While Uncanny Fish Hunt took home the GamesIndustry.biz Choice award at this year's Game Connection Selected Projects event, there were several other games that caught the eye. One of those was Puddle, another student team project, picked up by long-standing developer Neko Entertainment.
While in Lyon, GamesIndustry.biz spent a few minutes with Neko's MD, Laurent Lichnewsky who explains how and why the game came to his attention.
I set up the company in 1999 - so eleven years ago. The main focus was to develop games on consoles - personally, and with the partners I set up with, we had been in the industry for about ten years and weren't totally satisfied with the companies we'd worked for.
So we decided to set up our own studio. Our main objective was to create games on the consoles, starting with the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, then grew up with the PlayStation 2, Wii, DS and so on. Now we're working on the PlayStation 3, and some others.
We have two branches at Neko. The first one, and we started with this activity, was to develop games for publishers, to become known for making good games. Build-A-Bear in the US, for example, and most are kids' games in fact. Publishers saw that we were good with those titles.
After that we decided to create our own IPs, and Cocoto was the first, which we created in 2003. Since then we've developed a lot of Cocoto games on the PlayStation 2, GameCube and the Wii. The most popular was Cocoto Magic Circus, which shipped with two guns. We developed that bundle, and it was very popular in Europe particularly.
After that we created other IPs - two famous ones that we invested in were DodoGo and Maestro. They were very good games that were well noted. I remember that DodoGo scored more than a 9 on IGN, we were very happy with those reviews.
And we carried on through until now, working with Puddle.
Well, our creative director is involved at ENJMIN - it's a very good school in Angoulême. He's like an advisor, he takes some time to go and get close to the students in what they're doing. At the end of each year the students finish their projects, and most years we see some good ones, but they usually have a few problems, and not enough to be developed or published.
But in 2009 we were impressed with the team behind Puddle, a group of six students, that created the art direction and the concepts. They released it under XNA, and it showed very well the main ideas behind the game - it was given some awards in France. Ubisoft is also involved in some schools, and the team won an award with them. After that they were also finalists at the IGF awards in San Francisco this year - second place, which was very good.
So we asked them to join us at Neko, because we were very impressed by their work, and we wanted them to develop the game with us. I think for them it's a dream that's become reality - and for us it was a nice job to work directly with the creators.
They've been with us now for seven or eight months, and they're making the game on the PS3 with our guys.