is not just useful during hardship, but also for shooting the bad guys. For all these reasons, we have chosen to give Waven an upbeat tone: you will soon discover that the content of the game is full of dilemmas on contemporary issues, but staged in a playful way.

As Waven is a free-to-play game, can you tell us what the microtransactions are?

Microtransactions will be mostly about cosmetics like skins for your characters and companions as well as new VFXs for your spells. We also plan to sell some minor quality-of-life features such as unlocking more character slots. However, don't worry about any pay-to-win aspect! We really want to avoid any pattern like this, this is not what we believe in and we want anyone to enjoy the game even without buying anything

Waven takes place in the same universe as your previous games. Will new players get lost if they haven't played any of them? Or is it more a case of references that will delight long-standing fans?

That's a great question, since Ankama’s universe is huge, and our previous game is very long – and I’m not even starting to talk about our transmedia content! But the very purpose of Waven is to be easy to reach for everyone, all the more so as the game is designed for a broader audience than our previous games. For this reason, its content is made to be understood without needing any knowledge of our lore: in a way, the big wave has struck the characters too, so they can have a fresh start! And by setting that new starting point in the narrative of the universe, we also gave ourselves a little bit of freedom to create, which is not easy to come across when you work on a fictional world that old and big.

That being said, the more you discover Ankama’s other games, books, comics, webtoons or series, the more you will understand Waven’s in-game content. Conversely, if you're already familiar with Krosmoz, you'll have the pleasure of unearthing these references yourself. That's because we design all our quests and their stories from the lore itself, to make them fit into the internal logic of the universe. We even have a department of writers dedicated exclusively to its coherence! For all these reasons, I think that long-standing fans will also find their happiness in Waven.

Your previous games have predominately enjoyed success inside France. Do you believe Waven will be different and have more global appeal? If so, what do you believe will help it succeed worldwide?

Waven will indeed be different in the sense that we have translated our recipe to appeal to all lovers of good food. Ankama's humour is still there, Waven’s core gameplay comes from the savoir-faire we have built with our previous audience, but our ambition with Waven is to travel worldwide.

To do so, among all that Waven offers, I would highlight three points. First, as I said earlier, the staging of more global themes, all through the humorous tone of our team, a tone that we adapted to no longer correspond to only French or European references. Then, the cross-platform, which will allow the player to start a fight on his or her computer and finish it on mobile: Waven will thus be able to adapt to a very wide range of playing habits.

Finally, the possibility of choosing the type and frequency of gameplay, which opens the game not only to a new audience, but to different generational audiences: players who want to invest a lot of time will have plenty to do, but those who, between children and work, just want to have fun with a few nice fights, will also find their happiness in Waven.

At the moment, what do you see as Waven's endgame content? Is it the PvP? Or perhaps another mode?

PvP will be a big part of the endgame without a doubt, but only for a certain portion of our players. That’s why we designed quests that will ask high levels (through main and secondary quests), and that any fight can be played at a higher level. Most of them will even change a bit, with new challenges appearing at higher levels. For example, if you replay the first fight of the first quest but with level 100, the monsters will be replaced by new versions, with new skills and skins! And of course, we have many updates coming to keep you enjoying the game even after dozens, even hundreds of hours.

After launch, what can we expect from the game in terms of updates, new classes and game modes?

New game modes, new classes or weapons within the existing classes, and more content within the current content of the game (meaning more quests, new islands, etc…). We’ve tested a lot of different kinds of content, sometimes even during our opened Alpha, that we had to leave for the more important features and the full release of the game, but it means that great things will come rapidly!

Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen brings both a love of games and a very formal-sounding journalism qualification to the Pocket Gamer team.