Bernard Werber & Microids take on the Unreal Engine 5 for a

Bernard Werber Microids take on the Unreal Engine 5

Microids had a particularly difficult end to 2023, with quite a few disappointments and some pretty bad games as well. The French publisher is still healing its wounds, but will continue to consolidate its new philosophy adopted in 2020, which is to offer better games than in the past. Among the titles in its catalog that deserve our attention, there is Les Fourmis, a game announced two years ago and which marks the collaboration with the famous writer Bernard Werber. Yes, there was already a video game based on his writings in the early 2000s, but that was 24 years ago. Video games have evolved, development techniques have evolved and, above all, rendering today is approaching photo-realism. It is from this premise that the game Les Fourmis developed by the French studio Tower Five for Microids will see the light of day. I was able to play about ten minutes in 2022, a few weeks after its announcement in the Microids studios, but since then, the game has evolved considerably. A few weeks ago, the game was presented at GDC 2024 in San Francisco. A few hand-picked media who were on site were able to play a demo, while in France, it was friend Julien Chièze who had the French exclusive to put his hands on it. But since last night, we have some juicy new information, since the GDC 2024 conference has been made public, with Renaud Charpentier, the founder of Tower Five and Game Director on the game, who explains to us what awaits us in this title which runs under Unreal Engine 5 and which already promises to be a real visual slap in the face.

If there is one aspect on which everyone is quite unanimous on the 2024 Ants game, it is its graphics, its visual rendering, absolutely incredible. I’ll let you admire it for yourself, it’s absolutely impressive. It must be said that the French studio Tower Five, based in La Rochelle, has given itself the means to achieve its ambitions to bring to life this universe that we are not used to seeing in video games. Yes I know, there was Grounded recently, but it was insect-sized humans we were controlling, not ants. Still, there is one word that keeps coming up from the mouths of journalists who were able to test the game: it’s photo-realistic. And when we listen to Renaud Charpentier, the game director of the game, it’s quite logical, since the developers wanted a realistic rendering, close to the documentaries offered by the BBC, unfortunately without David Attenborough’s voice-over. I also know that Microids and Tower Five tried to get him, but it didn’t work out.


To obtain a photo-realistic rendering, the developers opted for the photogrammetry technique, which was a real challenge for the La Rochelle studio since it has a considerable impact on development. This means lots of polygons and ultra-detailed textures to display, also involving very advanced global lighting management too. The other challenge for the French studio is that their game is a mix of adventure game and strategy game, with a multi online component, which complicates things even more. This is where the choice of Unreal Engine 5 became obvious. In 2021, developers had access to the beta version of the Epic Games engine which could already take into account all these elements necessary for the game to come to life.

The ants

But another obstacle stood in the way of the developers. For a normal game, no problem, except that in the context of a game about Ants where everything is increased tenfold in terms of size, it was necessary to create assets and textures in 8K resolution and such a rendering, well that requires some time. memory, something that consoles cannot extend infinitely. Big wave of panic within Tower Five who quickly regained their senses and remembered that there is a technology that runs under Unreal Engine, since version 4, it is the virtual texturing system, which allows the engine to choose what to display in low or high resolution. I will spare you the technical details and the problems encountered with this system that Renaud Charpentier shared during the GDC, but after weeks of testing, they just changed the C++ source code to adapt the system to what they wanted . Renaud Charpentier even allowed himself a little analogy with Stanley Kubrick who had to adapt his technical equipment to his cinematographic intentions during the filming of Barry Lyndon, just to remind us that video games are also crafting, daily learning with the tools we have at our disposal.

The ants

As a result, we have a game that is visually magnificent, which amazed all the journalists who were able to play it, but obviously, the gameplay must also follow suit. Here too, Tower Five and Microids had a common approach, which was clear and precise from the start: we must please as many people as possible, and for a game which integrates RTS elements, this is already a thorn in the side. foot. Well yes, we must still remember that the game is adapted from the novels of Bernard Werber, more than 35 million copies sold worldwide, translated into 35 different languages, so yeah, the real-time strategy game, it is more niche than mainstream.


The antsSo, the good idea was to make it a mix between RTS and narrative adventure game where you control a very specific ant, the ant registered 103 683 and which will do its utmost to help its colony. The different videos have shown us several times, there will be action through strategic battles between several types of insects: ladybug, praying mantis, snail, beetle, Eurasian bugs, the famous pyrrhocores that we more commonly called gendarmes, but also other species of ants. In short, there will be disagreements between insects and I personally can’t wait to see how all this will be managed, knowing that we are promised hundreds and hundreds of units that we will be able to manage in the game. also possible to freely explore the surroundings of the colony and even to chat with other ants, also named by their birth number. I don’t know how the interactions between the ants are set up, but some journalists talk about offbeat humor, with a very human side. Interesting… In any case, if the game is based on the works of Bernard Werber, it’s quite logical in reality.

The ants

Since The Ants is a game that will mix adventure and strategy, and it is primarily the home console audience that is targeted, the developers of Tower Five have also adapted the gameplay to controllers. Their title must be accessible and the controls simple to manage with a classic pad. In fact, we can distinguish the gameplay in two ways: the part where we direct our ant in real time, and the second where we have to manage our colony through mechanics specific to RTS. When we are in the 3rd person, we therefore direct our ant which is capable of advancing quietly, of sprinting too, knowing that by going faster, our ant loses stability. If our insect clings to all walls, even vertical ones, it is also capable of jumping and therefore making leaps to reach places which nevertheless seem inaccessible. This is the obviously absurd part of the game, since an ant doesn’t jump, unless I missed something. But so be it, we accept, since we are also in a video game and the RTS aspect is just as surreal.

The ants


According to the journalists who were able to test the game, notably Julien Chièze, the commands on the controller to launch the tasks are easy to access and understand. The goal of the game is to expand your colony, across distinct areas and therefore create nests. Each of its nests has its own abilities, different according to color codes. Red to create your units, knowing that there are three types of ants to create: warriors who attack enemies in melee, artillery who shoot acid from a distance and workers who concentrate on transporting resources and Objects. There is also this user interface of controls that we see for the first time. The Orange zone obviously allows you to manage the economy, such as buying or building units. The purple zone is the defenses, the turrets, the style of the ants, the blue zone allows you to manage the feromones and therefore change the abilities of the other ants in the colony. All these mechanics put together will allow the player to lead his legions of ants and seek resources to expand the colony or even attack other insects.

The ants

The Microids game does not hesitate to use mechanics from Pikmin 4, particularly in the management of orders, since the player can select a specific type of ant that they wish to command, or even the entire legion. It is therefore possible to group ant types together or divide them into separate teams, allowing me to multitask more efficiently and manage up to seven packs at a time. Of course, we will have to pay attention to environments, which can become obstacles or real dangers for these ants, in particular water points which are a real danger for ants, since if they fall into the water, they die. direct. Moreover, if there is a negative point that we would like to emphasize concerns the settings which we find a little too rigid. There is no movement in nature, no breeze in the foliage, we have the impression of evolving in a frozen master’s canvas. Perhaps between now and the release, the game will evolve, but in any case, the mastery of lighting is clearly a strong point of the title and I hope that I will be able to play one of these four to bring you my prints controllers in hand.

The ants