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Friday, 27 September 2013

The Grand Fromage of Megara

Another guest post from David Walters today in the run-up to the Way of the Tiger Kickstarter campaign that begins on Tuesday. This time David attempts the impossible: describing the founder, leader and human dynamo of Megara Entertainment, the charming and inimitable Mikaël Louys.

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Commissioning artists in the pursuit of a common goal is a tricky job, and one that falls to the managing director of Megara Entertainment Mikaël Louys. He has a great many artists and tasks to draw together in one creative whole for the Way of the Tiger gamebook re-release and the forthcoming roleplaying game.

Mikaël is the man in charge of ensuring art and writing come together in an attractive display of ninja awesomeness. He has an established ethos that all the work should be in colour (part of the Megara philosophy), and strives to give the artists enough freedom to make their mark on the art whilst ensuring they have information to include details such as the insignia representing the gods of Orb.

Mikaël is a keen fan of the Way of the Tiger books, so he takes a personal interest in making sure that key scenes from the book are captured on the page and has a considerable knowledge of the source material upon which the artists can draw. Sometimes he commissions the artists to do a colour representation of artwork from the original books, and other times it is a dramatic reinterpretation based on the source material.

Either way his methodology is the same – give the artist guidance, check the draft, give further guidance and repeat this process until the work is finalised. Mikaël will also send drafts of the artwork around the writers to ensure that any discrepancies are caught early in the process.

His artist list includes Dominique Doms (mostly characters from the books), Lise Rafalli (places on the Island of Plenty), Tonio Di Lorenzo (monsters), Mylène Villeneuve (mostly scenes and characters), Aude Pfister (maps and characters), Eric Chaussin (pre-generated characters for the RPG), Faiz Nabheebucus (characters), Motise Musashi (Island of Plenty characters), and Mary Nikol (characters). Mikaël’s artists have a range of experience levels, and he always takes time to develop and improve less experienced artists, and counts them all very much as friends.

The artwork is not just for the books, as Mikaël is very much in charge of the business side of Megara too: T-shirts, jewellery and even a giant cloth map have been the canvas for some of the creative work sold via the Megara website. One of the crowning glories of the early artwork was a new map of Orb, a beautiful hand-painted piece of work by Aude Pfister.

As well as co-ordinating the artists, Mikaël co-ordinates the writers as well, ensuring that they have the assignments needed and that there is creative oversight of the work. On the few occasions where the artwork clashes with the writing or vice versa, Mikaël will get the work redone to ensure it is as true to the source material as possible.

Mikaël has many other parts of his role, including formatting the page layouts for maximum impact, deciding what is in (and out) of the roleplaying game both in terms of chapters and artwork, and also formulating the rules for the RPG from his extensive gaming experience.

Mikaël is known amongst the team for his encyclopaedic knowledge of tabletop RPGs, RPG computer games, boardgames, and casinos. He also runs a music fan club archiving almost all the live recordings from all the career of Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler. He is also a japanime expert, J-RPG expert and former editor at RPG Magazine, RPG Online and Gameplay RPG. He has developed a great love and appreciation for the Japanese culture, but of course it's not mandatory to have that to appreciate the Way of the Tiger gamebooks.

- David Walters 

ADDENDUM: As of midday September 27, after just 24 hours live, the Way of the Tiger Kickstarter campaign has reached 94% of its initial target. (Even Mikaël probably wasn't expecting that!) There are a host of stretch goals, though, and plenty of time left to pledge. The campaign will run till the end of October.


  1. Dave, does the unexpected speed at which this series got funded (even with the somewhat high cost per book) give you some pause to reconsider the chances of fabled lands having a similar (if not better) success?

    1. I wrote a long reply last night on mobile, and then had the same problem that Matt was talking about recently of Blogger eating it. Grr.

      Anyway, Drake, the gist of it was that, yes, we'd love to try a Fabled Lands KS. The economics of that are no different from what I set out in my post before, though. So the level of "success" would need to be a whole order of magnitude higher, the money pledged not only going into paying print and shipping costs, but also having to cover writing, editing, interior art, and new covers.

      When a Kickstarter is for a non-physical product like a videogame, every penny raised can go into the creative work. In the case of books, that part is only 20% at best. So we will try a Kickstarter for new FL books, but $12,000 isn't going to come close to covering all the costs.

  2. I can understand that. I guess you would rather have a single KS for the rest of the series so that could be very high. You could do something like the Way of the Tiger, have higher than the cost for how much to do Book 7 entirely.

    Then throw in stretch goal for each book until Book 12 but I am guessing that could be very expensive. :( But there is nothing to stop you from having KS for each book is there? I know that could be bad but it is still an option? It seems roughly half of the WofT backers want the entire series so it seems that backing price for the books 7-12 could be too high from what you are saying.

    Either way, if you do KS, you got one backer! Me! :)

    1. We're certainly planning to try it, Joe. Probably we'll start off with a campaign just to do books 7 and 8, with the later books as stretch goals. And obviously the new books will need to be paperbacks so as to match books 1-6 - perhaps with optional hardcovers too, for those who prefer them.

      Currently the plan is to do this in partnership with Megara, though in that case it may not happen till 2015 because next year their big Kickstarter is the Way of the Tiger RPG.

  3. I downloaded the Fabled Lands PDF from Home of the Underdogs years ago and this year I've finally bought them (all 6) in dead tree version. The cost of the books (less than ten euros per book) is reasonable, and I'm playing the hell out of them right now (loving "The Court of Hidden Faces", by the way).

    I would love to support a Kickstarter to have the rest of the series written. But I'm amazed by the success of the WOTT books. More than 300 euros spended in a single project? No way my wife would approve ;). Really, if the cost of every book is greater than 10 bucks... I would probably support the KS only at the PDF level.

    OTOH, I could pay 60 plus a reasonable shipping cost for the six last books.

    1. I hear you, Carlos. I love the works of Jack Vance, but a few years back when the Vance Integral Edition was published - lavish hardbacks of all his books - I could never have justified spending that much to my wife. And she is a Vance fan too!

      If the FL series is continued via Kickstarter, we would certainly follow up with paperback copies so that those who have already bought books 1-6 in paperback get to complete their collection. However, we hope that there will be plenty of fans willing to pledge for the new books in hardback too, as that's the only way they can be funded.

      It's a good thing some gamebook fans are richer than gamebook authors, I guess :-)

    2. The Wife is Always Right. After ten years, you learn it, or suffer ;).

      Anyway, if the Fabled Lands KS is launched, and given the amazing success of the WotT KS... I'm sure it will be successful too. There are many, many (and many) fans waiting for a the complete FL series. If there is a KS project people is waiting for since before the birth of Kickstarter... that is the one to make the final six Fabled Lands books ;).

      If you want a proof: this is a post about Mikaël Louys and we are talking instead about the addendum and the chances of a Fabled Lands KS... (sorry for hicjacking the entry, BTW)

    3. I'm sure Mikaël won't mind. If we do a Fabled Lands KS, it's pretty likely we'd want to partner up with Megara's writing and editing team to make it happen.

    4. Hey! Of course I mind. You should only talk about my hat and plume on the picture.

    5. You are the Satrap of Gaming, Mikael. The Emir of Excellence. All hail!